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GLE Precision Featured in Middle Market Growth Magazine

All Ashore

Bringing manufacturing back to North America

S.A. SWANSON | OCTOBER 27, 2020

This story originally appeared in the November/December 2020 print edition of Middle Market Growth magazine. Read the full issue in the archive.


Companies are rethinking their preferred “shoring” prefix. For years, “offshoring” meant minimizing costs and maximizing profit. Then trade tensions and tariffs heightened supply chain anxieties—which were in turn exacerbated by pandemic disruptions.

Combined, those factors have prompted U.S. companies to consider bringing parts of their supply chains home, a process known as reshoring. They’ve also spurred more discussion about nearshoring, which places suppliers in neighboring countries, like Mexico. Both moves reflect companies’ reluctance to depend on suppliers an ocean away.

For manufacturers and their investors, reshoring is not a new idea, but problems caused by COVID-19 have renewed—and amplified—their supply chain concerns. As companies strike a balance between domestic suppliers and low-cost countries, some are questioning the emphasis on reducing cost, at the expense of mitigating risk. Although price still matters, reliability has become a bigger differentiator, and it’s generating new business for some U.S. manufacturers.

TRADING PLACES

At Incline Equity Partners, a private equity firm headquartered in Pittsburgh, reshoring and nearshoring discussions began about three years ago. The pandemic added to Incline’s supply chain concerns—the firm was already “increasingly nervous” about U.S. relations with China, says Jack Glover, managing partner at Incline. “As the owner of these businesses, we want to have control over our supply chain. Our customers feel the same way,” he says, noting that many of Incline’s portfolio companies sell to large U.S.-based customers.

Although trade tensions increased companies’ focus on supply chain risks, the pandemic forced them to rethink their solutions. That’s what Larry Naughton, a corporate attorney at law firm Mintz, has observed while working with private equity firms and other investors. As the U.S.-China trade war heated up, companies considered moving their supply chains from China to other Asian countries with good trade relations. With COVID-19, says Naughton, that analysis prompted business leaders to ask themselves, “OK, we don’t want to trade with a key supplier that’s on the other side of any ocean. Can we find one in the United States?”

At Fifth Third Bank, Chief Investment Strategist Jeff Korzenik sees a resurgence in reshoring discussions among middle-market manufacturers. “We’ve been talking about [reshoring] for a decade, but the interest level today is much higher than it has been the last 10 years,” he says.

TURNING THE TIDE

Incline is among the firms translating that interest into action as it helps one of its portfolio companies, a manufacturer of electrical products, shift production from 100% in China to a minimum of 50% in Mexico.

“AS THE OWNER OF THESE BUSINESSES, WE WANT TO HAVE CONTROL OVER OUR SUPPLY CHAIN. OUR CUSTOMERS FEEL THE SAME WAY.”

JACK GLOVER
Managing Partner, Incline Equity Partners

“The reason we went to China in the first place was to be more cost-effective,” Glover says. Now the company has other costs to assess—like tariffs, potential supply disruptions and working capital considerations. Glover notes that by the time orders from China leave the harbor, the portfolio company has paid for 100% of the shipment—and then doesn’t receive it for 30 or 45 days. “So we have all that money tied up,” he says. “With Mexico, because we’re closer, we don’t actually have to spend as much money up front. Then rather than have the stuff out there for 45 days, we send them the money, it ships, and we get it two or three days later.”

Incline started thinking about moving the portfolio company away from China a few years ago and began working on that process in 2019. Glover would like to see the shift to Mexico happen “yesterday,” but it will likely be complete by the end of this year.

He expects the total costs related to manufacturing will be similar to those in China. “They could be 3% to 5% higher nearshored in Mexico than they are in China. But we don’t expect that we’re going to have the tariff issue. That’s the first thing,” Glover says. “Secondly, because it’s significantly closer, you don’t have 30 days on the water, so you need less working capital.”

Preserving working capital has become critical amid the uncertainty caused by COVID-19. For many businesses with overseas suppliers, the pandemic also has interfered with their ability to fulfill domestic orders, creating an advantage for those able to manufacture products closer to their customers.

Ethan Klemperer at Monomoy Capital Partners, a private equity firm based in New York City, says many businesses are seeking a balance of domestic and low-cost country suppliers— a trend that predates COVID, but that has picked up since its onset.

Klemperer, Monomoy’s senior operating executive and head of the operating team, points to a consumer product manufacturer in Monomoy’s portfolio that experienced double-digit revenue increases (year-over-year) for June and July. Because that company has manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and China, it’s been able to meet demand for its products by expanding capacity at its U.S. facility, while its competitors struggled to keep up because most of their production was overseas, Klemperer says.

