WADSWORTH, OHIO — Michael Day Enterprises Inc. will unveil two new nylon-based compounds for automotive engine covers this week at the Society of Automotive Engineers International Congress and Exposition. At the same time, the firm is preparing to break ground on a $3 million, 60,000-square-foot expansion this spring.
The company started as a resin brokerage in a home basement 17 years ago, but has become a $30 million-a-year compounding business in Wadsworth.
Michael Day, the company's president and owner, makes the whole thing sound simple.
``I liked messing around with polymers and formulations, so that first business evolved into a manufacturing facility,'' Day said in a recent interview at his firm's plant. ``We wanted to do the whole thing ourselves and introduce our own quality-control standards.''
Day, a native of Essex, England, spent 11 years in sales and marketing, first with Celanese Corp. in Europe and then with A. Schulman Inc. of Akron, Ohio, before he struck out on his own.
Day admits his firm has benefited from a recent growth boom in engineering compounds and engineering plastics in general.
``Engineering compounds have moved like a runaway freight train, volume-wise,'' Day said.
The first new compound to be unveiled at the SAE event, which takes place this week in Detroit, is a mineral-reinforced nylon 6 developed for a customer that was having warpage problems on painted engine covers.
The second compound, available in both nylon 6 and 6/6, is a molding resin that features a metallic luster similar to painted parts.
Michael Day Enterprises has produced compounds for engine covers since 1987 and currently has its materials in several General Motors Corp. cars, including the Buick Park Avenue, Buick LeSabre, Oldsmobile 88, Pontiac Bonneville, Buick Regal and Oldsmobile Cutlass. By midyear, that list will expand to include engine covers in the Cadillac and Buick Riviera.
Since their introduction, engine covers have evolved from being ornamental to practical.
``Engine covers started out as beautification — they really weren't functional,'' said Krish Rao, Michael Day's vice president of commercial development and quality. ``People wanted an expensive car, but when they popped the hood, they didn't want to see that it was all greasy.''
Now, customers look to engine covers for sound deadening. Sound has become more of a concern for several reasons, including automotive-cab designs that place drivers closer to the engine and other under-the-hood equipment, according to Rao.
The expansion, to be completed this fall, will add at least one extrusion line and eight to 10 employees. Michael Day currently produces about 40 million pounds of compounds each year and employs 122 in a 200,000-square-foot facility.
Nylon makes up about 65 percent of Michael Day's product mix, with polyacetal contributing 10 percent and polyester and polyester alloys another 10 percent. The remaining 15 percent goes into polycarbonate, ABS, PC/ABS alloys and polyester elastomers.
Michael Day also uses recycled feedstocks in about a third of its products. Rao said this balance is possible partly because the differences between prime and off-spec grades of nylon and other engineering resins are not as drastic as they can be between grades of commodity plastics.
``In engineering plastics, off-spec can still be some pretty prime stuff,'' said Rao, who spent 14 years as director of research and technology with AlliedSignal Inc.'s engineering plastics unit in Morristown, N.J., before joining Michael Day in 1995. ``The materials are a little more forgiving.''
But Day added that dealing with post-consumer material can be more challenging than some people expect.
``A lot of people thought they could grind up bumpers and stick them in an extruder and make money,'' Day said. ``It's not that easy. You need patience and capability. If you're in too much of a hurry to make quick money, there can be a lot of pitfalls.''
Independent compounders such as Michael Day will continue to play an important role in the industry, both Day and Rao claim, because they can offer quicker response times and more individual attention than most large corporations.
For example, Rao said, a customer recently contacted four companies — two major corporations, Michael Day and another independent compounder — when it began its search for a resin to use in engine covers. It took the two major companies a week to respond to the inquiry, while Michael Day was able to deliver its first material sample to the customer two days after being contacted.
Day added this kind of independent versatility ``is frustrating to the majors.''
``[Major corporations] have a lot of resources, but they can't move that fast,'' he said. ``We're more able to use our creativity and responsiveness.''