Wells Manufacturing in New Vienna is not just another factory. Sure, there are machines with assembly lines, and all the smells and sounds that we find in a factory. But imagine thousands upon thousands of rubber balls, jump ropes, and pinwheels. That's their finished product. Toys!
New Vienna's toy factory has been making these toys and many more for 25 years. Today they manufacture over 100 different small toys that sell all over the United States and some regions of the world. They even have a customer in Truth or Consequences, N.M.! It's certainly a big operation and unique from the standpoint that there aren't many factories of its kind in southern Ohio. Harold Uible, a practicing lawyer and manager of the plan, gave this reporter a first-hand look at their toy-making process.
ONCE BEHIND the office doors, we looked in on the making on pinwheels. A pinwheel is a hand-made plastic wheel that spins on the end of a wooden stick when held in the wind. It operates on the same theory as a windmill. There were no machines in this section and just four women handled the whole operation. Uible mentioned that the tree women busily cutting and putting together the wheels were from New Vienna; in fact all of the factory's 75 employes are from the New Vienna area.
The first machine seen was in a packaging section. It was cutting and shaping plastic to be used as packaging for the jack sets. All the labeling and packaging is done right there in the factory, in fact as Uible pointed out, the entire product is manufactured in the plant and made ready for distribution.
One of the most interesting rooms in the building was the braiding room. Yard after yard of multicolored jump rope flowed from the dozen or more weaving machines. To merely glance at the process, it would appear simple. But to stop and study one machine in action changes your mind, for they are delicate, complex instruments.
We had almost forgotten that there was another large brick building across the street and a walk through it proved to be just as interesting. There were many more machines making jacks, rubber balls, kickback paddles, and plastic jump rope. Probably the most intriguing operation was the making of rubber balls, the factory's best-selling product. Three people and three machines can turn huge chunks of synthetic rubber into 50,000 balls a day. At full production 20,000 of these rubber balls can be painted in an eight-hour work shift.
We noticed as we continued through the plant that, just as in the other part of the factory, there were many women employes, and in each section there was usually one or two working. The machines do most of the work but many of the toys, such as the pinwheels and jump ropes, require the feminine touch.
The really remarkable thing about the factory is that it doesn't take many workers to handle the massive production job.
The toy factory stays open year 'round for there is a constant demand for its particular type of toys. Uible said that business is best the first four months of the year and feels that can be attributed to more people getting outside with the coming of warmer weather. Like other manufacturers, Wells Manufacturing is not limited to the number and kind of toys it can produce. Imagination is essential in the toy business.
In recent years, there has been much talk about the safety of many toys. Uible commented that competition probably has much to do with marketing of unsafe toys. For example the item which looks prettier, sells better. One of the safety precautions which Wells is most concerned with is the use of non-leaded materials.
When George Wells of Dayton started the manufacturing why did he choose New Vienna for its location. Why not the city? Maybe he wanted to move away from the crowded city and the hundreds of industrial complexes sitting on top of each other. Labor recruitment would be no problem for there weren't any big businesses in New Vienna. And instead of drawing workers from all over who-knows-where, he was assured of dependable local help.
It worked for Wells as it as for so many other plants that establish themselves in small towns. The atmosphere is right. As Uible said, "I try to know the first names of all my employees." The people look like they enjoy their work and it shows by the thousands of quality toys the factory turns out each day.