Like most North American manufacturers, Mack Molding faced several challenges as the new millennium began. The Internet bubble burst, drastically reducing demand for servers and mass storage devices, Mack’s primary market. Labor-intensive, high-tech manufacturing work had begun to migrate offshore, changing the U.S. manufacturing landscape. And the economy, in general, was softening.
As a company heavily focused on computer and business equipment manufacturing, Mack had to take an honest look in the mirror to redefine itself for the 21st century. The upshot of that was to:
- realign our sales focus to be more regionally based in the eastern U.S., as we weren’t planning to manufacture offshore
- focus on our core strengths of molding, painting and assembly
- diversify our markets to include more large-part molding
- expand our position in the medical market, where we could apply much of our contract manufacturing expertise
- build on our sheet metal fabrication capabilities.
After following and investing in this plan for four years, Mack is now forecasting 20 percent growth in fiscal year 2005. But perhaps the biggest turnaround is that while we’re still supplying customers in the computer & business equipment market, they are now on relatively equal footing with four other markets, including medical, transportation, industrial and furniture. Today, our biggest customers are equally distributed among five markets, rather than concentrated into one.
Large Part Pursuit
To move from plan to reality, Mack had to make a number of investments. Chief among them was the completion of a 25,000-sq-ft, multimillion-dollar expansion at its Inman, S.C., plant to accommodate four molding machines up to 4000 tons.
The most recent equipment additions to that facility include a new 3300-ton press and two new 1100-ton presses, one for the Inman operation and a second for Mack’s growing 105,000-sq-ft facility in Statesville, N.C. These new equipment acquisitions join a 3000-ton and a 2500-ton Engel, and ratchet up Mack’s large press total (1000-3300 tons) to 30 machines. In all, Mack operates 117 presses in six locations throughout the eastern United States.
“We see growing opportunities in several market sectors for our large tonnage machines, including heavy truck parts, large screen TVs, recreational and utility vehicles, and medical devices,” says Ray Burns, president of Mack’s southern operations. “Mack’s southern operations have grown every year over the past four years, and the trend continues to be up.”
The new presses are all twin platen machines from the Van Dorn Demag Caliber Series, and are fully equipped with robots for part removal. To service its large pressroom at the Inman plant, Mack has installed a Sterling central loading and drying system, as well as an automated distribution system for conveying large parts from the pressroom to the assembly floor.
“The combination of clamp-end deposit robots and a 300-ft part conveyance system will significantly improve handling and logistics for our large-part manufacturing area,” notes Joe Carinci, director of operations. “Minimized part handling and improved product flow and quality are all being realized from the addition of this new system. But perhaps the largest gain has been the ability to manage an increased flow of large parts, while at the same time, improving the efficiency of our operations.”
Automated Paint Line
Some of the new markets Mack is pursuing from its northern operations also involve large parts, but in last-minute color configurations with volumes and lead times that can not be easily managed from offshore or remote suppliers. One example is the furniture market.
“To successfully pursue these opportunities, however, we had to be willing to invest in our painting operation,” says Jeff Somple, president of Mack’s northern operations. To that end, Mack has installed a $1 million 1500-ft paint line conveyance system at its East Arlington, Vt., facility.
Sheet Metal Fabrication
Medical instrumentation and cases represent another new marketplace for Mack and its sheet metal fabrication operation at the headquarters plant in Arlington, Vt. “As we’ve gotten involved in this market, we have, in typical Mack fashion, begun to bring in-house several operations that will allow us to provide vertically integrated medical development services for our customers,” says Somple. In the last nine months, Mack has added deburring, parts cleaning, sandblasting, silk screening and laser welding to its metal operations.
These are just a few of the more significant changes Mack has made to react to the changing economic and manufacturing climate. “The good news is that we were well-positioned financially to take a step back, do our homework, and make the investments necessary to continue to grow our business,” says Somple. “I think we’re all looking forward to what the new year will bring.”