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49 posts categorized "Manufacturing news"

July 09, 2014

Does IBM have future in Vermont?

Here's a little chunk from a well-researched, long article written by Paul Heintz from Vermont's alt paper, Seven Days.

While there is no direct link (as far as I know) between the fate of the Vermont campus and the one in Rochester, this does sound familiar. For anyone interested in the what is happening with Big Blue, this is a pretty worth-while read.

You can read the full article at this link.

What we're looking at is a city," Frank Cioffi says, nodding at a sprawling landscape of industrial buildings, electrical transformers and storage tanks on the banks of the Winooski River.

The 59-year-old economic development guru steers his black Nissan Maxima toward a guard shack that stands sentry at the northeastern entrance to IBM's Essex Junction campus.

"We're not going to Bildebe able to get in," he says, pulling a U-turn and retreating from the fortress. "Security is watching us."

In more certain times, the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation president might easily escort a reporter through the 725-acre campus, which GBIC developed from farmland 60 years ago. But with Big Blue reportedly nearing a sale of its chip-making division to Emirate of Abu Dhabi-owned GlobalFoundries, IBM Vermont is on lockdown.

Even Cioffi, its loudest local cheerleader, is in the dark about what a sale might mean for the 4,000-plus jobs remaining at the facility. Like many, he suspects IBM will reveal its intentions next week when it releases its second- quarter earnings report.

"We're dealing with two public corporations that aren't going to tell us anything, because they can't," he says.

Clouds of uncertainty have lingered over Essex Junction for more than a decade, as the company has retrenched and its Vermont workforce dwindled from a 2001 peak of 8,500. But never have the skies above the industrial park looked so dark.Ibm-logo

As IBM repositions itself as a services-oriented company focused on cloud computing, it has jettisoned less profitable hardware operations. In January, it struck a deal to sell off its low-end server business to China-based Lenovo for $2.3 billion.

Though GlobalFoundries specializes in the very chip-manufacturing work conducted at the Essex Junction plant, reports in the financial press have indicated that the company is interested in IBM's patents and engineers — not its aging facilities.

May 30, 2014

Countertop business gets new owner, name

A new owner is re-launching a Rochester countertop maker with a new name and the same staff.

Tom Pinske, a well-known figure in the Corian countertop industry, has purchased the facility and equipment formerly used by AFM Surfaces at 1233 Eastgate Drive S.E., near the Wicked Moose Bar & Grill.

AfmcountersUnder the new name of Ultimate Surfaces, the company will continue to make stone, quartz and other types of countertops. Pinske has kept the former AFM's seven employees, including General Manager Tony Heintz.

The ownership change became official on May 21, when Pinske bought the facility for $495,000. He had leased it for some time before that.

Ultimate Surfaces is now a division of one of Pinske's three companies based in Plato, Minn. Pinske owns Plato Custom Concepts, which makes kitchen cabinets and Corian countertops for commercial construction projects.  He also owns Pinske Edge and Pinske Power, which make specialized tools for the countertop industry. Many of those tools were invented by Pinske when he started working in the trade 26 years ago and couldn't find the tools he needed.

"Like my dad did when he couldn't find the right tool when he was building churches, banks and schools, I made what I needed," he says. "I started out making tops and ended up in the tool business."

Over the years, he has become famous for those tools and was inducted into the International Surface Fabricators Association Hall of Fame in 2003.

Tim Buechler, who started AFM in 1990, purchased and used many of those tools in Rochester. When AFM became available, it caught Pinske's attention.

"I don't do any engineered stone or quartz up here in Plato. I thought this was a good opportunity to get into the stone business without revamping things up here," he said. "I was looking to expand and this kind of fit with my plans."

Like many construction-related companies, AFM has faced difficulties in the past few years. While Buechler is no longer with the operation, Pinske thought what he built was worth polishing and re-launching. He particularly wanted to keep the current employees on the job.

“We love what we do and look forward to growing under Tom’s leadership," said Heintz, the general manager. "The skill and expertise he can bring us, and our customers, is incredible."

May 13, 2014

LSI becomes Avago, impact on Roch. office uncertain

05132014avagomainsignLSI Corp., which designs semiconductors and software, officially became part of Avago Technologies last week as the $6.6 billion acquistion officially closed.

That change reportedly has LSI/Avago employees in Rochester wondering about their future.

05132014avagoinsidesignUnofficial buzz around the change is that a decision is being made this week about keeping the Rochester jobs here or moving them out of state.

It's unclear how many people currently work at the site here at 3033 41st St. N.W., though LSI has employed between 10 to 30 people here at different times over the years. LSI also has Minnesota facilities in Bloomington and Mendota Heights.

LSI has had an "on again, off again relationship" with Rochester dating back to 2002, when it leased 20,000 square feet of space in the Valley Business Center II at 3425 40th Ave. N.W. It had about 29 employees.

