Manufacturing

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ATLAS Space Operations Inc., a satellite communications service based in Traverse City, has been awarded a prototyping project with the U.S. Air Force’s Missile Systems Center and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Innovation Unit (DIU).

Miniature Custom Manufacturing LLC, a high-volume injection molding manufacturer, is expanding its plant in the township of Vicksburg, 15 miles south of Kalamazoo.

Two Ottawa County manufacturers announced major growth projects this week that are expected to generate $25 million in private investment and create more than new 140 jobs.

The boundary between the physical and virtual worlds is blurring as augmented reality gains momentum for uses across a broad range of industries In industrial automation, the implementation of AR could take place sooner than many people might imagine, according to Joe Dyer, team lead for manufacturing technical service at Disher Corp., a Zeeland-based engineering, product and development firm.

Late last year, in a steel and concrete building adjacent to the railroad tracks in Zeeland, a handful of enthusiastic engineers foraged their office for anything that might have interesting data hidden inside. The computed tomography (CT or CAT) technology they were using for the first time has been commonplace for decades in hospitals around the globe, where it is applied to produce cross-sectional images of the body, but it’s also something the manufacturing industry has been “begging for,” Jeff Mass, founder and CEO of Diverse Dimensions Inc., told MiBiz.

Robotics and additive manufacturing markets have entered into a new phase of growth, ripened by an era in which maintaining the status quo is no longer viable for manufacturers who struggle to secure quality labor. That’s because robotic systems are enabling manufacturers to deliver higher quality parts and maximize throughput, said Mark Ermatinger, vice president of sales at Zeeland-based Industrial Control Service Inc., who does not see the “rise” of robots stopping anytime soon.

While 3-D printing technology has been used for decades in prototyping and short-run production, new methods and materials could finally launch additive manufacturing into more widespread, higher-volume uses. The technology has long offered a playground for engineering department experimentation but never really advanced beyond specific niches, according to industry experts.

WALKER — Entrepreneur Steve Ehmann has experience riding the wave of business on the way up and knows what it’s like when that same wave comes crashing down. Right out of college, Ehmann started a windsurfing school and then a chain of surfing apparel retail stores along the coast of West Michigan. When the recession of the early 1990s hit, the retail industry “got too rough,” according to Ehmann, who closed the stores in 1992.

For nearly 90 years, workers in the rural community of Evart processed dairy products out of the Dean’s Dairy building. After shutting its doors and ending an era in 2013, the vacant building now has new owners who plan to repurpose it for automotive component manufacturing.

Taylor Tooling Group LLC, a Walker-based CNC machining company and tool and die maker, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

After 25 years representing manufacturers in Lansing through the Michigan Manufacturers Association, President and CEO Chuck Hadden is retiring at the end of 2019. He took over leadership of MMA at a nadir for manufacturers, when the fate of the auto industry and its supply chain was a big question mark looming over the state.

MUSKEGON — Shifting dynamics in the automotive industry convinced family-owned Hines Corp., an industrial holding company, to seek a buyer for its Michigan Spring & Stamping LLC operations. The decision came after Michigan Spring successfully launched a new production facility in China in September 2018 in response to demands from a key customer, said George “Bud” Hendrick III, executive vice president of corporate development at Hines Corp.

HUDSONVILLE — SoundOff Signal, a global supplier of LED vehicle lighting, control systems, and electronic warning products, prides itself on a quarter century of “smart design” and hometown service. The Hudsonville-based company started in 1992 with a single innovative solution to a uniquely dangerous problem. At the time, research indicated that motorcyclists were inadvertently leaving their turn signals on after completing a turn, resulting in motorist confusion and leading to serious accidents. SoundOff Signal designed a device that initiated a beeping sound once the turn signal was activated, reminding the cyclist to turn the signal off once a turn was complete.

Roll covering manufacturer Vail Rubber Works Inc. plans to invest $8.3 million for a new facility in Southwest Michigan after outgrowing its longtime space in downtown St. Joseph.

Die Tech Services Inc., a West Michigan-based manufacturer of dies and checking fixtures that also supplies contract labor to manufacturers, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Spartan Motors Inc. has expanded its dealership network in the southeastern U.S. for its Spartan Emergency Response business unit.

Holland-based Composite Builders LLC plans invest over $344,000 to more than double its manufacturing space. 

Floor care product company Bissell Inc. plans to invest $10 million into an expansion project at its corporate headquarters.

