Engineering :Innovation & Job News

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Ford's vehicles now 85% recyclable by weight

Could the day of the biodegradeable/recyclable car be too far off? Not in the minds of the engineers at Ford.

The Dearborn-based company's vehicles are now on average 85 percent recyclable by weight. That means they are made of everything from recycled metal to soy and bio-based seat cushions and seatbacks. Reaching 100 percent is something that could happen within the next generation.

"I don't see that as an unreasonable goal," says Deborah Mielewski, technical leader of plastics research at Ford. Had industry engineers and executives made such goals a priority decades ago, she adds, the company might be closer to that goal today. "If we put that energy into using re-useable and recycled materials we'd be there by now."

It's now a priority for Ford, which has been an industry leader in this sort of sustainable automotive manufacturing. Mielewski points out that an average car contains about 300 pounds of plastics. Her colleagues are working on how to make compostable plastic resins strong enough so they hold up for 15 years but will be able to break down not long after that.

Such advances mean more than green bragging rights for big corporations to impress the tree hugging crowd. Ford saved approximately $4.5 million by using recycled materials in 2009. And then there is the positive public relations generated from diverting between 25 and 30 million pounds of plastic from landfills in North America alone last year.

Among the green products in use inside Ford's vehicle lineup are:

  • Bio-based (such as soy) polyurethane foams on the seat cushions, seatbacks, and headliners on 11 vehicle models. The two million Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles on the road today with bio-foam seats equates to a reduction in petroleum oil usage of approximately 1.5 million pounds
  • Post-consumer recycled resins such as detergent bottles, tires, and battery casings used in underbody systems, such as aerodynamic shields, splash shields, and radiator air deflector shields. The latest example is the engine cam cover on the 3.0-liter V-6 2010 Ford Escape.
  • Post-industrial recycled yarns for seat fabrics on the Ford Escape and Escape Hybrid. A 100 percent usage of recycled yarns can mean a 64 percent reduction in energy consumption and a 60 percent reduction in CO2 emissions compared to the use of new yarns.
  • Repurposed nylon carpeting made into nylon resin and molded into cylinder head covers for Ford's 3.0-liter Duratec® engine. The industry's first eco-friendly cylinder head cover is used in the 2010 Ford Fusion and Escape.
  • The automotive industry's first application of wheat straw-reinforced plastic for the third-row storage bins of the 2010 Ford Flex. The natural fiber replaces energy-inefficient glass fibers commonly used to reinforce plastic parts.

Source: Deborah Mielewski, technical leader of plastics research at Ford
Writer: Jon Zemke

Aeroflex, Magna lead way with new industrial jobs

The latest round of tax incentive deals from the Michigan Economic Development Corp comes with a variety of manufacturing jobs that fit squarely into both the new and old economies.

These deals go to Aeroflex in Ann Arbor, Lenawee Stamping in Tecumseh and Magna all over Metro Detroit. The three deals will create 613 positions and $54.7 million in investment for $6.3 million in state tax incentives.

Aeroflex, a manufacturer of wireless products, will invest $3 million to expand its operations in Ann Arbor. The investment will allow the company to move a current product line in New Jersey to Michigan. That means 47 new jobs over seven years for $466,004 in state tax abatements.  

"The majority of these positions will be added in the first year," says Norm Hansen, vice president of sales and marketing for Aeroflex. "I would say in the first year, 75 percent would be filled."

Auto supplier Magna plans to invest $49.2 million to expand its manufacturing, engineering and product-testing operations in Michigan. Specifically, it plans to grow its
energy-storage-and-delivery testing facility in Auburn Hills, engineering facility in Troy, and manufacturing plants in Lansing and Shelby Township. That will all add up to 508 new jobs over the next seven years, thanks to a $5.6 million state tax credit and more abatements from Auburn Hills and Troy.  

And the purely 20th Century tax abatement goes to Lenawee Stamping, which makes metal stamping and welded fabrications for the automotive industry. It will put another $2.5 million towards expanding its Tecumseh facility for new work from General Motors, resulting in 78 new jobs over four years. The MEDC approved a state tax credit for $414,322 for the project that beat out a competing site in Ohio.

Sources: Michigan Economic Development Corp and Norm Hansen, vice president of sales and marketing for Aeroflex
Writer: Jon Zemke

MEDC tax breaks equal $804M of new investment in Michigan

Metro Detroit continues to take more than its fair share of state tax credits to help grow local businesses.

Southeast Michigan companies have taken in $25 million worth of state tax credits awarded through the Michigan Economic Development Corp to leverage $107.4 million worth of investment. That means an expectation of creating 1,594 jobs locally. The whole announcement means 5,749 jobs and more than $804 million in new investment in Michigan.

