GRANDVILLE — A West Michigan manufacturer has developed a product that makes the process of storing heavy metal stamping dies safer and easier — and the industry is taking notice.
Safety Die Storage Blocks are a new offering from Grandville-based Express Products Inc., which designs and manufactures a variety of products to be sold via its own distribution channels and through big box retailers.
Safety Die Storage Blocks are applied to the feet of metal stamping dies so that they can remain elevated off the floor when stored. This allows the tooling to remain clean and in good condition.
Until this latest innovation, stamping dies have routinely been set on pieces of scrap wood. To do so, workers have to reach under a die as it is lowered down, putting their hands, fingers and feet at risk.
With the Safety Die Storage Blocks, a user’s hands remain above the tooling while the block is set in place.
“It’s a constant occurrence in the industry and for some reason no one has come up with a better way than to reach their hand under there,” said Express Products Chief Operations Officer Ryan Gill. “So, safety is the hugest thing. Everyone we talk to says they love that they don’t have to reach underneath them.”
Express Products works exclusively with Michigan suppliers to produce the Safety Die Storage Blocks, and completes the assembly and boxing phases at its 50,000-square-foot, ISO: 9001-certified facility at 2606 Sanford Ave. SW.
The company has filed for both design and utility patents and, thus far, has relied mainly on word-of-mouth marketing to get information out about a product that seems to be long overdue.
Gill said the company consulted with the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) to ensure the effectiveness of the product. As a government agency, though, MIOSHA is not able to publicly endorse a product.
Express Products quickly blew through its initial inventory of 1,000 units and has replenished its stock.
“I’ve been getting people asking for quotes non-stop,” Gill said. “If they’re in the field whatsoever, they instantly recognize: ‘Hey, we should have these right away.’”
“Most people that contact us order two sets,” he added. “After about three weeks, they’ll order 20 or 30 more. Typically, they order them to try in their facility to see what their people say, and that’s when they go all in with their purchasing.”
Quality Metalcraft Inc. is one of those customers. The Livonia-based metal fabricator stores roughly 100 dies at its facility.
The company purchased an initial set of 48 blocks and has since followed up with an additional set of 48.
“It’s easy and makes everything neat,” said Andrew Parker, tool room manager for Quality Metalcraft. “It keeps everything off the floor. It’s not heavy to carry around, either, which I like.”
Parker and his team had routinely stacked stamping dies on top of each other with wood, which he said can lead to splintering and sliding dies.
The Safety Die Storage Block is a game-changer, according to Parker.
On top of purchases, Express Products has received some interest in distributing the blocks, even overseas in countries like Germany, Italy and Turkey.
“We haven’t decided how to go about it yet,” Gill said. “They either want their own territory or certain things and we’re not sure how we’re going to pursue that at the moment. We do have a couple distributors that have been ordering from us, but we haven’t officially said, ‘You’re a distributor.’”
As demand grows, Gill said that the company will explore additional suppliers to make sure inventory remains stocked.
“It’s looking like we’ll probably be hiring more people here soon,” Gill said.
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