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Top 10 Largest Manufacturers in Jefferson County

American Cast Iron Pipe Co. makes ductile iron pipe, hydrants and valves and spiral-welded steel pipe at its Birmingham facility.

1,400—American Cast Iron Pipe Co.
ACIPCO, of Birmingham, was founded in 1905. The company makes ductile iron pipe, hydrants and valves and spiral-welded steel pipe.

970—U.S. Pipe and Foundry
U.S. Pipe, of Bessemer, was founded in 1899 and makes ductile iron products for water and wastewater systems.

950—Kamtek Inc.
Kamtek, of Birmingham, is an automotive metal stamping company that produces stamped parts for Mercedes-Benz and other automotive manufacturers.

800—Buffalo Rock Co.
Buffalo Rock, of Birmingham, is an independent Pepsi bottler and food products manufacturer, founded in 1901. It bottles a variety of products, including Grapico, Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale, Capri-Sun, Propel Enhanced Water, Muscle Milk, Amp, Sobe and others.

751—ABC Coke
ABC Coke, of Birmingham, produces foundry coke, serving customers in the automotive, construction, smelter, rock wool insulation and sugar industries. ABC Coke is the largest merchant producer of foundry coke in the United States and is a Drummond Co. Inc. subsidiary.

700—U.S. Steel
U.S. Steel, of Fairfield, makes steel and flat-rolled finished products. Among its customers are the metal building components, automotive and appliance industries.

700—Motion Industries
Motion Industries, of Irondale, was founded in 1946 and became a subsidiary of Genuine Parts Co. in 1976. It provides wholesale distribution and MRO replacement parts throughout North America.

635—Altec Industries Inc.
Altec, of Birmingham, makes construction industry machinery. Founded in 1929, the company also provides products and services to the electric utility, telecommunications, tree care and lights and signs markets.

625—McWane Inc.
McWane produces ductile iron pipe for the water and wastewater systems. Located in Birmingham, McWane Inc. is part of the McWane Family of Companies, founded in 1921.

607—Coca-Cola Bottling Co. United Inc.
Coca-Cola Bottling Co. United, of Birmingham, bottles Coke products and foods. Established in 1902, Coca-Cola Bottling Co. United is the second largest privately held Coca-Cola bottler in North America and the fourth largest bottler of Coca-Cola products in the United States.

For a complete economic overview of Jefferson County, visit our spotlight in the October 2019 issue of Business Alabama.

Biggest U.S. Pallet Maker Adds Bay Wood to its Stack

PalletOne CEO Howe Wallace, left, and Jimmy Wilson, founder of Bay Wood, announce acquisition to employees at Bay Woods plant in Robertsdale.

PalletOne Inc., America’s largest new pallet manufacturer, recently announced the purchase of Bay Wood Products Inc., a pallet and crate manufacturing business located in Baldwin County on the Alabama Gulf Coast.

“In my heart of hearts, I knew PalletOne was the best option for our employees, customers and the community,” said Jimmy Wilson, founder and a former owner of Bay Wood Products. “They understand what we do, and they know our industry. As I was looking at succession plans, it was very important to me to leave our employees in good hands.”

Plans call for Wilson to serve as general manager of the new PalletOne business in Robertsdale.

With the Bay Wood Products acquisition, the company now employs more than 225 workers at pallet plants in Selma and Robertsdale, and pressure treated wood plants in Athens and Louisville. PalletOne’s combined revenue in Alabama is more than $150 million annually.

Founded Aug. 31, 1994, exactly 25 years to the day of the acquisition, Bay Wood Products serves clients across the U.S. Producing 190 truckloads of pallets per month, the 20-acre facility manufactures wooden pallets, rough-cut lumber, custom crates and mulch. In recent years, sales have reached $23 million annually.

Organized in 2001, PalletOne now operates 18 locations in nine states and manufactures new pallets, provides pallet repair programs, recycles used pallets and produces a variety of other wood products. With national headquarters in Bartow, Florida, PalletOne’s operations include Industrial Recycling Services, SunOne Logistics, and Sunbelt Forest Products Corp., one of the largest producers of pressure-treated lumber and residential fencing in the Southeast. Through its combined operations, PalletOne employs more than 1,500 people across 23 locations. Its annual revenues exceed $500 million annually.

