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Company Profile
JMI Covers, LLC

JMI Covers, L.L.C. • 985-386-6000

Serving the grain industry for more than 40 years

Reprinted from Grain Journal March/April 2015 Issue

For a number of companies serving the grain industry, the path to success is often a winding road that doesn’t always originate in that industry. What begins as a successful product or service in one field naturally finds its way into others, as new uses and technologies are developed and brought to market.

In the case of Ponchatoula, LA-based J&M Industries, Inc., its beginnings were rooted in the agriculture and seafood trades, as the company founder, Maurice Gaudet III, opened up shop in 1973 in New Orleans, LA as a recycler of coffee bean bags that were repurposed for use in the local feed, agriculture, and oyster industries. In just two short years, it was growing so rapidly that the young company had to move into larger facilities in the wharf district.

With the Gaudet brothers and then the second generation, later taking the helm, the company continued to expand its operations into new areas, including manufacturing custom separation cloths for grain ships frequenting the Port of New Orleans, as well as new multi-use textile bags. As J&M began to develop a reputation for innovative and practical solutions, its ability to manufacture textile bags grew so quickly that it soon became the lone survivor in a once-thriving textile bag industry.

“My father, Maurice Gaudet III, started out working for Bemis Company, which was in the textile bag manufacturing and burlap businesses,” recalls J&M President Maurice Gaudet IV. “He started the company in a building the size of a garage buying used coffee bags from Folgers and sorting them and reselling them for seafood packaging. That’s how we got started. We grew over time, and we actually bought equipment and started making textile bags and separation cloths that are used on grain ships to separate the layers of grain,” he says.

With five acquisitions in the 1980s and early 1990s, the company continued to expand its production capabilities, and as word of its solution-oriented approach to business spread, new customers came knocking on J&M’s door requesting specialized applications for their industries. New product lines were added to support and complement its existing bag and tarp business. Eventually, as markets shifted, the company discontinued its production of textile bags and focused its attention exclusively to the manufacturing of protective covers.

Continued growth led to the construction of a new 80,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Ponchatoula in 1992, and subsequent additions over several years added another 80,000 square feet to the company’s building stock. It also added a 28,000-square-foot distribution center in Rayne, LA in 1994, and now employs between 120 to 130 workers.

Today, J&M manufactures temporary grain storage covers that can be used for barley, corn, oats, sorghum, soybeans, sunflower, durum wheat, hard red spring wheat, and more. The company also offers a wide variety of protective covers for a number of different industries including industrial painting, sandblasting, nursery, waste management, road construction, and cargo grain exporting.

Its products are available in a variety of materials, including string-reinforced polyethylene, woven-coated polyethylene, vinyl, among others. J&M grain covers are custom-made to size and specification for lifting rings and oval and rectangular bunkers and are offered with grommeted edges and weather flaps or material sheets for quick installation.

Growth Through Service and Innovation

Currently, the ag industry represents about 20% of J&M’s annual revenue, and Gaudet IV says that the company expects that number to increase significantly over the next four to five years. In fact, Gaudet IV says that J&M has started construction on a $4.5 million, 120,000-sq-ft. state-of-the-art facility to expand its tarp-building capability.

This level of growth didn’t come by accident, of course. Gaudet IV attributes much of the company’s success to a simple principle: listening to customers, in order to determine their needs, and improving products based on their responses.

“We went out there and started asking customers what improvements we can make, and we actually have gone through the process and improved the product that’s out there, as a result of their feedback” Gaudet IV explains. “That’s one of the first things we did – we actually said, ‘What can we do to make it better for the customer?’ We developed and have filed for patents – we have some patents pending – on improvements to some of the grain tarps we sell, as well as internal strapping systems, hand straps, and other products that we have added to improve the ease of use, installation, and quality of the product to make it more useful.”

With this kind of proactive approach to product development, it’s no wonder that J&M places a lot of emphasis and value on customer relationships and has a great service reputation. “We’re not a business that takes a lot of telephone orders,” explains Gaudet IV. “We believe in having face time, going out to the customer, spending time with the customer, and manufacturing grain tarps tailored for our customers. We have a very good service reputation. It was built on innovation and our quality service model that we have.”

