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Swiss company breathes new life, work into 113-year-old Toledo machine maker

Posted By: Toledo Blade on March 9, 2024.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

A Swiss company that has purchased NSS Enterprises Inc., a century-old cleaning equipment maker in Toledo, is bringing work here from overseas and doing its part to reverse the decades-long general trend of work being outsourced away from Toledo.

Munchwilen, Switzerland-based TASKI has made the NSS manufacturing complex at 3115 Frenchmens Road its new North American headquarters, said Mark Palumbo, 53, executive director of TASKI North America.

TASKI, which is a global cleaning machine maker several times larger than NSS, felt it important to have a major manufacturing presence in North America to support customers here, he said.

In the year since TASKI bought NSS from owner Mark Bevington of Ottawa Hills, engineering between Toledo and Switzerland have been combined and TASKI cleaning machines have begun to be manufactured at the Toledo factory, Mr. Palumbo said.

Moreover, he said the workforce in Toledo that now stands at about 55 is expected to be expanded to more than 100 in the near future. The company is currently hiring customer service representatives.

“TASKI has been growing in the North American market and we wanted to have a North American footprint in the United States or Canada but we chose the United States,” Mr. Palumbo said after a factory tour last week.

“As a rapidly expanding business, we wanted to expand both our capabilities and portfolio (of products) in North America. So, we acquired NSS to have manufacturing, engineering, sales, cross-selling of products as well as being able to make and distribute TASKI products across North America.”

Terms of the NSS acquisition and the sales of the now-combined company are not being disclosed, he said.

TASKI cleaning machines are easy to identify being pushed or guided in a hospital or school by their orange water tanks and black frames. NSS machines are black.

Over the years they have tended to serve complementary customer bases, Mr. Palumbo said. TASKI is big at selling directly to institutions that need heavy cleaning such as hospitals, schools and office buildings, while NSS sells largely through distributors and to contract cleaning companies.

Mr. Palumbo said he sees opportunities for cross-selling machines to each of the customer bases.

Mark Bevington was the third-generation owner of NSS before he sold it to TASKI. He ran it for 24 years after buying it from his dad, John Bevington, who ran it for 28 years, he said. The company was founded in 1911 in Toledo.

Mr. Bevington said the industry was undergoing rapid consolidation when he began thinking about selling NSS, considered a smaller player in the industry. Then the coronavirus hit, with its subsequent supply-chain problems, and he made the decision to combine with a bigger competitor.

“It made sense to sell to one of the bigger players to ensure the future of NSS and its people,” he said via text message.

TASKI and NSS were previously a part of cleaning chemical maker Diversey. It was subsequently bought by Solenis, a large maker of water treatment and other chemicals based in Wilmington, Del.

Dave Patlin, union shop chairman at NSS for 28 production workers represented by UAW Local 12, said TASKI has kept the promises it made after buying NSS and breathed new life into the operation.

No workers were laid off, even during the ownership transition. And sales growth could add to the workforce, he said.

That has allayed initial fears that a big company like TASKI could swoop in, dismantle the business and only keep a few patents or product lines for itself, Mr. Patlin said.

“You’re concerned that they’re buying it to make it go away,” he said. “But their idea is to expand it.”

Mr. Patlin said the union’s current contract with TASKI expires in August, 2025, with the sides interested in negotiating. UAW Local 12 also represents about 5,000 workers at Jeep’s Toledo Assembly Complex among other local businesses.

While walking around the factory floor, Mr. Palumbo noted a new cell manufacturing line that was built to produce TASKI machines previously only built in Switzerland.

NSS today builds its machines mostly on assembly lines. But cell manufacturing, in which a worker knows how to operate all the machines configured in a cell, yields high quality and is more efficient, he said. In fact, one worker individually builds an entire TASKI machine and then certifies it.

Eventually, TASKI intends to have all products in the factory produced in cells, Mr. Palumbo said.

Machine engineering and design also have been combined between staff in Switzerland and those in Toledo, he said.

“We’ve integrated engineering teams, sales teams, logistics and customer service,” Mr. Palumbo said.

TASKI has always prided itself on Swiss craftsmanship. But TASKI designers and engineers also have learned some tricks from the simplicity of NSS designs, he said.

The joint teams are well along in designing together a large auto scrubber expected to launch in the coming months, Mr. Palumbo said.


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