Customer Interview: Lamar Tool and Die

Walter Resendes

Walter Resendes

Recently we had the opportunity to complete a project for Lamar Tool and Die in Stockton California. Larry Snoreen, the owner of Lamar, chose Access Electric to be his electrical contractor in this design build project.

The project involved a complete remodel of an empty warehouse facility. A new electrical service was needed as well as lighting, power, and equipment feeds to meet the extensive requirements for this building to be converted from an empty warehouse to a full production CNC milling facility.

Working with the owner and management of Lamar to get their facility up and running in a very short period of time was a top priority for Access Electric. Everything had to go well in order to meet the tight time constraints that were needed in order for this project to be successful.

One of the greatest outcomes from this project was my opportunity to get to know Larry Snoreen and to learn the story of how Lamar Tool and Die started and how they have grown and succeeded. It is a true American Dream story. I wanted to help Larry tell his story. We interviewed Larry and Brian Kolsters, the Director of Operations for Lamar to find out more about thier story and to find out where they are going in the future. We also wanted to highlight their current and new facilities. They have taken this empty building and turned it into a modern, automated and state of the art CNC production facility.

I wanted to thank Larry and Brian for allowing us to partner with them in this project and we look forward to helping them for many years to come.

(Read the full transcript of the interview below.)

Walter Resendes 
Hey everybody, this is Walter with Access Electric and today I’m here with Larry Snoreen and his son Brian, from Lamar Tool and Die. And got to know Larry a little bit this last year, where we did an expansion of his facility in Stockton, and got to know him and he has an amazing business and amazing story and I wanted to be able to help him tell that story of what they’re doing. And I think they’re doing some great things. Let’s get right into it.

Walter 
Hey, Larry. Thanks for coming out today. Appreciate it.

Larry Snoreen
You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

Walter 
Tell us a little bit about, when did you start Lamar Tool and Die?

Larry
I started Lamar Tool and Die in 1982 in my parent’s backyard. We built a small shop and I put in a milling machine, a surface grinder, and a lathe. And I’m a Journeyman Tool and Die Maker machinists and I built high production die-cast dies and plastic injection molds and worked out of my parents’ backyard for about three or four years.

Larry
And then we moved into another facility and built a building on Technology Dr, in Modesto. We put up an 18000 square foot building and I had 13 tool and die mold makers working for me, and at that point I decided to get into the production business. I purchased die casting machines and plastic injection molding machines and we started to produce product. And then it just grew from there.

Larry
We’re a family owned business. All four of my children are a part of the company, along with my wife, Margie, who, her and I founded the company together.

Brian is the Vice President of the company and Director of Operations. And we have grown over the years, over 37 years, to the point to where we’re up over a hundred employees, and we did just do a major expansion in Stockton, California, where Access Electric did all of the electrical work for us. And added a complete machining powder coat and [impreg 00:02:47] line that Brian can elaborate more on.

Brian
Yes. We’ve got 25 CNC machines in our stock and facility now, in addition to the seven fully automated die-cast machines in our Modesto facility. In addition to the CNC equipment, which offers capabilities of turning vertical and horizontal milling, we also have a casting impregnation line. It’s a four-stage system. It uses a resin, Loctite resin, that fills any voids within the castings to assure that they don’t leak out in the field. And we also have a fully self-contained powder coating line. Wide array of colors, it’s a pretty awesome facility that we’ve put up there. And we thank you for your efforts, and we’ve got quite the team working on both ends, Modesto and Stockton, and we’re continuing to grow, we’re continuing to look for opportunities, and it’s been pretty exciting, these last few years.

Walter
Yeah. When you started the company, you were mainly working on molds, right?

Larry
Mainly building molds. Building steel die-cast dies and plastic injection molds for other manufacturing companies.

Walter
Right. And then, you said within three years or so, three or four years?

Larry
Yes. It was actually about six years, is when we built our building in Northwest Modesto, and that’s when we decided to go out on our own and start mass producing product. And at that point, most of the other die casting companies, plastic injection molding companies, that I was building dies for, at that point they pretty much cut me off, and …

Walter
You became the competition.

Larry
I became the competition. And we’ve grown from there, from 13 employees to over a hundred employees.

Walter
Great. I think that in Modesto you’re primarily doing die casting?

Larry 
Primarily doing die casting and preparation, handwork, deburring, trimming of the castings. And then we ship the product up to vibratory deburring, tumbling. And then we ship those castings up to our Stockton location.