The pick of the local litter is the wooing of Techno SemiChem to move its headquarters to Northville instead of South Korea. That $31.1 million investment will mean that 279 people will be conducting research and development and pilot production efforts to produce electrolyte for advanced lithium ion battery cells. The state gave $3.2 million in tax breaks over seven years to broker the deal.

Another new economy coup is to convince CIBER to spend $8 million to establish a development center in Southfield instead of in Florida. The IT firm plans to service its clients in the government, finance, and manufacturing sectors with 700 new jobs. The state is giving $10.1 million in tax credits over seven years, and Southfield is chipping in another $1.2 million in tax abatements.

This latest announcement also includes deals for some of the region's old economy manufacturing sectors. Advanced Integrated Tooling Solutions is investing $13.3 million to manufacture equipment for commercial, retail, and military aircraft in Chesterfield Township. It's a move that will create 275 jobs from a tax credit valued at $3.2 million. ALTe, an automotive supplier of battery powertrain systems, will spend $51.3 million to open an assembly facility in Auburn Hills, creating 305 jobs thanks to an $8.4 million tax credit over eight years. Katcon USA, an automotive supplier of catalytic converters and  exhaust systems, will also sink $3.7 million into a new technical center in Auburn Hills. That means 35 new jobs from a $534,633 tax credit.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corp
Writer: Jon Zemke

Patti Engineering hires 4, plans to add 10-15 more

After largely holding its ground for the last year, Patti Engineering is taking significant steps toward serious growth.

The Auburn Hills-based firm has made four hires within the last year, allowing it to keep its employee count at around 30 over the last year. It has also opened a new office in Massachusetts to take advantage of growing business prospects in the northeast section of the U.S.

The company has big plans for 2010 and 2011. It expects to hire another 10-15 people over the next two years. It also is looking at opening another satellite office later this year.

"We are really diversifying our offerings to other industries," says Sam Hoff, president of Patti Engineering.

That means continuing to move the 19-year-old company from its traditional automotive base to other sectors, such as energy and wastewater treatment and the food and distribution industries. The company is making an aggressive Internet marketing push, too, to help grow its business.

Husband-and-wife team Patti and Sam Hoff started Patti Engineering in 1991 after Sam left his job and had trouble finding another. One colleague didn't have room for Sam on his business' staff, but offered to use Sam's services if he started his own company.

Source: Sam Hoff, president of Patti Engineering
Writer: Jon Zemke

Pontiac's DASI Solutions plans 6 hires

DASI Solutions learned all about the value of diversifying its client base well before the idea became fashionable in Metro Detroit. It's a lesson that is serving the Pontiac-based firm well as it prepares for a growth spurt in 2010.

DASI Solutions sells, trains and does tech support for engineering software programs, namely SolidWorks CAD design software. Since beginning this work in 1995, the company quickly discovered that many of the automotive firms were happy with the systems they were using. That forced DASI Solutions to find customers in a variety of emerging sectors, such as robotics, alternative energy and bio-medical devices.

"I built my customer base in a primarily non-automotive sector," says David Darbyshire, who co-owns DASI Solutions with his brother Richard.

That has allowed the company to hold its ground throughout the recession and to keep its employee base at 30 people and a handful of summer interns. Darbyshire expects to add another six hires this year.

"I see us growing significantly," Darbyshire says.

DASI Solutions is also helping other companies grow by retraining automotive engineers to use its software. The idea is these engineers will be ready for jobs in the emerging sectors in which DASI Solutions has established itself.

Source: David Darbyshire, co-owner of DASI Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Metro Detroit takes lion's share of latest MEDC deals

Metro Detroit is taking more than its share this time around when it comes to business-attracting, job-creating tax incentives.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp announced seven deals earlier this week. Five of those, and one brownfield redevelopment, are in Metro Detroit, representing 1,125 jobs and $24.8 million in investment. The projects are as follows:

- Troy-based ilumisys plans to spend $7.4 million to ramp up its research and development and manufacturing of its LED light technology. The Altair Engineering spin-off expects to create 213 new jobs in Troy after considering sites in China and Ontario. To make this happen, state officials approved a 12-year tax abatement worth $4 million.

- Fiat subsidiary Magneti Marelli Holding USA will consolidate its Michigan operations into one facility in Auburn Hills, an investment worth $4.5 million. The plan is to create 200 new jobs here instead of in competing sites in Tennessee and North Carolina. The state approved $4 million in tax abatements as part of the deal and Auburn Hills is also considering an abatement for the project.

- Colwell & Salmon Communications, which provides inbound and outbound contact services to Fortune 500 companies, is making plans to expand in Livonia. A $1.3 million tax abatement over four years (Livonia is also working on its own tax break for the company) helped the firm give the go ahead to invest $4.9 million to expand its current Livonia call center, a move that is expected to create 502 jobs.

