On a Tuesday afternoon in February, a crack appeared in the ceiling of JK Machining Inc. in Kalamazoo, Mich.
“It was about 4 o'clock in the afternoon,” recalled Henry Kalkman, JK Machining president. “Heard a loud noise, walked out in the manufacturing facility and saw my guys looking at a big crack in the ceiling, running the length of the building.”
As staff began to leave the building, a second crack appeared and spread toward the office area. Then, under the weight of an unusually heavy snowfall, the roof collapsed, crushing equipment and covering 5,000 square feet of manufacturing space in debris.
“That roof was carrying a snow load all winter long. A lot of times snow comes and goes, and I guess after having snow on it for four, five months, it finally decided it was time to give up,” Kalkman said.
All staff members made it out of the building without harm. Kalkman had returned to the office area, which remained intact.
After the collapse, JK Machining prioritized saving its in-progress work. The company makes injection molds for automotive, medical and furniture end markets.
“We had a crane on site by 8 o'clock that night, and the next morning we started lifting pieces of the roof and the rafters away so that we could get at all of our customers' molds, and by the end of the day we had all of our customers' molds out of our facility and into other local shops that helped us finish them,” he said.
JK Machining is a member of the Southwestern Michigan Tooling Coalition. The alliance helped make it possible to deliver all molds on time.
“Never missed a date, never missed a delivery,” Kalkman said. “It was survival mode; you don't deliver late.”
Kalkman said he received offers of help from all over the state as the company salvaged what they could and set up shop in a temporary facility about 20 minutes away.
“We were able to save our manual machines,” he added. “Anything that was computer-driven, CNC, high-accuracy [had to be replaced]. We got all new high-speed mills, new EDMs, new wire machine, new CNC milling machines. Everything else was pretty much crushed.”