“We are very pleased to welcome such a well-run operation in the southern Alabama market,” said PalletOne CEO Howe Wallace. “Jimmy and the Bay Wood team are well respected in our industry. It’s an honor to move forward with them.”

Smart Apparel Manufacturer Gets Smarter

Karsten Newbury (left), Gerber Technology, and J. Kirby Best, OnPoint Manufacturing, at the OnPoint factory in Florence.

The world apparel industry used to be between 28th and 38th Street, midtown New York City.

Today, like the internet, it could be almost anywhere.

Anywhere like Helton Drive, in Florence, Alabama, location of OnPoint Manufacturing, a leader in the emerging industry of on-demand apparel manufacturing.

Instead of haggling with a cut and sew shop that demands a minimum order — much of which will end up in a bargain bin — the brand or individual customer place their order through the internet with an on-demand manufacturer who uses a dazzling array of high-tech equipment and worker assembly lines to produce custom-made clothing in small-batch orders and delivered in 10-20 days or less.

OnPoint Manufacturing is already a highly mechanized, on-demand apparel manufacturer. But now they’re becoming even more mechanized from start to finish, with the addition of something called a GERBERcutter® Z1.

The Z1 cutter, delivered to OnPoint on Sept. 30, is a next generation, data-driven, automated cutting solution for single-ply materials. It’s a big chunk of what is known as Industry 4.0 or smart manufacturing.

Onpoint says, in a release, its “factory model automates and integrates nearly every aspect of the manufacturing process from order entry to delivery.”

“Each system we implement makes our manufacturing process more efficient and helps our customers get from concept to production more quickly,” said OnPoint CEO J. Kirby Best.

“We are incredibly proud to partner with OnPoint Manufacturing,” said Karsten Newbury, chief strategy and digital officer of Gerber Technology. “OnPoint has developed technically advanced automated manufacturing and, combined with our unique end-to-end solution, this partnership will pave the way for true personalized on-demand manufacturing, which is what today’s consumers are increasingly expecting.”

OnPoint’s factory is located in Florence, although their headquarters is in Nashville. They were named 2018 Alabama Manufacturer of the Year by the Business Council of Alabama and the Alabama Technology Council.

Based in Connecticut, Gerber Technology is owned by AIP, a New York-based, private equity firm specializing in the technology sector.

AL Fares OK in Georgia-Pacific Reshuffle, LA Walloped

Completed in 2018, a $388 million recovery boiler tower at Georgia-Pacific’s containerboard mill in Brewton, Alabama. Photo courtesy of Georgia-Pacific

Alabama is a comparative winner among Southern states in the major restructuring announced by Georgia-Pacific at the beginning of the summer, and the biggest loser is Louisiana, especially considering tax incentives, according to a report yesterday by PRWatch.

Georgia-Pacific, in June, announced a retreat from its commercial paper, particleboard and wood products businesses. A particleboard mill in Monroeville was Alabama’s biggest hit, bringing a layoff of 100 workers.

On the other hand, G-P renewed its focus on bath tissue, including a mill in Naheola, Alabama, which has seen a $120 million investment.

The biggest loser among states was Louisiana, said PRWatch. Good Jobs First’s Subsidy Tracker reported G-P received $90 million in tax subsidies from just 2013 to 2016, of which $62 million came from a 2013 property tax abatement under Louisiana’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) for G-P’s plant in Port Hudson near Baton Rouge.

This summer’s corporate realignment included the closure of the Port Hudson plant and 700 layoffs. About 300 jobs remain for the production of toilet and tissue paper, but a Louisiana State University study finds that the loss of jobs in Port Hudson “could ripple into an estimated loss of nearly 2,150 other jobs across Louisiana.”

“G-P received $203 million in Louisiana ITEP tax breaks between 1998 and 2017, second only to ExxonMobil,” reported PRWatch. “One report suggests that G-P only created 105 permanent jobs with that money, for a cost to taxpayers of about $1.9 million per job.”

Georgia-Pacific employs a total of about 2,400 workers at seven facilities in Alabama — in Monroeville (lumber), Brewton (containerboard), Talladega (lumber), Naheola (tissue paper), Belk (lumber), Huntsville (corrugated cardboard) and Perdue Hill (cellulose fiber).

