In recent years, MW Industries, Inc., an integrated manufacturer of highly-engineered specialty springs and fasteners with aggressive plans for expansion, has focused on growing in several key markets through strategic acquisitions and an innovative edge. Headquartered in Chicago, Ill., MW Industries currently has 14 locations throughout the U.S., including its recently expanded Springmasters facility in Greer, S.C., where it recently consolidated the acquisition of Hi-Tech Machine (Concord, N.C.) into its operations. And while MW Industries has expanded, it has also developed new patented carbon composite washers that are reported to offer huge weight savings and engineering flexibility.
The addition of Hi-Tech Machine into its operations bolsters MW’s machining services by expanding its capabilities and enabling it to offer greater capacity—including a doubling of Springmasters’ milling capacity, according to Springmasters General Manager Cindy Runnette. In a press release last October announcing the expansion, Runnette said that the growth allows Springmasters to “meet growing needs in medical, robotics, and power tool markets in particular, which require the unique capability to machine complex parts with very precise tolerances. We see tremendous regional growth opportunities as we work to provide precision machining excellence that is unmatched in the local marketplace.”
“We’re making base plates for the robotics industry,” Runnette said in a follow-up interview. “It (addition) has just really expanded our abilities to be a one-stop shop. We have springs here as well, so the two of them together have really enhanced our availability to our customers,” she said, adding that she sees applications for this type of machining opening up markets for military components and transit.
MW Industries (www.mw-ind.com) has positioned itself to acquire companies that will help them reach deeper into nine target markets. According to Bob Jack, the company’s vice president of marketing and strategic planning, those nine markets are aerospace, medical, motorsports, military, heavy truck, agricultural/construction, consumer products/power tools, automotive, and energy/oil.
“They are fairly consistent markets for us, but we see them as offering us the best growth opportunities,” Jack said, adding that the company expects much growth in the aerospace and medical markets, in particular.
In January, MW Industries announced the acquisition of Wallingford, Connecticut-based medical manufacturer Lifeline Products, Inc., which will be integrated into MW’s Economy Spring location in Southington, Connecticut. Lifeline Products is a precision manufacturer of custom hypothermic needles, assemblies, and related medical products.
“The integration of Lifeline into the MW family of products will be a key complementary business to our current precision manufactured products,” said MW Industries CEO Bill Marcum, in a statement. “Lifeline currently shares customers with our Economy division and we have identified significant growth opportunities that will create a stronger operation from a customer and manufacturing process perspective. We believe that Lifeline’s existing customers will greatly benefit from the operational excellence at Economy as we bring these two companies together.”
Jack said the acquisition is a natural fit in terms of supporting the company’s growth plans in the medical market, noting that Lifeline’s cannula products—precision made tubes that are often made into needles—are in high demand from existing customers, as well as prospective medical customers.
MW Industries’ rapid expansion rate—four acquisitions in the past 21months, with more in the works—stems from the company’s desire to position itself for growth that is both organic and driven by strategic acquisitions that complement the company’s existing capabilities. “We fully intend to be a leader in highly engineered springs, specialty fasteners, and precision components to all the markets that we serve,” Jack said.
MW Industries is owned by Genstar Capital, a middle-market private equity firm that invests in selected segments of the industrial technology, life sciences, healthcare, financial services, and software industries. The San Francisco-based firm has more than $3 billion of committed capital under management. “Genstar has been incredibly supportive of our overall growth strategy, demonstrating strong support of our acquisition strategy, as well as investing back into our core businesses,” Jack said. “Genstar offers us a tremendous amount of horsepower in supporting our long-range growth plans.”
Creating innovative products by listening to customer needs, tackling challenging parts, and focusing on key requirements for products from target markets sets MW apart from its competition, Jack explained. “We love to do parts that we know are tough to make that our competition can’t make,” he said.
“Innovation is what gets us out of bed every morning,” said Kelly Falls, general manager of MW’s Hyperco division in Logansport, Indiana. Hyperco, a major provider of performance racing springs and other suspension components for the motorsports industry, recently developed a patented Carbon Composite Bellows Spring system that CEO Bill Marcum said could be a real “game changer” for not only the motor sports industry, but also aerospace and other key industries. Teams at the highest levels of motor racing in Formula One and endurance sports car racing, including teams that have won at LeMans, have “recognized that this technology demonstrates performance advantage and they want to be a part of it as it evolves,” Falls said.
The carbon-composite spring technology consists of stackable washers that work by bending, rather than torsion, thereby deflecting weight. “When you apply a force or a load to a composite Bellows Spring assembly, the displacement is in a bending action, not in torsion,” Falls explained. “That eliminates a great deal of friction or side force that’s generated in a traditional coil spring.”
Friction in any component of a race car slows the operation down, so by eliminating friction, the shock absorber and the spring can work in better harmony and ultimately allow the car to have more mechanical grip. Because of the washer’s unique stackable configuration, it can be adjusted to the job that it’s designed to perform. “This system allows you to configure the elements or Bellows washers in such a manner that you can tune, to a very high degree, the rate and the displacement,” Falls said. “So it allows a team to look at their specific application for a given day, and for a given track condition, and configure a spring to customize it for their requirements. You can’t do that with a traditional spring.”
Although the carbon composite washers open up new ideas for applications in numerous industries, MW is particularly focused on aerospace, where CEO Bill Marcum noted that the three most important considerations are “weight, weight, and weight.” The carbon composite system is approximately 66 percent lighter than a traditional coil spring and is half the weight of a titanium spring. “It is a game changer,” Jack said. “It doesn’t look at all like a traditional spring. The weight advantages are enormous and obvious.”
The Carbon Composite Bellows Spring system was recently featured in American Chopper Live, a motorcycle build-off competition. One of the motorcycle builders on the show had read an article about Hyperco’s carbon spring system and was intrigued. “They gave us the requirements and we built them a spring assembly and sent it out to them and they were knocked out by it,” Falls said. Although the bike that it was featured in did not win the competition, which is mostly centered on bike aesthetics, it “performed exceptionally well and we got tremendous feedback,” Falls said, noting that the Hyperco website saw a significant increase in hits during the show.
Hyperco is constantly exploring ways to make a part lighter, more consistent, and smaller, so that it packages better in a race car. Its carbon composite technology offers an unprecedented material option that has almost limitless applications in motor sports racing, Falls said.