Opus Packaging Group Inc. is continuing the expansion of its packaging facilities portfolio with the acquisition of a fourth company, Wabash Container Corp. of Illinois.

West Michigan manufacturers have taken a disciplined approach to research and development spending throughout the sustained period of economic recovery and growth. 

After three generations of family ownership, Grand Rapids-based Amstore Corp. will permanently cease manufacturing operations at its headquarters, MiBiz has learned.

Stryker Corp. has completed the acquisition of Arrinex Inc., a Menlo Park, Calif.-based medical device company that developed a treatment for chronic rhinitis.

Medbio LLC, a West Michigan-based manufacturer of injection moldings, assemblies and packaging for medical device and biotech industry, has acquired AIM Plastics Inc.

Private equity firm Auxo Investment Partners moved deeper into the marine transportation business with an investment in Muskegon-based Andrie Inc.

Manufacturing holding company Andronaco Industries Inc. plans to relocate its Conley Composites LLC subsidiary from Oklahoma to a new location in Kent County.

DOWAGIAC — The non-gaming arm of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians had acquired a majority stake in Enmark Tool & Gage Co., a Southeast Michigan precision machining company. The tribe’s Mno-Bmadsen business investment arm closed on the deal on Feb. 1, according to a statement.

After nine months of investigation, the U.S. Department of Commerce submitted a concealed national security report on Sunday that prompted an immediate backlash from the auto industry.

Universal Forest Products Inc. is acquiring the assets of a Grand Rapids-based wood panel components manufacturer.

As the Trump administration prepares to roll back emissions regulations that push cars to be cleaner and more fuel efficient, it may also set the stage for a political battle that could create a rift in the U.S. auto industry. After several months of comment and a possible setback from the 35-day government shutdown last month, the newly finalized fuel economy rules are due from the administration by March 31. However, following the publication of the proposed changes, California and eighteen other states announced that if less-stringent fuel economy rules are enacted, they will sue the government — which may lead to a period of prolonged regulatory uncertainty.

MUSKEGON — A lakeshore fabrication shop hopes to capitalize on explosive growth in the U.S. craft distilling industry by offering custom Michigan-made stills and other equipment. NexGen Mechanical Solutions LLC founder Scott Whitaker, a pipefitter by trade, over the last 13 years developed a niche in serving the region’s distilleries, including New Holland Artisan Spirits in Holland and Muskegon-based 18th Amendment Spirits Co.

Office furniture manufacturer Haworth Inc. reported an increase in sales for 2018.

For the first time in four years, sales for direct-selling giant Amway Corp. have grown on a year-over-year basis.

BELMONT — Filter and Coating Technology Inc., a supplier of filter and coating solutions for the automotive and industrial markets, is under new ownership.

Kendall Electric Inc. acquired an Ohio-based distributor of electrical equipment.

After nearly a century in Michigan, Harsco Corp. plans to permanently close its only manufacturing facility in the state, starting April 1.

Like more than half of Michigan’s manufacturers, business runs in the family at Grand Rapids-based Pridgeon & Clay Inc.

Despite a looming plateau in auto sales and automakers overwhelmingly betting on the same pieces of the market, savvy suppliers could still realize major opportunities in the coming years. Those opportunities come as automotive sales hit nearly 17.3 million units for 2018, with trucks and SUVs up 8 percent, accounting for around 11.8 million units. Meanwhile, passenger car sales dipped 13 percent to 5.5 million units.

With the final winter North American International Auto Show in the books, the century-old expo in Detroit and newer market-specific shows across the Midwest may start to change organically — but organizers aren’t planning on it.

Oliver Healthcare Packaging has expanded with a deal for a supplier of medical device packaging on the West Coast.

A subsidiary of a China-based manufacturer of electromechanical actuators plans to invest $2 million into a new headquarters facility on the lakeshore.

Westshore Design LLC plans to add customers in new markets with the acquisition of a Moline, Mich. electronics manufacturer.

HOLLAND — Acquiring the assets of a Charlotte-based plastics molder gave Clarion Technologies Inc. a broader customer base, added manufacturing capacity and the ability to move production closer to clients. The Holland-based Clarion Technologies acquired certain assets and a book of business from CNI Plastics LLC of Charlotte. Clarion Technologies redeployed the production equipment acquired in the deal to its facilities in Greenville, Mich., Anderson, S.C., and Garland, Texas.

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