Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm
Executives at The Sullivan Corp. in Hartland are betting that their company’s redesigned Alpha Workholding Solutions division will provide a significant boost to the firm’s revenues in coming years.
The company already is expecting a 20 percent jump in revenues in 2006, but that doesn’t even include the additional sales the Alpha division will generate.
"That’s the wild card – Alpha," said Allan Moir, president and chief executive officer of the company, which is based at 460 Cardinal Lane. "In our mind, there is a tremendous amount (of growth) projected."
The Sullivan Corp. is made up of three divisions: Alpha Workholding Solutions, which makes products such as vices and lifts; Sullivan Precision Metal Working, which does metal grinding, steel plate sawing, machining and related work; and Sullivan Manufacturing, which does contract manufacturing for original equipment manufacturers.
Alpha’s Eagle Lift hand-controlled, permanent, magnetic lifters were awarded second place in the new product showcase at the Wisconsin Manufacturing and Machine Tool Expo, held Sept. 27-29 at Wisconsin’s State Fair Park. The expo was also the introduction of the product to the market.
The Eagle Lift products have been redesigned to be smaller, more powerful, cost less and be easier to operate than the first Eagle Lift products, said Bradley Evans, national sales manager for the Alpha division. The lifts, available with three different lifting capacities, require no electricity because they use naturally powered magnets.
The Eagle Lift works with just a single lever that can be put in three different positions – off, test and on. The device can be "turned off," even though it doesn’t use electricity, because the off setting moves a piece of the magnet, reversing its polarity.
The lifter increases workplace safety because of the test capability, Evans said. That setting allows an operator to test whether the lift will be able to hold a load before actually lifting it. If the lift can’t hold the load, it will release the load before lifting it off the ground, minimizing the chance for workplace injury. If the device is capable of lifting the load, the operator just needs to slide the lever to the on position, meaning a load does not have to be put back down.
The lifts also have a sign indicating their capacity.
The strength of the magnets in the lift allows it to hold objects in place indefinitely, allowing workers to perform work underneath them.
The redesigned Eagle Lift is also more powerful than its predecessor, Evans said. The mid-weight lift, for example, is capable of lifting 1,200 pounds, compared with the earlier model, which could only lift 1,000 pounds. The new model weighs 30 pounds, compared with the 84-pound weight of the first model.
Eagle Lift is available in five different models, capable of lifting 250, 600, 1,200, 2,500 and 5,000 pounds.
The Sullivan Corp. purchased Alpha Workholding Solutions about four years ago, when Moir and Jim Injeski, vice president of finance, started talking about how the company could diversify.
Moir said the company needed to diversify because much of its previous business serving the paper industry had dried up when that industry declined in the state.
"It became a matter of not living by grinding alone," Injeski said.
The company started diversifying by selling its services to a wider range of companies and industries. That led to more work in grinding and metal manipulation and some work in light manufacturing, which in turn eventually led to the establishment of Sullivan Manufacturing.
"We went from a job shop to the point where we can provide steel cut to size," Moir said. "We can offer a full suite of processes to customers if they needed them."
Shortly after Alpha was acquired by The Sullivan Corp., a customer in South Carolina asked Alpha and to make a quick mold change magnetic vice system. Moir and Injeski didn’t know how they would be able to make such a system, but they agreed to do it anyway and signed a contract for the work.
"We had no engineers, no salespeople, no models or equipment," Moir said. "We bought $1 million in equipment, hired some engineers and did it from the grassroots. And since we started making them, we’ve had zero failures in the world. That was three years ago."
A former European competitor that used to make a similar product has since shut down, Moir said. The creation of the product in the United States demonstrates that American-made and engineered products can work, Moir and Injeski said.
"It proved that manufacturing isn’t dead in the U.S.," Injeski said. "We have the brainpower and proof that manufacturers will follow good manufacturing processes."
Many European and Asian manufacturers use magnetically operated machinery, but American manufacturers have been slow to catch on the the possibilities of magnetics, he said.
"The technology is new to this country, where it’s less than 10 percent into the market," Evans said.
American manufacturers will start looking more at magnetic work holding devices in the future, because of the flexibility of the devices, Evans and Moir said. By holding pieces with magnets, most sides of a piece can be worked on without moving it.
Almost all of the magnetic holders designed by Alpha require little or no electricity.
The Sullivan Corporation is betting that much of Alpha Workholding Solutions’ growth will be domestic.
"We now ship to Australia, Mexico, Canada, Germany and the U.K. out of our Milwaukee office," Moir said. "The first four years we were learning the concepts. It’s almost a new company now in image."
The Sullivan Corp.
Location: Two Hartland facilities, one facility in South Carolina
revenues: $8 million to $9 million in 2004; projected $12 million for 2005
Product: Eagle Lift magnetic lifters
Divisions: Sullivan Precision Metal Working, Sullivan Manufacturing, and Alpha Workholding Solutions
web site: www.alphaworkholding.com
Eric Decker is a reporter for Small Business Times. Send manufacturing news to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling him at (414) 277-8181 ext. 144. News can also be sent to Eric Decker, Small Business Times, 1123 N. Water St., Milwaukee, WI 53202.