Business turns to art for profitWritten by Christy Hemken
“We were hoping to get work from manufacturers in the area,” Bowman says of the machine’s purchase. “That didn’t happen, so we sat down to figure out what we were going to do with the machine.”
Bowman says he grew up farming with his family and his father became involved with center irrigation pivots. “He bought the first one to ever come into this area, then all the neighbors wanted him to put one up for them so he fell into it.”
“I grew up in irrigation and I hated it, but I always liked building things so I took over the shop job. The local farmers started realizing we could fix things, so that’s how the repair work started,” he says.
Having never been an artist, but having always wanted to manufacture something, Bowman says he started dabbling in different shapes and pieces to fabricate and the metal artwork is what he came up with.
“I wanted something to depend on, rather than waiting for people to walk if for us to fix their stuff,” he adds.
Bowman says many companies do mostly wall work, but Allwayz Manufacturing produces functional pieces with a use, from small things like switch plates and business card holders to chairs and light fixtures.
“We try to focus on Western and wildlife products,” he says.
Currently Cabela’s is their number one customer; they’ve also sold to England, Japan, Spain and Thailand, among others. “We’ve sold to stores in every state in the U.S.,” says Bowman.
“Last year we moved close to $750,000 worth of product,” he says. “Right now it’s popular and there are a lot more people doing it because the machine us cheaper now, but they can’t do the quality or production we do.”
“We always hoped we’d get this big, but we never expected it,” says Bowman of his business’s success.
Allwayz Manufacturing uses a computerized plasma torch that cuts anything up to one inch thick that will conduct electricity. A recent installation was a water jet, which will cut any type of material, including glass, ceramic tile, wood and steel.
“We can now expand into other products to get ahead of our competition,” says Bowman.
“We burn up a lot of material, and the increased cost of steel is really a problem for us,“ he says, adding that it causes the company to mark up products that need to be guaranteed a year in advance. “We don’t know what’s going to happen in two months so we mark it up, but then we might not sell it.”
Right now there are eight employees working in the manufacturing end of the business, while there are about seven working retail stores in Cheyenne.
“The biggest issue in this area is finding qualified people that can do this type of work,” says Bowman. “We’re willing to hire someone and train them and let them grow in the business, but the labor force in this area is tough. It’s nice to find somebody that knows and has an idea about the equipment and how it works and how to fix it. That’s getting harder to find all the time.”
“We still do the walk-in repair-type stuff and we venture into other things to manufacture for people. I like a challenge, and you never know what somebody’s going to need,” says Bowman. Right now a project the company is working on is specialized flatbed trailers.
“We’re still on a learning curve with the water jet, but with it we’re hoping to bring in work like shaping countertops for new homes, instead of them sawing it,” he says. “We can do whatever design they want in anything.”