Georgia-Pacific is a subsidiary of Koch Industries.

Simpson Door Chooses Birmingham for New Facility

Washington State-based Simpson Door Co. has opened a distribution and light manufacturing facility in Ensley. It’s the third location for Simpson Door, which was founded in 1912, and the company plans to use it as a gateway to the Southeastern market.

The 30,000-square-foot facility is the company’s third but its first outside of Washington State. It represents a $35,000 capital investment with three new jobs. The company has 280 total employees.

“The biggest reason for our new facility in Birmingham is logistics,” says Brad Loveless, marketing manager for Simpson. “Having a warehouse in Birmingham logistically allows us to get products to the Southeast more efficiently, quicker and as a better price for customers. Any production facility that is close by logistically helps everyone throughout the channel, from the lumberyard all the way down to the homeowner.”

The Ensley facility opened earlier this year and is already working well for the company.

“We are starting to see success in having the facility in terms of profitability,” says Loveless.

Why Haven’t Prices for Wooden Pallets Fallen, with the Slump in Wood Prices?

Pallets stacked at the Bay Wood Products plant in Robertsdale, the largest single-site producer of wooden pallets, dunnage and custom crates in Alabama and the Mississippi/Florida Gulf Coast. Photo by Matthew Coughlin

Since this spring, across the U.S., the hardwood lumber market has been in an unseasonable slump thanks to factors such as severe weather and decreased demand from foreign consumers. So why have prices for wooden pallets, a mainstay of the distribution industry, not gone down as well?

For answers, we turned first to the top executive at one of Alabama’s largest manufacturers of wooden pallets, Bay Wood Products, in Baldwin County. For 25 years, Bay Wood has manufactured wood pallets and crates for a variety of industries, using softwoods such as southern pine, abundant in Alabama.

“There’s not one simple explanation,” says Jimmy Wilson, founder and president of Bay Wood Products, “but, rather, a multitude of reasons the price of low-grade wood used to make pallets and packaging products remain stable or even cost more in today’s market.”

Since at least mid-2018, pine (softwood) and red oak (hardwood) markets have been depressed, Wilson says. The high grade continues to stay depressed because the demand from its biggest consumer, China, has decreased as the foreign nation experiences a housing crisis and downturn in its economy.

In the U.S., extreme weather conditions this year, from unprecedented flooding and winter storms, have impacted the availability of lumber, Wilson notes. Less wood can be harvested and delivered to sawmills in a timely manner. Mills that can’t get enough hardwood logs often slow production.

“High-grade and low-grade markets sometimes run in the opposite direction,” agrees Chaille Brindle, publisher of the Pallet Profile Weekly Report. “Right now, most low-grade hardwood continues to suffer from poor supply, due to weather constraints. Also, there is significant uncertainty due to the pull back from China, which could further depress supply. This shortfall in hardwoods has pushed a lot more pallet producers to softwood, creating more competition for low-grade softwood. In most cases, there is less low-grade material on the market over the last few years as sawmill technology has improved optimizing yield.”

Jimmy Wilson, president of Bay Wood Products. Photo by Matthew Coughlin

David Caldwell, a partner at the Hardwood Market Report, says, “The sawmill industry is heavily dependent on weather conditions. I’ve been in business 35 years and I’ve never seen such a severe weather season. There has been a significant reduction in (hardwood lumber) products because of the weather.”

And when the mills are running at full speed and able to get hardwood logs, they rely on producing and selling high-grade lumber for the bulk of their business, says Caldwell.

“They don’t come to work to make low-grade lumber,” Wilson says. “When the high-grade products are created, the low-grade wood is a byproduct. Therefore, when the supply of logs is low and the market for high-grade is depressed, the result is that much less high-grade and low-grade are created because they come from the same logs.”

Another factor, say the insiders, is that many industries that would typically use low-grade hardwoods are willing to pay more when supplies are low. When those industries, including railroads and pipeline construction, pay more for the same product, it forces more wooden pallet manufacturers to turn to softwoods, such as southern pine.

“That increases demand for the low-grade soft lumber, which makes up the largest part of wooden pallets and other packaging materials made by our company,” Wilson says. “The increased demand, as you can imagine, can make prices remain steady and even rise for low-grade southern pine lumber.”

