It took a police escort, flashing lights and a trailer with 16 axles plus a driver at the back to help steer around corners to bring the mammoth machine to General Plug and Manufacturing in Grafton. Weighing 280,000 pounds and made by National Machinery in Tiffin, the FORMAX FX86M Cold Forming Machine was delivered this past September and has already generated new customers for General Plug. The company supplies products for the automotive, agricultural and heavy truck industries. (Think pipe plugs, reducer bushings, screw machine parts, etc.)

“This new machine has endless capabilities as the products that it makes are all determined by the tooling we design,” says Kevin Flanigan, company president. “We can do a complete changeover (for different products) on this machine in 30 minutes or less, whereas on other machinery used to handle this size of parts, it would take two or three days.”

In addition to the time and cost savings gained by the new machine, Flanigan says employees will benefit from less demanding physical requirements.

To prepare his building to handle the mountain-sized machinery, Flanigan needed to build an addition to make space for it. Also, a special foundation was created to handle the massive weight and to ensure the precision levelness needed to operate the machine properly. But Flanigan believes it is all worth it.

“There are only nine machines of this size and model in the world,” says Flanigan. “Having something like this in our company really helps take us to a whole new level and allows us to grow our product offerings. That, in turn, can create more jobs and opportunities for our company, customers and community.”

When COVID-19 hit last March, Flanigan confesses the state of the economy caused him stress, and he began second guessing the significant financial investment in the machine. (No exact dollar amount was released, but educated guesses list it at about $1 million.)   

Now, he’s breathing easier and excited to be getting new orders from General Motors and others. The machine, he says, is a source of pride throughout the entire company. So much so that he’s thinking of giving it an affectionate nickname. — Jill Sell