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Mace Industries' AmerCon provides fast turnaround

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by Kris Ann Hegle

SBJ Contributing Writer

In 1997, Mace Industries Inc. formed AmerCon to do Mace's steel fabrication work. Mace Industries, which has been doing business in Springfield since 1980, manufactures pre-engineered equipment systems and skids. All of these systems require steel fabrication work before assembly begins.

Originally, Mace Industries had subcontracted out its fabrication work to several area businesses. This was easy to do, since Springfield had several metal fabricators.

So, why did Mace Industries choose to open its own custom fabrication plant?

According to Wil Stewart, general manager for AmerCon, Mace Industries is expanding operations by targeting a niche market that demands quick turnaround on labor-intensive steel-fabrication projects at a competitive price.

It took two years of planning and a substantial investment in fixed assets to set up AmerCon, Stewart said. AmerCon occupies a 17,000-square-foot building directly across from Mace Industries on West College Street.

AmerCon's 15 employees use a variety of equipment to fabricate steel, aluminum and stainless steel components. The majority of these components are small to medium in size, and typical projects include equipment bases, ladders, hand rails, ductwork, platforms, conveyor components and static-loaded tanks.

"The work we do complements the size of our work force and plant's capacity," Stewart said. "An average project is completed in a week, while a major project is usually completed in two to three weeks. We rely on good planning so there's not a lot of peaks and valleys, and the company averages 5 percent to 10 percent employee overtime a year."

The projects done by AmerCon are fairly diverse. In fact, diversity has helped the company attract good employees, Stewart said, because workers get valuable hands-on experience doing all kinds of custom fabrication work, as opposed to the repetitive work done by volume manufacturers.

Approximately 20 percent of the plant's projects now come from the parent company, Mace Industries, according to Stewart. To complete this work, raw materials are fabricated at AmerCon, while the assembly work is done by Mace Industries. For example, AmerCon fabricates welded components.

Mace Industries in turn assembles those components into large turbocompressors and chemical processing equipment for large clients such as Turblex Inc., part of the Mace Industries group, and Semblex, both of which are located in Springfield.

Being a division of Mace Industries has its advantages. For example, AmerCon can bid on contracts requiring prefabrication and assembly work by using the expanded capabilities of Mace Industries' assembly shop. Mace Industries, in turn, can bid on projects requiring fabrication work before assembly by using AmerCon. Almost all of the contracts require some custom work.

"We're a turn-key fabricator," Stewart said. "We work from drawings done by engineers or consulting firms, or our detailers take those specs and create a working drawing. Then we fabricate the parts."

AmerCon also benefits from its association with Mace Industries because Mace Industries meets Underwriter's Laboratory and International Standard Organization 9001 standards, which are recognized industry-wide and throughout the world.

In addition, Stewart said AmerCon operates in accordance with standards set by the American Welding Society and the American Institute for Steel Construction.

Given the competitive market, the importance of meeting industry standards can never be underestimated. Neither can price.

According to David Peterka, purchasing agent, one of the things that makes AmerCon competitive is the company's ability to respond to bids quickly. The company uses a customized software program to calculate bids, and the program takes care of order entry, routing, accounting, purchasing and production control.

Currently, Stewart wants to build AmerCon's national reputation. He also plans on stepping up his marketing efforts on the local level.

"It isn't easy going up against companies that have been in business for years," Stewart said. "For now, we're focusing on gaining customer confidence and getting more industry recognition. The formula is working because in two years, outside work (work for companies not owned by Mace Industries) has grown to be the major business of AmerCon."

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