What happens when three companies come together in the world of manufacturing for industries like aerospace, heavy truck, construction, and agriculture? Why, a virtual one-stop source for business.
M2M (Model 2 Machine) Group is a group of manufacturing companies with different specialties and strengths. M2M Group was formed in 2011 by Generation Growth Capital (GGC) Inc., a Wisconsin-based private equity fund group that provides growth and buyout capital for lower middle-market companies.
The story behind M2M Group began when GGC became interested in establishing a company that offered a suite of vertically-integrated supply capabilities to original equipment manufacturer (OEM) customers serving the heavy truck, agricultural, construction, aerospace, and mining equipment markets. To accomplish this, GGC set out on an acquisition mission.
The first in the trio it acquired was Clinkenbeard & Associates, a Rockford, Illinois producer of complex Mock-Ups, patterns, castings and machine parts, considered to be a technological leader in its field.
A few months later, it added M2M Machining Inc. located in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, a company that specialized in machining high-volume grey iron, high/low alloy steel and stainless steel castings and forgings. After this acquisition, M2M Group became the commercial name for the group.
M2M Group was completed in 2012 with the acquisition of Tri Aerospace, based in Terre Haute, Indiana, a company that specialized in machining large and complex aerospace engine components, concurrent engineering, and complex assembly.
“We are essentially one-stop sourcing for small, medium and large components. We can make patterns; we can have castings made; we can do contract machining, and we also do assembly and subassembly of components as well,” said Dave Marcil, Director of Sales and Marketing for M2M. “So we try to be a one-stop source for our customer’s needs, combining them through all three of our divisions.”
In the last seven years, the company has experienced significant growth and has been successful in manufacturing for a wide range of industries across the United States, including aerospace, marine, medical, automotive, industrial, robotics, heavy trucks, and power generation.
Over the past couple of years, M2M Group’s Clinkenbeard division has spent a lot of time working on military projects such simulated engines for NATO bases around the world to practice assembly and disassembly and is expanding its Illinois facility to accommodate the increasing demand. As a result, it has targeted efforts primarily on aerospace and defense and has become a trusted supplier to Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 OEMs, as well as the United States Department of Defense.
“There is a lot of competition on the aerospace side,” said Marcil. “Many companies are already saturated with full production work with long-term agreements, but since our focus historically has been on prototype and new product introduction, we’re not known for production, but we’re also heading in that direction. What we’re doing is prototype development work that leads to low rate production, which will lead to full production.”
Marcil feels that the company’s sales support and prototyping capabilities differentiate it from its competitors because that makes its complete service package more attractive to OEMs. “We like to distinguish ourselves from our competitors through our technical sales support. We consult with OEM engineering departments early in the preliminary design phase to incorporate manufacturability into the design,” explained Marcil.
“Often, a complex design would come to us for quotation, and many times we see ways where if a customer approached it from a manufacturability standpoint, then they could save time and money down the line, making it easier to machine keeps the cost down, so it’s a win-win for everyone.”
With all that has been happening in the field of aerospace and defense, it has had no problem keeping busy with new contracts and projects. “We’re growing like crazy,” said Marcil.
“The aerospace market is just exploding right now, and the biggest opportunity there is that the development and prototype work that we do can lead to long-term agreements for those programs that we’re involved in initially. So it’s a great fit for us, and that’s where the growth is really going to come; the types of production and the numbers that we’re talking about are just astronomical. So if we want to retain that business, we’re going to have to grow accordingly.”
Despite the steady growth on the aerospace and defense side of the business, M2M Group is always on the hunt for other work that will fit its business model and complement what it does. The company is open-minded to discussion about anything and everything.
“We really want to offer one-stop sourcing,” said Marcil. “We don’t want bits and pieces – you know a part here, a part there. Give us the whole program to bid on, and we will manage that for our customer, instead of having them have to manage it internally with our three companies with core competencies being spread out in different areas.”
Staying competitive is always the main challenge for the group, but one of the biggest hurdles it has to overcome as they continue to grow is finding new people. The shortage of skilled laborers is an issue that has affected the manufacturing industry in a big way.
“No one is out of work right now,” said Marcil. “Anyone who is good at what they do as far as a manufacturing person or skilled machinist is working right now. So to be able to attract them can be difficult.”
Marcil explained that it is even more difficult to find qualified workers on the aerospace manufacturing side because it is such a rapidly growing industry that everyone is working. Trying to find highly-skilled, highly-trained – basically turnkey – people ready to hit the ground running is the challenge because the work is so critical that it needs to have people who know what they are doing. It also requires a pre-qualified workforce since it does not have time to train them because it is so busy.
“You can add to your footprint; you can add equipment, but if you’ve got nobody to run this, it’s kind of a moot point. So that’s the biggest challenge in the industry right now. It’s extremely difficult,” continued Marcil.
Marcil is hopeful that more young people will choose the skilled labor field as their careers because the current workforce is an aging workforce, many in their mid-forties to early sixties. So, at some point, it will be up against the challenge of needing to replace people who will be retiring.
With adversity also comes opportunity and excitement, of which there is no shortage for this dynamic business. “In the last couple of years, we have developed a partnership with a major engine manufacturer for new development programs – primarily for the military – and have been working with them very closely at our Tri Aerospace, and more recently at M2M Machining divisions. A significant amount of potential growth in those divisions has come through that program, and we’re experiencing a huge spike in our business as a result,” said Marcil.
M2M Group is also looking into expanding outside of the U.S. into a more global market and has started to lay the groundwork by attending aerospace trade shows, such as the Paris Air Show. It will also be exhibiting at the Farnborough International Airshow outside of London in July along with a U.S. contingent base of companies.
The three companies that make up M2M Group have stood strongly individually, but it is really important to GGC that current and potential customers understand that the three really are the complete package.
“A lot of people know our individual companies, but they don’t know us as the M2M Group,” said Marcil. “So, when I have meetings with customers and introduce them to this concept and the fact that we’re tied to these other companies. They kind of sit up and say ‘wow, this would be a lot easier for me just to send you everything and you take care of quoting it and give me one quote for everything.’”
I guess in this case, maybe ‘M2M’ just means More 2 Manufacture.