Posted by cservaes on June 19, 2012 in "Academic Programs", Alumni, "Carr Lane Manufacturing", "Made in America", "Political science", "The College"
While “Made in America” is making a comeback as the perceived ethical and preferred choice for many products like cars, appliances, furniture, and clothing, governmental and environmental regulations have long pushed companies and industries to distant shores where restrictions are fewer and labor cheaper.
Established in 1952, Carr Lane Manufacturing had been in business for two decades when major regulation changes hit the U.S. industrial sector in the 1970s. New restrictions and laws imposed by the EPA, EDP, OHSA, the IRS, and other regulatory bodies meant big adjustments to businessas- usual for most manufacturing companies. Rather than adapt and invest in costly compliance, many companies simply took their business abroad. Carr Lane stemmed the tide of popular practice, however, by staying put in St. Louis, Missouri. Alan Frost ’70 was with Carr Lane both then and now. A political science major at OU, Frost built lasting relationships with students, faculty and administrators, while being active in student government, campus activities board and as a dormitory director. Critical friendships were formed with, among others, Dr. Ronnie Averyt and Dr. Fred Zook, then dean of students, who provided guidance and encouragement while Frost was a student, and long after. Frost found OU and the liberal arts education he received there extremely valuable in developing the ability to express himself clearly and think analytically. Not incidentally, while at Ottawa University, Frost met Nance Walker ’71, a business major. They cooperated in organizing activities, such as concerts, activities for the first Earth Day and a student trip called “Washington Seminar” to visit Washington, D.C. in spring of 1970. This partnership has continued through their marriage in 1971 to their present roles in the leadership of Carr Lane Manufacturing. Following OU, Frost earned his Juris Doctorate from Washington University in St. Louis and served as a city prosecuting attorney until his father-in-law approached him about joining Carr Lane. It’s now been 37 years, and after working in and managing almost every aspect of operations within the company, Frost was named president of Carr Lane in December 2011. Carr Lane is a tooling manufacturer and supplier that provides the world’s largest selection of tooling components, clamps, fixturing, and related workholding products for all areas of manufacturing in virtually every industry around the globe. One of the company’s competitive edges lies in its ISO 9000 certification that was earned in 1996 under Frost’s direction. The certification demonstrates that Carr Lane meets the International Organization for Standardization requirements for consistently high-quality products and manufacturing processes, which gives companies added confidence when doing business with Carr Lane. With locations in St. Louis and Austin, Texas, the company has developed several other competitive advantages under Frost’s leadership: 95% of orders shipped the day they are received; customization of parts; continual development of new products; utilization of the latest technology; a worldwide network of more than 200 distributors; and an online catalog offered in five languages. Frost’s management capabilities and style have been enhanced over the years in both traditional and non-traditional ways. He earned his MBA from Washington University a few years after joining Carr Lane, but equally influential has been his role as a Baldrige Quality Award examiner. The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program is a federal public-private partnership dedicated to improving the competitiveness and performance of U.S. organizations. Frost served as an award examiner for five years, becoming both a student and proponent of the Baldrige performance criteria and practices. “The Baldrige program encourages companies to compare their performance to that of similar organizations until they can benchmark themselves against those who are best in class,” says Frost. “The tools and techniques that I was trained in as an examiner are very beneficial as we try to refocus Carr Lane and build in the discipline of continuous improvement.” Though manufacturing may not seem as glamorous as some business careers, Frost sees manufacturing as a wide-open field. “I think that manufacturing is an industry that has vast possibilities,” says Frost. “It’s a place where we can build something that has value that is more than the sum of its parts, and it is an excellent career avenue for people who are well educated and can think critically. In fact, we’ve hired several experienced managers in the past six months.” From its humble beginnings in a wooden garage with only a few parts to sell, Carr Lane has grown into the national go-to tooling manufacturer, weathering the many ups and downs in the U.S. and foreign economies. And as buying American continues to regain popularity, Carr Lane can proudly lead the comeback with “STILL Made in America.”