When it comes to the provision of new equipment, service, and repair and maintenance of used equipment—even complete turnkey solutions for mechanical, servo, and the occasional hydraulic press—Midwest Press & Automation (MPA) is in the business of providing invaluable support for its customers in the metal forming industry across North America.
Over the years, MPA’s capabilities have expanded in step with its performance and success. Established as a sales organization in 2010 by Tom Clark and Ron Michon, the company has since steadily enlarged its size, scope, and reach, matching the growth in demand that’s recently been accelerated by changes in the market.
“COVID created some issues: it’s hard to find employees, it’s hard to keep employees, it’s hard to train employees. That created some pent-up demand for maintenance and repair at the customers’ facilities, and they’ve been reaching out to us much more than they would have pre-COVID,” explains Production Manager, Nick Martin, who became a part owner of the company in 2020.
“A lot of customer equipment is in disrepair and needs to be updated. Many customers have also lost their skilled trades internally, so they’re reaching out to companies like ours to do the work. The demand is at an all-time high,” says Martin. “They might be adding new equipment and new assets, which we also do,” he adds. “So not only do we service the equipment they already have, but we’re able to offer them a whole new press line with a feed transfer—anything that they might need.”
Throughout its history, MPA has cleverly concentrated on diversifying both its equipment and talent, and is thus able to provide more comprehensive solutions to its customers, whose needs have grown and evolved.
“From a sales organization at the time, selling new equipment, press controls, and some used equipment, we started to bring in service in 2013, starting with four service employees. We added some engineering resources: welding, machining, electrical, assembly, disassembly, and mechanical, and things just started to snowball from there,” Martin explains.
Today, MPA enjoys over 80,000 square feet of physical space, a footprint slated to grow by an additional 27,200 square feet at its Lansing, Michigan facility. This expansion will include a 60-ton overhead crane to support growing demand for its services. There are already plans to add to the mix another large building with 200-ton crane capabilities, further to an expansion at its Eaton Rapids, Michigan facility.
As well as locations in Lansing and Eaton Rapids, MPA has boots on the ground in Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia to serve its growing numbers of clients throughout North America.
In many cases, customers approach MPA with equipment that needs to be upgraded to handle the new and innovative materials of the day, particularly in the automotive industry where vehicles are being made stronger yet lighter for optimal economy, safety, and performance. These advanced materials require manufacturing techniques beyond the capability of legacy equipment.
“A lot of our customers’ equipment is from the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, and while that worked for the materials of those days, as crash test ratings and fuel economy have become larger issues in the automotive sector, these older machines can’t handle the challenges of some of these higher strength materials—excessive reverse tonnage being the main cause of failure,” Martin explains.
MPA works through customer issues with them to fully comprehend and resolve their pain points. “Whether it’s reverse engineering to improve component design or combatting the challenges of today’s manufacturing, we work with the customer to really understand what their hurdles are and what their needs are for this equipment. We work with them to make sure that they can run what they need to from that point forward.”
Behind MPA’s growth is the top-notch service that its highly skilled employees provide, bringing diverse expertise in engineering, electrical, CNC machining, mechanical assembly, and welding.
“Our world-class employees are the heartbeat of this company,” says Martin. And every single one of them plays a role in the company’s collective success: “All of these skill sets complement each other, allowing us to offer world-class turnkey solutions.”
To address the growing demand, MPA has focused on developing talent internally, as the North American talent pipeline is showing signs of skills incongruence and depletion. While there isn’t a formal program, the company’s core group of employees mentors the next generation of rising stars. This attitude among employees has been consciously cultivated for the last decade, and the company’s efforts are yielding positive results.
“We focused early on taking our core group of journeymen and we were able to find a group of younger, eager people who wanted to work and learn,” says Martin. “Now they have seven to ten years’ experience and are out running jobs and training the next set. If you find someone with the right attitude who’s willing to learn and shows up on time, we can teach them anything and they can go anywhere in this company. And they’ll be greatly rewarded for it. We’re happy to teach anybody who’s willing to listen and who wants to work hard.”
MPA has gone above and beyond to ensure that its employees are satisfied with the work environment and happy with their remuneration in an effort to attract and retain talent in a competitive labor market.
“It’s not just money; it’s more than that,” Martin shares. “If you want to retain staff, you have to do some creative things, but honestly, the culture here is one of hard work. Everyone pulls on the rope and quality is number one when it comes to the product. Our culture is ‘work hard and play hard.’ Everybody comes in and we work together and work as hard as we can and it’s not uncommon for us, outside of work, to share recreation as well. Everybody watches out for each other.”
With millions of dollars of contracts freeing up in the state of Michigan alone, there’s no shortage of work on the horizon for MPA and the pressure is on to continue to grow its footprint and employee base to meet future demand. As Martin wryly says, “It’s hard work to service the state of Michigan, let alone the entire country.”
The expansion that is taking place will ensure there’s room for growth: “The expansion will allow us the floor space we need to bring more projects in for repair work or anything else, but ultimately, we’ve got to be able to staff every square foot in this place,” says Martin. The immediate goal is to grow the team of employees to around 100.
Of course, the advantage of developing talent from within is that it allows the company to foster a culture that will preserve and replicate the high standards of quality, safety, and service that have infused MPA’s work throughout the years.
MPA was built on integrity and quality, and through its culture it continues to serve up those values for customers and employees alike. There’s no mystery at all as to why this is a partner of choice for metal forming operations across North America, who have come to count on MPA as a service provider that lives up to its reputation.