“SUPPLY CHAIN CONCERNS ARE DRIVING COMPANIES TO, AT A MINIMUM, REVIEW THE FEASIBILITY OF RESHORING PRODUCT.”

CLINT BUCHOLZ
General Manager, GLE Precision

Monomoy worked with the management team to develop a more efficient factory layout and production lines, and then spent the next six months implementing the plan. This included targeted SKU (product) reduction, which allowed the U.S. facility to group similar, low-volume products together in one plant. Previously, the products had occupied sections of two plants. “We were then able to take the empty buildings and ramp up production of our core products,” Klemperer says. Those changes helped the company increase production capacity by more than 40% in less than a year. Automation also played a role, says Klemperer. He expects the company will add even more automation to expand capacity further.

PRESCRIPTION FOR RESHORING

Although interest in shifting to North American suppliers is creating new business for some companies, the transition isn’t seamless. Supply chain relocation is a slow process—like “poking at a whale with a pencil,” says Fifth Third’s Korzenik. The planning takes time, and it requires addressing challenges posed by the North American market.

GLE Precision, a manufacturer based in Bridgeport, Michigan, is among the companies that are beginning to benefit from the shift toward American manufacturing, even as it works to manage the higher costs associated with U.S. production.

In August, the company was finalizing the reshoring of a medical project involving ejector pins used to form insulin syringes. Clint Bucholz, GLE’s general manager, says he believes the project was previously manufactured in China.

Although that was the company’s only reshoring project at press time, Bucholz sees possibilities for many more, based on conversations he’s had with current and potential customers. “Supply chain concerns are driving companies to, at a minimum, review the feasibility of reshoring product,” he says.

For GLE, which is owned by private equity firm Colfax Creek, customer order sizes range from a single component for research and development, to 20,000 units a year for a “big job,” Bucholz says.

In a typical year, GLE would have about two to four possibilities for “step increase projects,” which Bucholz describes as projects that would increase GLE’s overall business by 15% to 100%, and worth anywhere from $1 million to more than $10 million. “Since COVID, we have seen three to four times this rate, year to date … we’ve got just such an explosion of these opportunities,” he says.

Yet relatively high wages in the U.S. can make it difficult to compete against suppliers in other countries. To help control costs, GLE has turned to automation technology. That reflects a wider trend in U.S. manufacturing, particularly as automation becomes cheaper to implement. Bucholz notes that seven or eight years ago, it could cost around $75,000 to put a robotic arm on a machine—now it might cost about $35,000.

He says that a large-scale shift to U.S. suppliers won’t be possible unless another challenge is addressed, too: raw materials. “If you reshore the manufacturing, but a company still has to get their raw material to win those jobs from offshore, it still doesn’t quite get you there,” he says, noting that the cost of U.S. raw materials is still quite high. Says Bucholz: “That plays a heavy part in success in truly reshoring … America needs to develop our raw materials network.”

Enhanced Healthcare Partners (EHP), a private equity firm headquartered in New York City, is doing its part to improve access to raw materials for pharmaceutical manufacturing. Specifically, the firm is looking for investment opportunities in U.S.-based makers of APIs (or active pharmaceutical ingredients) used in prescription drugs.

Most API suppliers have been located overseas historically, but EHP believes there will be increasing demand to produce these components closer to home, after the pandemic revealed the supply chain disruption that can occur when countries limit exports. As of August 2019, 72% of the manufacturing facilities making APIs to supply the U.S. market were based outside the United States (including 13% in China and 18% in India), according to the Food and Drug Administration.

“WE’VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT [RESHORING] FOR A DECADE, BUT THE INTEREST LEVEL TODAY IS MUCH HIGHER THAN IT HAS BEEN THE LAST 10 YEARS.”

JEFF KORZENIK
Chief Investment Strategist, Fifth Third Bank

EHP is three years into a five-year plan to invest over $100 million into capacity expansion. Part of that money is for API reshoring investment, but most of it will benefit the three pharmaceutical manufacturers in its portfolio: SCA, Aphena and PAI.

Matt Thompson, partner at EHP, says the firm has always believed that quality would be a differentiator in the highly regulated pharma manufacturing world. That means a high standard for the pharmaceutical products themselves, as well as reliable access to those products through stable supply chains. The customers for EHP’s manufacturing companies—mainly hospitals and doctors’ offices—have always been concerned about supply chain issues, and the pandemic has amplified their fears.

