- change ups
All Tech Actually Means All HighTech
WYOMING — The Michigan Economic Development Corp. feels that one of the leading uses for information technology is in the state’s manufacturing sector.
If that is the case, then All Tech Engineering is one of the state’s most innovative and successful IT users.
Ask anyone at the Wyoming firm and they’ll tell you that what they do is use the latest high-tech components for pure engineering purposes, as All Tech designs and builds custom machinery for manufacturers in four different fields.
And the young company, which turns 13 later this year, has experienced some dramatic growth recently, especially last year when most of the business world was stuck in reverse because of the recession.
In fact, the firm has grown so much that elbowroom is rare.
All Tech moved into a new 34,000-square-foot facility in October 2000. The plant was designed so it could be expanded later, something company owner Bruce Bunker felt might happen by 2005. Well, the company ran out of room last November, only a year after moving in and four years ahead of its timeline.
But soon the robotics- and automation-systems maker will have another badly needed 38,000 square feet to design and build in, as Wolverine Building General Contractors will double the firm’s workspace.
“We’re out of room. They say the steel will be in on March 25th and that we’re going to be in by June first,” said Todd Vriesenga, sales engineer for All Tech.
“The minute they get that concrete laid, we’re moving into it. If not, we’re going to start storing projects in the parking lot.”
So how has All Tech beat the bad economy? First, by taking a hard look at itself, and second, by finding a silver lining in the cloudy national business forecast that it saw.
“We have a broad customer base and broad internal skill sets,” Vriesenga said.
“We have experts in anything from robotics and welding to high-speed bowl-fed assembly equipment and heat staking,” said Vriesenga, “so we can do plastics and light assembly or heavy welding.
“As for the depiction of the slowed economy we’ve been hearing about, I guess I see it as a time of opportunity for smaller companies,” he added.
“If they’ve been conservative with their overhead and hold decent equity, a slowdown can be a time to excel and further develop a niche.”
All Tech has developed those niches in the appliance, automotive, office furniture and medical industries.
Vriesenga said the firm’s current hot market is with automakers, as the demand for recreational vehicles remains strong. A hot product is the company’s robotic weld cells, which are used to weld just about everything onto a vehicle.
Another is its flexible automation assembly lines.
“We send parts around on these little palettes and as these parts, or palettes, encounter automated stations, they’re automatically stopped, identified and then work is done to them. Some stations are heat staking. Some stations are gauging and checking,” said Vriesenga.
“Then we automatically label and package the equipment, all without human intervention, all robotically.”
Vriesenga said All Tech has kept a close eye on the changes in technology because if the company blinks, it could miss an advancement and another firm could gain ground on All Tech.
He said there aren’t any new breakthroughs in his field right now. But a number of refinements are being made to the current stock of hardware and software the firm uses, especially in the CAD/CAM area.
“The biggest thing is reducing cycle time from cradle to grave, conception to completion,” he said. “We design everything in a 3-D, solid-based, parametric modeling system.
“From there, we develop computer-generated tool paths where we can load our stock right into our CNC mills, and a program is basically fed to the mill and that part is cut, using that computer-generated math data,” explained Vriesenga.
“So, it doesn’t require a person to sit there, measure, turn a crank and slowly whittle away a part. It cuts a lot of cycle time out. It reduces labor costs and it produces a better product for the customer because it takes the element of human error out of it.”
Vriesenga has been with All Tech as an employee for slightly more than a year, but he has a longer track record with the firm.
Vriesenga owned Perceptive Concepts, a design shop in the former Middleton Music building on Plainfield Avenue, and his firm did a lot of work for All Tech. In fact, he said All Tech was his best customer. But last year, Vriesenga and his crew joined All Tech and now the firm does everything in-house.
Perceptive specialized in mechanical design and now that All Tech has that group on board, the company is currently expanding on its controls design department.
Overall, All Tech has grown between 15 to 20 percent for each of its last dozen years. The firm started small, but now has about 50 employees.
“We’re one of the largest automation houses in the West Michigan area, and from what I’ve been told by our vendors, we’re probably the busiest. We feel fortunate to be so busy,” said Vriesenga. “It’s the right place, the right time and right group of people, and we’re really excited about it.”