Bay Wood Products is a full-service manufacturer of wooden pallets, rough-cut lumber, dunnage and crates with a recent expansion into the biofuel and mulch markets. The company is one of the largest single-site manufacturers of wooden pallets in Alabama and Mississippi.

Auburn’s Expansive Additive Manufacturing Centers

Nima Shamsaei, who leads additive manufacturing programs at Auburn University, says the school now has more than 70 industrial and government partners for its programs. Photos by Julie Bennett

When Mike Ogles was studying mechanical engineering at Auburn University in the late 1980s, “additive manufacturing” — building materials layer-by-layer using a 3-D printer — wasn’t even a thing, yet.

“The technology was not there, so I would never have had a thought we’d be doing that,” Ogles says. “Back then, we had stereolithography, which was the early, early kind of 3-D printing, so I got some exposure to that, but that was about it.”

Over the decades, that landscape has changed dramatically, and in just the past four to five years, Auburn’s interest in additive manufacturing has grown exponentially, with the university forging partnerships with NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, ASTM International, the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, FAA and many others to put 3-D printing technology to work.

“I am amazed that it has grown this fast,” says Ogles, director of NASA programs in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “It has been a lot of hard work by a lot of people, but it has been rewarding.”

Ogles points to faculty like Tony Overfelt, a longtime Auburn mechanical engineering professor, as one of the pioneers who started the additive manufacturing movement at the university. After GE Aviation opened an additive manufacturing plant in Auburn, interest in the technology intensified, and, in 2016, Auburn’s College of Engineering created the Center for Industrialized Additive Manufacturing.

In 2017, Auburn joined with NASA to establish the National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence (NCAME). Later in 2018, that new center became one of the founding partners of the ASTM International Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence. Today, all of these additive manufacturing efforts are led by Nima Shamsaei, an associate professor in mechanical engineering at Auburn.

If it sounds like there’s a lot going on, there is. In just a few years, Auburn has established itself as one of the leaders in additive manufacturing technology.

“Auburn reacted to some basic needs at the right time,” says Shamsaei.

According to Shamsaei, as additive manufacturing became popular, four important needs arose: enhancing the structural integrity of additive manufactured parts, collaborating and sharing information through public-private partnerships, developing related standards and training a workforce for the growing industry in additive manufacturing.

“The College of Engineering realized there were these needs out there, and they took critical steps,” he says. “They hired faculty with specialties in this area, they invested in additive manufacturing labs, and, to help train the workforce, they established a certificate in additive manufacturing that undergraduate and graduate students could earn by taking certain courses.”

3D printed to honor Auburn’s 3D printing, the shorthand name for additive manufacturing.

In addition to addressing structural integrity, standards and workforce issues, NCAME has become a magnet for partnerships between Auburn and those involved in the additive manufacturing industry. In April, for instance, NASA awarded a $5.2 million contract to the center to develop additive manufacturing processes and techniques for improving the performance of liquid rocket engines.

“We really nailed the public-private partnerships area,” Shamsaei says. “The center currently has over 70 partners. We’re going after funding opportunities to help the industry and the government in faster adoption of this emerging technology.”

Though it started before he came to Auburn, the work coming out of NCAME folds into one of Auburn President Steven Leath’s main goals — to make Auburn a top research university.

“Academic discovery fuels the economic engine, and the work of Auburn researchers fosters a culture of commerce in our state,” Leath says. “Additive manufacturing is transforming industries ranging from aviation to medical instruments to automotive, and Auburn is recognized as a leader on the national stage for our efforts.”

Leath supports NCAME’s work with NASA and others — “It’s incredibly exciting that Auburn is directly supporting our country’s efforts to send humans back to the moon,” he says — but he also has been instrumental in helping to expand NCAME’s territory.

Most of NCAME’s projects were in the aerospace and defense industries, but an initiative from Leath has allowed the center to expand into the biomedical area. That project is a collaboration among the colleges of engineering, business, pharmacy and veterinary medicine.

Mechanical engineering doctoral students Basil Paudel and Jonathan Pegues look at a 3-D computer-aided design model with Nima Shamsaei, director of the National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence, in the additive manufacturing lab in Wiggins Hall at Auburn University.

