William Dobbins, the president and owner of Caster Concepts, is not your typical material handling guy. In fact, his career path may be unique in the business. For more than 25 years, he was a family physician serving the small communities of Marshall and Albion, Mich. Dobbins and his two brothers, also doctors, handled "everything from delivering babies to caring for the elderly," he says. Because the towns are home to a number of manufacturing plants, the doctors often treated patients with work-related injuries like sprains, muscle strains, and back problems.
How did Dobbins make the leap from plaster casts to rolling casters? When his father, a retired manufacturing executive, launched Caster Concepts with three employees (it now employs about 110), Dobbins became an investor. Intrigued by manufacturing processes ("It might be in my genetic makeup") and enjoying the opportunity to work with his father, he gradually became more involved in the business and eventually took over as president.
Dobbins' medical experience is a good fit with the business, which makes heavy-duty casters and industrial caster wheels. On visits to factories, he saw how much force was required to push and pull carts around assembly lines and through warehouses; in the exam room, he saw the physiological consequences of equipment that was difficult to move.
You might assume that a small thing like a caster wouldn't have much of an impact on health and safety. But according to Dobbins, casters that are properly designed for the application can reduce the force required to push or pull heavy loads by more than 50 percent. When it comes to reducing rolling resistance, the most important factors include the design of a caster's swivel section, its "lead" (the distance from the vertical centerline of the caster's swivel section to the vertical centerline of the wheel), and the material on the surface of the wheel, he explains.