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Nearly two years removed from its last open house, auxiliary equipment supplier ACS Group hosted trade press at its New Berlin, WI assembly and manufacturing plant, highlighting how in the intervening years the company weathered 2009's recession and rebounded strongly in 2010, with 2011 off to a fast start as well.

Tony Deligio

April 28, 2011

3 Min Read
New products, markets, momentum at ACS Group

"Starting in the fourth quarter of 2008, through most of 2009, I think everyone took a 40%-45% hit," Breslin said. "In 2010, we grew back 40%, and this year, equipment is up 60% across all product lines." Breslin said much of that growth can be attributed to a strategic decision in 2009 to focus available cash on new product development. It was those new products, including revamped chiller and blender lines, that have performed strongly for the ACS Group over that time, with four more new products announcements planned for coming weeks, including completely revamped portable chiller and desiccant drying systems.  

Non-plastics activity is higher than plastics activity, according to Breslin, who noted that the company's plastics related sales now account for just under half of the ACS Group's business. Despite recent movement, the industry still represents its largest market. "I think the plastics side is in growth," Breslin said. "That's the overall feeling."

Expansion into India, Poland

Breslin said part of the company's success over the last few years is derived from a stronger emphasis on development of new markets, in terms of both new geographies and industries. In January 2009, it formed ACS Group India Pvt Ltd. in Pune, India, following that up in October 2010, with the opening of ACS Group Sp. z.o.o. in Warsaw, Poland.

Breslin noted that international inquiries now account for 30% of the company's quotes, up from 10%, and in 2009, 30% of ACS Group equipment sold was utilized outside U.S. "We see quotes internationally continuing to grow," Breslin said, noting that the relative weakness of the dollar also aided the company's exports.

Bill Desrosiers, VP international sales and marketing for the company, noted the truly global nature of the company's business, describing how some equipment recently sold to a Chinese customer was actually delivered to Detroit. To support international sales, the company has updated its web sites, literature, and training over the last three years, bringing in translators to rewrite the text in local languages. At this point, ACS Group companies AEC, Cumberland, and Sterling have added eight, seven, and three languages, respectively.

To keep up that momentum, Breslin also announced a significant investment at its wholly owned manufacturing site in Suzhou, China. Originally built in 2004, the 80,000-ft2 Suzhou plant will have additional machining centers installed. Company management will undertake final planning in July and August and start equipment installation in the fall. At this point, Breslin said the plan is to add 60 workers over the next 12 months and push to increase production volume by 50% between now and the end of 2012.

Running two shifts in New Berlin

The growth in business has also meant growth in U.S. operations. Breslin said that since January 2010, the company has hired on 80 at its New Berlin facility, bringing the total number of employees to 240 with two shifts. Over the last year, ACS Group has also added four direct sales people in the U.S., with new representatives for the western U.S., New England, Indiana, and Florida. 

Just as it did in 2009, the company has decided not to exhibit at next year's NPE. Keith Larson, VP sales and marketing, said that while he believed it was good for the Society of the Plastics Industry to move the show from Chicago to Orlando, he still felt that the event doesn't synch up with who ACS is trying to reach. "We have kind of outgrown [NPE]," Larson said. "We talked to our customers and frankly a lot of them weren't going." 

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