Larry 
One of the best decisions that we’ve made over the years was in 1997. We decided to automate our die casting machines. Prior to that, we were running manual machines, old school type manufacturing, and we’ve invested a lot of money into automation, where our die casting machines have auto ladler, sprayers, extractors. And now, every one of our machines are fully automated. And that really … set us off into a new stratosphere where we were able to increase our production, reduce our reject rates, and be more consistent with our casting.

Larry 
But at this point, we’ve been up in Stockton now for about 14 months and all the product is shipped to Stockton for CNC machining, wash, powder coat and impreg. And then we are shipping a complete turnkey part ready for assembly.

Walter 
Right. Now you don’t just do die casting. You can actually machine the part-

Larry 
Correct.

Walter 
… wash the part, impregnate the part, paint the part.

Larry 
We are a full-service company.

Walter 
Package and ship.

Larry 
Yep. Package and ship. Full-service. Yes.

Walter 
That’s amazing. For the majority of your history, Larry, you’ve been primarily a tool and die company, but in the last couple of years you’ve started this new CNC portion of your business. How did that come about? Or what made you start that portion of the business?

Larry 
Well, in 1989, when we built our facility in the Landmark Industrial Park, that’s when we did decide to get into the foundry side of manufacturing and mass producing castings at that point. We have been producing castings since 1989 and doing some CNC machining. But in the last 14 months, we did have this opportunity to expand our operation and we knew we needed to do this to be able to be competitive in the world marketplace and we had to be able to produce a complete turnkey product for our customers.

Walter 
What kind of industries are you guys producing parts for?

Brian 
Well, we’re servicing the automotive, agricultural, medical, aerospace and many other industries that utilize castings. We pride ourselves in our work and the quality that we put into that, and that’s why we’re able to service those industries.

Brian 
For example, in 2006 we became ISO 9000 certified. And with that, there’s many programs and processes and procedures in place that help to assure that our customers’ quality is maintained and that they get the product and service that they require. And in 2019 we’re getting AS9100 certified, that will also expand our quality capabilities and definitely help out with how we can expand our business.

Walter 
If I were to ask you, are there any companies that I would know of that you guys produce parts for? If I walked out of my parking lot right now, would I find … vehicles that have Lamar Tool and Die parts in them?

Brian 
Absolutely. You can pop the hood on a number of the trucks out in your parking lot and you’ll probably, likely find our parts on there. We also service parts for, or we produce parts, for Caterpillar, John Deere, Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Isuzu and a number of other big automotive companies.

Walter 
Wow, that’s an amazing story. Starting in your garage, to producing parts for some of the largest manufacturers in the world. That’s incredible. That’s awesome. And it’s awesome for Modesto and Stockton that you’re able to bring those jobs here and keep them local

Brian
Made in the USA.

Larry 
Yes. Yes.

Walter 
So you said, Larry, that you made a commitment to automate your plant. And when you did, you saw some improvements. What kind of improvements did you find that you had once you did automate your machines?

Brian 
Well, we recognize the need for consistency in our product. As I mentioned earlier, we’re producing product for automotive industry, and consistency in those castings is extremely important. And by automating our equipment, we can … maintain a process that’s more consistent throughout the day, where when we were manually operating the machines, you’re taking operator into account. And those inconsistencies result in product discrepancies, which are unacceptable to our customer. We understand the importance and need for our customer to get product that’s not going to fail out in the field.

Brian 
So with the automation, it maintains better mold temperatures and it also, the shot itself, the ladler will come in and scoop up the material on a consistent basis, where a hand ladle, there’s not going to be the same amount of material in each shot. So with the shot consistency and the timing of the cycles, it maintains a much better casting and the quality is bar none compared to what we were doing before.

Walter 
You mentioned that you are ISO 9000 compliant. Can you explain a little bit about what that is? What is ISO 9000?

Brian 
Well, in the simple terms it’s you do what you say, and you say what you do. ISO 9000 is the International Standardization Organization. It’s a quality system made for any industry. Basically, again, you say what you do, and you do what you say. You document what you’re going to do and you do it.

Brian 
When you don’t have the systems in place, you’re setting yourself up for failure. So having these procedures and processes and plannings in place definitely help to make sure that not only are you doing what your customers are requiring, but that you feel confident in your workforce, that they’re doing what they’re supposed to do and that they have the proper documentation, instructions, and inspection [criterias 00:12:18] in order to maintain that quality that our customers so sternly deserve.

Walter 
Right. And now you’re going for a different type of certification, aren’t you?

Brian 
Yes. In 2019, we will be AS9100 certified, and that’s similar to ISO 9000, but it also entails the aerospace industry, so that we can hopefully expand our business into the aerospace industry as well. We do have a small bit of aerospace, but we’d surely like to expand upon that.

