Friday, March 14, 2008

BuhlerPrince sells QPC; plans to grow in Holland

BuhlerPrince sells QPC; plans to grow in Holland

By Joe Boomgaard | MiBiz

HOLLAND — BuhlerPrince Inc., a die casting company, has sold its Quality Process Control Systems to the division’s general manager, Craig Nelson.

Buhler AG, a Swiss company, bought IdraPrince, formerly Prince Machine, in August 2006 because the Holland company had about 50 percent of the North American die-casting machinery business. After the purchase, the company began to transition some of the manufacturing from Switzerland to Holland.

According to BuhlerPrince President and CEO Mark Los, the company is adding about $1.5 million in additional milling equipment to the Holland facility in 2008.

"The focus for BuhlerPrince is mostly on the large, die casting machines, primarily (for the) automotive (industry)," Los said. "As we add additional capacity and additional investment, the focus is on really big pieces."

BuhlerPrince manufactures machines weighing from 100,000-500,000 pounds, whereas QPC manufactures much smaller machines in the 100- 1,000-pound range.

"It’s a completely different manufacturing strategy," Los said. "We continue to use products from QPC integrated into our machines. But from an overall manufacturing perspective, we wanted to focus on the really big pieces and buy from other companies the smaller pieces. We want to focus on the die-cast machinery side and not the small auxiliary pieces of equipment."

Therefore, BuhlerPrince decided to sell QPC to Nelson, who originally joined the company in 1999. QPC designs and builds water and oil circulating temperature control units, chillers, plant water recirculating systems and cooling tower cells.

QPC, founded in 1991, was purchased by Prince Machine in 1998 as the company looked to be more of a vertically integrated company, a one-stop shop for people buying die casting equipment, according to Nelson.

In essence, the company makes liquid circulating temperature control systems for BuhlerPrince’s die casting operation, but has other opportunities in the plastic injection molding and chemical and food processing industries.

"Die casting is 25 percent of (QPC’s) market. Our channel has been focused on that relatively narrow niche for the products at QPC," Los said. "What Craig’s got the opportunity to do now is to expand beyond this little slice that (BuhlerPrince) has and get into (other industries)."

Nelson, who started as a sales engineer seven years ago, is excited about the prospects of owning the company.

"I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak," Nelson told MiBiz. "I’ve been dreaming about having my own business. Finally the opportunity arose, and I was in a position where I could make a purchase."

QPC contracts with BuhlerPrince for all manpower and business support systems, allowing Nelson to get launched at a low cost.

"We think it’s a great opportunity to have this business incubated within our walls," Los said. "There are a lot of things that we’re going to continue to share just to make sure QPC gets a running start. It helps him get launched and not have to have the commitment to full-time employees on his payroll. He gets some real talented people on an as-needed basis."

Nelson said he’d like to see a 20-percent per year growth rate for QPC.

"Rather than start a new business from scratch, the opportunity to take something private that I’ve been working at for the last seven years and have put a significant amount of myself into, it just felt like it was a natural progression. It’s a good fit for me at this time," Nelson said.

Los said 2007 was a tough year for BuhlerPrince, but the 120-man shop continues to maintain its market share and believes it is well positioned for some future automotive projects stressing lighter weight vehicles and automotive parts.

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