“Recognizing that additive manufacturing stands to make a major impact in sectors outside of manufacturing, we are leveraging the technology to improve the quality, safety and reliability of medical implants,” Leath says. “As a land-grant university, Auburn is uniquely positioned to leverage academic discovery with our state’s industries, workforce and resources for the public good.”

All of this has led to Auburn becoming a name in the additive manufacturing world in a relatively short time, which not only leads to research projects but to more economic investment in the area. Last year, GE chose Auburn as one of only eight universities to participate in its GE Additive Education Program, and in March, GE Aviation announced a $50 million expansion to its additive manufacturing operation in Auburn.

“Auburn University has become a clear leader in the field of additive manufacturing research due to a strategic effort by the university, the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and our industry partners,” says Cary Chandler, director, business development & startups in Auburn University’s Office of Innovation Advancement & Commercialization. “Auburn has long been developing expertise in this emerging field but has made investments in nationally known researchers to lead the next generation of exploration in additive. By working with key industry partners, like GE Aviation, Auburn has been able to bring in a wide array of the most technologically sophisticated additive equipment, so that our research is on the same machines deployed in the field.”

As for workforce development, Shamsaei says he is seeing more interest from students in additive manufacturing, too.

“More and more students are coming to take advantage of this technology,” he says.

All of these successes are the result of a lot of work by many people, Ogles says. Christopher Roberts, dean of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering; Steve Taylor, associate dean for research in the College of Engineering; and Jeffrey Suhling, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, “plus a lot of faculty, staff and graduate students,” have been instrumental in the enormous growth in additive manufacturing at Auburn.

“Tony Overfelt has said that additive manufacturing can be a renaissance for Alabama, and he’s right,” Ogles says. “We want Alabama to be the go-to state for additive manufacturing. It’s a tremendous opportunity for the state. Not many states can talk about additive the way we can.”

Alec Harvey and Julie Bennett are freelance contributors to Business Alabama. Both are based in Auburn.

Aerojet Rocketdyne Fires Up Rocket Propulsion Facility in Huntsville

Aerojet Rocketdyne will be equipped to do more development and testing of advanced propulsion engines, such as this 2018 test of an RL10 rocket engine at the company’s facility in West Palm Beach.

Aerojet Rocketdyne officials, on June 7, cut the ribbon on an Advanced Manufacturing Facility at the company’s Defense Headquarters building in Huntsville.

Huntsville is the company’s Defense Business Unit headquarters and home to some of the most advanced defense and space manufacturing technology in the world.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s new 136,000 square-foot Advanced Manufacturing Facility will make products such as solid rocket motor cases and other hardware for critical U.S. defense and space programs

Senior Alabama officials joined Aerojet Rocketdyne’s CEO Eileen Drake and Executive Chairman Warren Lichtenstein at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the company’s newest state-of-the-art rocket propulsion Advanced Manufacturing Facility (AMF), marking the latest milestone in the company’s ongoing expansion in the Rocket City.

The 136,000-square-foot AMF will produce advanced propulsion products such as solid rocket motor cases and other hardware for the Standard Missile-3, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, and other U.S. defense and space programs.

“The AMF provides Aerojet Rocketdyne the capabilities we need to advance our nation’s security today and to further technologies that will allow us to meet the challenges of tomorrow,” said Drake.

In addition to current programs, which are being transferred from other locations, the AMF is designed for new program opportunities, including hypersonic and the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program.

Aerojet Rocketdyne officially established Huntsville as the headquarters of its Defense Business Unit in 2016. The company’s local workforce, which numbered approximately 70 in 2017, is now up to more than 400, with additional growth planned as the AMF reaches full production rates.

Drake cited key reasons for making Huntsville the center of its defense business, a highly technical workforce of engineers and scientists and the proximity of the company’s key customers and government partners.

“Huntsville is a great place to build a future – and that’s what we are doing with our expansion here,” said Drake.

“This is an exciting day for Aerojet Rocketdyne, the City of Huntsville and for the entire state of Alabama,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “When a high-caliber company like Aerojet Rocketdyne locates a cutting-edge manufacturing facility in your state, it’s a powerful testament to the skill of your workforce and to the advantages you can offer to business. We’re thrilled to see this great company grow in Huntsville and make important contributions to the nation’s defense.”

“We are grateful to Aerojet Rocketdyne for choosing Huntsville, this site and our highly skilled people, to produce some of the most advanced defense and space manufacturing technology in the world,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “We look forward to a long and prosperous future together as Aerojet Rocketdyne continues its leadership role in our nation’s journey into space.”

Manufacturer of the Year Award Winners Named

ZF Chassis Systems / Photos by Bob Farley

ZF Chassis Systems, Milo’s Tea Co. and OnPoint Manufacturing have captured 2019 Manufacturer of the Year awards presented by Alabama Technology Network and the Business Council of Alabama.

ZF Chassis, of Tuscaloosa, won in the large category; Milo’s, based in Bessemer, in the medium category, and OnPoint, based in Florence, in the small category.

Winners of the 20th anniversary MOTY awards, selected by an independent panel of judges, were announced May 1 during a luncheon at the Alabama Activity Center in Montgomery.

Since 2000, the awards have honored the state’s top manufacturers for their accomplishments. By applying for the award, manufacturers convey their story of financial growth, manufacturing leadership, market leadership, leadership development and workforce enhancement.

“Our state’s economy is powered in large part by our manufacturers from the Shoals to Gulf Shores,” said Katie Boyd Britt, president and CEO of the BCA. “Our annual Manufacturer of the Year Awards honor Alabama manufacturers from the largest industries to small businesses for displaying efficiency, safety and excellence in their products, and the process for making them, and for employing hundreds of thousands of Alabamians.”

ATN Executive Director Keith Phillips said, “The Alabama Technology Network and the Business Council of Alabama are honored to salute Alabama’s best. Companies acknowledged today represent the best in Alabama manufacturing and the use of technology.”

MOTY awards are selected in three categories: 1 to 99 employees in the Small Manufacturer of the Year category; 100 to 399 employees in the Medium Manufacturer of the Year category, and 400 or more employees in the Large Manufacturer of the Year category.

ZF Chassis Systems, the 2019 Large Manufacturer of the Year, has achieved significant accomplishments, including excellent customer satisfaction performance, employee community involvement and company-wide efforts in developing and growing the workforce in West Alabama.

ZF Chassis Systems is a Tier 1 supplier of chassis modules to Mercedes-Benz U.S. International in Vance. ZF produces its modules in the exact variation and order sequence as the vehicles being produced on MBUSI’s production line and delivers them usually within four to six hours of receiving an order. ZF has provided chassis modules for MBUSI since Mercedes SUVs were first produced in 1997.

ZF team members regularly engage in extensive initiatives in the West Alabama region, including a prison ministry to help inmates re-enter the workforce. They support charities and schools here and abroad.

Milo’s Tea Co.

Milo’s Tea Co., the 2019 Medium Manufacturer of the Year, is famous nationwide for its tea, lemonade, tea and lemonade, peach tea and a new frozen slushy.

Founded shortly after World War II, the company traces its roots to returning veteran Milo Carlton and his wife, Bea, who began serving tea in their hamburger shop in Bessemer. Milo’s is in its third generation of family ownership and is a certified Women’s Business Enterprise. CEO and Chair Tricia Wallwork is a granddaughter of the founders.

Milo’s enjoys a culture of innovation, continuous improvement and a strong commitment to providing an outstanding product across the United States. Milo’s focuses on inclusion and diversity, donates at least 1 percent of its profits to charity and is a leader in environmental and waste reduction manufacturing.

OnPoint Manufacturing

OnPoint Manufacturing, the 2019 Small Manufacturer of the Year, is an apparel manufacturing and distribution company that provides a social, business and technology benefit worldwide. Opened in 2014, OnPoint’s highly skilled and specialized seamstresses, cutter operators, engineers, software developers, and sales and marketing staff partner with more than 40 designers and brands across the globe, with products ranging from business dresses to skirts and gowns.

Brands are attracted to OnPoint because of the ability to sell direct-to-consumers online. A company goal is to bring jobs back to America and open a series of plants in the United States. OnPoint’s automated manufacturing technology delivers cut fabric to the correct sewer in the correct sequence, reducing inventory and enabling the production of unique products.

OPM perfected this automated manufacturing technology using software-driven, proprietary workflows that allow customers to reduce or eliminate their inventory as stock can be replenished overnight. This concept is revolutionizing apparel manufacturing here in Alabama and is bringing cut-and-sew jobs back to the United States.

