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Barnett Clutches & Cables: An all-American company

By Kate Swanson

American made for more than 65 years

In a time when many companies choose to outsource production overseas, Barnett Clutches & Cables, which produces clutches and control cables for numerous motorcycles, has committed to stay true to the red, white and blue.

From a company that began as a small storefront in Huntington Park, California, to a 43,000-square-foot facility in Ventura, Barnett is still family owned and operated after nearly 70 years. Advertising coordinator Chris Taylor, the grandson of founders Afton and Charlie Barnett, discussed the company’s decision to be entirely made in the U.S.

Chris Taylor, the grandson of founders Afton and Charlie Barnett, serves as advertising coordinator for Barnett Clutches & Cables.

Chris Taylor, the grandson of founders Afton and Charlie Barnett, serves as advertising coordinator for Barnett Clutches & Cables.

PSB: With more than 65 years in business, how important has it been to maintain your made in the U.S. status?

CT: In my opinion, it’s very important. Let’s face it, American goods and services are being outsourced overseas and to Mexico more than ever with no end in sight. Some companies claim to be “Made in the USA,” but aren’t truly “American made.” For us to be able to hold on to that core American made value is critical. It shows that we aren’t willing to accept second-rate materials and services and that manufacturing the highest quality products at a fair price is our number one priority. If it isn’t the best product we can manufacture, we do not want to put our family name on it.

PSB: What does your motto “Expressions of American Pride” truly mean to you? How do you represent that pride in your products?

CT: For us, it has much to do with our family and the values that were instilled by Afton and Charlie Barnett many years ago and have been carried on by my folks, Mike and Colleen Taylor. It’s about taking in pride in the products we manufacture with the knowledge that we are doing everything we can to offer the consumer the best quality products we can manufacture. On top of that, it means standing behind our products and being available to our customers for any assistance they may need.

PSB: Do you find that being made in America draws customers to your products?

CT: Yes, I do. Maybe not as much as many years ago simply because I think a lot of people just have become resigned to the fact (or just don’t care) that so many products come from overseas. Again, many brands that claim to be “American,” have very little actual American-made items. I do believe that the “Buy American” and “Made in the USA” mantra has picked up in the past couple of years. Hopefully that continues and someday we can turn the tide and bring more manufacturing back home.

PSB: With this increased recognition for American-made products overall, how has business been in the past year?

CT: Our industry, like most, was hit pretty hard after the 2008 financial crash. We have seen steady, if gradual, growth since that time. We run a much better, more efficient business model now, than we did prior to 2008. You must learn and adapt to changing times and conditions. We are all avid and passionate motorcyclists, but this is not our hobby, it’s a business, and we run it with sound business practices.

PSB: How has your business grown over the years? What does your current facility look like?

CT: We have always been a California-based company. We started in 1948 in Huntington Park, moved to Vernon in 1965, moved to Santa Fe Springs in 1979. In 1999, we designed and built our current facility in Ventura. It’s a 43,000-square-foot modern concrete tilt-up on over two acres of land.

PSB: How many employees make up your company? What does your business structure look like?

CT: We have approximately 50 employees at this time. Our equipment includes CNC mills, lathes, Swiss-type screw machines, wire EDM, punch presses to 250 tons, swaging, heat treating and test equipment. We design and manufacture all of our parts in-house and purchase all supplies and materials from domestic vendors. We sell dealer direct and through distributors worldwide.

We manufacture just about every part we make in-house, which keeps quality control at a premium level. Even the services we outsource are sourced to companies within the U.S., and many are local here in Southern California.

PSB: You offer quite a wide range of clutches and cables for a variety of motorcycles. How do you stay up-to-date with current models?

CT: It takes a lot of research, cross-referencing and R&D. We attack it as a team with some people working with the American V-twin market products, while I research the bulk of the metric motorcycles and ATVs. We order OE product samples for everything new and obtain motorcycles/ATVs as needed for R&D. We just picked up a 2017 Harley Davidson for R&D, and the current stable of test bikes includes a Ducati, Indian, Victory, multiple H-D models, dirt bikes and also full custom bikes.

PSB: Once you have a concept clutch/cable, how long is your production timeline?

CT: Since we make every product in-house, we can go from concept to prototype to on the shelf pretty quickly. Cables, for example, we have been making them for so many years that in most cases when a new bike comes out, we have the parts to make the necessary cables. Most of our cable parts are made on CNC Swiss-type screw machines. Programming and setup times are short, and we can run these machines
24 hours a day. In a few days, we’ve got the new cables on the shelf. With the clutch plates, we have a very wide range that we already make for most street/off-road motorcycles and ATVs. If, however, we have to make a totally new plate, we can tool up and have it in production in about two weeks — stamping dies, bonding fixtures, etc. Everything is computer designed and all tooling is built by us. We find the more we can do ourselves, the better product and service we can offer our customers.

PSB: In addition to being made in America, you strive to offer top-notch customer service. Why is this important to you?

CT: We pride ourselves on being available to our customers. You can call and talk to a live person, email or even come right to our facility if you’re in the area. Another part of it is always standing behind our products and services. If we make a mistake, we’ll make it right.

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