To reinforce supply chain security, EHP’s portfolio company PAI, which manufactures and markets generic oral liquid pharmaceuticals, started a safety stock initiative last year. The company now holds 12 weeks of additional stock on hand for each SKU, and six months’ worth of API. That’s a “meaningful increase” compared with the stock and active ingredients the company kept on hand before, Thompson says, adding that customers have appreciated the reliable access to liquid medications.

In recent months, Mintz’s Larry Naughton has seen other companies reconsider their approach to “just-in-time” inventory. Rather than trying to maximize margins by keeping minimal supply on hand, he says businesses are now thinking, “Maybe we do need to keep a little extra inventory on hand. We can’t be prepared for a nine-month shutdown on our supplier, but what if the supplier is shut down for three weeks?”

“RIGHT NOW, WE’RE IN ONE OF THE CYCLES WHERE PEOPLE SAY, ‘YOU KNOW WHAT? IT’S WORTH IT TO PAY A LITTLE BIT EXTRA TO HAVE THE BALANCED SUPPLY CHAIN.’ IT’S ABOUT BUILDING AN ORGANIZATION THAT CAN REACT TO CHANGES IN THE MARKETPLACE.”

ETHAN KLEMPERER
Senior Operating Executive, Monomoy Capital Partners

As U.S. pharmaceutical businesses look for domestic partners, Thompson says EHP’s portfolio company Aphena, a pharmaceutical packaging and manufacturing services provider, is seeing more business inquiries, and the company plans to add jobs. In Eaton, Maryland, Aphena has a 110,000 square-foot facility and will be adding a 54,000 square-foot facility adjacent to its existing location. It’s slated for completion by December. The Eaton location currently employs 150 full-time workers and plans to add an additional 100 jobs over the next two years.

Aphena’s three Tennessee locations will add about half-a-million square feet of production capacity, slated for completion in January. The Tennessee locations currently have 340 employees and are projected to add another 50 in the next eight to 12 months.

STAYING FLEXIBLE

Companies have always made trade-offs when managing their supply chains, either to minimize cost or maximize reliability. Some observers see the events of 2020 shifting that dynamic.

“I think the needle moved, maybe not in a game-changing direction, but a little bit more toward resiliency of ‘let’s make sure that the supply chain is going to remain intact,’” Naughton says.

It’s important to stay flexible, because today’s supply chain risk may be tomorrow’s asset. Three years ago, when Monomoy acquired a manufacturer with critical operations in Mexico, that location was considered a key risk. “Now that is one of its best assets, as most of its competitors manufactured in China and are having to deal with tariffs and freight surcharges,” Klemperer says.

At Incline Equity, COVID-19 has heightened awareness of supply chain diversity as well as country of origin, Glover says. “One of our big issues now is, we look at country concentration for vendors,” he says. “Ten years ago, I will tell you this, we were not concerned about a company that was manufacturing all of its products in China. We are now.”

Glover notes that China is only one example. The firm sees risk in having all key suppliers in one country, whether that’s Vietnam, Cambodia or India. Such a scenario would spark caution around a potential investment, he says.

It would concern Glover and his colleagues even more if a manufacturer had a single supplier for a particular component. “Our next question would be, ‘Okay, is it just one vendor, or are there a dozen?’ If there’s a dozen, we feel better,” he says. Having multiple vendors shows a component can be produced elsewhere if needed. But a single vendor may have a specialized process that’s hard to reproduce—which makes it difficult to shift component sourcing to a different region.

Monomoy’s Klemperer notes that companies continue to move back and forth between prioritizing a diversified supply chain, or saving a little money by giving a huge chunk of volume to a sole supplier. “Right now, we’re in one of the cycles where people say, ‘You know what? It’s worth it to pay a little bit extra to have the balanced supply chain.’ It’s about building an organization that can react to changes in the marketplace,” he says. “Because you know there are going to be changes. You just don’t know what they’re going to be.”

S.A. Swanson is a contributing editor at Middle Market Growth.


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Colfax Creek Leads the Acquisition of Traverse City Products

BIRMINGHAM, MI – Colfax Creek Capital in partnership with Charter Growth Capital Fund (“CGCF”) and management acquired Traverse City Products (“TCP”) from its founders.

Based in Traverse City, Michigan, TCP is a premier supplier of custom roll formed and stamped metal products with particular expertise in manufacturing glass hardware components including window sashes, lift plates, sunroof reinforcements, and decorative trim. Founded in 1982, TCP has developed its reputation as the go-to resource for complex glass hardware and sunroof solutions with critical product content on nearly 30 automotive platforms across six OEMs. The investment by Colfax Creek and CGCF enabled the current owners to completely exit the business. The current management team will continue to operate the business with the guidance of an operationally focused board of advisors.

