Kentwood - One West Michigan company is using the downsizing of the auto industry as a way to launch a new type of manufacturing in Kentwood.
Autocam has been manufacturing fuel injectors and power steering units for nearly 25 years. Right now employees are pumping out nearly a million parts a day. From diesel parts, to power steering, to brake components, it takes highly skilled laborers to keep up with that type of production.
Now those same employees will be making joint replacements and specially designed surgical equipment.
Karl Cooper, Autocam's general manager, says it's that same kind of trade labor that can transform an auto parts manufacturer into a medical device manufacturer, "It's going to be distinctly lower volume less repetitive manufacturing more special orders, custom orders."
The same equipment that used to make diesel fuel injectors now makes specially designed drills for spinal surgery.
"We're already used to doing this, we've done it for years we are really good at it." Jason Jaworowicz is a 10 year employee of Autocam and one of the first to transition into the new medical device division.
He sees it as an opportunity to get unemployed auto workers back on the job, "If we can transition into medical especially with the growth in the downtown Grand Rapids I think it will give people the opportunity to come back to work and do this."
Special order medical devices and joint replacements will make up most of the production at the new Autocam Medical which Tom O'Mara with Autocam Medical says will become a permanent part of West Michigan manufacturing, "We don't plan on transferring to other locations we plan on growing our business and we need a place to grow."
Just like auto manufacturing, Michigan's medical industry is using some of the state's best skilled laborers to make a global impact.
Autocam's global headquarters are located right here in Grand Rapids.
It only took one year from having the idea to start up a medical device division to actually mass producing their first orders.