Growing up on a farm in rural Ceresco, Neb., John Kunkle has made a major impact on the manufacturing industry through Garner Industries in Lincoln, Neb. Kunkle was recently promoted to vice president of job shop sales.
“Garner has an edge with plastics and machining manufacturing,” Kunkle said. “We’re big enough to change our system, to invest in new machinery…automate processes. We do it all the time. But we’re small enough to meet customers one-on-one and really listen.”
Kunkle walked a unique career path. He moved from a farm to a tool and die shop where he developed machining skills and knowledge. Kunkle helped to introduce a new wire EDM machine as well as new CNC machines essentially converting a major plant from manual to automated manufacturing. He attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, then joined the Garner Industries team at the height of the cell phone revolution in 1995.
“Cell phone technology was changing quickly, and I was brought in to leverage our capabilities with tooling, plastics, and machining,” he said. “In this business, it’s healthy to diversify capabilities.”
While cell phone antennas became obsolete, Garner Industries boosted business both domestically and internationally, thanks to Kunkle’s efforts, with everything from high-quantity plastic injection molding to intricate prototyping combining CNC, molding, and assembly capabilities.
Eventually, Kunkle moved to Vietnam to manage strategic partnerships with manufacturers. He lived there for three years teaching Vietnamese manufacturers how to combine manufacturing expertise with quality standards, processes, and paperwork required in the U.S.
These relationships are paying big dividends considering supply chain problems and pricing pressure from tariffs. Garner Industries can now bid better pricing with tooling made in Vietnam coupled with high-tech CNC and plastic presses at its Nebraska headquarters.
While in Vietnam, Kunkle met his wife, Phuong. They were married in 2019 and have a daughter, Ha. The family enjoys travel and fishing streams in the Canadian wilderness.
Founded in 1953, Garner Industries specializes in plastic injection molding of small to medium-sized parts, short-to-medium run precision machining of metals and plastics, custom-tool building and wire EDM services. The company is also manufacturer of the BinMaster line of level measurement sensors, material management, and data monitoring systems for bins, tanks and silos sold internationally.