Manufacturing

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GRAND RAPIDS — Tier 1 automotive supplier Gill Corp. has settled a lawsuit with Ann Arbor-based Benteler Automotive Corp. about payments Gill was demanding as it prepared to close its Bond Avenue production plant in Grand Rapids.

GRAND RAPIDS — A bombshell new lawsuit alleges that Grand Rapids-based Tier 1 automotive supplier Gill Corp. is demanding “ransom” from its customers as the metal stamper dissolves its operations. 

The stoppage of medical device sterilization at a Grand Rapids facility by the end of the year is adding to local and national concerns about the availability of critical health care equipment.

Innovations in polymer science have produced plastics that are lighter than aluminum and relatively durable, causing manufacturers and their customers to take a new look at how to use the materials.

Mergers and acquisitions activity among plastics manufacturers has been uneven as the supply of assets shrinks, demand grows and threats to the economy build. 

The desire to continue to grow and keep production in West Michigan despite a crippling labor shortage remains the principal driver for Byrne Electrical Specialists Inc.’s adoption of automation.

Gene Hawkins, vice president of engineering at ADAC, spoke with MiBiz about how the company is looking at R&D and where it sees the future of plastics in the automotive industry. 

Key indexes for industrial activity across West Michigan recorded big declines for October that economist Brian Long partly attributes to the lengthy United Auto Workers strike again General Motors.

MUSKEGON — Kayak manufacturer Hemisphere Design Works is closing two factories in Muskegon, according to a notice filed with the state’s Workforce Development Agency. 

CHARLOTTE — Specialty vehicle manufacturer and assembler Spartan Motors Inc. expects full-year sales to approach the $1 billion milestone this year. 

A federal lawsuit claims Stryker Corp. for years used bribery “as an integral part of its world-wide marketing strategy” to sell medical products to an agency of the Mexican government that provides care to residents.

CASCADE TOWNSHIP — Automotive supplier Yanfeng US Automotive Interior Systems has entered into an agreement to sell the company’s Grand Rapids-area operations to a new automotive-focused private equity firm, MiBiz has learned. 

ZEELAND — Office furniture maker Herman Miller Inc. has acquired the remaining shares of U.K.-based furniture designer and manufacturer Naughtone for $46.1 million.

GREENVILLE — Manufacturer Aquest Machining & Assembly plans to invest an estimated $1.3 million into an expansion of its current location in Greenville.

Regardless of when the historic UAW strike against General Motors Co. ultimately ends, the disruptive effect of lost production and earnings will linger, putting further strain on an industry already flagged by slowing sales and tariff disputes with China.

Most of the employees at Abcor Industries LLC, a Holland-based manufacturer of powder-coated wood products, are convicted felons. J.T. Weis, the company’s CEO and owner since 2012, said the employment of ex-offenders is part of Abcor’s triple bottom line business strategy.

GRAND RAPIDS — While state environmental regulators and a company have reached a tentative agreement to stop sterilizing medical devices at a Grand Rapids plant, officials say their work tracking a pollutant from the facility and elsewhere is far from over.

ZEELAND — The United Auto Workers strike against General Motors has cost Tier 1 automotive supplier Gentex Corp. about $7 million to $8 million per week in lost sales. 

ADA — Amway Corp. and parent company Alticor Inc. recently filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against an eBay Inc. seller based in Brooklyn, N.Y.  

MUSKEGON — Iroquois Hoods Inc., a Muskegon maker of laboratory furniture with a focus on custom fume hoods, was acquired by entrepreneurs Rick Claypool and Nate Thornton.

An emphasis on shared family values and the promise of continued investment and growth made last year’s sale of privately-owned Structural Concepts Corp. to private equity firm Mason Wells a “very friendly, reasonably smooth deal all the way along.”

On top of ongoing trade disputes and the disruptive GM strike, two statistical gauges of the U.S. manufacturing industry hit new lows, leaving economists and manufacturers preparing for a meaningful economic shift from a decade of growth. 

Jeff Helminski, co-founder and managing partner of Auxo Investment Partners in Grand Rapids, successfully leveraged his atypical experience and path into the world of private equity in multiple deals last year. 

