by Rob Mullner
Chief Enthusiast US Auto Parts
Imagine a place where skilled craftsmen and women and robots work together in harmony converting American steel into mufflers and exhaust systems for virtually every vehicle sold in the United States and offering those parts and systems in multiple grades of metal and your choice of sound level from mild to full race. Well that place is located in West Sacramento and the Flowmaster team has produced hundreds of thousands of exhaust systems and components there since relocating operations from Santa Rosa, CA in 2001 and shows no signs of slowing any time soon.
Plant manager Brian Wrathall and Regional Sales Manager Mark Emerson took the time to give me the grand tour recently and I came away very impressed with the plant and the people in it.
With an average tenure of over 16 years, over 150 Flowmaster production employees are cross trained to work in multiple roles to accommodate a wide variety of production variables including stamping, welding, pipe bending, painting, polishing, testing and packaging.
As we moved through the Flowmaster plant I felt like I was watching a well choreographed production. Brian mentioned that the manufacturing team is constantly experimenting with new machinery and reconfiguring existing machines and work processes to increase efficiency and Flowmaster product quality. Flowmaster welding cells are one of the places where the man/machine relationship has been improved. For example, Flowmaster built and programmed its own robots to complete the weld on the muffler body and journeyman welders complete the more intricate welds inside the muffler and its inlets and outlets. Even the small but critical exhaust hangers are produced in house and welded onto the pipes and mufflers to ensure a perfect fit.
Flowmaster has approximately 350 active exhaust systems and creates jigs to guarantee a great fit and regularly tests system fit as they come off the line to ensure quality and sound levels.
Some California manufacturers have a difficult relationship with environmental regualators and compliance monitoring. Flowmaster’s approach is much more cooperative and they have upgraded their plant air handling systems and the welding gases used to eliminate odors and VOCs to the benefit of employees and the surrounding community. Flowmaster also has an aggressive in-house recycling program to reuse scrap materials created in the manufacturing process.
In addition to a variety of muffler shapes, sizes and sound levels, Flowmaster manufacturers their own X-pipes and H-pipes as well as its patented Y collectors. Each component produced at the Flowmaster plant is inspected before it’s shipped to the customer. In fact, with the date code stamped on the exhaust system paperwork Flowmaster can trace its origin over the last 20 years with details on when it was produced.
We also took a walk by the packaging department and saw finished kits moving to the warehouse. Again Flowmaster does it right and their team can pack as many as 600 kits per shift! Using the installation instructions as a guide the packaging team ensures that each kit contains all of the components required for a hassle-free install.
Flowmasters’ parent company has assembled a portfolio of performance brands in its constantly growing stable including Hurst, B&M and most recently Dinan for BMW enthusiasts. It’s very exciting to see the Flowmaster brand sharing its manufacturing acumen with legendary brands in the Aftermarket and in turn learning from its stable mates. I saw a beautiful Dinan double core intercooler prototype while we walked the floor. Dinan is known for its engineering prowess and the marriage of these two leading brands should yield great results for enthusiasts. Flowmaster has also entered the catalytic converter market and using its experience and skills to create more performance options for Motorheads everywhere.
As we finished the tour and made our way through the offices Mark and Brian showed me milestones in Flowmaster history decorating the walls -it’s amazing to see how Flowmaster has grown and flourished in a very competitive sector of the Aftermarket. We wish them continued success in South Sacramento.
To see Flowmaster product on JC Whitney please visit: