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Alcoa

Alcoa Howmet – Whitehall, Michigan

Advanced manufacturing providing optimized solutions for improved performance, efficiency and value

Eagle Alloy

Eagle Alloy, Inc. – Part of the Eagle Group of companies - Muskegon, Michigan

Serving a diverse customer base and utilizing lean manufacturing practices; one of the premier steel foundries in the country

Alcoa

Alcoa Howmet – Whitehall, Michigan

A commitment to environmental sustainability; keeping the health and safety of their employees, customers and communities a top priority

Culinary Institute

Muskegon Area First: Helping Local Businesses Flourish

The Culinary Institute of Michigan - Baker College's world-class caliber culinary learning environment

Alcoa

Alcoa Howmet – Whitehall, Michigan since 1951

Leading producer of complex investment-cast turbine components for the aerospace and industrial gas turbine industries

Home » News

News

A New L3: Innovative "GreenTaxi" has big potential in global aviation market

Published: Friday, January 20, 2012, 6:27 AM    
Dave Alexander | Muskegon Chronicle By Dave Alexander | Muskegon Chronicle MLive.com

MUSKEGON — When L3 Combat Propulsion Systems President Michael Soimar speaks about his company's GreenTaxi initiative, there's a sparkle in his eye.

IMG_3322.JPG

L3 Combat PropulsionCapt. Bernhard Zinser, a Lufthansa Airlines technical pilot, uses a joystick to move the Airbus A320 on the new GreenTaxi system from L3 Combat Propulsion Systems in Muskegon.

The exciting potential of the new product might have something to do with the fact that the electric-motor taxi system for commercial jets could be added to about 10,000 aircraft flying worldwide today.

“We are sitting on an incredible opportunity,” Soimar said of the Muskegon-based defense contractor that has been in a recent slump due to the ending of two wars and constraints of the federal deficits.

The GreenTaxi was rolled out to the aviation industry in December when a prototype system was installed in an Airbus 320 in cooperation with Lufthansa Airlines. The L3 Magnet-Motor device was temporarily installed in the aircraft's main landing gear wheel hubs for the test run on the Frankfurt Airport tarmac in Germany.

“The intention is to build this product in our Muskegon plant,” Soimar said. “Our Magnet-Motor people designed the technology. We will industrialize it, but the brains and credit go to them.”

IMG_3165a.jpg

L3 Combat PropulsionFrom left, Wofgang Engler, Airbus A320 chief engineer, Josef Kalla of German Aerospace Research and Manfred Heeg, president of L3 Magnet-Motor, look at the GreenTaxi system as it was demonstrated late last year at Frankfurt Airport in Germany.

L3 Combat Propulsion's GreenTaxi project is an example of the innovation in the manufacturing sector that Gov. Rick Snyder is looking for from Michigan companies. New developments like the GreenTaxi help communities like Muskegon, according to Cathy Brubaker-Clarke — the city of Muskegon's economic development and planning director.

“I think this is a plus for the community and not just for L3 as it looks for alternatives for its own company,” Brubaker-Clarke said.

The GreenTaxi system is the first nondefense product coming out of the L3 Combat Propulsion in generations. In 2006, L3 purchased Magnet-Motors — a German research and development company — to use the company's motor and generator technologies for both military and commercial applications.

Magnet-Motors' knowhow is also behind L3 Combat Propulsion's exploration of utility-scale wind turbines. L3 has joined Grand Rapids-based Rockford Berge to begin exploring the development of a Michigan Energy and Technology Center on Muskegon Lake.

Soimar knows the European market well, as he is a former member of the faculty at the Technical University of Bucharest. In Romania, he became an engineering expert in engines before coming to the United States to work in industry.

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L3 Combat PropulsionMagnet-Motor technology is at the heart of L3 Combat Propulsion Systems' new GreenTaxi system.

The European countries are driven by the high cost of fuel — $10 a gallon for gasoline, Soimar said. The cost of energy has accelerated the European push for alternative and renewable energy, he said.

“They have to save fuel everywhere they can,” Soimar said of the early development of the GreenTaxi concept.

Moving huge aircraft at slow speeds for extended periods of time at large, congested airports gave birth to the GreenTaxi idea. It is an electric-wheel drive system for commercial jetliners. The system can be retrofitted into existing planes or be standard equipment on new aircraft, L3 Marketing Director Phil Chizek said.

The GreenTaxi system consists of the electric motor in the hub of the plane's rear wheels, a joy-stick cockpit control device, a cooling system and electronic controls that draw on the aircraft's existing auxiliary power supply. The auxiliary power unit — a small turbine that produces electricity — also powers the jet's navigation, communication and air conditioning systems.

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L3 Combat PropulsionLufthansa staff watch the demonstration of the GreenTaxi at Frankfurt Airport late last year.

Standard procedure is to have the commercial jets running their main turbine engines as they move around the airport before takeoffs and after landings. This is the most inefficient use of the jet engines, and they produce the most pollution while idling, Soimar said.

“The use of those turbines today at airports is a killer … a fuel sucker,” Soimar said.

The advantages of GreenTaxi are many: fuel savings, reduction of greenhouse gases, noise reduction, less wear on brakes, reduced engine maintenance and improved turnaround time while on the ground.

“Right up in the cockpit, the pilot is in complete control of the airplane through the electric hub,” Chizek said of the successful product test at the Frankfurt Airport. The Lufthansa Airbus 320 had a GreenTaxi installed, tested, disassembled and the jet returned to service within 10 days, he said.

L3 Combat Propulsion is now assembling a GreenTaxi team of customers such as the airlines and aircraft manufacturers, Soimar said. The goal is to get the GreenTaxi certified for commercial use on airline planes.

   

Integricoat Looking to Expand

Brian McVicar | The Muskegon Chronicle By Brian McVicar | The Muskegon Chronicle

Published: Monday, January 9, 2012 10:22 a.m.

A Norton Shores manufacturer could be getting a new home.

Spring Lake-based Judson Properties has received permission from the city of Norton Shores to build a 48,300 square-foot manufacturing facility at 1160 Judson. City Administrator Mark Meyers said the facility is being built for Norton Shores-based Integricoat, Inc.

Integricoat could not be reached for comment. In a 2004 story published in The Chronicle, the company was said to have produced “powder-coated metal components for the automotive and furniture industries.”

According to state records, Integricoat currently is located at 650 Airport Place in Norton Shores. Graham Howe is listed as the company's registered agent.

City officials said it's their understanding that Integricoat is moving and will cease operations at its existing plant once the new one opens. It's unclear whether the company is planning on adding employees.

Mayor Gary Nelund said he's pleased that Integricoat is choosing to build its new facility in Norton Shores.

“They needed to expand,” Nelund said. “My understanding is they needed more space.”

   

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Norton Shores manufacturer, Integricoat, looking to expand

Published: Monday, January 09, 2012, 10:22 AM     Updated: Monday, January 09, 2012, 10:45 AM

Brian McVicar | The Muskegon Chronicle By Brian McVicar | The Muskegon Chronicle MLive.com

A Norton Shores manufacturer could be getting a new home.

Spring Lake-based Judson Properties has received permission from the city of Norton Shores to build a 48,300 square-foot manufacturing facility at 1160 Judson. City Administrator Mark Meyers said the facility is being built for Norton Shores-based Integricoat, Inc.

Integricoat could not be reached for comment. In a 2004 story published in The Chronicle, the company was said to have produced “powder-coated metal components for the automotive and furniture industries.”

According to state records, Integricoat currently is located at 650 Airport Place in Norton Shores. Graham Howe is listed as the company's registered agent.

City officials said it's their understanding that Integricoat is moving and will cease operations at its existing plant once the new one opens. It's unclear whether the company is planning on adding employees.

Mayor Gary Nelund said he's pleased that Integricoat is choosing to build its new facility in Norton Shores.

“They needed to expand,” Nelund said. “My understanding is they needed more space.”

   

Muskegon-area industries lead the economic recovery that's expected to continue in 2012

Published: Saturday, December 31, 2011, 6:09 AM

Dave Alexander | Muskegon Chronicle By Dave Alexander | Muskegon Chronicle

 

Alcoa HowmetChronicle file photo

 

Mark Fitzgerald, 51, of New Era, works on a part for the M777 Howitzer, a marine artillery, at Alcoa Howmet Ti-Cast earlier this year. Alcoa Howmet is Muskegon County's largest industrial employer with 2,100 employees.

MUSKEGON — Even before the Great Recession rippled across the country in 2008, Muskegon County's manufacturing sector had experienced a decade of decline in tandem with the slumping automotive industry.

Now, with all signs pointing to a slow recovery stretching into 2012, advanced manufacturing is driving the local economic bus.

Go figure.

Just a few years ago, manufacturing was dead in many people's minds. Now it is the sector leading the Muskegon area out of the worst economic slump since the Great Depression.

Several key surviving companies of the recent economic downturn are now looking at double-digit growth in revenues for 2012. A number of the Muskegon-area industrial companies are in expansion mode or will be next year, local economic developers said.

However, manufacturing job growth remains modest as Muskegon County has gained back through late 2011 only 600 industrial jobs of the 2,400 lostsince the beginning of the Great Recession.

LarryHines.jpgLarry Hines

“Part of this is the normal economic cycle where the weak players fall along the way and the remaining do well in the recovery,” said Larry Hines, president and owner of the Hines Corp. — a group of six industrial companies, including Bennett Pump in Norton Shores, Johnston Boiler in Ferrysburg, Michigan Spring and Stamping in Norton Shores and Pacific Floor Care in Muskegon.

Hines said his industrial companies are projecting double-digit growth in 2012. Those projections would bring the industrial group back to revenue levels above where they were prior to the recession, Hines said.

“We're optimistic,” Hines said of 2012.

Some Muskegon-area industries didn't survive the last decade, including Sappi Fine Paper in Muskegonand Lift Tech International in Muskegon Heights— both companies more than 100 years old that ended local operations during the recession.

On the other hand, another group of local industries have recast themselves in light of new global realities. Surviving the downturn, they now are poised to take advantage of the upturn to Muskegon's benefit, said Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce.

Cindy Larsen.j.JPGCindy Larsen

“We've never abandoned manufacturing, as has been the case in other communities,” Larsen said, pointing to Muskegon's storied manufacturing history stretching back to the end of the Lumber Era at the dawn of the 20th century. “We are successful today because of a talented group of business leaders.”

Among those who have led the surviving companies are Hines, Amy Heisser and Mike Pepper at Alcoa Howmet, John Workman and Mark Fazakerley at Eagle Alloy, Dave Yacavone at GE Aviation, Bruce and John Essex at the Port City Group, Jim Teets at ADAC Plastics, Wes Eklund atFleet Engineers, John and Betsy McIntyre at Anderson Global, Scott Erdman at Erdman Machine and Steve Olsen of Northern Machine.

Larsen said these and other industrial leaders of the past decade have faced tough decisions, including pay cuts, layoffs and reorganization of staff. At the same time, they have developed innovative new products and processes and discovered new markets, she said.

“These are the superstars of our manufacturing community that have pulled us through one of the worst economic environments in our history,” Larsen said. “They provided leadership, innovation, sacrifice and perseverance. These people had the talent and skill to move their companies forward.”

ADAC AutomotiveChronicle file photo

Janice Boss works on making Honda CR-V door handles at ADAC Automotive Inc. in Muskegon. The company announced a $20 million expansion at the end of year that will create 130 new jobs in Muskegon.

One of the foundations of Muskegon County's industrial resurgence has been the strong support local employers are receiving from Muskegon Community College and Baker College of Muskegon, according to Olsen of Northern Machine, a 34-employee tooling company in Muskegon that supplies Tier II automotive parts makers along with the office furniture and aerospace sectors.

Productivity is key to industrial success, Olsen said, as companies need new workers with cutting-edge skills and the ability to retrain current workers.

“Both institutions have kept pace with our needs for employees,” Olsen said. The new challenge will be to have local high school graduates prepared to take advantage of the two colleges' training, he said.

“Manufacturing is the engine driving the economic turnaround in Michigan,” Olsen said. “The downside is that we do not need as many workers as before.”

The surge in manufacturing activity seen in the recent announcements of expansions at companies such as ADAC Plastics, Eagle Alloy and Fleet Engineers has brought more large-scale investment in buildings and equipment than large increases in jobs. Technology is reducing the number of workers needed, even as industrial output increases.

The revolution on the modern industrial shop floor, with robotics and computer-controlled equipment, is not unlike what happened in the agricultural sector at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Farm workers moved to the cities to work in factories while automation and modern farming practices increased productivity.

EdGarner.jpgEd Garner

While recent increases in manufacturing aren't always reflected in employment numbers, the spinoff effect of a healthy industrial economy can be seen in supply companies. Both Webb Chemical in Muskegon Heights and Lake Weldingin Muskegon are expanding as they serve the West Michigan manufacturing companies.

“The key driver of our local economy, even above job gains in health care, is now manufacturing,” said Ed Garner, president of Muskegon Area First, the local economic development agency. “And in many ways, it's about the comeback of the domestic auto industry. We think this will continue into 2012, with projects that we have in the loop for the coming year.”

“Re-shoring” is a termthat has replaced “outsourcing.” It refers to American companies moving production back here from China. The term is applicable in West Michigan, which has lost industrial production to Mexico and China.

Eagle Alloy President and co-owner Fazakerley said the flow of manufacturing contracts to China has ebbed and some of those industrial orders are being filled in the United States. China is not as competitive on cost as in the past. Transportation costs, product quality issues and reliability have resulted in certain products being manufactured in the U.S. again.

MarkFazakerley.jpgMark Fazakerley

Business is exploding for the Eagle Alloy steel foundry in Egleston Township, Fazakerley said. The Eagle group of companies is projecting a 25 percent increase in sales as construction continues on a 70,000-square-foot building expansion in Egleston Township. The company had a job fair in November looking for up to 100 new production workers.

Holland SAF in Muskegon, makers of truck trailer equipment, is bringing the production of casted parts back to Eagle Alloy from China, Fazakerley said.

The oil and gas exploration and metal mining industries are generating much of Eagle Alloy's new business. New customers like Caterpillar, the maker of heavy mining equipment, and John Deere, the manufacturer of agricultural machinery, are behind a lot of the new work, Fazakerley said.

“It's going to be a good year for manufacturing.”

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