- Livonia wins again now that Quality Metalcraft, an automotive engineering firm, plans to spend $1.7 million to design and manufacture aerodynamic fairings. That should equal 64 new jobs and $455,648 in tax breaks over five years.

- Troy gets another deal now that AxleTech (think axles, brakes, etc.) expects to retain 415 jobs and create 107 new jobs from a $5.4 million investment. The firm plans to consolidate four facilities into one in Troy. The MEDC negotiated a $1 million state tax credit (Troy is working out a $35,404 abatement) to make this happen in Michigan instead of Wisconsin.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corp
Writer: Jon Zemke

Mercedes-Benz Hybrid sets up R&D center in Redford

Mercedes-Benz Hybrid is one step closer to setting up a research-and-development center at the Redford Township facilities of its parent company, Daimler AG, now that local officials have approved a tax exemption for the expansion.

Mercedes-Benz Hybrid plans to create the R&D center at the Detroit Diesel campus, where it will develop and maintain a line of conventional and alternative propulsion powertrain systems. Think hybrid and electric-vehicle systems. Daimler is planning to consolidate a lot of its resources, talent, and expertise at its Detroit Diesel campus.

"We looked at several locations inside and outside of Michigan," says Judy Brunson, operations officer for Mercedes-Benz Hybrid.

The new $2.3 million R&D center is expected to have a staff about 100 people strong, mostly in the engineering and other highly technical fields. Those workers will be responsible for developing conventional and alternative propulsion powertrains and components including EMotors, power electronics, and supporting software technology.

"We're looking to bring a highly skilled technical workforces to southeast Michigan," Brunson says.

Judy Brunson, operations officer for Mercedes-Benz Hybrid
Writer: Jon Zemke

Center for Professional Studies cranks out new careers for engineers

The Center for Professional Studies used to focus on business training for companies looking to sharpen their performance. Then the economy took a turn for the worse, taking the Center's business with it and forcing the Troy-based firm to change over.

Today the 17-year-old company focuses on training out of work automotive engineers for new careers. The school, which has always been a licensed learning institute, gives these engineers certifications in new fields, mostly in product design or development.

"The jobs they pick up are all design and engineering products that aren't automotive," says Daryl Patrishkoff, CEO of Center for Professional Studies.

Since this summer 59 students have enrolled, with 22 of them already finding new jobs. "We're enrolling new people every week," Patrishkoff says.

The Center's plan is to keep this going for the next year or so until the economy bounces back. Once it does, the plans are to go back to business development education.

Source: Daryl Patrishkoff, CEO of Center for Professional Studies
Writer: Jon Zemke

New DOD contract bolsters Waltonen Engineering's growth

More engineers are coming to Warren these days, and part of that is thanks to Waltonen Engineering.

The Warren-based firm, founded in 1957, recently won a Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity contract with the United States Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in Warren. That will allow it to bid on more military contracts, giving it more opportunity for growth and hiring within the next five years.

The company has been on a bit of a hiring tear lately. It has beefed up its staff of more than 100 people by 40 percent in the last year and also has a few people at an office in Germany. That growth is expected to continue in a number of sectors as new business warrants it.

Waltonen Engineering has diversified its client portfolio to include projects in the automotive, defense, aerospace, and medical device sectors.

"Our growth has been across all of these areas," says Thomas Laboda, director of business for Waltonen Engineering.

Source: Thomas Laboda, director of business for Waltonen Engineering
Writer: Jon Zemke

Engineering Society of Detroit adds 1,300 new members

Business is good for the Engineering Society of Detroit. The 114-year-old non-profit has watched its membership skyrocket in the last year by over 20 percent.

That means 1,302 new members since last summer, bringing membership to 6,264. It is also retaining 99 percent of its professional members, on top of high retention rates of corporate (86 percent), retired (93 percent) and student (98 percent) members.

One of the big things working for the society is its efforts to retrain members, many of whom have automotive backgrounds, for new economy jobs. ESD has been working with the likes of Michigan Technological University to retrain some of its membership for green economy jobs, like engineering work associated with wind turbines. The society has already held two of these programs so far this year and expects to have at least one more before year-end.

"It all depends on the collaborations we have," says Della Cassia, director of public relations and marketing for the Engineering Society of Detroit.

ESD is works across several industries in the engineering world, including scientific and allied professions. It also works to develop and foster excitement in math and science for future generations.

Source: Della Cassia, director of public relations and marketing for the Engineering Society of Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

Lawrence Tech, Oakland U team up for job fair

Lawrence Technological and Oakland universities are showing a little regional cooperation in joining forces for one big job fair on Tuesday, September 22.

