A nine-member management team has purchased a Meridian Automotive Systems Inc. compression molding operation and already has put $1.5 million in improvements into place.
As the newly named Ashley Industrial Molding Inc., the Ashley, Ind.-based composites specialist will focus on agricultural, industrial, watercraft and construction markets, noted President Rod Schoon.
``We've been pursuing this for some period of time,'' Schoon said in an Aug. 16 telephone interview. ``The management team is here of our own choosing. We're living our dream, actually.''
Meridian, headquartered in Dearborn, Mich., picked up the operation in its purchase of Cambridge Industries Inc. last year. Meridian was not interested in Cambridge's nonautomotive holdings, Schoon said.
All but one of the new owners are part of the existing management staff at AIM, according to Schoon, and that person is a board member.
The new owners closed on the sale July 31 for an undisclosed amount. They already have started a new ultraviolet-light painting system that will allow the 190-employee company to increase the size of sheet molded compound panels they can paint and do so faster and more efficiently.
AIM can turn out panels with a Class A finish measuring up to 10 feet long, 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide through the UV system, Schoon said. Previously it was limited to pieces of the same width, but 7 feet tall and 6 feet long.
``We'd had to subcontract out our largest panels for painting,'' he said. ``That gets expensive.''
The system also allows the company to combine priming and a topcoat in one step.
AIM has about $20 million in annual sales, with agricultural implement maker Deere & Co. as its biggest customer. With the improved paint line, Schoon said the firm believes it can pull contracts for both larger parts and a greater variety of buyers.