On June 30, 2006, LSI closed its Rochester site. It had 11 employees, when it closed.

AgeremailboxThen in November 2006, Allentown, Penn.-based Agere Systems opened a 6,000-square-foot office at 3033 41st St. N.W. Agere hired a team of 10 local storage design engineers that formerly worked for Maxtor Corp.’s Rochester office. That office closed in 2006 when Maxtor was acquired by Seagate Technologies.

LSI re-appeared in Rochester in December 2006, when it bought Agere Systems. Soon the signs at 3033 41st St. N.W. turned into LSI.

That's where everything stood until the arrival of Avago. In the press release announcing the acquistions, Avago stated that it anticipates saving $200 million by Nov. 1, 2015. That might be interpretated as plans to close some of LSI's 26 facilities.

I'll do my best to keep an eye on this to see what happens next. If anyone has information, official or otherwise, about this, I'm interested in hearing it.

April 07, 2014

New owner buys long-time Rochester plumbing supply firm

A Fargo, N.D. company is buying Woodruff Co., a 67-year-old Rochester plumbing and utilities wholesale supply firm.

WoodruffcoDakota Supply Group and the family-owned Woodruff have a purchase agreement and the sale is expected to close on April 30, according to Dakota CEO Todd Kumm. The deal includes Woodruff's Rochester complex at 1524 Third Ave. S.E. as well its Austin and Winona locations.

Dakota is a distributor of plumbing, electrical, HVAC, refrigeration, communications, filtration and metering systems. It has locations in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Montana

Co-owner John W. Woodruff said the main reason for the sale is that he's retiring, along with his brother and co-owner James W. Woodruff. They took over the company from their father, who co-founded it.

 "It's a good opportunity," he said.

The much-larger Dakota had previously approached the Woodruffs a few years ago, but the deal didn't come together back then.

"Now it's the right time to do it,"  said John Woodruff.

Dakota Supply Group Truck WrapOn the other side of the sale, Dakota agrees that the timing is right for this change.

"We believe a lot in the potential of Rochester and what's going to happen in the future," said Dakota's Kumm."This gives us a great physical location in a community that we feel is growing and expanding."

The company already has locations in La Crosse, Wis. and St. Paul, so this acquisition will fill in the area in between. Dakota, which has about 650 employees, is very familiar with Rochester, has previously sold metering systems to the city.

WoodlogocOne concern the brothers had was to make sure the deal would be good for their more than 20 employees. DSG's reputation as a good company  made it attractive. It's also owned by its employees through a stock ownership plan.

"We think that will be a benefit for the employees," he said.

Woodruff was founded by 1946 by James F. Woodruff, John D. Flowell and Frank C. Weber. The Woodruff family has long been very active in the community with involvement with Lourdes Catholic schools, Rotary Club and the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce.

It built and moved into its current facility on Third Avenue in April 1964.

March 26, 2014

Area manufacturer to expand, add 14 jobs

A long-time southern Minnesota manufacturer says a $215,000 state tax credits based on adding more jobs helped convince it to expand here rather than on the West Coast.

M60stdHarmony Enterprises, which makes and services recycling and waste management equipment in the small town of Harmony, are one of five companies chosen for the new Minnesota Job Creation Fund program. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development announced the the first round of businesses on Tuesday.

If Harmony Enterprises does as it has pledged and adds 14 new jobs to its current staff of 60 plus builds a $1.1 million expansion within two years, it will receive the $215,000 in tax credits over four years. The manufacturer, which also has a location in France, has been based in Harmony since 1962.

Owner and President Steve Cremer says the company has been growing quickly in the past few years and more growth appears to be on the way, particularly in Africa and Asia. That prospect had Harmony Enterprises considering its options on how expand its production. With so many of the firms competitors and customers located on the West Coast, they start looking at the possibility of adding a facility in California or Arizona.Bcb2003-open


Then they found out about the $24 million Minnesota Job Creation Fund, which began in January.

"We wanted to stay here. The community is good to us," said Cremer. "Now we'll start construction of a 6,000-square-foot addition in the spring."

The plan is to create a new drive-through shipping department, which will improve efficiency for the company and open up the current shipping area to revamped into more production space.

In addition to the improved shipping and the expanding production area, Harmony Enterprises is also ramping up its new service offerings. About a year and half ago, it launched a new service business. It contracts directly with companies to maintain and repair all recycling and waste management machines.

"That's our really big growth area. Many of the new jobs will be service jobs," he says.

November 14, 2013

Rochester Medical shareholders OK acquisition

Rochester Medical Corp., Stewartville's largest employer, became a  subsidiary of New Jersey-based C.R. Bard at 8 a.m. today following Wednesday's overwhelmingly positive shareholder vote.