“TCP is recognized as an industry leader in its field and has developed solid, long-lasting relationships with its customers,” said Jason Duzan, of Colfax Creek. “The company’s robust material processing capabilities present substantial opportunities for diversification and growth. We are excited to partner with the TCP management team, in conjunction with CGCF,to accelerate the company’s momentum.”

Based in Birmingham, Michigan, and founded by Jason Duzan, Colfax Creek is a private investment firm that takes a long-term approach to invest in “smaller” middle-market companies.  Colfax Creek invests in consumer product, service and industrial companies.  The key to Colfax Creek’s investment success is to combine its investing expertise in collaboration with operating executives to build businesses for the long-term.       

Herman Thomas, President and Founder of TCP, remarked, “For nearly 40 years, we have worked to build a business based on exceptional quality and supported by a great management team.  In recent years, we guided the current management team to develop the expertise to position the business for the next owner.  We believe Colfax Creek and Jason is the best partner to work with the team and take TCP to the next level.” 

About Colfax Creek Capital

Colfax Creek is a private investment firm that takes a long-term approach to invest in smaller middle-market companies.  The firm invests in consumer product, service, and industrial companies in the Great Lake States.  We prefer to support existing management in control investments, but we will support limited management transitions.  Colfax Creek is based in Birmingham, MI.  For more information visit: www.colfaxcreek.com.

About Traverse City Products

Founded in 1982, Traverse City Products (“TCP”) has established itself as a premier supplier of custom roll formed and stamped metal products.  With its engineering and manufacturing expertise, TCP is uniquely capable to provide a wide array of custom roll forming, stamping and finishing capabilities for the automotive, office furniture, access flooring, conveyor systems, and transportation markets.  TCP is located in Traverse City, Michigan and is ISO 9001:2015 compliant.  Visit www.tcproducts.net


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Twist & Seal Featured in the Wall Street Journal

How I Thought of It: An Entrepreneur Wanted to Keep Holiday Lights From Going Out

Water kept ruining outdoor decorations, so he invented a gadget to keep them dry

By Barbara Haislip Nov. 29, 2019 9:57 am ET

For years, Bryan Nooner and his wife, Mari-Beth, struggled with the same problem around the holidays: keeping the outdoor decorative lights on.

It seemed every time it rained or the snow melted, water would seep in between the light-cord connections and trip the circuit, shutting off the power to most of the outdoor lights.

“We used electrical tape, duct tape, waterproof tape, plastic bags and plastic bottles,” says Mr. Nooner. But nothing worked.

On a rainy day in December 2010, the Nooners were getting ready to entertain a large family gathering at their home in Mokena, Ill. But as they were getting close to start time, the outside lights went out again.

“We grabbed an umbrella, a towel and some tape and proceeded to unwrap, dry off and retape what seemed to be an unending number of holiday-light electrical connections,” Mr. Nooner says.

So, Mr. Nooner spent most of that evening locked in his office, drawing designs of what would eventually become Twist and Seal—a shell that covers and protects cord connections.

He says that his background—he studied biology and previously worked as a high-school teacher—helped him understand how to test various designs in controlled experiments. Meanwhile, the slowdown in the economy had brought Mr. Nooner’s home-building business to a standstill—which gave him the time he needed for those tests.

“Thousands of man-hours were spent in 2011 drawing, carving, designing, modeling and testing various sizes, shapes and materials,” he says.

A prototype of the first Twist and Seal product was completed in the fall of 2011. By February 2012, Mr. Nooner had a fully tested production piece in hand and a patent filed. He took a friend’s advice to set up a booth at the National Hardware Show that May. “I packed up the Suburban and was off to a glorified science fair,” says Mr. Nooner.

Then came a big break: Twist and Seal won the prize for Most Innovative Product of the Year, according to Mr. Nooner. (The National Hardware Show says it doesn’t have records on winners that far back.) The victory was such a surprise, Mr. Nooner says, he didn’t go to the awards ceremony because the team was busy with customers. Someone had to find him to present the award.

The product took off from there. It landed on the shelves of Home Depot, among other retailers, and sold about 30,000 units in 2012. Since 2013, the company has sold more than six million units in the product line—with prices ranging from $4.99 to $29.95—and it can be found in more than 20,000 retail locations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Brazil.

“The Twist and Seal story is an American story,” says Mr. Nooner. “How awesome is it that you can be free to innovate and develop your ideas and have the freedom to turn your dreams into reality?”

Ms. Haislip is a writer in Chatham, N.J. Email reports@wsj.com.


