Monday, July 6, 2009

Push toward aerospace

This article appeared in the Monday, July 06, 2009 issue of MiBiz, read by upper management executives in West and Southwest Michigan. Print subscriptions are free to qualified individuals who are employed in West and Southwest Michigan. For further information about MiBiz, visit

Push toward aerospace

By Karen Gentry
COMSTOCK PARK - Despite a majority of its current business being in automotive, Commercial Tool & Die Inc. is holding its own and now diversifying into the aerospace industry.
Annual sales have held at about $22 million for the company and about $28-$30 million for Commercial Tool Group Inc., which includes Commercial Tool & Die and sister companies CG Plastics Inc. and CG Automation & Fixture Inc.

Commercial Tool & Die is making an aggressive push into the aerospace industry and has hired a full-time salesperson to pursue aerospace opportunities. Todd Finley, VP at Commercial Tool & Die, said a lot of aerospace work is really well suited for the company's equipment.
"We would like (aerospace) to grow to become 25 percent of our business," Finley told MiBiz about the company's three- to five-year plan for entering the aerospace industry.
In June, the company received it AS9100 certification, which will help it compete nationally for aerospace work. Finley said about 3,000 tool & die shops are ISO certified in the region, but only 3,000 across the country carry the AS9100 certification.

The Right Place Inc. and Michigan Economic Development Corp. helped Commercial Tool & Die obtain a grant to train employees. AS9100 is a standardized quality management for the aerospace industry released in 1999 by the Society of Automotive Engineers and the European Association of Aerospace Industries.

Jim Ross, VP at The Right Place and west regional director for the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, said The Right Place helped Commercial Tool & Die with a gap analysis to determine what needed to be changed or modified to meet aerospace industry requirements and then helped them with an ISO 14971 risk assessment for aerospace.
The Right Place works with tool and die companies of all types in a 17-county area in an assessment process that can take one to six months.

More New Domestics

Commercial Tool & Die specializes in the design, manufacture, repair and maintenance of plastic injection molds. Now more than half of the company's auto work is for the new domestics including Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagen, Honda and Mercedes. Commercial's customer base is primarily auto suppliers like Johnson Controls, Magna Mirror, Summit Polymers, Leon Plastics and Net Shape. Those customers win contracts to make parts and then turn to Commercial Tool & Die to build the tooling.
The shift from less Detroit Three work to more new domestics has taken place in the last five to six years.
The company has garnered some national awards for its lead time two years in a row from Molding Technology magazine. Finley said it takes from 8 to 16 weeks to complete a tool, including the design. The molds are typically made of steel, although more pliable aluminum is used for some prototyping.
Commercial Tool & Die's biggest competition comes from China, particularly in the last five to eight years, Finley said.
"We can't compete on labor rates or costs because China is so heavily subsidized. We compete on complexity and quality," Finley said. "If it's easy to do, it's in China."
Commercial Tool & Die has little debt, but Finley said it is a challenge to finance machinery that can cost upwards of $1 million because of the current banking environment. He said some banks simply want out of automotive entirely.
To help cope with the current economic environment, Commercial Tool & Die is joining with five other companies for a Tool & Die Recovery Zone that, if approved, will include a 15-year tax abatement. Alpine Township officials have been very supportive of Commercial Tool & Die and approved the request, which could be approved by state officials by the end of the year. The law for the zones was revised to include all sizes of businesses, not just smaller companies.
"The abatement would begin in 2010. That would be a huge help for us," Finley said.

Family business

Commercial Tool & Die was established in 1953 by Al Bouwman. In the late 1980s, the company was purchased by the founder's son, current owner Doug Bouwman. The company moved from Walker to its current location on Rusche Drive NW in Comstock Park in 1992.
The sister companies opened in nearby buildings in the 1990s. CG Automation provides checking fixtures, gauges, trim dies, EOA tool, special machinery, rapid prototyping and an ISO 17025 certified CMM Lab. CG Plastics is a sampling facility that produces plastic parts from molds.
Commercial Tool & Die currently has 135 employees in the 100,000-square-foot facility, with six employees at CG Plastics and 20 at CG Automation.
Types of positions at Commercial Tool & Die range from CNC machinists, designers, mold makers and engineers to administration.


No comments:

Post a Comment