Sponsored by

   

    

Dana Beyerle and Bob Farley are freelance contributors to Business Alabama.

Auto Supplier Firms Share Honors

WKW Erbsloeh North America Inc. (top left) won the AAMA Supplier of the Year Award for Large Manufacturers. Photos by Bob Farley

The Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association has named two Alabama companies as encore winners of the 2019 Supplier of the Year awards and a third company as the winner in the Service Provider of the Year category.

WKW Erbsloeh North America Inc., of Pell City, won in the Large Manufacturer category for firms with 200 or more employees, and Shoals Extrusion LLC, in Florence, won in the Small Manufacturing category. Both were the 2018 winners in the same categories.

Hodges Warehouse + Logistics, in Montgomery, was named the Service Provider of the Year.

ZF Chassis Systems Tuscaloosa Inc. was a Large Manufacturer finalist and Ballman Metals, in Florence, was a finalist in the Small Manufacturer category. Finalists in the Service Provider category were Air Hydro Power and NAOS On-Site Staffing.

“The AAMA Supplier of the Year Award winners exemplify the elite in manufacturing innovation, commitment to excellence, dedication to employees and community investment,” AAMA President Ron Davis said, adding that the awards recognize hard work and dedication of the employees, promote excellence in Alabama’s automotive industry and recognize winners for their outstanding achievements and increase public awareness of Alabama’s automotive manufacturing and service providers.

Presenting the AAMA awards was Molly Cagle

The 2019 AAMA Supplier of the Year Award winner in the Large Manufacturer category, WKW Erbsloeh, has been in business for more than a decade. Its more than 650 employees make and support production of aluminum trim and functional parts for the automotive industry. WKW also manufactures roof railing systems.

In addition to taking care of the technical side of its business and expanding its customer base, WKW supports its community and employees. WKW partners with Jefferson State Community College to support an apprenticeship program, implements an off-site training school, supports robotics training and offers tuition reimbursement for employees who advance their education.

More than 100 WKW employees participated in an internal leadership class, as well as training seminars at Jefferson State and other programs. WKW employees support local charities, including Toys for Tots, and sponsors a supply drive for two local schools.

Shoals Extrusion is a relatively new business that extrudes mill-finish alloy aluminum. The Shoals Extrusion team practices safety initiatives and creates quality products for its valued customers. Team members and the company also participate in community activities.

Shoals Extrusion has been in business for only four years. It began with two extrusion presses, producing parts for the niche market, and now has expanded to employ more than 50 men and women. Shoals Extrusion focuses on high-quality aluminum extrusions on time and at a competitive price, produced in a safe team-based manufacturing atmosphere.

Shoals Extrusion uses leadership development and an internal employee cross-training program. Its employees each week fill Shoals Packs with healthy snacks and deliver them to local elementary schools for children to take home on weekends, ensuring they have nutrition even when not in school.

Shoals Extrusion emphasizes a quality product, internal employee initiatives to improve performance and customer relationships, and service to the community.

Hodges Warehouse + Logistics won the Service Provider of the Year award.

Hodges Warehouse + Logistics is a family-owned company that has been in business since 1960. It’s a third-party logistics provider, a commercial real estate broker, industrial developer and transportation expert utilizing trucks, warehouse space and services.

Hodges is a 24/7 customer service provider that emphasizes safety in its warehouse and transportation divisions, utilizing training, communication, encouragement, on-road transportation monitoring, and daily warehouse safety meetings. Its employees are trained and receive refresher training on company and industry safety policies and procedures.

Employees also are trained in supervisory leadership and OSHA compliance and its diverse employee base has access to higher education, including college and paid-for college courses, conferences and workshops. Hodges also supports community arts, business and military organizations. Hodges believes its diverse employee base is good for employees, their community, and clients.

Hodges is proud of its 99 percent on-time delivery rate but is intensifying its research and innovation abilities to route deliveries to its auto supply chain in the most efficient manner.

AAMA awards were presented May 1 at the Alabama Manufacturer of the Year Awards luncheon in Montgomery, sponsored by the Business Council of Alabama and Alabama Technology Network.

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Dana Beyerle and Bob Farley are freelance contributors to Business Alabama.

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