Walter 
Along with the ISO 9000 and the AWS?

Brian 
AS9100.

Walter 
AS9100. Along with those two certifications, what does the average, say I came to your plant, the average day. What does quality control look like?

Brian 
Quality control is 24/7, 365. We have a great quality team that helps to maintain the production processes themselves and inspection processes that are maintained as well. But also, we pride ourselves in our employees that are out there working the products. You got to have reliable workforce, and the instructions and the documentation that we provide to them in the training helps them to maintain product quality all the way around.

Brian 
Everybody from the guy sweeping the floor, to the people producing the parts, to the person doing payroll. Everybody has a hand in quality at one point or another.

Walter 
You say you have almost a hundred employees, or about a hundred employees?

Larry 
Correct.

Walter 
How did you find, or develop these employees, so that they can do what you’re doing? The amount of volume you’re putting out and the quality of work you’re putting out, being compliant with the ISO 9000, how do you develop these people? How do you find them?

Larry 
Well, it’s taken years. We started off, I can remember hiring our first employee in 1989. He was number one employee. And as we grew, we trained our people. We promote from inside the company. We also are involved with Modesto Junior College, and our tool and die maker machinists that work for our company and other staff members have gone to MJC and learned CNC programming, and machining, and welding.

Larry 
And it’s just, it’s taken years to build up the staff that we have. And a lot of our employees have been with us for 25, 26, 27 years, for a long time. You have to pay them well, you have to take good care of them and treat them right. And they’re a big part of our success, because without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing.

Walter 
I know you’re a family business. You said, I think you already mentioned that most of your family works in the business.

Larry 
Yes.

Walter 
Can you tell me about what, maybe what each one of your kids do in the business? I know your wife’s in the business, and I guess that’s where the name came from.

Larry 
Correct.

Walter 
Larry and Margie?

Larry 
Larry and Margie. That’s where the name came from.

Larry 
When I started out 37 years ago, all my kids were very small. And they’re my kids, but they’re all grown adults and they’ve been working at Lamar Tool and Die Casting since they were old enough to push a broom, every single one of them. And they all worked their way up the ranks, from the bottom up. And

Brian, again, is the Vice President, Director of Operations, and he runs the daily operation. My wife is involved in finances. My daughter, Kelly, is our Accounts Manager. Nick is Plant Manager in Stockton, and [Lindsey 00:16:37] works in the front office in Modesto, as an administrative assistant. I’m a pretty lucky guy to get to go to work every day and spend every day working with my family, you know? And it’s-

Walter 
That can be hard. It can be hard. How’s it work in your family?

Larry 
It works very well. I think it does. And I’ve heard horror stories, but it just, it’s one of them things where all of my children decided to be part of the company. And they all have attributes that work well in our company and they all fit well in the different operations, different departments. And over the years it’s gotten to the point to where they … they’re running the show right along with their dad and their mom.

Walter 
That’s an awesome story.

Brian 
And to expand upon that, above and beyond the blood family aspect of it, too, we pride ourselves in treating each one of our employees as family as well. And if you talk to anybody out on the floor, they’re all happy to work for each other, with each other, and with us. And we try to treat our employees very well, and we treat them just as much like family as we do our own. So that’s

Larry 
Yes.

Brian 
… kind of what makes us successful in that regard.

Walter 
Absolutely. It sure is a lot easier to get work done when you like the people you’re working with.

Brian
Absolutely.

Larry 
Oh, yes.

Walter 
Yeah.

Brian 
Well, we thank you for the time to interview us today, and for anybody listening, we feel very confident that not only will you be impressed by our state of the art manufacturing facility, but also our courteous, professional, and knowledgeable staff. Again, we’ve been in business for 37 years and we ain’t going anywhere. And we look forward to servicing anybody, everybody that needs die casting manufacturing done. And if you have any projects you’d be interested in having us take a look at, give us a call, visit us online at www.lamartoolanddie.com. Or come on by. We’re made in the USA and looking forward to servicing your needs.

Walter 
Larry, I want to thank you for the opportunity to having had Access Electric as your electrical contractor there in Stockton, with the expansion of your facility. I appreciate that. There’s a lot of contractors that could have done that job and you chose us, and I don’t know why you chose us, but I’m thankful that you did. And I’m glad we were able to help you get that facility up and running. I know you had some really tight timelines too, and hopefully we were able to get you done on time and where you can be productive and profitable and all those things. Thank you so much for having us. [crosstalk 00:19:36].

Larry 
Okay. Well, thank you. And you guys came through for us on all fronts.

Brian 
It’s partnerships like these that make the world go around.

Larry 
Yep.

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