Shape Hopes Award Will Pace The Future

June 5, 2002
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GRAND HAVEN — Shape Corp. hopes to leverage a prestigious industry award to improve its position among automotive customers.

The Grand Haven-based Shape last month received a PACE award for its lightweight, roll-formed metal bumper. The product, which is easily adaptable to varying vehicle models and helps to reduce a vehicle's weight, was recognized in the "Enduring Innovations" category.

One of the most prestigious annual awards for the automotive supply industry, the PACE awards honor firms for product innovation. Ernst & Young and Automotive News sponsor the awards.

Shape Corp. won the award with its first entry in the contest. The company was one of 12 automotive suppliers from among 36 finalists, as well as the only West Michigan-based firm, to win a PACE award this year.

Shape President Tom De Voursney hopes the recognition will generate new sales opportunities for the company, particularly among automakers who were already looking to incorporate the roll-forming bumper into their vehicles.

"They'll recognize that. Those that may have been considering it, will pay more attention to the product," he said. "It was a big event for us."

The tubular, roll-formed bumper debuted in 1993 on Chrylser vehicles and is now original equipment on 32 makes and models that include Chrysler, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi. The product's primary benefit is its flexibility, which greatly reduces tooling costs for automakers who wish to use it on several vehicle platforms.

The Shape bumper better follows a customer's design needs. The design has helped Shape to carve out a 30 percent share of the global automotive bumper market.

Before 1993, bumpers were stamped by large metal presses or formed through plastic injection, processes that are more costly and cumbersome because they require extensive tooling and molding.

"It's saved our customers millions of dollars," De Voursney said.

Founded in 1974, the privately held Shape Corp. employs about 1,000 people at its facilities in West Michigan, including three manufacturing plans and a research and development center in Grand Haven. Shape produces roll-formed products for the automotive, office furniture and appliances industries. A large majority of its annual revenues comes from automotive customers.

The company four months ago formed a new subsidiary, NetShape LLC, to incorporate the plastic energy-absorbing component of a bumper into the overall bumper design, and is presently working to better position itself to serve the European market.

Shape recently opened a sales and engineering facility near Cologne, Germany, and is considering adding a manufacturing facility. The European plant will depend on Shape's ability to tap the market, De Voursney said.

"We'll hold back to see if the business is there," De Voursney said. "If the business warrants, we'll be manufacturing in Europe."

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