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IMPO Onsite: Raymond Family Tradition

A look inside Raymond Corporation’s RayBuilt Center of Excellence facility in Syracuse, NY.

Who could have known that a simple barber’s chair would have such an effect on the world of manufacturing? George Raymond, Sr. did.

On a recent sunny Friday morning, Steve Raymond cheerfully — and sometimes tearfully — recalled tales of his grandfather’s legacy in the material handling world. It goes like this, one day, the Raymond Corporation’s namesake was getting his hair cut at the usual place when he noticed an unoccupied barber’s chair. He asked the shop owner if he could buy the chair and was told it wasn’t for sale, but he could rent it for $10.

“So, my grandfather rented the chair, dragged it around the corner to the plant, took it apart, figured out how it works, put it back together and then dragged it back and paid his $10,” Steve Raymond said. “From there, he invented the first hydraulic lift truck.”

The truck was officially patented by Raymond and William House in 1939, the same year they also patented the doublefaced wooden pallet. A restored hydraulic hand pallet, circa 1930’s, now sits in front of the new RayBuilt Center of Excellence, which hosted its grand opening in June.

Since then, the company’s product lines have expanded to reach trucks, counterbalanced trucks, order pickers and side-loaders — just to name a few.


Raymond’s Legacy

June marked 95 years for the Raymond Corporation, which began in 1922 when George Raymond, Sr. purchased the Lyon Iron Works in Greene, NY. The company has evolved over the last nine-plus decades, but valuing employees, customers and the community has remained a constant throughout its history.

As part of that legacy, the Raymond Foundation was started in 1965 with a $150 check. Now, it is a multi-milliondollar charitable foundation that has assisted the Greene community and beyond. In 2016 alone the company contributed to more than 140 non-profit and educational organizations.

“Everything I do — as long as my grandfather's name is on the equipment and on the building — will serve to either honor his legacy, or not,” Steve Raymond, president of Raymond Handling Concepts Corporation, said to a crowd of employees and well-wishers at the recent grand opening. “Your badge, uniform and business card have two names on them; yours and my grandfather’s. As long as that occurs remember — whatever you do, whatever decisions you make, will serve to honor his legacy or not.”

On The Plant Floor

Since its humble beginnings, the Raymond brand of electronic lift trucks have dominated the material handling world, with its products being sold to customers throughout the U.S. and around the world.

In June, IMPO had the opportunity to visit all three of the Raymond facilities in New York — Raymond headquarters and manufacturing plant in Greene, the parts distribution center and the new RayBuilt Center of Excellence, both in Syracuse. The company also operates a plant in Muscatine, IA.

In 1997, BT Industries acquired Raymond and in 2000 that company was acquired by Toyota Industries Corporation of Japan. While Raymond continues to retain its own brand products and distribution, the merger brought in several innovations to improve quality, efficiency and safety.

Among them, implementing the Toyota Production System (TPS) — a system with the philosophy of eliminating all waste — and Andon Systems — a system to notify management, maintenance and other workers of a quality or process problem.

Rick Harrington, Senior Vice President of Operations, said TPS was first put into place at the Greene facility in 2006, with the Andon system going live in 2008. Every work station on the line has call buttons that can be pressed if an issue arises. Once pressed, music specially assigned to that station starts playing and the number of the station is lit up on the monitors above. This alerts Assistant Team Leads (ATL) of a problem and they can swarm in to help.

“It's a real nice visual communication piece,” Harrington says.

Assembly manager Pete Saladis demonstrated the system at one of the final assembly stations. Once the button was pushed, the station’s number lit up on the screen and a chipper, melodic version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” started playing for all to hear. Within moments three ATLs showed up to help.

“Great response time,” Saladis said.

If something happens that the worker knows will prevent them from finishing their work, they push the “line stop” button, which plays a completely different song.

“Even if you’re not looking at the board, you know by the song that the line is down somewhere,” Saladis says.

There are also workers floating around the plant floor — called “bee relief” — looking for places where they can help.

