Metal Mechanics was founded by George and Lillian Bingham in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1951 as a shop that could build or fix anything that was metal -- from machine tools to prototypes to parts for Les Paul guitars. In 1971, the company built its first trim press for a local die casting company. This was a turning point for the business and it became known as the premier provider of trim presses, serving over 250 die casters since then. With the addition of a small group of sales representatives in 1985 serving all the NAFTA region, the success in this area continued. Even after the slow down of the economy in 2001 the company has delivered an average of 65 presses per year since 2001. With a record-setting year of 119 presses delivered in year 2000.
Jim Dailey joined the staff in 1958 and became president of the company in 1974. With Dailey’s leadership, Metal Mechanics has enjoyed the envious position of showing a profit every year since. Jim retired in 1998 and the business is now run jointly by his son Tom Dailey and daughter Elizabeth DeLisle.
Today, Metal Mechanics is located in Schoolcraft, Mich., about 15 miles south of its original home. The current building has been expanded two times since the company relocated there in 1994. Occupying 18,000 sq. ft. of floor space, manufacturing trim presses remains its core business. However, the company also produces press shuttles and conveyors; stainless steel flanges and lifting aids for water treatment facilities; jacks and jack stands for heavy truck transmission work; and is just starting to produce trim press equipment for thermal form manufacturing.
A Focus on Service
Metal Mechanics’ goal is to keep the presses running in its customers’ facilities at all times. President Tom Dailey tells his clients, “If you can’t run your press every day that you need to, then I’m not doing my job.” The presses are designed with maintenance in mind, making most fixes very simple. Adds Dailey, “We really don’t keep a service group. We can troubleshoot most anything over the phone and we keep inventory of just about every part on the presses.”
This focus on the customer has allowed Metal Mechanics to enjoy long-standing relationships with most of its customers, which include companies such as Toyota, Mitsubishi, Summit, Intermet, Briggs and Stratton and BuhlerPrince. Additionally, the company believes in giving back to the community and has sponsored the local Disabled Sports Team for over a decade.
An Eye to the Future
Although, Metal Mechanics has enjoyed success, the owners understand that staying competitive through technology is important. “It’s rare that we lose a customer,” says DeLisle, “but today’s competition is stiff and they will try other vendors.”
In addition to technology, the company is also focused on being ‘green’ as much as possible. Dailey is committed to being environmentally responsible. “I’m not a tree-hugger,” he says, “But, I believe we have a responsibility to try and reduce our carbon footprint.”
Dailey and DeLisle make sure that Metal Mechanics doesn’t just talk the talk, but that they walk the walk. When the company first moved into the current location, they had 6 inches of building supply insulation put on all the walls and then covered with a layer of tin. The heat was supplied by four radiant heaters, however the temperature variance could be 30 degrees between ceiling and floor. They had a couple gargantuan fans installed to circulate the air. This improved the heating so much that now the temperature never exceeds 3 degrees difference from top to bottom, and they were able to turn off two of the radiant heaters.
The company is also a big believer in refurbishing old equipment and keeps a regular stock of presses that can be updated. This is smart for more than just ecological reasons. One of the biggest expenses in a press is the cost of steel, which continues to go up in price. By saving on steel, more can be invested in the technology of the press, such as the circuits and controls.
Metal Mechanic’s newest technology is its energy-saving Trim-Pressive machine. Relying upon a hybrid-servo-actuator motion control system, the press reduces energy usage by 80% and noise level by 75% as compared to same-sized hydraulic presses. Additionally, there is a savings in hydraulic fluid and tubing.
By installing this technology on an existing press frame, a customer can gain huge energy saving benefits as well as paying less than they would for a new hydraulic trim press. “I know we’re not going to move away from hydraulics overnight,” says Dailey, “But we believe that developing technology to save energy is a necessary step to get us away from the status quo.”