The Tech x 2 Expo = OU + LTU job fair will be for college students at the two universities who are majoring in engineering, computer science, and technology disciplines or have recently graduated with degrees in those fields.

"It's a convenience for the employers," says Eric Pope, a spokesman for Lawrence Tech. "Instead of going to two job fairs they can go to one."

Both schools have held a variety of jobs fairs for both students and regular workers this year.

To register, companies should go to and click on the employer icon. Companies already on CareerQuest should visit the Lawrence Tech site and log on to their accounts.

The job fair will be held at Oakland University in Auburn Hills (a map is available here) between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. There will also be a lunch from 1-2 p.m. Registration for employers starts at 8 a.m. and costs $225.

For information, call Lawrence Tech's Office of Career Services at (248) 204-3140 or the Office of Career Services at Oakland University at (248) 370-3250, or send an email to or

Source: Eric Pope, spokesman for Lawrence Technological University
Writer: Jon Zemke

BAE Systems' new Sterling Heights facility to create 600 jobs

The ceremonial shovels have gone into the ground for the new BAE Systems campus in Sterling Heights, and the real shovels are expected to begin digging this fall.

The new automotive research and development facility is expected to create 600 new jobs. The center will concentrate on land and armaments projects, such as armored personnel carriers and other military vehicles.

"The expectation is that long term that facility will continue to grow," says Luke Bonner, economic development director for the city of Sterling Heights.

The military-based firm is taking over
the old TRW site, on the 32400 block of Van Dyke between 14 and 15 Mile roads. It is investing $58 million to turn the 81-acre property into its new engineering campus. The Michigan Economic Growth Authority approved $1.4 million in loans to make the creation of the new tech center possible.

BAE Systems builds the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, M113 Armored Personnel Carrier, the Valanx, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, and a number of other ground vehicles for the U.S. Army.

General Dynamics has traditionally been the main defense contractor in Sterling Heights. However, a number of other defense contractors have set up shop in Sterling Heights in recent years, creating hundreds of engineering jobs in the process.

Source: Luke Bonner, economic development director for the city of Sterling Heights
Writer: Jon Zemke

Giffels-Webster Engineers doubles LEED certified staff

Giffels-Webster Engineers is doubling down on sustainability, doubling the number of its staff with LEED certification.

As of this week, nine of the Rochester Hills-based firm's 65 employees are certified as LEED AP. That basically means when it comes to sustainable design, the firm has nine experts in it.

"We see it as a trend where people want to be green," says Loren Crandall, president of Giffels-Webster Engineers. "We want to be at the front end of that."

The LEED AP exam has been around since 2001. It focuses on green building practices and principles in LEED requirements, resources and processes. This certification is essential to obtaining LEED status on projects.

The 55-year-old firm specializes in civil engineering and surveying. It hasn't hired anyone so far this year, but Crandall expects that to change.

"We're marketing our services aggressively," Crandall says. "We expect to grow."

Source: Loren Crandall, president of Giffels-Webster Engineers
Writer: Jon Zemke

Michigan Tech, Engineering Society of Detroit offer training for auto engineers

Laid off auto engineers worried about being left behind will have a chance to push the envelope in their field soon.

The Engineering Society of Detroit is teaming up with Michigan Technological University and AVL to help the state's automotive engineers learn about hybrid vehicle technology and the electrification of the automobile. It's doing this through a semester-long course to be offered this fall.

"Advanced Propulsion for Hybrid Vehicles with Concentration in Battery Engineering" is a graduate-level, three-credit class starting this fall. The 100 students admitted to the program will focus on battery design and on what makes the next generation of hybrid and electric vehicles tick.

For information, contact Linda LaPointe at or by snail mail at The Engineering Society of Detroit, 20700 Civic Center Drive, Suite 450, Southfield, MI 48076.

Source: Engineering Society of Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

ZagataRiley turns performance engineering into jobs

Engineers Mark Zagata and Bill Riley didn't wait for the automotive industry to change their lives. Instead they took the initiative and started ZagataRiley a little more than two years ago.

"The motivation was to go out and try something before something bad happened to you and you weren't prepared," says Mark Zagata, the firm's president.

The Livonia-based start-up specializes in design, engineering, and manufacturing of top-notch parts for motor sports, such as race cars or motorcycles.

"People find us if they have problems that aren't solved by regular engineering," Zagata says.

More people have found the company as a place to work themselves. The company now has five employees, including one recent hire specializing in carbon fiber composites. It moved into its own space and is currently renovating it for future growth.

ZagataRiley has enjoyed "moderate growth," according to Zagata. He expects the business to double or even triple within the next year or two. That could lead to another 2-4 hires; maybe even people looking for a little change from the local automotive industry.

Source: Mark Zagata, president of ZagataRiley
Writer: Jon Zemke
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