Auxiliary equipment maker ACS Group is growing by diversifying into new markets, beefing up international sales and investing in new machinery, according to top executives.
Of course, the improving economy helps, too, President and CEO Tom Breslin said at an April 27 news conference at the ACS factory in New Berlin, a suburb of Milwaukee.
It's really looking great out there right now. We see a lot of great things in the market, he said.
Breslin said the overall U.S. plastics auxiliary sector has stabilized and grown during the past 18 months following the brutal recession that slammed spending on factory equipment. He said ACS is doing better than the overall market because the company has a broad, deep product line that is diversified into markets such as food, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, rubber, recycling and other industrial sectors, not just plastics.
Breslin said plastics equipment now accounts for less than half of total sales, although plastics remains the company's largest single market. The company does not release sales numbers.
The recession hurt the entire auxiliary equipment sector. Starting in the fourth quarter of 2008 and through most of 2009, just about everyone took about a 45 or 50 percent drop. In 2010, [ACS] grew back 45 percent. And this year, I believe the equipment side of our business is running at almost a 60 percent increase, Breslin said. That covers all end-market sectors, he said.
ACS has added 80 employees at the New Berlin factory, bringing the total to 240 people, Breslin said. That includes several direct sales people.
The company's Wabash MPI plant in Wabash, Ind., has about 80 employees.
About 30 percent of total sales come from equipment installed in plants outside the United States, as ACS continues to expand internationally, Breslin said.
At the news conference, Breslin announced plans to expand production at the company's factory in Suzhou, China, in the fourth quarter. We're going to invest in more machining centers and more tooling and equipment to expand the whole production operation, he said. ACS plans to add 60 employees and increase capacity by 50 percent by the end of 2012.
ACS opened the 80,000-square-foot Suzhou factory in 2006. Now, the vertically integrated plant takes raw steel and turns it into finished components and equipment. Like the company's other global operations, the China plant is 100 percent ACS-owned, according to Breslin. In India, ACS also has an office in Pune and a warehouse and distribution center in Mumbai.
Last fall, ACS opened a distribution center in Warsaw, Poland, to serve Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Customers can run trials on machinery at the facility.
ACS announced several new products, including a Wabash all-electric compression molding machine and a central chiller based on its GP line of portable chillers.
To create the GP, Breslin said, ACS engineers totally redesigned the previous line of portable chillers, which he said was the best-selling portable chiller. The green GP line uses R410A refrigerant, which meets regulations for greenhouse gas reductions, but Breslin said the changes went far beyond the refrigerant, for a complete redesign.
As a result, ACS has doubled sales of its chiller line in the last year, he said.
The stand-alone, central chiller can link up to five separate GP chillers and generate from 20-300 tons of cooling capacity. Each of the chillers controls its own unit, and they are all tied together to run efficiently.
Other new products include:
* A midsized, dual-bed desiccant dryer. ACS also offers a rotary-wheel desiccant dryer as an option. The dryers come with one, two or three drying hoppers on a portable stand. ACS has developed a new line of highly insulated drying hoppers.
* Wabash's E-Series of all-electric compression molding machines, in clamping forces up to 30 tons, which use up to 30 percent less energy than hydraulic machines and run more quietly.
* A Wabash XB series Briquetter, which turns shredded or powdered material into densified blocks. Plastics applications include film regrind fluff, foam and polyurethane.