Manufacturing

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DETROIT — As two of the top three best-selling vehicles get a makeover this year, the 2018 North American International Auto Show once again seemed devoted to the ultimate American lifestyle automobile: the pickup truck.

BENTON HARBOR — Faced with declining sales and changing customer buying habits, Midwest Timer Service Inc. needed to make some changes to its business.

DETROIT — By offering diesel powertrains in their light-duty pickup trucks, the Detroit Three automakers are betting they can eke out even more sales in what’s been a red-hot market.

A growing number of automakers are adopting a new business model that could change how some customers get into the car market.

SPARTA — As automakers increasingly load their vehicles with new technology and complex infotainment systems, dealerships are fielding more questions from confused and often frustrated customers.

Office furniture manufacturers have been late adopters of automation, particularly inside their West Michigan-based factories.

CHARLOTTE — Specialty chassis designer and vehicle manufacturer Spartan Motors Inc. has partnered with a recreational vehicle maker on a new motorhome aimed at users just coming into the market. 

WYOMING — As more municipal fire truck fleets exceed their life expectancies, that’s good news for one West Michigan-based manufacturer of heavy duty truck chassis and fire apparatuses.

WALKER — One West Michigan manufacturer has embraced a “Wild West” approach to running its shop floor.

More automotive suppliers these days are finding it’s easier to buy cutting-edge technology companies than to develop the complex systems on their own.

GRAND RAPIDS — Hourly workers at Micron Manufacturing Co. are making an average of 7 percent more in wages than they were a year ago.

GRAND RAPIDS —  Daniel Chase started niche furniture maker Re.dwell LLC somewhat out of necessity.

GREENVILLE — The strategy for a Wisconsin-based milk processor that’s in talks to create a potential “dairy campus” in Greenville, Mich. is quite simple: Follow the milk.

With 177 new vehicle launches expected by 2020, tooling suppliers like Walker Tool & Die Inc. are bracing for another busy period in what’s been a string of good years for the industry.

GRAND RAPIDS — A deal to acquire a New Jersey firm positions Praxis Packaging Solutions Co. to expand on the East Coast and diversify from its stronghold with pharmaceutical customers. 

Manufacturers in West Michigan have turned to automation in recent years to get jobs done quicker and cheaper, and their investments in the technology shows no signs of slowing down.

NORTON SHORES — Manufacturer Seabrook Plastics Inc. is leveraging its investment in technology to improve process repeatability and reduce non-value added cost.

While countless manufacturers throughout West Michigan have lamented the lack of available talent, evidence shows the workforce constraint has finally affected the industry’s ability to grow.

GALESBURG — One Southwest Michigan manufacturer of LED lighting plans to use lean manufacturing processes and internal technological expertise to beat out cheaper foreign competitors.

Alawsuit challenging Herman Miller Inc.’s 2014 acquisition of furniture retailer Design Within Reach heads to trial in a few weeks with additional allegations.

With availability of talent at a premium, many manufacturers are attempting to lure away key workers from their competitors. 

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP — As automakers continue to seek out lightweight components for their vehicles, one West Michigan manufacturer is betting that its relatively new stamping technology will help fill that demand. 

As farmers across the state struggle to turn a profit in an era of depressed commodity prices, one aspect of agribusiness — food processing — continues to grow in West Michigan.

SARANAC — One West Michigan producer of eggs plans to capitalize on the growing U.S. market for cage-free and organic products.

After a frenzied period of M&A activity for craft breweries, industry insiders and investors expect the pace of deals to moderate in the near future.

KALAMAZOO — After two years of looking for manufacturing companies to buy, Dave Kersjes and Steve Remstad found an opportunity in FlowTech Inc., a small producer of fluid and air filtration products.

GRAND RAPIDS — When Todd Maines took over his family’s wire-harness business in 2012, he entered the company after years of not being involved in the day-to-day operations.

While Houston was reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, employees of Wolverine World Wide Inc. began circulating an email chain with ideas about how they could help with the recovery efforts.

HOLLAND — Before you put pen to paper in any transaction, experts say it’s important to vet the parties with whom your company does business.

HOLLAND — A West Michigan startup hopes to drive down costs and increase consumer safety for electric vehicles with new technology it plans to bring to market next year.

As the pace of technological change intensifies for the automotive industry, suppliers are turning to acquisitions to reshuffle their businesses and prepare for the road ahead.

GRAND RAPIDS — While the automotive sector may be nearing the end of a strong sales cycle, West Michigan-based suppliers remain bullish on the industry.

ACME — A decade into the economic recovery, West Michigan-based automotive suppliers are having to look ahead and prepare for a period of declining new vehicle sales.

PORTAGE — Isaiah Erskine has faced tough odds for most of his young life.

Manufacturers are finding they increasingly have to focus on an aspect of their business that doesn’t involve making a product.

BENTON TOWNSHIP — One Southwest Michigan manufacturer hopes that a newly renovated facility will help grow its line of interior architectural products and serve as an incubation center for other new concepts.

West Michigan manufacturers could be sitting on a widely available yet untapped revenue stream: old corrugated cardboard.

Although additive manufacturing has moved beyond the makerspaces where it first gained a foothold, many companies still relegate the technology for use in prototyping and little else.

KALAMAZOO — Innovative Cardiovascular Solutions LLC will support further development of its medical device thanks to $5 million in new capital it raised from angel investors.

ZEELAND — Charter House Innovations has taken the strategy of business diversification to an extreme.

West Michigan manufacturers continue to take a steady yet conservative approach to research and development spending.

By moving R&D from Missouri to West Michigan, Kawasaki Motor Corp. will be able to deliver faster technical support and service to customers and OEMs. That’s according to Nelson Wilner, a veteran sales and marketing executive in the marine industry who was promoted to lead Kawasaki’s Engines Division, which is headquartered in Grand Rapids. The group focuses on manufacturing industrial engines, primarily for the landscaping industry. While Kawasaki’s manufacturing operations are in Missouri, the division operates its sales and marketing and other business operations from Grand Rapids. Wilner spoke with MiBiz about the decision to move the company’s separate R&D group to West Michigan and other innovations at the company.

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