Jan Kellogg looks at the big picture for each job that CCP Manufacturing takes on, leading the company into new markets.
by Jill C. Lafferty
I love working with someone who turns to us with a new idea, saying, ‘Hey, can you make this work?’ We love taking the time to be able to do that,” says Jan Kellogg, president of CCP Manufacturing, a contract canvas and vinyl end product manufacturer based in Columbus, Ohio. “We’ve had a couple of projects where we’ve helped a single person get to a final product. We get the full focus of all different aspects of business: How do you make this efficiently? How do you package this well so you can ship it? The big picture.”
CCP Manufacturing was incorporated as Columbus Canvas Products in 1965 by Kellogg’s father, E. E. “Pete” McConnell, to help offset the seasonality of his primary business, Capital City Awning. The goal of the second business was to sell beyond the awning market, allowing him to keep his workforce employed year-round. Over the years, CCP has been involved in a variety of products and markets, but by the time Kellogg came on board in 2007, the business was struggling.
With a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a marketing emphasis from Ohio State University, Kellogg had joined the awning side of the business in the mid-1980s after spending a few years employed elsewhere, including Europe and New York City. Working in sales and design, Kellogg learned about fabrics and the construction aspect of the awning business, and she eventually became manager of Capital City Awning’s sales team.
Kellogg stepped away from the business when she and her husband, Tim, started a family. When she was ready to come back, Tim, who was by then president of Capital City Awning, suggested that she might be interested in a position at Columbus Canvas Products. “The company at that time had two sewing operators, one part-time office staff person and one warehouse employee,” she says. “They had lost their operations manager six months earlier, and they were struggling to maintain customers and sales. It was kind of dwindling down, and that’s when I came in.”
A firm foundation
As CCP’s new vice president of sales and marketing, Kellogg thought that she could lean on her awning knowledge to jump right back into the industry. But she realized that she didn’t know a lot about contract sewing. Most of the company’s work came from two customers, one in the canopy sector and one in the government sector.
“My first priority was just to manage and maintain those two customers and make sure that base was strong,” she says. “That took a little bit of time to do, but we were able to secure both of the customers, and they are still customers today.”
Her next priority was to explore where the company could expand. She found the answer in the inquiries from the company’s potential customers. “My way of growing the company was that when someone came to us asking for a product, I would evaluate that product, as in, ‘Does this have scalability? Is this used in a wide range of the marketplace? Is it something we should try to expand upon beyond this one customer?’ We used that to move into other industries like athletic and medical.”
In 2018, the company changed its name from Columbus Canvas Products to CCP Manufacturing to emphasize that it works with more than just canvas. Many customers find CCP by word of mouth or through the company’s website, and sometimes vendors who are familiar with the company’s capabilities refer customers. Contract sewing can be a difficult service to sell, Kellogg says, because capabilities are often dependent on the type of equipment a company has available. The key is identifying where a capability can work across markets. For example, with the capability to manufacture a “cover,” CCP can work in the outdoor living sector, manufacturing a cushion or pad cover; in the athletic market, making wall padding or mats; and in other markets, making equipment covers or protective covers.
“We’ve seen that when we’ve become too focused in one area, we’re left to reinvent ourselves again when that area dries up,” she says. “We like the idea of sitting in a couple of different areas and providing products. The challenge is making sure that all the areas have some kind of common thread.”
Honesty, integrity, service
At CCP, ideas for designs or product innovations often come from customers, while internal innovations are driven by reviewing how products are manufactured and how the company can be more efficient—for example, by adding automation or changing the workflow.
“One of the biggest challenges that contract sewing companies face, mine included, is the feast or famine type of situation, where large projects come in and we are overwhelmed to manufacture to the level that we need to, and yet we don’t want to turn it down. We’ve had times when we’ve been so busy, we were up to 17 employees and running a second half shift to meet demand, and I was trying to find local people around me to sub out the work. We were successful in doing that, but it was a difficult strain.”
The COVID-19 crisis has prompted many companies to work together for the common good. And these growing relationships may just have the potential to strengthen the position of small contract sewing operations in the global market.
“We’re all sharing ideas and resources and coming up with designs. That helps us as American manufacturers,” she says. “When I came back to work after being out of the industry, a lot of things had changed; a lot of things had gone overseas, to offshore manufacturing. It was personally disappointing to see that we hadn’t maintained manufacturing to a bigger degree in the U.S.”
Because of its medical line (see “Snapshot” on page 18), CCP was deemed an essential business during Ohio’s stay-at-home order. The company set other projects aside to focus on its existing medical products and added the manufacturing of face shields. Because of its large facility, the company’s 12 employees are able to spread out and work safely at a distance from each other.
When Kellogg first started at CCP, she put the words “honesty, integrity and service” on a wall in the facility as a reminder to everyone to be honest with both customers and fellow employees, even when delivering bad news; to have the integrity to follow through with commitments, even if it costs more to deliver a quality product; and to focus on service so that employees and customers know they can depend on the company. That’s a combination that creates growth.
“Our biggest goal is that we serve our customers so that they want to stay with us, and they want to bring their friends over,” Kellogg says.
Jill C. Lafferty is senior editor of Specialty Fabrics Review.
What is your biggest business strength?
My employees. They are always up for a challenge. We’ve taken on some complicated projects, and they don’t say no. They say, “How can we do this?” We all have a say—I like to bring in other people rather than make decisions on my own to make sure we have the expertise to handle a project. That’s helped us as a company to grow because we are willing to stretch and put extra effort into something. We don’t just stay with the status quo. That goes all the way through our processes. If we’ve been doing something a certain way for a long time, we still ask, “Is that the right way?” Maybe it is still the right way. But we like to ask the question: “Is there a way to make that better?”
Better patient positioning
Most work at CCP Manufacturing of Columbus, Ohio, involves contract sewing jobs for customers. But one project has evolved into a product line sold through a new offshoot company. During the Great Recession, when CCP was struggling to find new customers, a local hospital asked if the company could design a patient positioning strap that was better than what was available on the market at the time.
“We worked closely with them to develop something using new materials,” says CCP president Jan Kellogg. “We reached out to sources for medical materials and considered different ways of constructing the product, and came up with a design.”
The hospital was happy with the first iteration because it was so much better than what it had been using, but Kellogg wasn’t satisfied. “When we dug a little deeper, we realized there was more value we could bring to it by just changing a manufacturing process,” she says.
The result is Scan-Bands®, a patient-positioning product used by diagnostic imaging departments in hospitals and outpatient clinics. The band helps to reduce fall risks, hospital-acquired infections and the need for rescans. Scan-Bands are marketed through Columbus Healthcare Products LLC, and the medical line helped the company be deemed essential during the state of Ohio’s recent COVID-19 stay-at-home order.