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Rhino Cart Wins 2019 Most Innovative Product

The Rhino Cart all-terrain moving cart was created from the frustrations faced when using a traditional moving dolly. Door thresholds, small stones, cracks in the sidewalk, and uneven surfaces all stop a traditional dolly in its tracks. When you’re moving an awkward and heavy item, abrupt stops can be dangerous. We set out to simplify the effort needed to move large and heavy items at home, in the shop, and on the job.  

The Rhino Cart is specifically designed to conquer uneven and rough surfaces such as uneven hard pack dirt & gravel while carrying up to 1,000 lbs. With 8 heavy-duty urethane wheels, the Rhino Cart can roll up and over cracks, thresholds, ramps, transitions, stones, cords, and even 2×4’s. Moving just got easier. 

Rhino Cart is a division of Midwest Innovative Products. MIP has a long and successful history of manufacturing and sales in the tool and hardware industry. Rhino Cart and all MIP products are proudly made in the USA. 

After over a year of product development and research, Rhino Cart was officially unveiled at the National Hardware Show in May of 2019. Rhino Cart was an immediate hit at the show and won two prestigious awards: Most Innovative New Product and Retailers Choice Award. 

ABOUT

Rhino Cart is an all-terrain moving cart specifically designed to conquer thresholds, uneven surfaces, and even hard pack dirt & gravel. Rhino Cart is a division of Midwest Innovative Products. Visit: midwestinnovativeproducts.com


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Colfax Creek Leads the Recapitalization of Premier Engineered Products


ABINGDON, VA / BIRMINGHAM, MI – Colfax Creek Capital formed Premier Engineered Products, LLC (“Premier”) to recapitalize Appalachian Cast Products (“ACP”) and to integrate the production of Premier Die Casting into its facility in Abingdon, VA.

Premier Engineered will be led by Mike Ryan as President and CEO in conjunction with the existing ACP management team. “Premier will expand its position in aluminum die casting, while making further investments in new operational capabilities, including value-added machining, to accelerate growth,” Ryan said. “Our focus on operational improvement will benefit our customers as we continue to enhance our cost-effectiveness and delivery in the industry.”

“I am pleased to partner with Mike Ryan and the Premier/ACP team.  Mike has been around the die casting business for much of his career and has a good operational team in place at ACP,” said Jason Duzan of Colfax Creek. “We are focused on leveraging ACP’s operational capabilities to serve Premier Die Casting’s customers and to expand machining operations to better serve its existing and new customers.  With this recapitalization, we have provided Mike and the team with the capital necessary to expand its operations into further machining and to take advantage of growth opportunities within the industry.”

Mike Ryan, CEO of Premier, added, “Jason Duzan at Colfax Creek has been a long-time business relationship and Premier provided us a terrific opportunity to team up to build a business platform in the aluminum die casting and machining industry.  The integration of Premier Die Casting’s customer’s production not only added significant additional sales but also new value-added capabilities to provide our customers.  The Premier team and I are realistic about the challenges of the business integration, but we are also excited about the benefits to our expanded customer relationships.”

About Colfax Creek Capital

Colfax Creek is a private investment firm that takes a long-term approach to investing in smaller middle market companies.  The firm invests in consumer product, service, and industrial companies in the Great Lake States.  We prefer to support existing management in control investments, but we will support limited management transitions.  Colfax Creek is based in Birmingham, MI.  For more information visit: www.colfaxcreek.com.

About Premier Engineered Products

Premier Engineered Products through its operating subsidiary, Appalachian Cast Products, produces superior die cast parts and tooling, along with metal finishing and CNC machining through state of the art machinery and processes. Specializing in aluminum and zinc alloys, engineers and production staff develop a high pressure die casting process that produces economical parts with reliable quality.  The business is headquartered in Abingdon, VA.  For more information visit: www.appalachiancast.com.


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What is Twist and Seal Anyway?

Over the last two years, I have been doing my best to explain the Twist and Seal products and now I have a great Twist and Seal video to do that for me.

Based in the Chicago suburb of Frankfort, Twist and Seal designs and manufactures patented devices that protect electrical cords from water damage. The device snaps over where two cords plug together or where cords plug into a multi-plug power strip to keep snow, rain, and ice from affecting the connection. Twist and Seal serves a wide range of customers, including homeowners hanging holiday lights, zoos, industrial operations, entertainment venues, construction sites, and municipalities.

Each Twist and Seal product has gone through rigorous lab testing, has been certified to industry standards and is manufactured in the U.S. Twist and Seal is a three-time recipient of the Most Innovative Product of the Year award at the National Hardware Show. Twist and Seal products can be found at most hardware stores, including Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Walmart and online at Amazon or twistandseal.com.

