Icon (Close Menu)

Logout

Arkansas Steel Industry Fuels Windsor Door’s $21M ExpansionLock Icon

6 min read

Windsor Door is taking advantage of Arkansas’ growing steel industry and spending $21 million to build a state-of-the-art automation line at the company’s production plant in Little Rock.

The line, the fourth under the roof of Windsor’s 400,000-SF factory, will increase the plant’s manufacturing capacity from 100,000 garage doors a year to 400,000.

Windsor Door produces an assortment of garage doors, including multifamily housing doors, but is predominantly focused on doors for residential use. The company operates under the parent firm Windsor America, and both are headquartered in Little Rock.

Windsor America employs 365, with Windsor Door accounting for 160 of those jobs. The production line measures 375 feet by 40 feet and uses both human workers and automation.

Bob Strahan, president of Windsor Door, said the new machinery doesn’t mean employee layoffs. “Because of all the growth we will have on the high-speed line, even though there will be less people working on it, we are going to have to have more track, more springs, more hardware, and we are going to increase people in that,” Strahan said. “We are going to have a whole bunch of people that need to load the trucks and manage that part of the business, so it’s going to be a plus for growth in jobs.”

Hans Wright, CEO of Windsor America, said that during the last 18 months the plant has grown from about 65 employees working on the floor to 130. The company added an engineer to its staff and is looking for a robotics expert.

Those jobs aren’t the only ones created because of the investment, Wright said. The additional output will mean more jobs in freight moving, steel production, installation service and other areas.

The new automated production line will increase efficiency and the quality of the product because of its precision, he said.

“If you think kind of more broadly and you look at the homebuilding market and look at housing, the entry-level home in a lot of major metropolitan areas in the United States doesn’t really exist anymore,” Wright said. “And so you’ve got these homebuilders that are trying to redefine how they build a house.”

Hans Wright (bottom left), CEO of Windor America, discusses the intracacies of the garage door industry in an interview alongside Bob Strahan (right), president of Windsor Door, and Jeremy Flack (top left), CEO of Flack Global Metals. (Emma Mayes)

Wright said he thinks it’s important for homebuilders to innovate in the way they build houses.

“Eventually they need to bring in panelization and different technologies to lower the cost of housing or entry-level housing,” Wright said, “but the low-hanging fruit is in plants like this. It’s for people like us to automate and streamline our operations to keep our products’ price stable and readily available. That way, they can deliver a home price that’s stable.”

Windsor’s existing legacy lines can also expect a facelift. Wright described “long-term capital plans to invest heavily in those to automate parts of that process and to improve the quality that’s coming off those production lines.”

The Importance of Steel

Jeremy Flack, founder and CEO of Flack Global Metals, an investor in Windsor America, emphasized the important role that Arkansas’ steel plays in the nation’s economy. Mississippi County is now the largest steel-producing county in the United States.

“The investment in Arkansas’ steel industry is critical to the entire domestic manufacturing base in the United States,” Flack said. “Let’s just be clear that the money that is being invested by Nucor and U.S. Steel and the footprint in eastern Arkansas is benefiting manufacturers across this region and causing them to be globally competitive.”

Flack said that the doors produced by Windsor have probably the lowest carbon footprint of any produced in the United States because the production is happening within a very small geographic area. About 95% of the steel used in Windsor’s factory is from Arkansas, according to company officials.

Windsor will be doubling the amount of steel purchased in Arkansas, according to a press release. The company currently buys from Flack Global Metals, which sources most of the steel used in its doors from Arkansas steel producers. Flack is based in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The idea for the new automation line emerged in 2021, when Windsor America met up with representatives from across the supply chain to discuss challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and other developments, such as industry consolidation, as well as goals.

“Literally, what we did is we brought everybody that was involved in the supply chain in the same room, and we sat down and we figured it out,” Wright said. “The largest homebuilders in the country were in this room with Flack Global Metals, with our hardware supplier and with our freight company. We came up with long-term solutions to fix what we thought was a structural capacity problem in our industry.

“It was like multiple homebuilder partners, hearing from them what their long-term demand was going to be and understanding that we had a unique opportunity to create a solution that nobody else was addressing, and still hasn’t really addressed,” Wright said. “We’re the only ones that built a production line specifically for the U.S. homebuilder.”

Windsor America brought in about $80 million in revenue in 2021 and has since grown to $140 million in 2023, Wright said.

Wright said Windsor was a regional player at the time, but has since grown and now ships doors to more than 50 metropolitan areas. Additionally, he said, the company is “expanding pretty significantly in the next 12 months.”

Wright said at the time of the meeting with the homebuilders, Windsor had national relationships and had served those customers in those regions well. That established a significant amount of trust for Windsor’s partners to come and speak transparently about the challenges they were having. Those conversations were met with mutual honesty from Windsor about its inability to scale to the level that the partners needed.

The new Windsor Door facility (Emma Mayes)

At the time, supply-chain challenges meant that a lot of building parts were scarce, Wright said. Windsor’s core strategic partners were reaching out and leaning on the company to come up with a new solution.

To address these issues, Windsor took a historical perspective of the industry and noted a large amount of consolidation. Wright said the number of garage door manufacturers is half what it was 25 years ago.

“Hans was ultimately transparent with us about the situation in Windsor,” Flack said. “We hopped on it to help them get the supply chain straight so they can service their customers. Then, when the opportunity arose to invest in business to help grow the business for the new technology, we made the decision to invest in the business.”

The combination of supply-chain issues and mass consolidation in the industry led to the idea for the new line, Wright said. The actual production capacity needed to keep up with demand did not exist.

Investment Sources

The $21 million to fund the line came from several sources, including the investment from Flack Global Metals and a partnership with Bank of America, although Wright said “a lot of it was just profit.”

Windsor’s newest product launch is the Windsor Model 1030, a garage door crafted with 25-gauge steel and an optional 2-inches of insulation. The door is being manufactured in the plant, and the company had shipped 10 truckloads as of June 12.

Flack said half of Windsor’s revenue comes from the service side of the business — distribution and installation. “When the builder buys the door from Windsor, they’re buying an installed, finished, final product,” Flack said, “and that’s something that Windsor is focused on doing better and more capably than its competitors.”

Windsor America owns three installation companies in different regions of the country. Currently, the territory stretches from Nashville, Tennessee, to Phoenix, and the company has customers in the Southeast and California.

“We are building coast to coast and we have these national partnerships with large homebuilders, so we’re going to metropolitan areas where they need us,” Wright said. “So that’s a large part of how and where we expand.”

Looking ahead, Wright said, the bigger challenge for Windsor America is the future of its customer base and the housing market. “Do we stay in this semi, kind of depressed state, or does it go up?” Wright said. “How long does that last? So we’ve got to plan our business around that.”

Wright said he is optimistic about the state of the market and that through diversification and preparation, Windsor will succeed in the volatile housing market.

“Housing is historically volatile,” Wright said. “And so, we’re going to make sure that we put Windsor toward a place where it can withstand that volatility.”

Send this to a friend