Dan Rey • 800-215-2352
Dan Rey, owner of Stellar Manufacturing, spent about 30 years in the waste industry after a short stint in the construction business. He worked his way up in the waste industry and “did all the different jobs” until he finally landed in a management position for a private waste company.
When that company was bought out by a larger corporation, Rey didn’t like the corporate environment as much as he liked working for a smaller company. It became harder to ask “how can you do it better?” and then work on implementing those changes at the company due to corporate red-tape.
“We developed all kinds of different things,” he said of his work with the private company. “I’m not one who can go to work and do the same thing – I try to improve it, even if it doesn’t want to be improved.”
Rey said that some people get used to doing things the hard way, and it becomes the accepted method, “but if I can look at it a different way, it can be a simple change.”
And that’s where his company started. Rey was looking for a product that would solve a problem with waste hauling in his area – a need for waste containers that were large enough for commercial customers, but that could be hauled by smaller residential trucks. No one was making those containers.
Besides the fact that the residential trucks could be used in areas where the larger trucks couldn’t maneuver, the residential trucks were also more efficient since drivers could simply drive by and pick up the containers.
The containers Rey designed had two back wheels like residential containers, and a third wheel to make the containers easy to move around in narrow alleyways an inside buildings. They weren’t as large as the typical 300-gallon commercial containers, but they were significantly larger than residential bins.
The first container Rey built was 160 gallons – about 3/4 yard. Shortly after, he designed a 195 gallon container – a little less than one yard.
Rey realized that the larger containers were also very useful on rural routes where the residential waste trucks were used. The largest available containers at that time were 96 gallons. Those containers weren’t large enough for some of the customers, but they were the only option.
It wasn’t long before Rey’s sideline became his full-time business, and Stellar Manufacturing was born. A small operation, he owns the molds that are used to make the bins, but the work is subbed out to a company in California and he is looking into working with another company in Ohio to make shipping less expensive for customers in the east.
Rey explained that his containers are roto-molded rather than injection molded, which makes them more durable.
One of Rey’s more interesting sales was to a company in California that had trash bins on a beach. The company thought that the blue bins they were using were too jarring against the color of the sand, so they asked Rey for bins that would blend in better with the background.
“We can blend different materials,” Rey said, “and made sand-colored containers.” Rey’s bins also solved another beach problem – the seagulls that liked to raid the trash containers and make a mess.
The problem wasn’t just the seagulls – the people who used the containers would flip the lids all the way open and they wouldn’t bother to re-cover them. The hatch-top containers from Stellar had a stop, so the lids couldn’t be flipped all the way back, and they’d close on their own.
A new product is a 235 gallon container that can be built with different bottoms depending on the customers’ needs – with four casters, or with two large back wheels and optional casters on the front.
The larger container needs a larger “grabber” on the truck, and is usually used for recycling rather than waste because of the larger volume. The bin is also flatter on the back so it fits closer to walls to take up less floor space.
Rey expects the innovation to continue as he looks for more containers that fulfill customers’ needs better that the standard containers. While much of his competition makes very traditional products, Rey’s products fill a niche and can be customized for specific customers, like those sand-colored containers.
While he’s seeing a lot of consolidation in the industry with many of his customers merging with larger companies, Rey likes the fact that he’s a small business with a local presence. “Smaller companies’ owners live in the community and shop in the same stores,” he said, which makes the small companies more receptive to the neighbors’ concerns and a more integral part of the community they serve.
While his own customers are far-flung, Rey said that one of the best parts of his job is traveling, meeting customers, seeing how they do things where they live and work, and the “different ways people do the same jobs.”
And it’s his customers’ needs that fuel his ideas for new products. “I’ve always been that person,” he said, “I always look at ways to improve things.”