Twist and Seal Mini

Twist and Seal products are specifically designed to protect your outdoor extension cord connections. Perfect for holiday lights, outdoor lighting, and the job site.

  • APPLICATIONS – Perfect for keeping water, mud and melting snow away from extension cord connections. No more tripped outlets or lights going off when it rains or snows.
  • EASY TO USE – Unique and patented design will keep typical extension cord connections dry all season long. Simply place your connections inside and clamp latches down!
  • SAFETY – Helps prevents tripped outlets and reduce the risk of electrical shock. Independently lab tested to meet and exceed NEMA standards for protection against rain, sleet and ice.
  • HEAVY DUTY – Proudly made in USA! Constructed from commercial grade plastic that has UV protection.

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Colfax Creek and Rock River’s Fluence Automation Acquires POST-IS

CHICAGO, IL / BIRMINGHAM, MI – Colfax Creek Capital and Rock River Capital Partners formed Fluence Automation to acquire the mail and parcel sorting business unit of Bell and Howell on July 31, 2017.    Fluence Automation is the leading manufacturer of mail and parcel sorting equipment, software, and services.  Fluence Automation has acquired POST Integrated Solutions (POST-IS), a parcel processing and material handling technology company serving the eCommerce, postal and parcel automation markets.

Strategically, the move further enhances Fluence Automation’s technology offerings and adds a dedicated team of professionals in the growing parcel delivery and eCommerce fulfillment automation markets, while the company continues to serve customers in traditional mail and postal sorting.

POST-IS and Fluence Automation have already worked closely together to serve customers. The combined entity has a comprehensive automation platform to provide high-speed parcel induction, encoding and data-automation solutions including scanning, dimensioning, weighing, address reading, variable-length, dynamic labeling and sorting technology.

“The addition of POST-IS complements our efforts in the surging eCommerce automation space and will help our customers reduce costs and delivery timeframes by increasing production speed in their eCommerce, mail and parcel processing, distribution and shipping operations,” says Mike Swift, president and CEO of Fluence Automation.

Jason Duzan of Colfax Creek added, “that Post-IS will provide new capabilities to accelerate Fluence Automation’s eCommerce and parcel automation growth”.

Rob Stone, founder and president of POST-IS, will join Fluence Automation and lead the Fluence business unit focused on eCommerce automation.

“We are excited to build on the success we’ve had at POST-IS over the past several years, now as part of Fluence,” says Stone. “The company has a strong, growing business with an outstanding suite of products, software, and technical support. I look forward to tapping the collective resources of the organization to provide expanded solutions for customers.”

About Colfax Creek Capital

Based in Birmingham, Michigan, Colfax Creek is a private investment firm that invests in “smaller” middle market companies. The firm focuses on consumer product, service, and industrial companies in the Great Lake states. Colfax Creek brings its investment expertise and collaboration with operating executives and entrepreneurs to build long-term businesses.  We develop relationships with business owners and management and focus our capital and resources with a shared purpose of creating lasting value. For more information, visit www.colfaxcreek.com.

About Rock River Capital

Rock River Capital is a Chicago-based private investment firm focused on investing in growing industrial and services businesses as well as other growth-oriented opportunities.  We generally prefer to partner with existing management in ownership transition situations and take a long-term, patient approach.  For more information visit: www.rockrivercp.com.

About Fluence Automation

Fluence Automation is an innovative technology solutions company that builds and markets mail and parcel sorting systems and owns a portfolio of mail and parcel labeling technologies that increasingly is being adapted for the e-Commerce fulfillment market. Fluence provides long-term support and customer care through its robust suite of software focused on vision/recognition and sorting applications, and a service support network that is based primarily in the U.S., with operating subsidiaries in the UK and Germany. For more information visit: www.fluenceautomation.com.

 


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Shaffer Joins GLE Precision as Board Advisor

GLE Precision, headquartered in Bridgeport, Mich., has recruited a proven industrial executive to advise and guide the company through its next growth phase. Alan Shaffer will serve as an advisor to the board of directors. He brings 30 years of operating experience in 13 domestic and international industrial markets while at four publicly traded companies and two private equity portfolio companies.

“Alan is a terrific find for GLE Precision,” Jason Duzan, chairman of GLE, said. “He has decades of experience in leading businesses similar to GLE Precision, including precision manufacturing. He has terrific chemistry with management; his guidance and experience will be invaluable during the upcoming growth expansion that GLE Precision is driving toward.”

Looking for the Right Advisor

GLE Precision has exceeded its growth objective since Colfax Creek acquired the company in 2015 and has developed new precision manufacturing capabilities to become a leader in the medical device, fiber optic, and computer chip markets. With more growth on the horizon, GLE Precision’s leadership decided to add a new board advisor who will counsel us on our sales and marketing initiatives.

