IdraPrince, Inc. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on IdraPrince, Inc.

670 Windcrest Drive
Holland, Michigan 49423

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Our goal is to enhance our customers' success by providing productive , reliable and technologically advanced casting equipment and service s.

History of IdraPrince, Inc.

A subsidiary of Italian corporation Idra Presse SpA, IdraPrince, Inc. is North American's largest maker of die casting equipment, used mos tly in the automotive industry. In addition to being a full-service p rovider to Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, and Daimle rChrysler AG, IdraPrince also serves the auto industry's Tier I suppl iers (companies that sell finished components to automakers) and Tier 2 suppliers (companies that sell items to Tier 1 suppliers). Product s include the Revolution Two Platen machine, offering a number of inn ovations in die casting machine technology; cold chamber die cast mac hines, large units designed to make items such as engine blocks, tran smission cases, gear boxes, clutch housings, and dashboards; hot cham ber machines, appropriate for producing zinc, lead, and magnesium cas tings; and liquid metal squeeze cast systems, used to inject molten a luminum into a casting die. Other products include software to monito r the process of die casting; temperature controllers; vacuum systems to remove air and gases from a die; and a range of hydraulic presses . The company is also capable of producing custom-built die casting m achines and assembling turnkey automated casting systems. In addition , IdraPrince services, rebuilds, and upgrades die casting machines. T he company maintains its headquarters in Holland, Michigan.

Founding the Company in the Mid-1960s

IdraPrince was founded in 1965 by 33-year-old Edgar Prince, who quit his job as the chief engineer of Buss Machine Works in Holland, Michi gan, in order to start his own die cast business--one that would refl ect his deeply held religious beliefs. Holland, Michigan contained on e of the largest concentrations of Dutch-Americans in the country, a community that adhered to the Calvinist values of the Christian Refor med Church. Prince also applied these values to Prince Machine, which later became part of Prince Corporation. His operations were always closed on Sundays and he flew his salespeople home to their families almost every night on a fleet of company planes. One of his chief lie utenants, John Spoelhof, who joined Prince in 1969, explained in a 19 91 interview the company's philosophy: "We don't apologize for our Ch ristianity. We have a unique opportunity in the business world to let our light shine. ... We're not standing on a soapbox, but our walk a nd talk ... will show to others that Christianity is important."

Although he wanted his business to offer a positive image about his r eligion, Prince shunned the limelight. He could have received a great deal of attention, given that he became a philanthropist as his weal th grew, contributing money to schools and colleges and playing a key role in the revitalization of downtown Holland. Prince also became a player in politics, albeit in the background, becoming a major contr ibutor to Republican candidates around the country and to the Christi an conservative movement. He helped religious right leader Gary Bauer establish the Family Research Council, a "pro-family" lobbying group . Prince gave one interview around 1980, felt he was misquoted, and r efused to speak to the press again. The Prince family and Prince pers onnel also were guarded about his life. Hence, there was little known about Edgar Prince beyond his business success.

Early 1970s Switch to Car Components

A major turning point for Edgar Prince came in 1972 when his company moved beyond making custom machine tools for the die cast industry, a highly cyclical business, and became an automotive original equipmen t manufacturer. In that year Prince Corp. invented the lighted vanity visor for front-seat passengers, first used in the 1973 Cadillac. It would be the first of countless interior items Prince sold to carmak ers, which soon began to regard Prince Corp. as a model supplier. Acc ording to Forbes, "The carmakers appreciated Prince for his wi llingness to back his gadgets with his own development money. With a product prototype in hand, Prince's salesmen would put it in some car s and then ask the carmakers' representatives to try it for the weeke nd." Says Chrysler's [David] Swietlik, [procurement manager for large cars]: "Prince comes in saying, 'You don't know you want this yet.'" Forbes noted, "Over the years Prince created dashboard cup ho lders, movable armrests, illuminated visor mirrors that automatically adjust to external lighting, a garage door opener button mounted on a sun visor." Fortune offered its own take on the company: "Ar ound the auto industry, Prince is infamous for its tight-knit culture and aggressive selling. 'Swarming the customer' is the way McKensey & Co.'s Glenn Mercer describes it. Prince makes three-dimensional prototypes as well as CAD/CAM printouts when it presents a new desig n, and prides itself on beating deadlines. Adds Mercer: 'They make it difficult for somebody to say no.'" The company became especially ad ept with electronics, recognizing early on that electronics would bec ome increasingly important in cars. Rather than just making parts, Pr ince integrated electronics, and was especially good at packaging it in trim, in order to create very profitable value-added components.

By the early 1980s die cast machines were superseded by the auto inte rior parts business and Prince Corp. enjoyed a major growth spurt. Em ployment grew from less than 600 people in 1980 to more than 4,500 in 1995. In addition, sales grew from $30 million in 1982 to more t han $300 a decade later. About two-thirds of that amount came fro m the sale of interior auto components. All told, about three-quarter s of all revenues came from the "Big 3" automakers. Along the way, Pr ince developed a long-term goal: to become the first partsmaker capab le of supplying an entire car interior, from roof to door to floor tr immings and instrument panel. It was a lofty goal, one that would be complicated by the globalization of the auto industry. As the Big 3 a utomakers opened plants around the world, they expected suppliers to follow suit and establish their own global footprints. How to finance such a major expansion was a challenge for a private company like Pr ince Corp. But events would intervene in 1995 to change the course of the company's history.

