Case Studies

Matt Olson – Bentek 

Keeping Bentek a place to chill 

How much has changed at Bentek since Matt Olson began directing facilities and for the San Jose-headquartered specialty manufacturer in August 2021? 

Matt Olson | Director, Facilities & Reliability | Bentek 

Matt Olson | Director, Facilities & Reliability | Bentek

“We’ve gone from having lots of extra space to being completely out of space,” he tells Blueprint in May. “We’ve been installing new machines and ramping up production.” 

It’s no wonder this massive 97,000-square-foot manufacturing plant is stretched to its limits. Bentek is counted upon to produce complex products and machinery for a slew of booming industries—Solar Solutions, Control and Power Box Manufacturing, Cable and Wire Harness Manufacturing, Energy Storage Box Manufacturing, etc.—so it needs the most cutting-edge infrastructure and the places to put it. That’s how Olson applied his creativity to fit and retrofit the joint cost-effectively. 

Among the recent additions were two 30-ton chillers necessary for sustaining 23 injection-molding machines, and 19 were added to Olson’s watch. Just acquiring these chillers took some doing, he explains, as did placing and wiring these machines while repositioning others to maintain optimum temperature levels in a plant where there’s no room for error. 

“Finding these chillers was almost a miracle,” Olson says, what with the demand for big-unit refrigeration having soared around 30 percent annually since 2020 as so many companies went remote at COVID-19’s onset. Data centers are often first in line for chillers; the waiting period for such a unit can be a year. 

Olson narrowed it down to a few months, he having pored through the internet and tapped the input of vendors he’s nurtured since joining Bentek. Upon learning of an available chiller from  Cold Shot in Texas, he arranged for it to be trucked to San Jose.  

Because it was too large for indoor placement, he reconfigured the chiller and moved its control panel so it could be placed outside against the building. Olson also located a second chiller, modified it to fit against the building and automated both systems to run concurrently. 

Nimble with Limble 

Should either chiller or Bentek’s compressed-air system stall or go down, it won’t be for long. Not with Olson having implemented what’s known as Limble CMMS to identify and remedy almost any malfunction. 

Matt Olson | Director, Facilities & Reliability | Bentek 

Limble’s the computerized maintenance management system of choice at many industrial operations, and Olson uses it to keep tabs on preventive maintenance, spare parts, downtime, utility use and what-not. Olson has put QR codes on all machines, and operators can report all problems in real time. 

“It’s very important,” he says, “we want to know immediately when something goes wrong with a machine. It’s only natural to want to keep going or find a workaround even if there’s an error, but once an operator scans a QR code and hits ‘submit,’ my team and I get a text and email and respond immediately as if we’re 911. As we move towards more and more automation, assuring equipment reliability and eliminating downtime is critical 

He’s got four people under his wing and expects to add another with expertise in maintenance mechanics. Bentek is operating with two shifts. The pressure is on Olson to keep everything as seamless as possible, but he seems confident that his department can keep processes humming with so many work orders ramping up. 

The demand for solar energy systems is driving the need for increased production, especially for Bentek’s utility-scale clientele. Bentek is positioned to harness this market, and Olson assures its means for eBOS (electrical Balance of System) in utility-scale solar. 

Bentek has the tools for this; its BSA combiners offer as many as 30 inputs with fuses up to 32A. Then there are the BHA, high-amperage combiners with up to 14 inputs with fuses up to 90A. Both models, he says, were designed to provide project designers, owners and engineers with the most flexibility and the highest quality available. 

Then there’s the company’s advanced trunk bus assembly system, which can power a solar farm via a large conductor that carries higher-level currents between a low-voltage DC network and DC/AC inverters. As solar farms grow in capacity and complexity, so do the costs, which makes the trunk bus an efficient alternative to previous technologies. 

Wired from the start 

Enabling Bentek’s means to produce these systems safely and efficiently was the reason for Olson’s hiring. He joined Bentek after similar roles with four other companies, most recently a four-year stretch with Mission Bell Manufacturing, a custom architectural woodwork and casework subcontractor in Morgan Hill, just southeast of San Jose. Yet he arrived at his calling with some happenstance. 

Matt Olson | Director, Facilities & Reliability | Bentek 

“I sort of found my way into this career,” he says. “Originally, I did construction and learned a lot of trades—carpentry, sheet rock, painting. Then I got into maintenance at apartments and different industrial locations and was promoted to facilities manager without really knowing what facilities management was.” 

He learned in a hurry, scoring an FMP certification in 2013 from the International Facilities Management Association and plied his trade with HEFC and Valley Facilities Management Corp., both in San Jose, and Seagate Technology in Fremont before joining Mission Bell in 2017. Four years later, a recruiter reached out on behalf of Bentek. 

Bentek being a go-to for eBOS components in demand in an energy-intense economy, Olson reckons this will be his most consequential role. But, as he explains, keeping the machines running and eliminating downtime are only part of the challenge. 

Hard as the chillers were to locate, he says recruiting tradespeople can be just as challenging. There’s such demand for all of them, and Olson would advise young people of what will be even greater opportunities for electricians, welders, plumbers, carpenters and just about anyone with a sound work ethic and good with their hands. It’s been the secret to his success even if it wasn’t that many years ago when he never anticipated being in such a prominent role at a B2B leader in power distribution solutions. 

And with all this manufacturing comes the need for industrial-strength disposal. Bentek goes through miles upon miles of cable that arrives from worldwide on wooden spools 4 feet in diameter and 3 feet wide, and the cost of return is prohibitive. The bare spools and pallets can exceed the capacity of a 40-yard dumpster, but Olson’s found the solution through the mobile service Smash My Trash, whose tractor-trailers are outfitted with a huge spiked steel drum at the end of a crane that grinds industrial waste into small fragments while reducing disposal expense by 75 percent. 

“One of our greatest cost-savers,” Olson beams.  

Such cost- and labor-saving methods, along with Olson’s overall efficiency, can free him, his wife, and his son for fun, including bass fishing and just enjoying the outdoors with their beloved German shepherd mix. But he’ll likely have to develop more efficiencies as demand for Bentek’s products soars. He’ll keep innovating. 

“That’s the facilities and manufacturing world,” he says. “Got to keep the systems going.”   

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