“The GLE leadership team was looking for an individual who has a deep and broad exposure to business, one who truly enjoys the challenges of business today, including technical sales and manufacturing,” said Clint Bucholz, president of GLE Precision. “A person that is an individual that has a ‘been there and done that’ portfolio of work experiences. Alan is that guy. It should be a fun journey together.”

An Engineer & a Proven Executive

An engineer by training, Shaffer has used his technical expertise and leadership experience in a variety of domestic and international industrial markets.  These markets included cutting tools, metalworking chemicals, bonded abrasives, carbide wear parts/powered metals, mining and road construction tools, industrial magnets, printed circuit board laminates, metrology and industrial lasers, coordinate measuring machines, machine tools and flexible manufacturing systems, precision press die tooling and plastic mold tooling.

In addition to 30 years of P&L experience, Shaffer has also led the acquisition, restructuring, integration, and operation of 15 companies and the divestiture of seven businesses in North America, Europe, Japan and Asia that totaled $1 billion in revenue. Most of the acquired companies were losing money. Shaffer led the work to turn these companies into profitable businesses.

Shaffer also has experience in private equity, serving on a board of directors and as a business owner. For seven years, he was one of five owners of Starchem Inc., a developer and manufacturer of metalworking chemicals with sales in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Europe, and India.

Shaffer held several executive level positions with different companies, including Federal Signal Corporation [NYSE: FSS], American Axle & Manufacturing Inc. [NYSE: AXL] (Blackstone Group portfolio company), and Cincinnati Milacron Inc. [NYSE: MZ], before retiring in early 2015 as president of Dayton Lamina Corporation, a $220 million subsidiary of Misumi Group Inc. of Japan with 14 plants and 1,500 employees.

Guiding GLE Precision

GLE Precision has been going through a rapid period of growth. This has led to many positive changes but highlighted our need for improvement, which has encouraged us to look for another key member of the team. As an advisor to the board of directors, Shaffer will share his considerable experience with GLE Precision’s leadership to help move the company into the next phase and expand its market reach.

“GLE Precision has a tremendous opportunity because of its unique skill set of working with extremely small parts that require a high finish,” Shaffer said. “I am excited to be a part of the growth potential of the business and leverage my experience in sales and operations with similar sized and larger industrial businesses.”

About Colfax Creek Capital

Based in Birmingham, Michigan, Colfax Creek is a private investment firm that invests in“smaller” middle market companies. The firm focuses on consumer product, service, and industrial companies with EBITDA from $2 million to $7 million in the Great Lake states. Colfax Creek brings its investment expertise and collaboration with operating executives and entrepreneurs to build long-term businesses. Jason Duzan, the principal of Colfax Creek, has invested in middle market companies for more than 20 years — leading or co-leading nearly $2 billion in private investment transactions in consumer, service and industrial companies. We develop relationships with business owners and management and focus our capital and resources with a shared purpose of creating lasting value. For more information, visit www.colfaxcreek.com.

About GLE Precision

Founded in 1961 and headquartered in Bridgeport, Michigan, GLE Precision is a manufacturer of extremely high precision products, when gage tolerances, wear properties, and high finishes are critical. GLE Precision is a global leader in tungsten carbide machining, ceramic machining and other hard exotic materials machined to customer specifications. Its products serve the waterjet, medical device, chip/tech, aerospace, fiber optic markets and a broad range of other applications for some of the most recognizable companies in the world such as Johnson & Johnson, Emerson, IBM, and Bosch. For more information, visit www.gle-precision.com.


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GLE Precision to Expand its Board of Directors

Colfax Creek acquired GLE Precision in 2015. Over the last two and half years, GLE has exceeded its growth objectives.  In addition, the Company has developed new precision manufacturing capabilities to serve cutting-edge customers and industries, particularly in the medical device, fiber optic, and aerospace markets. As a result, GLE is seeking to add one new member to its Board of Directors to assist and guide the company in its sales and marketing initiatives.

New Board of Directors Candidate Guidelines (not rules):
Experience:
      1. Current or Retired CEO, COO, or VP-Sales & Marketing
      2. Technical sales and marketing skill set and experience
      3. Manufacturing and/or industrial service experience
      4. Relationships in any of the following market segments:
        • Medical Devices
        • Fiber Optic
        • Aerospace
        • Computer Chip
Intangibles:
      1. No Jerk Rule – chemistry with management and fellow board members is critical
      2. Time to Commit – typically monthly calls and quarterly in-person board meetings
      3. Greater Michigan location – accessible to Bridgeport, Michigan
      4. Relationship focused – preference for referred candidates
Please contact Colfax Creek at jason@colfaxcreek.com to refer a Board of Directors candidate.

