Alpha Metal Finishing Company Sees Record Growth in 2012
The Dexter-based company has weathered the economic storm with 20 percent sales growth for two consecutive years.
Dexter Patch, By Daniel Lai, June 19, 2012
To most passersby, the small beige building located at 8155 Huron St. has little significance. But for the 22 employees at Alpha Metal Finishing Company, it represents triumph over an economic recession that has plagued thousands of American workers.
The company is celebrating its 36th anniversary in Dexter this year. And after battling the ups and downs of sales, coupled by tumultuous management practices and the untimely illness of company founder Bob Wood that almost forced the company's extinction, for the first time since 2001, the company is recording unprecedented growth.
“We have been up 20 percent in sales for each of the past two years. We haven't seen this level of sales volume and excitement in 12 years," Greg Wood, chief operating officer said.
The company specializes in anodizing (corrosion prevention) services for manufacturers, including Terumo Cardiovascular Systems and Quest Bowhunting.
"Our customers come from a variety of industries — sporting goods, military, aerospace, and medical device manufacturing — it’s important for their finished products to be corrosion resistant," Wood said. "When they come to us, they are looking for decoration and durability. We are passionate about making parts look great and last longer."
Founded in 1976 by Wood's father Bob, the business has come a long way from its humble beginnings in an 8,000 square foot building on North Main Street in Ann Arbor.
"When my dad bought the business, it was just a blip on the radar of local manufacturers," Wood said.
By the late 1990s, the company had moved into its current home on Huron Street and was averaging $3 million in sales, with 76 employees, and three shifts five days a week. At that time Alpha provided services for IBM and AMD, well-known names in the technology world.
Like a lot of manufacturers in the past decade, those numbers slowly began dipping, however, until the company was forced to cut production to four days a week and slash its staff of 76 employees to less than 10 from 2007-2010 just to keep its doors open. When Greg joined the company in 2010 he immediately went to work applying his sales, leadership and information technology background to breathe new life into the company.
"We either had to change our strategy or let the company die, and we weren't going to let the company die," Greg said. “For me, it’s about thriving, not just surviving.”
The company underwent a massive transformation in 2010, including everything from a revamped website and social media campaign, to a change in the management structure, a remodeled lunch room, sales incentives, and professional development goals for employees.
These improvements, along with a redefined culture that promoted teamwork and employee participation in process decisions have led to a much higher level of quality, Greg said.
"In addition to quality, rapid turnaround and attention to detail are the major deciding factors for most of our new customers," Greg said. "We wanted to change the culture of Alpha back to what my dad envisioned, with a heavy emphasis on taking care of our employees and our customers. Everything was done with a sense of urgency."
The gamble paid off, and now the business is slowly climbing back from the brink of bankruptcy, hiring its 22nd employee earlier this year.
"It was painful to go through the management change. Unfortunately those that didn't agree with our new direction ended up leaving, but by March of 2011, things started gelling again," he said.
Production Manager Debbie Haynes has been with the company for 27 years, and said she enjoys being part of a team that focuses on quality customer service.
"The people who work here are like a second family," she said. "Bob is a very caring person and he takes care of his employees. Last month we broke our sales numbers, which hasn't been done in the past 12 years. It's a great feeling to see the company rebounding. For awhile I was afraid I was going to lose my job."
Lissa Fisher, who has been with the company for 24 years, said she feels "safe" working for Alpha Metal.
"It's one of Dexter's best kept secrets. The employees are treated very well," she said. "From a female perspective, there aren't a lot of manufacturers that are sympathetic toward women in the workplace. Here, I don't have to worry about losing my job if I have to take off of work because my kids are sick.
"When you find a job that fits into your life, as chaotic as life gets, that's huge. There's not that many businesses around that concern themselves with their employees' lives outside of work."
Quality Assurance Manager Jamie Barrus agrees, stating that after the company was forced to lay her off in 2001, she was one of the first employees hired back a year later.
"Changing the culture of the business back to Bob's original beliefs of faith, family and work was a big leap forward," she said. "Prior to Greg stepping up, I don't think I would have ever thought about staying here. Now, with the dramatic changes that have been made and the improvement of Alpha’s quality, it’s exciting to work here and see our customers take notice. It has been wonderful to have Alpha invest in my education and career development.”
Even the company's temporary workers began to take notice in the leadership change.
"We've had several temps turn down better paying jobs at Ford and other larger companies because they liked the atmosphere here," Fisher said. "We look out for each other and help each other out."
Greg said he is looking forward to many more years with Alpha Metal Finishing in the community and he expects sales to continue to grow well into the future with plans for expansion.
"We're very grateful to be in Dexter and have the support of such a wonderful community," he said.
For more information on Alpha Metal Finishing Company, visit www.alphametal.com.