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Takeover Work, Diversification Justify Press-Line Purchase

By: Brad Kuvin

Sunday, November 01, 2009
 
Like many metalforming companies, PTM Corp., Fair Haven, MI, reduced its workforce earlier this year. During the first few months of 2009, its rolls dropped by 60 percent. However, the picture looks much
PTM Corp. provides 600 part numbers-stamped and fourslide parts
PTM Corp. provides 600 part numbers —stamped and fourslide parts—for some 70 customers, in addition to operating a sheetmetal-fabrication shop. It specializes in fasteners, clips, brackets and similar parts, as well as small assemblies.
brighter today, as the firm, primarily an automotive supplier, has been able to call most of its employees back to work. Additionally, it’s hired two new sales people to help it develop its customer base in the military and government sectors, and added a third specialist to focus on the automotive market when a competitive stamper recently closed its doors.

PTM serves as a Tier One supplier to automotive OEMs by providing a patented clip used on the assembly lines of OEMs; it also supplies stamped and fourslide parts that stay with the vehicles. Since its inception, the family-owned business has offered 300-ton capacity to the marketplace, enough to grab a decent amount of market share but often not enough capacity to grab entire programs. It specializes in fasteners, clips, brackets and similar parts, as well as small assemblies.

Missing the Boat— and Not Happy About It

“For the last 10 years we’ve known we needed to add capacity,” says Donna Russell, company vice president and daughter of the company’s founder. “We were missing out on bidding entire packages, and we hated missing packages.”

For that reason, earlier this year the 37-yr.-old company leaped at the opportunity to acquire on the used market a 1996-vintage 600-ton mechanical press manufactured by Eagle Press & Equipment Co., Oldcastle, Ontario, Canada. Along with the press, rated to 60 strokes/min., came an Allen Bradley Panel Vision control, a 48-in. feed line from Dallas Industries, and a 20,000-lb.-capacity straightener and uncoiler from Mecon Industries. Press bed size is 144 by 54 in.

PTM acquired the press as-built with a transfer system on board. It immediately sold off the transfer system—for half the price it paid for the press. Instead, it will use its own proprietary transfer system, designed and built inhouse, for any high-tonnage transfer jobs that come down the pike. The system attaches to the die rather than the press, and can either stay with the die or be removed and installed on other dies.

A Four-Month Upturn

“While overall we expect our business to fall by 30 percent for 2009 compared to 2008, things are definitely looking up recently,” Russell says. “Shipments have trended upward for the last four months in a row. In addition to an uptick in automotive work, in the last 60 to 90 days, we’ve quoted more than $1 million in work for the military sector.”

Helping the firm take full advantage of its newly expanded press capacity is its continued expansion of its design and development capabilities, which help it get involved in projects with customers from their inception. The firm operates a fully functional design department staffed with six engineers to “serve as an extension of our customers’ engineering departments,” says director of corporate sales Steve Kuhr. “Then, as we launch new jobs into production, we’ve optimized the designs for manufacturability, often saving our customers a significant amount of money.”

About half of the firm’s book of business—for about 70 customers and 600 part numbers—comes from its press department, 40 percent from four-slide operations, and 10 percent from sheetmetal fabrication and secondary assembly including welding and riveting. For more than half of its production jobs the firm has some level of design or redesign input, and that percentage continues to grow.

“More and more customers are coming to us with a concept or early design iteration and asking us to take over those responsibilities for the project,” says Kuhr. “In addition, we’re reengineering a lot of projects for customers, often takeover work for projects where design drawings no longer are available. In fact, this has really been an area of significant growth for us over the last year or two.”

New Line Raring to go in the New Year

PTM’s new Eagle press hits the ground running in December, stamping a high-tonnage job for an automotive OEM. The part—a large bracket—is of an advanced high-strength DP590 dual-phase steel that PTM expects to occupy the press for about 12 hours per month and account for $600,000 in annual sales. Not a bad start for a new press line.

“The only challenge in launching this project, now that we have the press capacity to handle dual-phase high-strength steels,” says Kuhn, “is actually getting the steel inhouse. Suppliers are running lean and lead time is long.”

The press PTM acquired will help the firm grow its list of key customers from just a few to around 20, a much more comfortable level, says Russell. “We had too many customers that were taking their larger parts requiring more tonnage capacity to other stampers,” she says, “and just giving us the smaller stampings and fourslide parts. Now we can take on an entire package and become a key supplier to more customers. This will help develop a more in-depth and rewarding relationship with customers, for which we hope to provide our full suite of services including design and R&D.”

More: Upgraded ERP, New Laser

The firm also expects, if its foray into the military marketplace takes off as expected, to add to its inventory of laser-cutting machines. “We’re thinking 4000 W this time,” says Kuhn, “with a large 12- by 25-ft. bed. We recently quoted a project requiring blanks 150 in. long. We want to be prepared to handle some of the larger projects out there.”

PTM, like most successful stampers these days, also is busy upgrading other areas of its operations, including investing in its ERP system to include a module called Global Financials (for its Infor ERP Visual software). The firm also runs a tool design and build house called Modified Technology. It added the Global Financials module to help consolidate and control the financial accounting information for both companies.

“This is an important tool for us in managing our growth and plans for the future,” says Russell, noting that the firm plans to move all of its prototype-development work out of PTM and into Modified Technology, to create an advanced engineering center.

Which begs the question: How many stampers operate what they might refer to as an advanced engineering center? And, of the stampers that are struggling out there, how many might benefit from developing such a center of excellence in the near future? MF

 

See also: Eagle Press & Equipment Co. Ltd., Infor

Related Enterprise Zones: Automation, Fabrication


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