In suburban Detroit's auto-supply region, high-volume production is typically the goal for most molders. But MMI Engineered Solutions is following different roads in search of business.
The company regularly turns down requests from major automakers and suppliers that are looking for high volume, said principal Thomas Elkington. Instead it focuses on niche production of 5,000-10,000 pieces where it can use its specialized engineering and composite skills.
We're separating ourselves from other molders, Elkington said.
MMI, which formerly went by the name Molded Materials Inc., visits its customers at least every five years to tour their facilities and understand what those companies are doing and where MMI can make a difference.
About 90 percent of the company's new business is developed through its own engineering and contacts.
We do not avoid 'quote-to-print' work, but remain very selective as it is not our primary forte, said Michael Rosser, business development director.
In an Aug. 13 interview at MMI's Plymouth headquarters, Elkington pointed to an injection molded manifold made of polysulfone thermoplastic composite that one customer uses in paper production.
MMI engineers saw the part during a review of a paper recycling system, and quickly saw how MMI could injection mold a part that would save weight and cost and improve production at the customer's plant.
The part MMI now makes solves problems the customer never knew he had, Elkington said, and it is typical of how the company finds new business.
With a shift of the headquarters, technical center and some production to a facility in nearby Saline, Mich., set for the fourth quarter of this year, MMI will have the space and capability to build that high-value production even more by concentrating new technology production at one site.
MMI compressed production in Plymouth to two facilities from three earlier this year to prepare for the work. The $2.9 million Saline plant, being built at a vacant manufacturing site, will focus on new business and highly technical composites. Its all-electric presses will be capable of making composite with glass-filled reinforcement, along with more-exotic fillers such as carbon fibers, nanocomposites and even steel.
The company has injection and compression molding, compression molding with rubber injection, cast urethane and hand layup for composites. With that range and its own in-house toolmaking, the company can develop parts from concept to production.
We are not locked into a specific resin or process, Rosser said. We're an engineering company that also happens to mold, Elkington said.
MMI has produced specialized parts for a variety of industries since it first opened, but during the past three to five years has emphasized a greater variety of end customers using a wider variety of processes.
Its current product lineup takes in defense industry parts for military vehicles, life sciences and the railroad industry especially targeting metal-to-plastic structural and functional parts.
The company also is developing capabilities in filament winding of carbon for future programs and looking at opportunities in green energy fields such as renewable energy sources and battery technology, Rosser said.
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