According to Forbes, "After finishing lunch on Mar. 2, 63-year -old Edgar Prince left the executive dining room at his Holland, Mich .-based business and took the elevator up to his office. When the ele vator doors opened, Prince was dead on the floor, felled by a massive heart attack." Prince had already delegated a great deal of authorit y to Spoelhof, who had for several years been handling the company's day-to-day affairs, so the company was well positioned to carry on wi thout its founder. More so, it had virtually no debt and was generati ng about $500 million a year in sales. But not only did the Princ e family face paying sizable estate taxes, it also had to contend wit h the need to raise a lot of money in order to become a global suppli er to its customers. In the view of Forbes' Marcia Berss, writ ing several months after Prince's death, the family was left with thr ee choices: "Borrow a huge amount of money, go public or sell out. Of the three, the latter looks like the quickest solution and perhaps, from the family's point of view, the easiest and most lucrative."

There was no lack of suitors for the business, so that it came as no surprise, therefore, when in July 1996 Prince Corp. sold the Prince A utomotive unit to Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls Inc. for $1.35 billion. The Prince family retained Prince Machine, which would beco me IdraPrince, as well as two other companies, Lumir Corp. (the famil y's real estate operation) and Wingspan Leasing, which leased airplan es. Prince's son, Erik D. Prince, who was in his late 20s, took charg e of the family businesses, including Prince Machine and its 225 empl oyees.

Like his father, the younger Prince was a devout Christian, astute bu sinessman, staunch patriot, and somewhat sensitive. He attended a sma ll liberal arts school, Hillsdale College, and became one of the firs t interns at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. He also undertook intern stints with U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher and the White House. He next attended the U.S. Naval Academy, but resign ed before graduating. Instead, he joined the Navy, earned a commissio n as a lieutenant, and became a SEAL--and one of the richest men ever to serve in the U.S. military. He spent four years as a SEAL before leaving in 1996 to return home and attend to family business. In was also in 1996 that he started a professional security firm and bought 6,000 acres of land in North Carolina to build a major training facil ity. The company became a haven for former SEALs, Army Rangers, and D elta Force Troops, many of whom had been stationed in nearby Fort Bra gg. It was called Blackwater USA, an allusion to peat-colored water i n that region of North Carolina as well as the nighttime missions und ertaken by military divers. Blackwater was in little demand until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, on the United States, and i t did not receive much attention (nor did Erik Prince) until the Iraq war. Blackwater was one of about 20 private security firms supplying personnel to serve in the war zone. The role of these private contra ctors, regarded by some as little more than mercenaries, garnered pub lic attention in April 2004 when four Blackwater men were murdered in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. The gruesome treatment of their corpses was videotaped and shown on television around the world. As a result, a light was turned on the military's new outsourcing of security wor k, Blackwater USA, and the company's very private backer, Erik Prince .

Erik Prince served as chairman of Prince Machine until 2000, although he was more interested in launching Blackwater and building an elite training center than in the manufacture of die cast machines. One ma jor step taken during his tenure was the 1998 acquisition of Zeeland, Michigan-based Quality Process Controls (QPC), the addition of which expanded Prince's plastic processing capabilities, allowing the comp any to better serve die cast companies on a global basis. QPC product s included high-temperature oil circulating systems, portable process water chillers, and mold die water temperature regulators.

Sale of Prince Machine in 2000

But just as Prince Automotive was sold to a larger company because of globalization, Prince Machine soon experienced a similar fate. In Au gust 2000 the business was sold to a rival firm, Idra Presse of Bresc ia, Italy, which manufactured and marketed die casting machines and a utomated work stations around the world, mostly to automakers but als o to consumer electronics and household appliance manufacturers. With the addition of Prince Machine, Idra Presse became the largest suppl ier of die casting equipment in the world. Prince Machine was renamed IdraPrince, Inc., and then in January 2001 was merged with Idra Nort h America.

Now better able to serve customers on a global basis, IdraPrince bega n to further develop its capabilities in the early 2000s. In July 200 2 it won the worldwide licensing rights to a new rheocasting process developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In rheocastin g a liquid metal, like aluminum, solidifies in a die. It also could b e combined with squeeze casting to produce fiber composite materials. IdraPrince looked to use the technology to improve upon existing col d chamber die casting machines and to design new machines.

In February 2003, IdraPrince unveiled a new cold chamber aluminum and magnesium die casting machine product line, featuring a new design t hat reduced the required floor specification for a die cast machine b y more than 30 percent. In addition, the units had less mechanical co mponents, which in turn reduced the amount of required maintenance. T he company also was working on a new injection system, which adopted a so-called "No Pipe/NoHose/No Leak" design philosophy. All external hydraulic pipes and hoses were either eliminated or designed to be le ak free. The "S2" injection system completed its production trial in early 2004. Around the same time, the year-long production trial was completed on the company's innovative Revolution 2-platen, small foot print, die cast machine. Over the next year IdraPrince grew the Revol ution product line to include six models with die locking forces that ranged from 900 tons to 4,000 tons.

With the backing of its Italian corporate parent, and still benefitin g from the culture established by its American founder, IdraPrince ha d the products, personnel, and reputation needed to prosper on the gl obal scene for many years to come.

Principal Subsidiaries: QPC Systems, Inc.

Principal Competitors: Alumasc Group Plc; Gibbs Die Casting; P roductivity Technologies Corporation.


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