GRAND RAPIDS — TG Manufacturing LLC created a new division to acquire Grand Rapids-based A2Z Coatings LLC, a supplier to the automotive, material handling and gaming industries.

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP — A trio of industrial companies are planning expansions on the lakeshore in Holland Charter Township. 

ZEELAND — Office furniture manufacturer Herman Miller Inc. plans to increase its ownership stake in Denmark-based Hay A/S by an additional 34 percent. 

GRAND RAPIDS — Before Ron Pease became the CEO of Mister-E-Liquid LLC, a Grand Rapids-based manufacturer of e-liquid used in electronic cigarettes, he smoked a pack a day for 15 years. 

CENTREVILLE — As consumer demographics shift and the economy slows, smaller products have become a big consideration for recreational vehicle manufacturer Viking Products Inc. 

ROTHBURY — Barber Steel Foundry Corp., a metal casting plant in Oceana County, will close its doors by the end of the year and eliminate 61 jobs, according to documents filed with the state.

Steelcase Inc. and Herman Miller Inc. each recorded strong sales results for their most recent quarters.

BENTON HARBOR — Home appliance manufacturer Whirlpool Corp. is selling off a manufacturing facility in Italy.

HOLLAND — ITB Packaging LLC plans to expand locally with a $3.5 million capital investment and the expected creation of at least 65 new jobs over the next five years.

GRAND RAPIDS — An affiliate of Universal Forest Products Inc. (NASDAQ: UFPI) has acquired Hartford, Wis.-based Pallet USA LLC, expanding Universal’s industrial product-capacity and services in the Midwest.

ADA — Global direct-selling giant Amway Corp. has eliminated 47 information technology positions in another round of cuts to its workforce, the company confirmed to MiBiz. 

Michigan is the most attractive state in the Midwest for new aerospace manufacturing businesses.

GRAND RAPIDS — A deepening partnership with a Spain-based minority shareholder provided Founders Brewing Co. Executive Chairman John Green the perfect timing to jump back into an early-stage growth company.

CHARLOTTE — Spartan Motors Inc. continues to build its presence on the West Coast with its second acquisition of a California company in three months. 

BYRON CENTER — Mobile video technology manufacturer Pro-Vision Video Systems Inc. has been acquired by a Boston-based private equity fund. 

Pi Optima Manufacturing Inc., a Zeeland-based machine shop that supplies the aerospace and automotive industries, is under new ownership. 

GRAND RAPIDS — The assets of Grand Rapids Hydroponics Inc. were acquired by Denver-based GrowGeneration Corp., the largest chain of specialty hydroponic and organic garden centers. 

BATTLE CREEK — Cedar Run Decoy Co. LLC aims to provide hunters with new ways to get back to the basics of waterfowling. 

When Grand Rapids-based Multi-Automatic Tool and Supply Co. started searching for prospective acquisitions several years ago, the move came as a reaction to many of the company’s customers buying directly from small shops. 

GRAND RAPIDS — TG Manufacturing LLC, a fully-integrated metals manufacturing company, acquired Turnkey Fabrication LLC, an integrated fabrication operation with laser, CNC brake press, machining, assembly and welding process capability.

NILES — French Paper Co., a Niles-based manufacturer of premium colored paper and envelopes for graphic design, specialty prints and gifts, was recently acquired by New York-based Finch Paper LLC. 

A decade into the economic recovery, the region’s automotive suppliers continue to ride the wave of vehicle sales volume in the North Amercian and global auto market. Yet, many are bracing for an impending downturn, which analysts predict will occur somewhere in the early 2020s. Primarily, suppliers are planning on weathering any upcoming downturn by banking on investments in new technologies, including electric vehicles and automation, whether through increased R&D spending or through acquisitions. 

ACME — After a decade of bullish outlooks, automotive suppliers need to buckle up for a period of upcoming disruptions. 

Self-driving shuttles may be traveling through downtown Grand Rapids these days, but automakers say broad acceptance for autonomous, connected, electric and shared vehicles will take more patience. 

Uncertainties related to trade policies continue to plague the automotive industry, which has closely linked production operations in Canada, Mexico and overseas.