Why a sheet metal fabrication business added panel bending to its arsenal

Picking up and starting over doesn’t apply just to individuals. Sometimes companies need a reset too.

Joe Bean purchased a 65,000-sq.-ft. building in Franklin, Tenn., in early 2021. It was to be the new home for FlexMet Inc., his precision sheet metal fabricating company.

He had operated California Precision Products in San Diego since 1984, primarily serving the area’s aerospace companies. The shop had CNC laser cutting, machining, punching, press brake bending, and tube bending capabilities in addition to powder coating. It ran 600 to 700 different part numbers per month for its various customers, making the complex world of a job shop that much more complicated.

On top of that, the shop’s location didn’t make it any easier. California is notorious for its high taxes and excessive state regulations, adding overhead costs that challenged the company’s profitability. It also was not an ideal location from which to serve potential customers in the Midwest, Southeast, and East Coast because of logistical costs and hurdles.

Before the move, Bean had developed a product line of his own—cabinets designed to ensure the integrity of ballots placed in them. (One product currently in development is a smart dropbox that can check the identification of the voter to match it to the ballot.)

“I’ve got a real interest in this, and we’ve seen success with the product. We’ve been selling them all over the country,” Bean said.

A key part of the company’s ability to produce the cabinets is its BCe Smart panel bending machine from Prima Power. It was one of the first machines that Bean got up and running when opening the doors to his new FlexMet business in Franklin.

With FlexMet, Bean said that he is hoping to focus more on his own products, even though he continues to do some job shop work with longtime customers. The next product launch will focus on outdoor kitchen cabinets and components. The panel bender will play a large role in the production of these parts as well.

Back in California, Bean said his company had eight press brakes and the panel bender. In Franklin, FlexMet has only four brakes and a panel bender.

“We learned about the panel bender as we looked to automate the forming cycle in our business. It was really that simple,” Bean said. “It’s really worked out well.”

Read more: Why a sheet metal fabrication business added panel bending to its arsenal