Maverick Industries LLC has finalized its purchase of a Kaneka Texas Corp. plant in Michigan that made expanded polypropylene energy absorbers for automotive bumpers. But under Maverick, the factory will not make the bumper parts.
It's a whole new direction, said Thomas Grace, Maverick's executive vice president and CEO.
In a deal that closed Dec. 22, Maverick bought the complete operation from Kaneka in Blackman Township, near Jackson, Mich. That included 19 steam-chest molding machines at the factory off I-94. Terms were not disclosed.
Grace said the factory will be one of the largest steam-chest molding plants in North America. But instead of making bumper parts, the Maverick plant will design and produce industrial packaging.
Grace said one high-growth area is a materials-handling technique called kitting at a factory assembly operation. Kitting has been adopted by a range of industries such as appliances, computer electronics, recreational vehicles and modular homes, he said. All components to assemble, say, a washing machine, are placed into an expanded PP box that is divided into sections for the various assembly steps. Workers pull parts out of the box as it moves down the line with the product-in-progress.
If there are parts left in the kit-box at the end of the assembly line, that product can be flagged and inspected. Maverick also can customize the durable PP boxes with different sections in several colors.
Grace said kitting results in fewer errors than the typical system of bins holding parts near the assembly area.
Maverick will employ 30 by midyear, and Grace said the company could employ 90 within two or three years.
We're ramping up pretty quickly here, he said.
Kaneka Texas, a unit of Kaneka Corp. of Osaka, Japan, had employed about 50 when it closed the factory in 2008 and sold the bumper components business to Createc Corp. of Indianapolis. Kaneka had opened the Michigan plant in 2000.
Grace said expanded PP makes very durable packaging that can be reused. When the life of the package is over, Maverick can grind it up and use the material again to make new packaging.
Maverick Industries is a new company. Grace is retired from General Motors Corp. after a 41-year career in electrical controls and displays. He has three partners, who worked at the Kaneka factory.
Maverick's president is Scott Matherly, who was operations manager at the Kaneka plant.
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