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Published in Manufacturing
A facility of Holland-based JR Automation Technologies LLC, a global designer, builder and integrator of automation solutions. A facility of Holland-based JR Automation Technologies LLC, a global designer, builder and integrator of automation solutions. COURTESY PHOTO

Major deals, key leadership changes among most-read manufacturing stories of 2021

BY Monday, December 27, 2021 01:49pm

The past year has brought a variety of challenges for West Michigan’s manufacturers as labor shortages continue to be a shared theme across sectors.

However, some of the major corporate names continued to make headlines through blockbuster mergers and acquisitions and key leadership changes.

Here’s a list of the top 10 most-read manufacturing stories from 2021 based on web traffic. Thank you for reading.

— Andy Balaskovitz, managing editor



Amway to cut 6% of global workforce, more than 800 jobs at Ada HQ

Global direct selling giant Amway Corp. announced in March — a year after the COVID-19 pandemic started spreading in Michigan — that it was cutting 6 percent of its global workforce, or about 900 people. Most of the employees were based at the company’s world headquarters in Ada.

Utz Brands acquires Grand Rapids tortilla chip manufacturer

Snack food company Utz Brands Inc. announced in May that it acquired a partnering Grand Rapids-based tortilla chip manufacturer and its facility as part of a $41 million deal.

Overseas yacht builder connects with Holland manufacturer to produce unique boats

Despite initially scoffing at the idea of running production in America, Infiniti Yachts founder Gordon Kay eventually connected with Holland-based manufacturer Composite Builders LLC, striking a partnership to produce Infiniti’s latest creation: the Infiniti 52.

Public filings shine unusual spotlight on $1.8B Herman Miller-Knoll deal

Senior Editor Jayson Bussa took a deep dive into regulatory filings involving Herman Miller Inc.’s blockbuster acquisition of competitor Knoll Inc.

Allendale plastics manufacturer files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

West Michigan injection molder Antara Systems LLC — which was acquired more than two years ago — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early 2021, citing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic after investing in operational improvements.

Steelcase acquires longtime design partner in all cash deal

In late October, global office furniture maker Steelcase Inc. announced that it acquired one of its longtime collaborative design partners, Viccarbe Habitat S.L., in an all cash deal.

West Michigan manufacturers see opportunity in automation, Industry 4.0 as labor shortage persists

A labor shortage has emerged as the crisis du jour for most industries, including manufacturing, as the pandemic accelerated the trend of Baby Boomers slowly aging out of the workforce.

Leaders of West Michigan’s big three furniture makers forecast the post-pandemic workplace

In a rare event in May, the CEOs of West Michigan’s big three furniture makers — Haworth Inc., Herman Miller Inc. and Steelcase Inc. — shared a virtual stage to offer their insights into the post-pandemic workplace and the effects COVID-19 has had on the industry.

Steelcase leader Jim Keane to retire; Sara Armbruster named company’s 10th CEO

Global office furniture maker Steelcase Inc. announced in April that president CEO Jim Keane will retire on Jan. 7, 2022, while longtime executive Sara Armbruster took over as CEO in October.

Tenneco to close Sparta manufacturing facility, eliminate 78 jobs

A Tenneco Inc. auto manufacturing plant in Sparta closed this summer because of “changing global trends and technical changes within the industry that are dramatically lowering the demand globally for piston ring castings,” the company said in an April letter to state officials.

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