Seven minutes down the road from the Basco Shower Doors' headquarters and manufacturing facility in Mason, Ohio, you'll hear screams and shrieks from Beast, the Diamondback, and the Banshee. No, these are not oddities from a local carnival or a fearsome attraction at the Cincinnati Zoo. These three brutes are extreme roller coasters at the popular King's Island amusement park.
And frankly, there's no comparison to make between the coasters' twists, turns, and freefalls, and Basco's steadfast tenure in the shower enclosure industry. Founder G. William Rhode created the company in 1955, and it remains in the family to this day. George W. Rhode, Jr. has served as president since 1992 with accomplishments that include accelerated growth, and movement into showrooms.
As it celebrates its 60th anniversary this month, Basco continues to push forward into growth areas, keeping a keen eye on marketplace trends. A tour of the manufacturing facility with company leaders reveals how the company has had so much success in its history, and what it's looking forward to next.
With availability through wholesale and retail channels, Basco is the country's largest provider of custom shower doors. In fact, Vice President of Operations Steve Lotz says 80% of Basco's doors are one-of-a-kind, made-to-order for specific projects. Knowing this, and with shipments made to all 50 states, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, you might expect the 200,000-squre-foot facility to be stacked to the ceiling with parts and pieces.
On the contrary, Lotz says the company runs lean, offering a five-day lead time for any shower door. "Building the doors fast helps us lessen the amount of product we need to store and the time we need to store it," he says. Additionally, the company maintains glass production in a separate facility, which makes daily deliveries to fulfill upcoming orders.
Glass production takes place in Fairfield, Ohio, about 30 minutes west of Mason, at the Addis Glass facility that Basco purchased in 2010. Up to then, Basco had to juggle suppliers' schedules and delays with their own production needs. "We had purchased glass as needed, but we had no quality control or timing control," says Don Gamble, executive vice president of sales and marketing. "Ninety percent of our products were glass and we were relying on someone else to meet our standards." The Addis Glass purchase brought experience and a skill set for fabrication that Basco couldn't have easily built on its own, and also provided an on-hand resource for the company's tempered glass needs.
On the manufacturing floor, Lotz says 40% of the glass that comes in is treated with coatings like AquaGlide XP, which repels soap scum and makes the glass easier to clean. Team members apply the coatings by hand after each piece of glass has been inspected for accurate sizing based on the order.
Since the majority of orders are not stock pieces and are certainly not interchangeable, great care is taken to ensure that the glass and other components move safely and seamlessly down the production line together. Vertical carts handle the glass, metal components, and hardware for one door order at a time through inspection, treatment, assembly, and packaging. As a quality control measure for both Basco and its customers, team members take a digital picture of all the hardware and components before shipping the order. "Everyone gets frustrated when they order something and it arrives with not enough screws, or in the wrong color, or with some other problem," Lotz says. "This step gives us a visual record that our team is filling the order correctly."
Taking quality control a step further, Basco actually assembles every door on the manufacturing floor. "We're obsessed with quality," Lotz says. When the order is properly filled and all the parts and pieces fit together, it's ready for careful packing and shipping. Basco customers also benefit from expert installation, thanks to hands-on training offered through Basco University.
Staying on Trend
Basco offers three strategically positioned collections, including the value-priced LOGiK framed doors with 3/16-inch glass; Basco framed and semi-frameless doors with glass up to 1/4-inch thick; and the growing Roda line of luxury frameless "heavy glass" doors starting at 3/8 inches thick. It's in the Roda collection that Gamble says he expects to see the most growth going forward. In fact, since Basco's Celesta shower doors (now part of Roda) launched in 2002, a 2009 dip in heavy glass sales during the housing crisis is just about the only roller coaster Basco has had to ride in its 60-year history.
"The industry has evolved, and it's been going down the 'custom' road for 10 to 15 years," Gamble says. "In general, 'custom' means 'less metal,' but early on we naively expected consumers to jump straight to custom from stock." When that didn't happen, Basco took a step back and developed semi-custom adjustable doors that looked more like the frameless designs homeowners wanted, but took advantage of stock glass sizes. "Now we have products available across all pricepoints, and with Roda we're ready to show consumers that truly frameless designs are within reach."
Gamble says he expects Roda to spike in the next three to four years as homeowners continue to take out bathtubs and rework their bathroom spaces. The custom offerings in the line are ideal for non-traditionally sized (read: "not stock") shower spaces, while clever features like adjustable-width frameless doors let the Roda collection work in any shower area. Basco continues to capitalize on up-to-the-moment trends by introducing features like rolling door hardware found on the Evo and Rolaire doors.
"Our goal has always been to be relevant quickly as trends develop," Gamble says. To that end, the elegant and accessible Roda collection is certainly something that will keep Basco relevant well into its next 60 years.