Extruded Aluminum Corporation (EAC), based in Belding, MI, has achieved two significant milestones over the past year. The company completed the installation and startup of its fifth extrusion press line, enabling it to produce larger sizes and expand to better serve its customer base. In addition, EAC was acquired by Metra S.p.A., a leading global extruder headquartered in Italy, in a move that will allow the extruder to continue to invest in its operations and support future growth.
EAC was founded in 1987, when a group of 11 local businessmen purchased the aluminum business from Extruded Metals, which had been in operation since 1943. Since its formation, EAC has expanded its operation nine times — growing from the original 40,000 sq ft of manufacturing space to nearly 400,000 sq ft. In that time the company has gone from being a two press operation to its current five presses (including the new press installed in 2023) with circle sizes ranging from 7 to 14 inches. In addition, the site has room for the installation a sixth press line in the future.
Today, EAC is a leading U.S. manufacturer of custom extruded profiles and related value-added fabrication, assembly, and finishing services with 170 employees across two facilities, including its extrusion plant in Belding and fabrication plant in Kentwood, MI. The company serves diverse end-markets, including solar, transportation, military, material handling, residential and commercial construction, and marine applications. “EAC has grown significantly and has built its reputation on world-class quality and customer service,” said Charlie Hall, president of EAC and COO of Metra North America. “Over the past 37 years, the company has developed strong relationships with both its employees and its loyal customer base.”
Following discussions between the owners of EAC and Metra regarding succession planning and how to continue EAC’s operations for the betterment of the employees and the overall community, the two companies realized they had significant commercial synergies that could benefit both companies. As a result, Metra completed the purchase of 100% ownership in EAC through its acquisition of Belding Machinery and Equipment Leasing, LLC.
Headquartered in Rodengo Saiano, Italy, Metra is a portfolio company of KPS Capital Partners, LP. The company is a 60-year-old, global, vertically integrated manufacturer of extruded aluminum profiles and related value-added services, including painting, anodizing, machining, welding, and assembly. The company offers a full range of extruded aluminum profiles, which are used primarily in the industrial and building and construction end markets across Europe and North America. With the purchase of EAC, Metra now employs nearly 1,400 employees globally and operates ten strategically located manufacturing facilities across Italy, Canada, and the U.S.
“Metra’s investment in EAC represents a significant step in building a global aluminum extrusion platform focused on high growth markets, such as solar, architectural solutions, and a wide range of industrial applications including the railway industry,” noted Colin Brosmer, president of Metra North America. “This is a fantastic opportunity to leverage years of combined knowledge and expertise in the aluminum extrusion industry for the benefits of our customers worldwide and to share best practices in areas, such as die design, alloy specification, productivity, and value-added services.”
Under Metra’s ownership, EAC will continue its day-to-day operations and point of contact will remain unchanged, with the existing management team at its helm. However, EAC will have access to expanded growth opportunities through the additional financial support and guidance that the Metra team will be able to provide. “This business combination will provide new opportunities for our employees, as well as access to additional resources and capabilities for our customers,” said Hall. “The entire EAC team is thrilled to begin this new chapter with Metra under KPS’ ownership.”
New Press Line
In order to best utilize the expertise of its existing dedicated workforce, EAC decided that it wanted to keep all of its extrusion operations — including the new press — on one campus in Belding. Therefore, the company purchased 14 acres of land to the west of their existing facility, where they constructed a 180,000 sq ft addition to house the new line. The campus also provides ample room for an additional 63,000 sq ft building for any future manufacturing needs that may arise.
EAC appointed FCC Construction Inc. in Caledonia, MI, as its overall contractor for the building expansion project. The company fully managed the complex building expansion process and completed the facility on time and at an efficient cost.
For the equipment, EAC received three competitive bids for the engineering and manufacture of the new press line. Ultimately, the company selected an OMAV-built SMS press and handling equipment from Belco Industries. Both companies were selected due to EAC’s past relationships with them. “OMAV/SMS designed two out of our four existing presses,” noted Hall. “And Belco was chosen due to our long-standing business relationship and their strong reputation within the extrusion industry.”
The new 6,000 ton, 14 inch press was entirely built by OMAV in Italy (Figure 1). The press provides EAC with a one-stop shop for the majority of its current and future customers, enabling the company to support them in achieving their growth plans in the key end markets that they serve.
Upstream and downstream of the press, Belco engineered the completed handling system, including mechanical systems, electronics, and controls. The complete scope of supply includes a range of automated equipment, from the log heating and handling systems (Figure 2) through to the post-extrusion equipment, including the run out tables, three-stage quench, dual pullers, stretcher (Figure 3), batch and finishing saws, and packing stations, as well as heat treat and aging ovens. The entire handling system is designed for a minimum amount of operators to efficiently manage and better utilize the system. In addition, Belco provided support during the installation and training of personnel for the new line.
“Since EAC extrudes more 6005 and 6061 alloys, the extended quench on the new press is important and will allow us [to] provide the hardness properties required by our customers with better overall efficiencies,” said Hall. “Also, the automation and pre- and post-aging are necessary due to the challenges of staffing in a post-COVID era.”
During the design and engineering of the entire line, safety and environmental considerations remained at the forefront. “Our number one priority is to ensure the safety of our employees, contractors, and visitors. The press has the latest state-of-the-art guarding technologies to ensure that these safety requirements are met and exceeded,” noted Hall. “Also, we are well underway with our ESG and EHS initiatives and, within those initiatives, we are working to implement and enhance our processes to be good stewards to the overall environment. We are working on these initiatives for the community, the current workforce, future employees, and our customers.”
With the completion of its fifth extrusion line, EAC is geared up to supply an expanded range of high quality extruded profiles to its customers, while continuing to offer world-class customer service. In addition, its new position as a subsidiary of Metra will help to fuel the company’s strategic growth. For example, Metra plans to support the development of EAC’s capabilities at its Belding and Kentwood sites, which could include additional investments in extrusion capacity, expanded value-added services, automation improvements, and/or equipment upgrades. “With Metra’s vision and the backing of the KPS team, EAC is now part of a global entity, and we have a larger resource group to pull from,” said Hall. “This will not only allow us to grow and improve our operations, but will also allow for an overall enhanced experience for our customer base.”