Votes representing 8.4 million shares were counted in a Minneapolis board room of the law firm Dorsey & Whitney. The $262 million deal was approved by a vote of 8.1 million in favor to 179,156 against. Another 12,054 abstained. Rochester Medical had 12.3 million outstanding shares that were eligible to vote.

Rochester Medical's Chief Financial Officer David Jonas said the vote tally took about 30 minutes. About 20 people attended the voted.

Shares of Rochester Medical were trading at $20 at the close of the market on Wednesday.

Representatives of C.R. Bard are scheduled to discuss their future plans at an all-employee meeting Friday morning at the catheter manufacturing facility. Rochester Medical has about 250 employees in Stewartville with a total of 400 worldwide.

While no specifics have been discussed about what will happen to the Stewartville facility or its employees, the president of Bard’s Medical Division made encouraging comments to staff in September.

"We are making this merger because we really believe you have got a ton to bring to us. These are additive, these two companies. There is not a ton of overlap," said Peter Curry, according to documents filed with the  U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

This acquisition marks the end of the local ownership of the 25-year-old company co-founded and run by CEO Anthony Conway and his brother, Vice President Philip Conway. The CEO has previously said that he and his brother will remain "deeply involved in the transition … ensuring that our new products will get to market in a very timely fashion."

May 16, 2013

Rochester founder says Tenex is growing quickly

When pro basketball player Pau Gasol of the L.A. Lakers needed damaged tendons in his knee removed this week, his doctor opted for a noninvasive treatment developed by Mayo Clinic instead of the traditional surgery option.

TX1_handpieceGasol now is one of about 5,000 patients that have been treated with Tenex Health Inc.'s TX1 instrument, since the firm took its specialty needle system to market at the start of 2012.

Dr. Jagi Gill, of Rochester, founded Tenex in 2009, and it received approval from the Food and Drug Administration in 2011. Since then it has quickly been gaining traction and is now listing "multi-millions" in sales.

"We moved past the 'Will it work?' and 'Can we make it?' stages. Now we are building a sales team and working a marketing message," Gill said.

Tenex now is selling the system to doctors. The firm has 12 sales representatives, and he hopes to grow that number to 40 by the third quarter of 2013.

Gill began his career in Mayo Clinic's Department of Neurology. He has since worked at Boston Scientific as well as a number of biotechnology start-ups.

Tenex's one-time use, disposable handpiece was developed and commercialized in collaboration with Mayo Clinic. Tenex licenses technology from Mayo Clinic and in turn, Mayo owns equity in Tenex. Images

"The folks at Mayo have been very helpful," he said.

The TX1 system uses ultrasound technology to treat damaged tendons or soft tissue in elbows, knees, ankles, feet and shoulders. Unlike surgery, patients can walk out after what is often a procedure no longer than 20 minutes.

"It is well-tolerated and safe as an injection," says Gill.

That and the quick recovery are making Tenex very popular with athletes, people with work-related injuries and patients who simply "want to have an active lifestyle."

Gasol is not the only celebrity who has discovered Tenex. TV and radio personality Ryan Seacrest has also has his elbow treated with the TX1 system.

At one point, Tenex looked at Rochester, nearby Elk Run and even Willmar, Minn., as possible locations for a manufacturing facility. In the end, the decision was made to acquire the California company that handled the early manufacturing on a contract basis.

So why not do the manufacturing in Rochester?

"The challenge that any company would have in going here is that there isn't a lot of experience in terms of engineering, manufacturing, production, quality systems," says Gill.

He explained that medical device hotspots, not only have a medical system or university for generating ideas, but also "They have an imbedded group of people that know how to turn on an infrastructure."

April 04, 2013

Plug pulled on IBM's record breaking computer Roadrunner

IBM's record-breaking Roadrunner supercomputer was the fastest computer in the world when introduced five years ago.
But this week, it was retired and soon will be dismantled, surpassed by other machines in the fast-evolving world of supercomputers.
The Roadrunner, which owed much of its hybrid design and manufacture to Big Blue's Rochester campus, was the first machine to break the computer industry's "sound barrier" in 2008 by clocking a petaflop or one quadrillion calculations per second.

Roadrunner_1“We just all looked around and said, ‘We made it,’” stated Peter Keller, who was part of the Rochester manufacturing team that recorded that historic milestone on May 25, 2008.

The plug was pulled on the $121 million supercomputer on Easter Sunday at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

"Roadrunner, while I would not define it as strictly obsolete, it has been surpassed by newer technology," said Kevin Roark, of Los Alamos. "It's perfectly normal. …This is the natural progression."

Roadrunner's duties are being shifted over to Los Alamos' Cielo supercomputer, which is made by Seattle-based Cray Inc. Two years younger than Roadrunner, Roark describes it as faster, smaller, less expensive and more energy-efficient than its IBM predecessor.

