Quality assurance is the most important part of Sentry Manufacturing’s processes and its nutritional supplements can undergo 50 to 200 quality control checks during the course of the manufacturing and testing process. “Our staff is made to realize that the products we make will be consumed by customers who also could be friends and family members,” Senior Vice President Vijay Gokarn says. “Hence, every employee is trained to be a quality assurance inspector.”
The Miami Lakes, Fla.-based company was founded in 2005 as a dietary supplement contract manufacturer. Sentry Manufacturing makes more than 1,000 customized products, including tablets, capsules, instant powders, drink mixes, protein powders and pet formulations. The company does not create or sell any products under its own name; rather, it creates custom formulations for domestic and international companies.
Sentry Manufacturing creates nutritional supplements mostly for Mason Vitamins – one of the largest vitamin suppliers in the United States and also located in Miami Lakes – which are then sold to 44 countries.
“We are celebrating our 10-year anniversary this year and it’s a sense of achievement in terms of overall growth,” Gokarn says. “We started off in a small building in 2005 with 5,000 square feet and having grown today to a 150,000-square-foot facility. It has been a satisfying journey.”
Sentry Manufacturing prides itself on being a one-stop shop for dietary supplements. The company offers product development, product ideas, manufacturing, label development, marketing materials and product packaging. To begin its process, Sentry Manufacturing globally sources raw materials. “We have global sourcing because some ingredients we use are not manufactured in the United States anymore,” Gokarn explains.
The main challenge for Sentry Manufacturing is locating credible suppliers, so its vendor approval process can take three to four months. “We need to know who we are dealing with as we consider our suppliers our business partners,” Gokarn notes.
Sentry Manufacturing tests its raw materials for contamination, identity and purity, which can take more than seven days after it arrives. The product is then moved through a nine-step manufacturing process where the company’s quality control staff monitors every step. “We maintain thorough documentation of each product to ensure complete traceability,” Gokarn says.
Once the manufacturing process is complete, every product is sampled and goes through a number of tests over the next 10 days that will determine whether it is released or rejected. A simple Vitamin C tablet, for example, undergoes 56 different quality control checks before it leaves the building, but a more complex formula can undergo more than 200 quality checks.
Sentry Manufacturing also sends its products to third-party labs to ensure and cross-verify product integrity and content uniformity. “Quality is not a destination; it’s a never-ending journey,” Gokarn says. “We always strive to improve on what we do here.”
Sentry Manufacturing requires its manufacturing employees to undergo three months of intensive training under the supervision of senior employees who evaluate them. “If that person has progressed well we start letting them gradually become independent,” Gokarn says.
The quality assurance department is staffed only with people who have prior experience in the field. “We have top-notch people on our staff that includes highly qualified industrial pharmacists, microbiologists, engineers, chemists and others,” Gokarn notes.
Although automation is highly sought-after in the manufacturing industry, Sentry Manufacturing strongly values human interaction in its processes. A computer system manages its vast inventory of more than 400 different ingredients by deducting the raw material as it is used; however, the machine does not automatically reorder it.
Having a purchasing group allows the company to stay aware of fluctuations in the marketplace. If the system alerts the team that a product needs reordering and current market price is below average, Sentry Manufacturing can take advantage of that situation and buy more of that product. “The system cannot do that,” Gokarn adds. “That’s why human interaction is so important.”
Sentry Manufacturing’s long-term goal is to maintain double-digit growth because Gokarn says any growth below the industry average is the first sign of losing out on the marketshare.
“Growth comes through new products, innovation and new ideas,” he says. “We don’t want to be a me-too company, which is quite common in this industry.”