Aaron Gummer, general manager of  operations and sales for JMI, says that adding value is also a key ingredient to the company’s success across the board in every industry it serves. “Whether it’s the grain industry or any other industry that we participate in, we’re always looking for creating value for our customers. We keep our ears open, and we listen to our customers. When they have a need, that’s when we go back to the drawing board, and we see if we can provide solutions for that. Creating that value with fair pricing and a good quality product that’s practical and works – that’s what we built this company on,” he explains.

Competitive Advantage and Thought Leadership

Among the things that set J&M apart from some of its competitors is that the company doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to its manufacturing process. Every customer is unique and has specific needs, and J&M is in the business of meeting those needs, no matter how different they might be from the norm.

“One of the best things about our company is that we’re very diverse in our manufacturing capabilities, so we can customize our covers,” notes Gummer. “It’s not just a cookie cutter, standard cover that we sell to everybody as a one-size-fits-all. We tailor our covers to each specific customer’s needs, and that has shown to be a big advantage for our customers,” he adds.

Although a customized approach often may be the more difficult path to follow, J&M isn’t the type of company that shies away from a challenge. In fact, according to Gaudet IV, that’s exactly where it shines.

“What we’re really good at is the complex, harder things. We’ve always kind of specialized in that,” he says. “So the more complicated, the more work, or the more customization people want, as a whole, our company has always been good at that. The customization side of our business really has helped us in our growth. We visit our customers, spend time with them, and ask, ‘What do you want on your pile that’s different? What can we do for you to make yours specific for your location? If you want us to cut it a little differently, we can do that,’” he notes.

Another thing that helps J&M stand out from the crowd is its commitment to research and development, which it shares with the industry at events like the Grain Elevator and Processing Society (GEAPS) annual Exchange that recognizes some of the best inventions and innovations in the industry. Gummer notes that the 2014 Exchange in Omaha, NE, J&M gave a What’s New presentation on its internal strapping systems for grain covers that is designed to keep the tarp in place in the event of a power outage and loss of suction from the aeration fans. As an added benefit, the internal strapping system also can reduce electrical loads and costs on calm days with little to no wind, as fans can be powered down, without risk of the tarp flying off.

“We are constantly doing R&D,” explains Gummer. “We have a couple of new products, which we’ll introduce next year, that we spend time testing on test pile site. Whenever we introduce a product, we go through a testing process to make sure it works, and then we tweak it. So we have a couple of new products that we’re taking on that are in the testing phase right now and one or two that we’re probably going to test next year on the pile,” he adds.

Family Values and the 3Qs

There are a lot of grain industry manufacturers that are family-owned and operated and that promote family values – and J&M is definitely among them. Like many other successful businesses, Gaudet IV says that J&M treats all employee with respect and credits them for the company’s growth. “Every employee here is a big part of our success. We all have to work together. We all have to do a good job, and everybody here is important,” he says.

What’s uncommon about J&M’s philosophy is the little things that drive home the feeling that employees truly are part of a big family. For example, at Thanksgiving, the company provides every employee with a turkey the way companies used to do in a bygone era.

“We still give our people a turkey at Thanksgiving – that’s old school,” Gaudet IV says. “I remember as a kid, all the companies gave turkeys and hams. We still do that, and we’ll continue to do that. It’s just a little touch that I think corporate America has lost.”

Gummer adds that this family atmosphere carries on throughout the whole year with things such as periodic company barbeques, and the company’s leadership taking the time to get to know employees on a first-name basis, for example.

“We call it the 3Qs here,” Gummer says. “Quality people, quality products, and quality service – those are the three things that we think about consistently and talk about, because without those, we’d go in the wrong direction. And if you can establish those three things and work hard, you can achieve anything. We drive that home,” he concludes.

About JMI Covers, L.L.C.

Ponchatoula, LA

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