Until it was shut down, Roadrunner ran 24 hours a day, seven days a week since being delivered to the laboratory via 25 trucks.

While it now is being experimented on as it waits to be dismantled and shredded, Roadrunner took Los Alamos' work on the United States' nuclear weapons stockpile to a new level.

"It has performed remarkably well. It has really helped us solve some fundamental problems that were essentially unsolvable before a computer of its speed," Roark said.

It wasn't just its speed that made Roadrunner so groundbreaking. The revolutionary hybrid design that coordinated the use of different types of computer chips, including Cell chips originally designed in Rochester to be used in Sony's PlayStation 3 video game system.

"Roadrunner was a truly pioneering idea," said Gary Grider, of Los Alamos' High Performance Computing Division, in a statement. "Roadrunner got everyone thinking in new ways about how to build and use a supercomputer."

Los Alamos teamed up with IBM to build Roadrunner from commercially available parts. They ended up with 278 refrigerator-size racks filled with two different types of processors, all linked together by 55 miles of fiber optic cable.

The supercomputer has been used over the last five years to model viruses and unseen parts of the universe, to better understand lasers and for nuclear weapons work. That includes simulations aimed at ensuring the safety and reliability of the nation's aging arsenal.

Roadrunner was the world's fastest computer for 18 months. At its peak, it was two times faster than Blue Gene/L, which was IBM’s star machine and the fastest computer in the world in 2007.

Its historic speed kept Roadrunner on the Top 500 Fastest Computers list, despite being outdated. It still ranked as 22nd fastest machine in the world in November.

IBM had four of the top 10 fastest computers on that November list, and all had roots in Rochester. Sequoia, a BlueGene/ Q, took the No. 2 spot behind Cray's Titan. Other BlueGenes — Miram JUQUEEN and Fermi — locked up the fourth, fifth and ninth spots.

March 01, 2013

Crenlo + Space and Naval Warfare Systems contract

Rochester's manufacturer, Crenlo, has been awarded a federal contract by The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, which is part of the U.S. Navy.
I don't know a lot about it. It looks to be for customized cabinets under Crenlo's Emcor brand. The cabinets are slated to be used in a moderization project at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in New Orleans. 
Navy_SPAWAR_LogoSPAWAR (which always makes me think of Spa War, like Liliac Wellness and Healing Touch fighting on some battlefield somewhere. Heh) has a long relationship with Mayo Clinic.
For many years, the Special Purpose Processor Development Group in the Mayo Support Center has had a contract with SPAWAR to develop/test electronics, some which are used with missiles.
Hhhmmm... Just noticed that contract was renewed last year for $28.4 million and it runs through 2017. Think I need to follow that up one of these days.
Anyway, back to Crenlo, I spotted a posting about its contract on the Federal Business Opportunities website from Feb. 27. Here's some of that:

The SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic, New Orleans Office intends to award a firm fixed price purchase order for the items on the attached document. Manufacturer-Crenlo.

CrenlotruckNo other product will be accepted. Brand name only - an equal product will not be accepted. This is a Small Business Set-Aside only. No electronic or hard copy Request for Quote (RFQ) will be prepared or made available for distribution.

-------------

Award will be made on an all or nothing basis. The Government will accept quotes from all responsible sources with the capability to provide the BRAND NAME product cited and will award a contract resulting from this RFQ to the responsible vendor whose offer conforms to the solicitation and is considered to be the Lowest Priced Technically Acceptable offer.

The part numbers must be the manufacturer's part numbers. The Crenlo cabinetry must conform to the critical design requirements of SSCLANT Drawing 29355-525209-01 (attached) and interface with the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS), Visual Information Display System (VIDS), Enhanced Terminal Voice Switch and Visual Communications System (VISCOM) equipment procured for the National Airspace Modernization at NAS JRB New Orleans.

Crenlo EMCOR has devloped custom mechanical interfaces for this equipment.

January 21, 2013

Crenlo laying off 17 workers

Crenlo, which employs more than 600 workers at two locations in Rochester, has announced the imminent layoff of 17 hourly employees, according to news reports.

Office-buildingCrenlo's last major layoff was in 2009, when it laid off 193 employees during a rough fiscal year. The company recalled more than 140 of the laid-off workers, though about 30 were later laid off again.

Crenlo, which has two plants in Rochester, is a manufacturer of steel frame cab enclosures and rollover structures for equipment in the construction, agriculture, and commercial equipment markets. It also produces a line of electronic equipment enclosures.

The company was founded in Rochester in 1951. It is owned by International Equipment Solutions, an affiliate of KPS Capital Partners of New York City. That is the second owner since its local owners sold the company to an Illinois company, Dover Corp., in 1999.