About Colfax Creek Capital

Based in Birmingham, Michigan, Colfax Creek is a private investment firm that invests in “smaller” middle market companies.  The firm focuses on consumer product, service, and industrial companies with EBITDA from $2 million to $7 million in the Great Lake States. Colfax Creek brings its investment expertise and collaboration with operating executives and entrepreneurs to build long-term businesses.  Jason Duzan, the principal of Colfax Creek, has invested in middle market companies for twenty years — leading or co-leading nearly two billion in private investment transactions in consumer, service, and industrial companies. We develop relationships with business owners and management and focus our capital and resources with a shared purpose of creating lasting value. For more information visit: www.colfaxcreek.com.

About GLE Precision

Founded in 1961 and headquartered in Bridgeport, Michigan, GLE Precision is a manufacturer of extremely high precision products, when gage tolerances, wear properties, and high finishes are critical. GLE Precision is a global leader in tungsten carbide machining, ceramic machining, and other hard exotic materials machined to customer specifications. Its products serve the waterjet, medical device, chip/tech, aerospace,  fiber optic markets and a broad range of other applications for some of the most recognizable companies in the world such as Johnson & Johnson, Emerson, IBM, and Bosch. For more information visit: www.gle-precision.com.


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Colfax Creek and Rock River Capital Lead the Acquisition of Fluence Automation

CHICAGO, IL / BIRMINGHAM, MI – Colfax Creek Capital and Rock River Capital Partners formed Fluence Automation LLC to acquire the mail and parcel sorting business unit of Bell and Howell.    The acquisition included the mail and parcel sorting systems / hardware and related software and service revenue associated with the hardware as well as assets that will be leveraged for growth opportunities in the material handling and e-commerce fulfillment markets.

Colfax Creek and Rock River, along with key members of the management team, partnered with Tecum Capital Partners, Midwest Mezzanine and Wintrust Bank to acquire the business unit.  All three partners have significant industry experience and provide a strong and stable capital base that will support the company’s growth objectives.

Fluence Automation will be led by Bell and Howell’s tenured VP and General Manager of Sorting, Mike Swift as President and CEO. “Fluence Automation will expand its position in the mail and parcel sorting market, making further investments in new market segments, including e-commerce, to accelerate growth,” Swift said. “Our automated solutions enable break-through productivity and speed-of-delivery improvements, backed by an outstanding suite of software and world-class customer support.”

“We are pleased to partner with Mike Swift and the Fluence team.  Mike has led the business unit since 1999 and has a knowledgeable team in place,” said Ryan Satterfield of Rock River Capital. “We are focused on leveraging Fluence’s leadership position in its core mail processing market to continue to serve the expanding customer base.  With this acquisition, we have provided Mike and the team with the capital necessary to take advantage of growth opportunities in the company’s core market as well as growth opportunities in the rapidly expanding material handling market.”

Jason Duzan of Colfax Creek added “that the relationship with our three capital partners is ideal.”  “They are not only established middle market company investors, but they bring industry experiences to the company.”

Mike Swift, CEO of Fluence, added, “Colfax Creek and Rock River provide a long-term perspective to investing and are supportive of our growth objectives.  We are focused on service and software improvements, product enhancements, international expansion and investment into e-commerce applications.  My team and I are highly energized by this acquisition as it further enables us to focus on our existing and new emerging markets in our space.”

About Colfax Creek Capital

Colfax Creek is a private investment firm that takes a long-term approach to investing in smaller middle market companies.  The firm invests in consumer product, service, and industrial companies in the Great Lake States.  We prefer to support existing management in control investments, but we will support limited management transitions.  Colfax Creek is based in Birmingham, MI.  For more information visit: www.colfaxcreek.com.

 About Rock River Capital

Rock River Capital is a Chicago-based private investment firm focused on investing in growing industrial and services businesses as well as other growth oriented opportunities.  We generally prefer to partner with existing management in ownership transition situations and take a long term, patient approach.  For more information visit: www.rockrivercp.com.

 About Fluence Automation

Fluence Automation is an innovative technology solutions company that is headquartered in Wheeling, IL.  Fluence Automation sells mail and parcel sorting systems and owns a portfolio of mail and parcel labeling technologies that are increasingly being adapted for the e-commerce fulfillment market.  Fluence provides long-term support and customer care through its robust suite of software focused on vision/recognition and sorting applications and a service support network that is based primarily in the US with operating subsidiaries in the UK and Germany.  For more information visit: www.fluenceautomation.com.


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