Updating The Virtual Site, Too

Vent-A-Hood expands and updates both its production facility in Richardson, Texas and its Web site.

Booming markets made the need for expansion obvious at Vent-A-Hood's Richardson, Texas, production facility. Less obvious, but equally important to the company's future was the simultaneous decision to invest in a new, more comprehensive Web site.

The company, a North American maker of residential kitchen range hoods, determined that enlarging the size of its production facility by 50,000 square feet -- a 50% increase -- was only a partial solution for its growth challenges.

The contributing factors include the emerging pattern of growth synchronization in Vent-A-Hood's two markets: new housing and the remodeling sector. "Current economic trends show both market sectors peaking together," observes Blake Woodall, Vent-A-Hood's director of sales and marketing. "Historically we would have expected heightened activity in one of those sectors to indicate ebbing sales in the other."

Another factor is the increasing popularity of the company's signature Magic Lung technology, adds Woodall. (Magic Lung is a patented filterless blower that uses centrifugal energy to separate grease and cooking contaminants from the air.)

Vent-A-Hood's response is reshaping the 73-year-old company. "We are upgrading and improving across the board," claims James Adams, national sales manager. "We are making improvements to our product line as well as to our overall image in the industry." To that end, the company's Web site redesign has been focused on the need to convey and emphasize the company's upscale reputation. "We saw it was time to take our Web site to the next level, to really reflect our position as a premium brand in the marketplace," Adams says.

Web sites need to reflect customers' increasing levels of sophistication -- both in terms of product design and Internet access, adds Woodall. "Customers are doing a lot more homework before they buy, so when they go to an appliance or kitchen dealer they can make a more informed decision. Our interactive product selector will help walk them through step by step, to find out which range hood is right for them."

To drive consumers to the new Web site, Vent-A-Hood's advertisements no longer list a telephone number for contact -- just the company's URL (www.ventahood.com).

Both initiatives -- the production floor expansion and the Web site redesign -- mark considerable progress from the company's family-owned business origins. For example, Vent-A-Hood's initial Web site was a homegrown, internally built effort that sometimes lagged in adequately fulfilling customer and distributor needs as an e-commerce tool, notes Adams. For its Web redesigner, Vent-A-Hood engaged C. Pitman Baker & Associates (CPB-inc) of Irving, Texas.

Highlights of the plant expansion range from a new 600,000-pound press to manufacturing systems designed to optimize both high volume and short production runs of range hoods, says Woodall. Operations start with pallets of steel that proceed through steps such as cutting, press forming, spot-welding finish grinding and/or painting. Assembly, packing and shipping follow.

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