Harken’s new headquarters will begin lean transformation

Harken Yacht Equipment will soon break ground on a new 80,000 plus square foot facility in Pewaukee, which it expects to be operational by Jan. 1, 2010. When it moves, the company will invest heavily in systems and machinery to boost its production and quality control levels.

Pewaukee-based Harken Yacht Equipment Inc. will break ground in August on a new manufacturing facility and headquarters on a 28-acre parcel at N15 W24887 Bluemound Road in Pewaukee. The new facility is expected to open by Jan. 1, 2010. Harken is the largest manufacturer of sailboat hardware in the world. Its hardware was used on 11 of the 12 boats that raced in the most recent America’s Cup. Its headquarters and main manufacturing facility are in Pewaukee, but the company also operates an 80,000-square-foot facility in Italy with about 80 employees.

Harken has about 130 employees in Pewaukee and more than 300 employees around the world. The company’s new Pewaukee headquarters and manufacturing center will have an 80,000-square-foot first floor and about 20,000 square feet of office space above. While designs have not yet been completed, the company plans for extensive use of natural lighting and is considering geothermal heating and cooling and several other "green" building techniques, said Peter Harken, co-owner and founder of the company.

The new building also is being designed with work flow and efficiency in mind, Harken said. Harken’s engineers will be located near its machine shop and research and development areas, he said, allowing for more easy collaboration and communication. "We’re getting rid of the idea of office versus floor people," he said. "There will be a lot of interaction between people." The entrance to the new facility will also have large glass windows, where visitors will be able to watch injection molding and machining operations, Harken said. "We want to tell people what we do (when they walk in the building)," he said.

Most of Harken’s competitors have moved manufacturing to China or other Asian countries, said Bill Goggins, the company’s marketing manager. Instead of moving its operations overseas, the company will begin implementing elements of lean manufacturing and constant improvement with its new facility, he said. "We’ve had significant growth year over year for the past 10 years – growth in both product offering and market share," Goggins said. "That’s exactly why we’re in dire need of a new building. It will allow us to do everything better. We will be able to strategically place people better and think about our operations."

Harken’s new facility will make more use of robotics, automated machinery and carousel stocking and storage systems, Goggins said. Those systems will further improve Harken’s quality control, increase its output per employee and help its employees develop further. "It’s helping create a strategic distinction between our competitors and us," Goggins said. "We’re trying to raise the bar and move to a new level of innovation and quality. It takes a level of investment and a commitment to the community, to our people and a whole new way of managing." For more information, visit www.Harken.com.

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