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Metalworker's factory for hire.

Metal fabricators looking for a way to increase marketshare in their own regions might want to consider the example of Midbrook Products Inc of Jackson, MI. Started 17 years ago as a contract fabricating company by a local entrepreneur, Milton (Mick) Lutz, Midbrook grew its internal manufacturing capabilities significantly during the 1980s, first adding the stamping, then laser cutting, and then CNC machining.

When management took stock about a year ago, Midbrook's metalworking processes included custom sheet metal fabrication, laser cutting, EDM machining, and CNC machining, not to mention manufacturing short run dies for stamping and piercing operations and engineering and CAD services.

"What became obvious to us was that we had a factory for hire and an opportunity to grow our business in a competitive market by becoming the outsourcing supplier for OEMs and end user customers within our service area," explains Midbrook general manager, James T McEachen.

Competition for metal fabricating business includes about ten comparable-sized metal fabricators, a couple of laser houses, and several hundred die and stamping companies.

Midbrook felt that it was positioned perfectly to take on additional responsibility for short run subassembly work, especially for low volume production prototyping and proprietary work, The company was already producing many of the parts and components that go into these subassemblies for its customers.

"For one company, an international plastics machinery company, we were already making 70% of the components for a bottle-feeding device and using almost all of our manufacturing processes, including CNC machining, stamping, and EDMing. It seemed like a natural progression to add custom fabrication and use our AutoCAD capability. We even redid their bill of materials," explains Mr McEachen.

About a year into the Factory For Hire concept, Midbrook feels that its original goal of expanding within its geographic market is right on target. Add company management has set ambitious goals for the program that call for quadrupling its contract manufacturing business in the next five years.

"Outsourcing can't simply be looked at from a purchase price point of view," says Mr McEachen. "You have to put on your customer's hat and your supplier's hat, both internally and externally. We decided that each of the various service divisions must be self-supporting, and that more than half of their production must go to outside customers. And they must be profitable." For that reason, Midbrook sold off a screw machine products business that didn't quite measure up.

New ventures

The remaining core metalworking businesses, however, have became the way that Midbrook has extended its corporate umbrella. The company entered the pipe and tubing market here and abroad through the acquisition of a former customer that was a supplier of compression couplings for connecting threaded and unthreaded pipe, tubing, and electrical conduit markets. Midbrook manufactures the couplings in ODs from 1 1/2 to 14" OD. They consist of an outer shell with flanges and aluminum stiffener bars, an inner sleeve with precision meshing teeth, and a Neoprene or rubber gasket with die cut tooth design.

By far the most important market entry, however, was into the parts cleaning industry with its Hurricane Systems Inc's aqueous-based parts cleaning systems. "The key here was the fabrication experience and skills of our metalworking service divisions," says Mr McEachen. "Besides, switching to aqueous and semi-aqueous-based cleaning systems will be the way 95% of manufacturers will go to eliminate ODCs. There won't be an intermediate stage. It wouldn't be cost effective," he believes.

Hurricane Systems' products include Cyclone agitation tank washers, semi-custom and custom flow-through, spray-cleaning systems, and rotary parts washers. Growth has been dramatic, and the company has expanded its manufacturing capacity into several large 22,000 sq ft chunks of manufacturing space--with options on still more space--that it has taken in the former Clark Equipment plant that has been renovated for manufacturing in the Jackson area.

"Manufacturing capacity won't be a problem for us as we have the room to expand as needed," says Mr McEachen. "We outsource some of the engineering and controls work and concentrate on subassembly and fabrication of the Hurricane products, which are built to custom specifications for customers like Ford and GM. Our Parts Cleaning Systems Test Laboratory for cleanliness testing is state-of-the-art and has been authorized by Ford to test systems for equipment runoff before shipment."

Other customers include the appliance and furniture products industries. Hurricane Systems recently completed shipment of ten mobile electric parts cleaning washers to a furniture manufacturer to clean stamped parts. The parts washers will replace a centralized (and immobile) parts cleaning system at a fraction of the cost of the former system.

"The parts cleaning industry, in many respects, is still an emerging business, and as such there is little industry standardization, something that is likely to happen in the next few years," says Mr McEachen. Working with recognized suppliers will continue to be one of the most important decisions metalworking manufacturers make. Hurricane Systems Inc has been recognized as an authorized supplier by Dow Advanced Cleaning Systems Division.

Both before and after parts cleaning, however, Midbrook Industries' complete line of Extender Coolant Recovery Systems tackle the job of prolonging the life of machine coolants, parts washer water, and other water soluble stamping and drawing fluids. It also manufactures an industrial wastewater cleaning system called the Clean Machine that cleans wastewater for direct disposal into a sewer.

Growth at Midbrook has brought with it the need for continuing education of its workforce, which numbers 142 full-time and about 30 temporary workers. An assessment testing program has been developed with local educators to evaluate the math and English language skills of its workforce in both reading and writing. Employees who need help will get it in a new training program the company is establishing.

For information from Midbrook, circle 222.

Litton forms new company

Litton Industries Inc, Beverly Hills, CA, will establish an independent commercial company that will comprise its oilfield information services and industrial automation businesses. Formation of the new company, which has been approved by the board of directors, will be finalized by the end of 1993. The transaction is expected to be tax-free to Litton common stockholders who will receive the shares of the as-yet-to-benamed company.

Revenues of the new company are expected to be more than $2 billion, with 60% of sales coming from the oil service technology side and 40% from the industrial automation systems area. Major customers for industrial automation include worldwide automotive industry, manufacturing, and distribution markets. Principal products include integrated manufacturing systems, material handling/management, and automated data collection systems.

Repair Brown & Sharpe grinders

A familiar name, Brown & Sharpe Grinding Machine, has joined the long list of brands that are serviced by DeVlieg-Bullard Services Goup, Rockford, IL. The acquisition of the assets of Brown & Sharpe Manufacturing Co consists of inventory of parts and finished goods and the proprietary technical information about grinding and milling machines and machining centers manufactured by Brown & Sharpe.

Brown & Sharpe's trade name represents a line that dates back to 1910 and numbers about 140,000 machine tools, principally grinding machines, that have been shipped under that trade name since its founding. It joins the list of nameplates serviced as an OEM by DeVlieg-Bullard that includes American Tool, Bullard, DeVlieg, Futurmill, New Britain Machine, Rockford Machine Tool, Rockford Punch Press, and White-Sundstrand.

DeVlieg-Bullard, which is a diversified industrial concern specializing in servicing, upgrading, automating, and remanufacturing precision engineered machine tools, expects the acquisition to add about $3 million in sales to its annual revenues, which were $64.3 million in the fiscal year ended July 31, 1992.

The company says it knows where about half the total number of Brown & Sharpe grinding machines are. Owners of the other half may want to contract DeVlieg-Bullard at 1-800-759-0100, or circle 368.
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Title Annotation:Midbrook Products Inc becomes outsourcing supplier for OEMs
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Aug 1, 1993
Previous Article:NC in aerospace.
Next Article:CNC puts new spin on flow forming.

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