Sonus Engineered Solutions is an NVH specialist and trusted Tier One supplier for customers like the ‘Big Three’ automotive companies – General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler. Its noise reduction products are designed, manufactured and tested in-house to meet the needs of the market.
What is NVH? NVH stands for Noise, Vibration, and Harshness, and reducing this is Sonus Engineered Solutions’ forte. One of the hallmarks of a smooth ride in a vehicle is peace and quiet, and when you do not hear the inner workings of a vehicle’s engine, you have a company like Sonus to thank. Other advantages include reduced CO2 emissions, increased fuel economy, the ability to weather mechanical shocks, reduced stress on engine connections and improved handling.
President and Chief Executive Officer Tim Droege notes that the company is “material agnostic,” and can work with plastic, rubber, foam and fiber material. “It gives us the flexibility to come up with the best type of product to solve that NVH problem.”
Its automotive acoustic products include air induction systems, air intake ducts, exhaust hangers, resonators, engine covers, vapor expansion chambers, as well as acoustic foam and precision molded rubber.
All of this takes place at its headquarters in Warren, Michigan, a state-of-the-art, 120,000 square-foot ISO TS-certified facility with engineering, design, development, program management and manufacturing capabilities under one roof.
Sonus Engineered Solutions performs extensive simulation and testing in-house. Full-vehicle NVH testing takes place in its soundproof testing site that can duplicate real-world conditions in a laboratory setting.
“The company was founded here in Warren as the North American tech center for a company called Woco Group. It’s a German automotive supplier. We started off in the Detroit area doing mostly sales and engineering, and our job was to go out and support the customer and get orders and feed the Woco plants globally,” explained Droege.
Strategically located where global automotive original equipment manufacturers are based, the Warren, Michigan facility was established to complement Woco’s Canadian and Mexican operations. The facility was built in 2001 and centralized sales, engineering, program management, design, development and testing.
“There are some very good molders and manufacturing companies in the area, and they are very good engineering service suppliers, but not too many people do both, and that’s really what we focus on – helping the customer solve NVH problems,” said Droege.
“We have the capability to – instead of just supporting them by taking measurements and showing them data and doing testing – we have the capability of producing a part that will solve that problem, and there are very few companies that do that, and that’s really our niche.”
When the global financial crisis hit, industries like automotive and places like Detroit were ground zero. As a result, there were discussions of closing the Warren facility. Droege, who was vice president at the time, had a vision for the future, so he identified potential partners, and together they bought the facility.
The company was renamed Novo Motor Acoustic Solutions and operated under this name from 2009 to 2017. At the end of 2015, the company entered a new era.
“We were approached by a private equity group, and they came in and bought a majority share in the company, and they wanted to do a rebranding. So we did the deal with the private equity group which is called 3P Equity Partners out of California in October 2015, and the rebranding effort went into play in April 2017,” said Droege.
Since that time, Sonus Engineering Solutions has benefitted from an alliance with TGK Slovenia, a company in the portfolio of 3P Equity Partners. TGK Slovenia serves Europe with a similar sized market, and together they can better compete with multibillion-dollar companies.
“A company our size really shouldn’t be able to play in that sandbox, but we’re got as good of capabilities, in some cases better capabilities, than our competitors, but we’re still small enough to be fast, flexible. We’re not overly burdened by overhead or bureaucracy, and I think that’s really what our customers like most about us,” Droege said.
One of Sonus Engineered Solutions’ strengths is the fact that it has all the tools, experience, specialized knowledge and capacity of larger companies. Thanks to its size, it is flexible and can anticipate the needs of its customers as the industry changes. “A substantial amount of our revenue gets reinvested in [research and development]. So we’re constantly looking for new products, innovative products, innovative materials, and I think that we’ve got our finger on the pulse of what’s going on with our customers – what types of products they’re going to need,” explained Droege.
“With every new vehicle, whether it be an electric vehicle or a hybrid or a fuel cell, whatever the case may be, with every new technology, comes new challenges and new opportunities. So, our products in these vehicles evolve. There will still be a need for NVH, but it might be in a different type of product.” Sonus Engineered Solutions works closely with its customers to get involved early in the process.
“With every new technology that comes out, there are always new problems, and for us, new problems are opportunities. So, if you look at one of our new product lines like acoustic engine covers on gas and diesel engines and things like that on the normal internal combustion engine, let’s say – with electric vehicles or some of the new technologies – you’re going to have a new list of NVH hurdles,” noted Droege.
“You’re not going to hear the combustion noise, but you’ll hear every pump, motor and ancillary device,” Droege said. As a result, regardless of the shift to alternative fuels or autonomous vehicles, Sonus Engineered Solutions will continue to be relevant.
The company also works to remain applicable to the industry via the sustainable practices it undertakes in its day-to-day work. Recycled content and post-consumer materials are used in creating new NVH parts, and Sonus Engineered Solutions supports a zero landfill initiative in which scrap and excess materials are recycled back into production.
“Our customers are really driving that with their sustainability groups at Ford, General Motors and FCA, and so obviously, that trickles down to us as a supplier, and we have to be conscious about that,” Droege said. “All the nylon material that we run is a post-consumer, post-industrial grade, so it’s a green material. It’s been recycled. It may have been carpet fiber or some other product, but it’s reprocessed, so all of our engine covers are run out of that green material.”
Sonus Engineered Solutions is currently identifying ways to introduce its innovative products to new customers. “We’re an automotive NVH company, but we do some small products outside of automotive,” Droege explained. “We’re working with some outdoor companies right now to produce parts in plastic, rubber and foam.” These will be used in archery and other recreational sectors.
The majority of its business remains in the automotive industry, but steps are being taken to change this. “We’re trying to diversify our automotive customer base but then also diversify a portion outside of automotive to help us with market ups and downs,” Droege noted.