Small parts for a big industry

T&C Stamping earns top honors for its role in supporting the state's automotive sector

Wendell Smith works a press making parts for BMW at T&C Stamping in Athens. Photo by David Higginbotham.

In October 2022, the Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association (AAMA) named T&C Stamping Inc. its Small Manufacturer of the Year during the association’s Supplier of the Year event.

T&C Stamping is a self-certified, woman-owned small business based in Athens that provides metal stampings, tool and die and related assembly services to a variety of industries. Other services include tooling design, prototyping, progressive die stamping and drawn stampings.

Weston Coleman’s grandfather, Mike Coleman, co-founded T&C Stamping in 1985 with John Turner. After Mike Coleman’s death in 1997, members of his family bought out Turner’s interest, and the company continues to run as a privately held, family-owned business today.

“We started as a supplier for the appliance industry -— electromechanical controls, thermostat controls, those kinds of things,” says Weston Coleman, director of sales at the company.

But, he recalls, as manufacturing jobs for those smaller items started to go overseas, the company had to diversify, and in 2010 T&C Stamping started looking more and more toward the automotive industry for business growth. It was an obvious choice, with companies like Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc. in Tuscaloosa, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) in Montgomery and Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama Inc. in Huntsville already well-established entities in the state and with other OEMs increasingly looking to move their operations to the Southeast.

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Weston Coleman is director of sales at T&C Stamping, which his grandparents founded. Photo by David Higginbotham.

“There might not have been the number of [automotive] plants in Alabama then that there are now, but you could definitely say that the shift was happening, and we just felt like that was the right direction for us to go,” says Coleman, adding that the stamping supplier’s automotive business has grown to make up about 20-25% of total revenue.

T&C Stamping’s primary customer is the BMW Group manufacturing plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Other customers include the Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant in Tennessee and the Honda Alabama Auto Plant in Lincoln.

T&C Stamping, which employs 80 people, initially operated in a small section of a now 96,000-square-foot facility, located near the center of Athens in a seven-acre industrial park. Design, manufacturing and shipping operations all take place at the location. Currently, the plant processes more than 15,000 tons of raw materials and stamps more than 130 million pieces annually. They can produce stampings with thickness ranging from .002 to .250 inch and have experience working with a variety of traditional and non-traditional materials, including galvanized steel, stainless steel, copper, Mylar, polyester, insulating paper, phenolic and fine silver.

The company credits its proximity to I-65, the Huntsville International Airport and its major raw material suppliers as a significant contributor to its success over the past 25 years.

“And we’d like to expand, but we’re kind of limited on floor space,” says Coleman.

In the meantime, there are tentative plans to bring in some bigger presses. Currently, the stamping presses range in size from 20 to 330 tons with press bed sizes ranging from 48 to 106 inches, with shut heights of up to 24.5 inches.

“I would like to see us get rid of some of the smaller presses that we use to run appliance control parts on and move toward the larger presses, 100-ton and up, that better serve our automotive customers,” says Coleman.

Each year the AAMA recognizes large and small manufacturing suppliers for outstanding achievements in areas such as innovation, quality, safety and commitment to the community.

Last year, Coleman, who serves on AAMA’s young professionals committee, threw T&C Stamping’s hat in the ring, and AAMA President and Chairman Ron Davis toured the facility.

“He was very complimentary of the cleanliness of the plant and the overall atmosphere,” Coleman recalls. “We try to create as relaxed of a work environment as we can for a manufacturing plant.” A couple weeks after his visit, Davis notified Coleman that T&C Stamping would receive the 2022 Supplier of the Year Award.

Bins full of brackets that will find their purpose welded to a cross beam behind the dashboard of a BMW. Photo by David Higginbotham.

Coleman says it was a surprise and honor to win the award. “When you think about the number of people in our state that do the same thing we do and to be selected as supplier of the year, it’s pretty awesome. I can’t take any credit for it. I got to stand up there and receive the award, but there are 80 people here who run parts every day, and they’re the ones who deserve the credit.”

“T&C Stamping was the clear winner of AAMA’s Supplier of the Year Award for small manufacturer, and the decision was unanimous by the AAMA selection committee,” says Davis. “T&C Stamping has a history of strong performance in products produced, quality and customer service. I was especially impressed with their employee-focused culture as they treat their employees as their most valuable resource.

“This culture is not just talk; it is backed up with action, consistency and employee-focused programs. T&C Stamping has very strong employee retention resulting from training provided, balance of compensation and benefits, apprenticeship opportunities and displayed care for their workers,” Davis adds. “As I walked the shop floor it was all clearly evident to me as I observed a very happy, productive, top-notch small manufacturer at work.”

“We’re here to serve the automotive industry in Alabama,” says Coleman, adding that he sees opportunity for future growth for the company as automotive manufacturers continue to focus on adding electric vehicles to their lineups. “They’re going to need stamping companies like ours that know quite a bit about different materials like copper, brass and particularly aluminum. We have a lot of aluminum stamping experience and expertise that some of the other automotive stamping companies may not have.”

Katherine MacGilvray and David Higginbotham are freelance contributors to Business Alabama. She is based in Huntsville and he in Decatur.

This article appears in the March 2023 issue of Business Alabama.

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