WIXOM, Mich.—Great Lakes Rubber Co. Inc. has probably encountered every demanding application imaginable.
The Wixom-based rubber products manufacturer often is challenged with producing a part that can survive the extreme: Hot or cold temperatures, tons of dust, garbage and a whole gamut of other wild cards.
It's prepared for all of those, and is investing to take on the ones it hasn't encountered yet.
"We're not afraid to look at the next best technology that's out there, regardless of price," said Chris Tolliver, Great Lakes lab coordinator/chemist. "We're looking to have it on the shelf, ready to go, when it's needed. Being a smaller company, to look at those things that are not just the norm is something that we pride ourselves in."
In 1979, Great Lakes Rubber was founded by Harvey McCloud—a former buyer with Mac Valves Inc., the country's largest manufacturer of pneumatic valves.
Dynamic rubber seals are critical to Mac's products. Frustrated with the difficulty it took to purchase seals at the level of quality Mac wanted, McCloud approached his boss with an idea—he'd make the seals himself if Mac would source them.
Mac agreed, and the rest is history. By 1989 Great Lakes had grown to the point where Mac decided to bring it under its umbrella as a wholly owned subsidiary. Four years later, the firm relocated from its original site in Walled Lake, Mich., to its current 25,000-sq.-ft. home in Wixom, housed within Mac's global headquarters.
Don DeMallie came on board as the company's president in 1994. At the time, Mac accounted for 98 percent of Great Lakes' business. One of his first goals was to grow the company's business beyond Mac Valves. Today, the Mac business accounts for about 75 percent of the firm's overall sales, though at times the breakdown has been even.
"Even though Mac Valves is growing very, very fast, we've made a lot of investments in a lot of different ways," DeMallie said. "Not just in our facility with our equipment, but through partnerships with other companies that have allowed us to grow rapidly."