June 24, 2014

Dry material veteran executives form Wichita start-up Bulk Conveyors Inc.

If you can’t join them, beat them – it’s the philosophy that drives Bulk Conveyors Inc.

If you can’t join them, beat them – it’s the philosophy that drives Bulk Conveyors Inc.

The 4-month-old maker of conveyor systems for agricultural and industrial materials, 1202 E. First St. in Wichita, was founded by former executives of conveyor system-maker Tramco and supplier Rubber Belting and Hose, both in Wichita.

They’re a little reserved in talking about it, but they acknowledge that all are veterans of companies that had been sold, and that they were unhappy with their subsequent circumstances.

Ag Growth International of Manitoba bought Tramco in 2010. It still operates under the Tramco name in Wichita.

CEO Van Buchanan said that everybody at BCI except for him worked at Tramco, some for decades. Former Tramco president Steve Cloud and vice president Larry Forrester are listed as consultants; chief engineer Steve Rutz and plant manager Jim Bybee took on the roles they also had at Tramco. A handful or so of other Tramco veterans also now work at the new company.

Buchanan knew them all as co-founder of Rubber Belting and Hose, a Tramco supplier that he sold a few years ago. He was out of work himself last year when some of the former Tramco executives last year asked him to meet for breakfast at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Park City.

They thought they could do it better and wanted to start a new company, Buchanan said. So they did.

“It’s self-financed,” Buchanan said. “We believe in each other.”

A startup in any industry is dicey, especially a slow-growing one like dry material handling.

But they have one huge asset: They know the business inside and out. They have the contacts among customers and suppliers. They know what sells, how to build the product and how to keep costs down. BCI will make chain conveyors, air supported conveyors, bucket elevators and enclosed belt conveyors.

“After 40 years, it’s your people who are your best asset,” Buchanan said. “That is valued here, when people were not valued elsewhere.”

Although based in Wichita, BCI manufactures its products at K Doll Koatings in Conway Springs. To date, it has shipped one unit, to a grain mill in Maryland. But it gets calls every day, he said. There’s already a backlog.

The growth forecast?

“I think it’s going to be extremely rapid because of the experience, know-how and reputation of the people,” Buchanan said. “We haven’t really gone out and advertised, yet.”

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