“It certainly changed our whole philosophy on how we manufacture and the amount and level of quality that we achieve now is superior to anyone in the industry,” Harrington says. “Today, if one truck out of 100 has a defect, we're down on ourselves and saying, ‘how did that get through the process?’ So there's a big difference in our quality level.”


The Greene plant manufactures five of Raymond’s major product lines; narrow aisle Reach-Fork trucks; very narrow aisle Swing-Reach turret trucks; transtackers; side-loader trucks; and sit-down and stand-up counterbalanced trucks. Each truck is made to order and takes approximately five days to complete from raw steel to shipment.

“Everything that gets brought into the door is being built for a company,” Saladis says. “We don't build things for warehouses or showrooms.”

Steel is delivered throughout the day to be transformed into various lift trucks. The factory goes through more than 200,000 lbs. of steel and ships out more than 85 units every day. Each piece of steel that doesn’t end up as Raymond equipment doesn’t go to waste. Engineers strategically map out how parts are cut out of the steel sheets to leave as little scrap as possible. The “skeletons” are then given to local education centers for students to practice welding on.

“Any of the steel we don't give to one of the trade schools we recycle,” Saladis says. “We try to make the most out of
the waste that is generated by the facility, which isn't really that much.”

In 2016 alone, more than 4,150 tons of heavy steel, 260 tons of steel “chips” and 269 tons of maintenance steel has been recycled at the Greene facility.

Moving On Up

Recycling is a big part of Raymond’s philosophy and it was carried over to its newest facility, the RayBuilt Center of Excellence. In 1991, RayBuilt got its start in the back of the warehouse of the Raymond Parts Distribution Center in Syracuse, but it wasn’t long until it outgrew the 10,000-square foot space. The division remanufactures more than 18,000 components every year including motors, drive units, handles and hoses. The RayBuilt facility has also recycled more than eight million lbs of core material since it began.

The new facility spans more than 40,000 square feet for the remanufacturing area, as well as more than 40,000 square feet for the Raymond leasing division.

“It took several months to relocate Raymond’s leasing and RayBuilt to the Center of Excellence, due to a planned approach to move a product line at a
time that would minimize disruption to production,” says Jim Schaefer, director of operations for Raymond’s Syracuse locations. “The new facility will help us to increase our capacity to support new products needed to grow our product line.”

With the increase, Senior Maintenance Mechanic for the RayBuilt Center of Excellence, Roland “Rollie” Hildenbrandt says the additional space has been like Christmas for the 31 employees at the facility.

“They’ve worked in really close quarters,” Hildenbrandt says. “Now you've got room to breathe and they all work great together.”

Working hand-in-hand with employees, a TPS team streamlined the facility floor to achieve the most efficiency and productivity possible. At the beginning of the line, all usable parts off of old trucks are torn down. As the parts move their way through the facility they are rebuilt, cleaned, painted and installed on equipment that looks and works good as new.

“Most customers wouldn’t realize it was a rebuilt part on their truck if it wasn’t for the RayBuilt sticker on it,” says leasing center and RayBuilt Center of Excellence manager Ken Knapp.

Not only does the expanded facility provide more space for employees to move and work, it also allows them to work more efficiently. Previously, when an engine needed rebuilding, it would be torn down on the worker’s bench — which is a dirty process. Then, the entire bench would need to be cleaned and tools wiped down, before the engine could be put back together.

“You have no idea how much. A lot,” replies Hildenbrandt when asked how much time keeping the clean and dirty processes separate has saved.

Looking Forward

Raymond is no stranger to evolution with workers, staff and managers working together to find ways to improve productivity. In addition to the unveiling of the new RayBuilt facility, the company recently announced the expansion of its Raymond Parts Division, with more than 40,000 square feet being added to its distribution center.

“The creation of the new RayBuilt Center of Excellence will further support our continued growth, as well as support all our customers’ evolving needs with end-to-end solutions from forklifts to parts to leasing,” says Raymond Corporation CEO Michael Field.

For more information about RaymondCorporation, visit For more details about RayBuilt, visit

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