It may seem that Proos Manufacturing Inc. took its time as it completed a three-year plan this month to reinvent itself.
But three years is like a 15-minute coffee break when you’re looking at doing business for the next century -- particularly if your strategic plan calls for rearranging the entire company as the Proos Manufacturing plan did.
Proos Manufacturing has flipped the switch on a faster, autoloading laser cutting cell as sort of an icing on the cake of a master plan that included the sale of its headquarters property, 40,000-square-foot expansion at its current location, and major initiatives into new markets.
The $1 million Trumpf TruLaser 3040 and autoloader cell that became operational last month can cut intricate patterns into 14-gauge mild steel nearly four times faster than its old laser cutter, General Manager Bryan Howard says.
“We kept chasing the bottleneck in production, and the laser was the first op that needed to speed up,” Howard says. “Eighty percent of what we cut, we form and do secondary ops like welding.” Proos Manufacturing already has cut the purchase order for a Trumfp forming brake to open the next manufacturing bottleneck.
But the real story about Proos Manufacturing has less to do with new pieces of equipment and more about how a long-time Grand Rapids company managed its growth.
When she announced the company’s new direction three years ago, CEO Amy Proos was candid about the uncertainties that her management team faced -- even the location of its primary manufacturing space. “We’re looking at the viability of Oak Industrial, moving to a new location or even the possibility of building a brand new site,” she said at the time.
The ensuing months made things clear. To build on its strength as a precision fabricator of metal products, Proos Manufacturing knew that it had to get all of its operations under one roof -- and that meant jettisoning its long-time headquarters at 1037 Michigan Street NE. The property is now being developed as a $42 million housing and retail project called Diamond Place.
The company increased its footprint at 2555 Oak Industrial Dr NE to 100,000 square feet and expanded its fabrication offerings to valued-added secondary operations on products as varied as office furniture and automotive components.
Founded by Amy Proos’ grandfather Neal, Proos Manufacturing made its name in metal stampings of products such as casket hardware and cookie die stamps. Now metal stamping accounts for about 25 percent of total sales, with a strong emphasis of matching the right fabrication processes with the volumes desired by the customer.
Proos Manufacturing will engineer one fabrication method for a part at relatively low volume, but develop a different fabrication method for the same part as volumes increase -- primarily to cut costs and speed manufacturing. “Our main message is: If it’s made of metal, call me,” Howard says.