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New Berlin, WI—Auxiliary supplier ACS Group (Schaumburg, IL) says it will utilize international sourcing and sales to survive a North American market where sales of water, material handling, size reduction, and automation equipment have dropped by 40% over the last 10 years.

Tony Deligio

May 6, 2009

3 Min Read
ACS Group restructures with global sourcing, sales emphasis

New Berlin, WI—Auxiliary supplier ACS Group (Schaumburg, IL) says it will utilize international sourcing and sales to survive a North American market where sales of water, material handling, size reduction, and automation equipment have dropped by 40% over the last 10 years. Using the Society of the Plastics Industry’s (SPI; Washington DC) equipment statistics, ACS Group president and CEO Tom Breslin told assembled members of the plastics trade press that the North American market for auxiliaries had fallen from $400 million in 1999 to $239 million at the end of last year. Using the Consumer Price Index, Breslin said on an inflation-adjusted basis the market has actually seen a 58% drop. Breslin did say that ACS, which markets the auxiliary brands AEC, Cumberland, Sterling, and Colortronic, believes the North American market will rebound by the middle to end of next year, even if it never reaches $400 million again.

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From left to right, ACS Group’s Tom Breslin, Bill Desrosiers, Keith Larson, John Farney, and Dave Stewart in front of the company’s new T500 granulator during the company’s May 5 open house.



“We don’t believe manufacturing will leave the U.S. forever,” Breslin said. “We want to make sure we’re here to serve those people that stay.” Motioning to the screen where the grim figures were projected, Breslin added, “When you’re faced with something like this, you’ve got to do something dramatic.”

ACS’s answer has been a ground-up restructuring of its company, starting back in 2000. Along the way, it has invested a total of $6 million for a wholly-owned foreign enterprise in Suzhou, China; added a sourcing/sales operation in Pune, India; and totally changed its back-office and design systems, making a multimillion investment in Avante MRP, SolidWorks, CAMWorks, and PDMWorks.

Altogether, ACS, which was purchased by the Harbour Group in 1995, has 12 companies under its umbrella, selling products that contain 90%-plus in-house manufactured components. To support that and reach what Breslin calls a “global cost position,” ACS has invested $3 million in machining equipment for its 80,000-sq-ft Suzhou operation, which employs 80. Breslin says the company still sources the majority of its materials from the U.S., with China often supplying components and subassemblies that are fully assembled in New Berlin.

At the New Berlin site, which has 180,000 sq ft of manufacturing space, it has cleared room to transfer 23 machining centers, as well as a laser-cutting system. The company has also ramped up an aftermarket customer support business, headed up by Dave Stewart. That unit offers full rebuilds and has seen strong growth, according to ACS, as companies either try to keep existing equipment running as long as they can, or pick up used items from auction that they want refurbished.

On the sales and marketing side, ACS has redesigned all its websites, which now offer metric equipment specifications, and has brought in translators to rewrite online and print literature in target-market native tongues, including French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, and Polish. The sites also offer 24/7 online ordering for spare parts and some products. In India, the company signed on sales agency Larsen & Toubro, while adding 18 new international rep agencies in 2008.

Breslin says the strategy is working, with 20% of 2009 sales and 25% of quotes coming from outside North America. In the past, international business was under 10% of the company’s total. As part of the new emphasis, the company promoted Bill Desrosiers to VP of international sales and marketing, and has increased international show participation, preparing at the time of MPW’s visit for Chinaplas.

The company also used the event to promote three new products: the AccuMeter loss-in-weight feeding system, GP Series chiller, and T500 granulator (look for more on these products in a future edition of PlasticTodays NewsFeed). [email protected]

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