Beyond the Track: Magnaflow, a Marvel in USA Made Manufacturing
As motorsports and car people we all know and love that sweet sound of a throaty roar of an engines exhaust. So I was excited that on a recent swing through California to have the opportunity to take a look behind the scenes of Magnaflow Performance Exhaust Systems. Magnaflow was Founded in 1981 by exhaust distributor turned manufacturer, Jerry Paolone. Fast forward three decades as we take you behind the scenes of what is today a nearly 500,000 sq. ft. multiple building complexes located in Oceanside, California.
Close your eyes for a minute and try to picture what you think it would look like inside. What you likely see in your mind is very far from the manufacturing marvel that Magnaflow has developed. Even the savviest technical car or racing person would struggle to understand the depth of engineering, science and meticulous thought placed into every detail of their manufacturing processes.
My host for the tour was Richard Waitas, Senior Manager, a long time Magnaflow team member and expert of all things exhaust. If I'm honest, I only understood about half of what Richard told me on the tour. While his level of scientific and detailed manufacturing explanations was way over my head, I still found myself wanting to hang onto every word he said with great fascination.
It quickly became obvious that Magnaflow wasn't just another place producing performance parts. It's somewhat like visiting Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for Exhaust, but this was real. With 400 real jobs, making a real economic impact here in the USA. Their products are not just partially made or assembled in the USA. From Raw materials (also nearly entirely sourced from the USA) to the finished product it's 100% made by American workers.
As I met many of the employees there was a sense of belonging for all. It didn't seem to matter if you were a high level engineer or fabricator or placing the product into its final packaging. There was a sense of family, and a sense of each person being a spoke in the wheel that makes it all happen. There was an unexpected mix of high tech automation and robotics supplementing a skilled craftsman workforce. With less than a 1% return rate, Magnaflow has figured out the right balance of man and machine to create a nearly perfect product.
In one door an intricate flow of raw material feeds in to start the process. And before the day ends thousands of finished products are being carefully wrapped in their custom designed protective packages and sent out another door and across the globe. Now, do you see it? Well, you probably still don't have the full picture. I know I didn't.
One of the most unexpected parts of the tour was going behind the scenes of Magnaflow's research and development. Most likely you didn't picture a science lab that looked like a pharmaceutical company not an exhaust manufacturer. High tech computer analysis was taking place looking deep into the micro levels not only of the product itself but the emissions produced. Compliance is key for Magnaflow, who's way ahead of the game when it comes to complying across all 50-States.
Massive amounts of data and research leads and guides Magnaflow's products. But nothing ever gets sold to the public that hasn't also been rigorously tested on real cars. They say all products must meet the criteria of providing Quality, Power and Sound. For many companies, those slogans come out of the marketing department and while they sound good they aren't always backed up in reality.
But as you walk through Magnaflow's state of the art Dyno and Performance Shop there is no denying they take those words seriously. I was even shown a few projects that could have been profitable for Magnaflow but were ended because they didn't meet their high standards.
They were not only testing current and future products but also continuing to refine their manufacturing process. It became clear that Magnaflow is a company that always feels they can get just a little bit better, with a never ending perfectionist mindset. While I am sworn to secrecy on much of what I was shown, let's just say the quality, power and sound of Magnaflow's future is exciting for the automotive and motorsports industry.
You would think that this gigantic operation would have been sold off by now to some large investment group. But it's still a family owned and operated business. As our tour came to a conclusion and with my mind still on sensory overload I had to get back to the USMA's area of focus, grassroots racing. Why does a company that is manufacturing thousands of exhaust systems every day for street cars remain so involved in Motorsports? As he did with all my questions that day, Richard provided a clear answer.
"MagnaFlow’s passion for motorsports and racing is absolutely necessary," Waitas explained. "The motorsports and race environment allow us to observe and react to extremes. Motorsports provides us data much faster than empirical testing would provide or the potential issue of beta testing on consumers."
"Magnaflow has endured the rigors of the Dakar Rally, customized products to meet the physics of a monster truck, harnessed every advantage from header to the tailpipe of a 5,000+ HP dragster, and many other projects in motorsports," continued Waitas. "All of our work in racing allows us the ability to test and tune our products, to give them the necessary design to suit their environment. This has a direct correlation to creating the best possible solutions that our street market demands. We have to provide our customers a product done right the first time and make sure it lives up to the lifetime warranty we provide. Put simply, racing is a key factor in obtaining high quality and performance."
Building exhaust systems just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, Magnaflow is making waves of their own by providing hundreds of jobs right here in the USA. And they are bringing new technologies and continued advancement of motorsports and manufacturing. So next time you hear the roar of a Magnaflow exhaust go by, just know that what you're really hearing is the sound of hard work, dedication, perfectionism, economic impacts, and most of all teamwork from the 400+ people it took to build you...the perfect pipes.