Manufacturer will supply parts to European plants

KALKASKA – Alken-Ziegler of Kalkaska has snagged a substantial new GM contract in Europe.

The Kalkaska-based manufacturer will supply valve-train products to GM Powertrain plants in Austria, Germany and Hungary. These plants, in turn, will supply engines to GM's European auto assembly plants. Alken-Ziegler's products will replace those currently supplied by a European supplier, said Alken-Ziegler General Manager Matt Shepherd. Production starts this March.

"Sourcing the business to Alken-Ziegler represented a cost savings to GM," he said. "It's a testament to our people and equipment that we can be cost competitive across such global boundaries."

Alken-Ziegler is a diverse, technologically advanced metal forming and machining company. It produces metal parts for both automotive and industrial use. Its existing business with General Motors was helpful in securing the new position, said Shepherd, noting that Alken-Ziegler has won the General Motors Supplier of the Year award three times.

"We have a proven track record in terms of quality, delivery and service," he said.

The new contract has created approximately four new jobs within the company, as well. According to Shepherd, Alken-Ziegler is looking to hire skilled machine operators in preparation for production in the spring.

Alken-Ziegler has been a supplier for General Motors for the past 35 years. For the past several years, they've shipped parts to GM plants in China. Last year alone, they shipped four million engine parts to GM in Shanghai and Delphi in Beijing.

"We have been successful in maintaining this business not just because of our price, but also because of our technology and know-how," said Shepherd. Chinese suppliers, he pointed out, have not been able to achieve the same levels of sophistication and quality.

"The biggest advantage American manufacturers have these days is innovation and the skill of the workforce," he added. "Most people wouldn't guess that what we do in the back of an industrial park in Kalkaska has an impact on the global automotive scene or that our manufacturing know-how can be stacked up against the world's strongest competitors."

The company's corporate headquarters and automotive manufacturing center are located in Kalkaska, while their tooling and design manufacturing center is in Livonia. Alken-Ziegler also has a precision machining plant in Taylor.

The company trucks in approximately 80,000 pounds of unformed steel a day to the Kalkaska campus for processing. Alken-Ziegler uses a process called cold forming to produce parts. Cold forming can be used to create complex shapes and is more efficient and produces less waste than other metal-forming methods, according to company literature. Both methods are handled at the Kalkaska campus.

The company moved to Kalkaska approximately 30 years ago, which Shepherd believes has contributed greatly to the company's success.

"I have to hand a lot of our success to the community in which we do business. Kalkaska has always been a key part of our success and has helped us through good times and bad," Shepherd said.

Since the company's trucks make daily trips to Detroit, the several major highways that run right through Kalkaska make it a prime location.

Shepherd also cites local government support and credits Kalkaska's workforce as one of the best in the state.

"I would say that Kalkaska is a community that is proud of its manufacturing base-and we're proud of our community," Shepherd said. BN