Ajax Helps Uni-Systems Knock It Out of The Park

Ajax Helps Uni-Systems Knock It Out of The Park

Globe Life Field, the new Texas Rangers Major League Baseball park in Arlington, Texas, is complete and ready for play. Ajax Metal Forming Solutions provided high-strength low-alloy fabricated structural parts for the huge retractable roof atop the $1.1 billion facility, which can seat up to 40,300 fans for baseball games. Ajax was tapped by Uni-Systems of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to form bulb seal landing panels for the massive idler beams that help the huge roof move.

Uni-Systems is the leading provider of retractable roof systems in the United States. The company has designed, fabricated, and installed the most prominent retractable roofs on professional sports stadiums over the past decade, including those at Minute Maid Ballpark and Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas; Marlins Ballpark in Miami, Florida; Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana; Cowboys Stadium near Dallas, Texas; and University of Phoenix (Cardinals) Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Uni-Systems holds many patents for retractable roofing systems and more than any other company has advanced the engineering and technology related to kinetic architecture.

The 5.5-acre retractable roof at Globe Life Park features clear roof panels that allow natural light into the ballpark when closed.
At 1.7 million square feet, the massive Globe Life Field dwarfs the previous Texas Rangers stadium.

“It’s fun to be associated with such a high-profile construction project,” said Ajax Vice President of Sales Don Wellman.  “The engineering that goes into retractable roof systems is simply amazing. The size and scope of this project is hard to imagine until you see the photos of the completed stadium. We’re delighted to play a role.”

The retractable roof at Globe Life Field can close in about 15 minutes, a significant advantage in Arlington, where frequent rainstorms cause game delays.  Club management had previously cited weather as the reason Ranger game attendances were lower than that of other Major League Baseball teams.

FDA Approval!

FDA Approval!

Great news!

The Food and Drug Administration yesterday issued emergency use authorization (EUA) for the “Coventor” ventilator prototype developed by the Bakken Medical Devices Center at the University of Minnesota.  Ajax worked directly with the project leaders at BMDC to produce enclosures for the prototype.

The FDA’s approval enables the project to move from prototype to finished product. Ajax colleagues are now forming enclosures for the manufacturer. About 1,400 units will be completed by early next week.

Our thanks go out to all the Ajax colleagues who have been putting in long hours to form and deliver parts for this emergency life-saving machine.

Some background on the project is here.

Press on, Ajax!

Ajax Workforce Unites Behind “Essential” Status

Ajax Workforce Unites Behind “Essential” Status

Minneapolis, April 13, 2020 – Kent Djubek, president of Ajax Metal Forming Solutions, has seen a lot in his 30 years at the company. But what he sees now from his Ajax coworkers is unique. “I’m just so impressed with this workforce, and so appreciative,” Kent said. “They’re clearly inspired to keep producing parts despite what’s going on.”

What’s going on is unprecedented in the company’s 75-year history. On March 19, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, issued its Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.  It reads in part:

“If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, defined by the Department of Homeland Security . . . you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”

The Memorandum spells out the industry DHS definitions.  Among them:

“Critical Manufacturing – Workers necessary for manufacturing materials and products needed for medical supply chains, transportation, energy, communications, food and agriculture . . . “

And:

“Transportation and Logistics – Employees supporting or enabling transportation functions, including dispatchers, maintenance and repair technicians, warehouse workers . . .

Kent quickly realized his company would fit the DHS critical infrastructure definition. Ajax makes parts for companies that manufacture essential products in climate control, transportation, architecture, construction, auxiliary power, and related industries.  The lights would stay on.

But that coin has two sides. The first was a mild sense of relief. Ajax has never closed its doors since the company’s founding at the end of World War II. A government-ordered shut-down, even if temporary, would have been hard to bear.

Then there’s the chilling side to the DHS edict. Coronavirus is a nasty bug. Death is unlikely, but it’s happening all too often, seemingly at random. Ajax people would now stay on the job while most Minnesotans remain safely at home through May 4, as ordered Wednesday by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz.

In response, the Ajax maintenance team modified and intensified the company’s already-rigorous daily cleaning schedule. Daily reminders for each shift help keep safety measures like hand washing and social distancing front and center in everyone’s minds. Protective gear is widely distributed. 

But that’s playing defense. Those efforts yield no guarantee. Regardless of what his team does, Kent’s colleagues at Ajax might fall ill. What’s more, as Ajax people commute to and from the plant, they will need to stop for gas and supplies. That means more interaction, more public touchpoints, more risk.  Ajax colleagues would need to be courageous.

So Kent is staying positive. “We have contingency plans in place,” he said. “If the country’s economic picture darkens, we have the resources to support our colleagues and their families. Heartland Equity, our ownership partner, has our back on this.  Our financial footing is solid. We’re fortunate in that regard.”

Brandon Holmes, Ajax Production Manager, said that spirits remain high on the plant floor. “I can tell that our colleagues are proud of their designation as an essential supplier, he said. “Everyone seems happy to be working. We know we’re making a difference.”

Brandon said that communicating with coworkers before and after shifts is vital. “We share safety ideas and any new information from the CDC. We also go over the extreme-sounding information we pick up on the news or social media and set priorities. So far, we’ve made the right moves.”

Tom Ahonen, Chairman of Heartland Equity Partners, a mission-based private equity firm and an Ajax co-owner, said in a letter to the entire company that his firm would continue to support Ajax operations and colleagues through this crisis.

“As we navigate this crazy and unprecedented time together, I want my Ajax colleagues to know that my partners and I are grateful for your hard work, commitment, and spirit,” he said. “We are in this for the long haul, and shutting down isn’t good for our customers, our suppliers, or you. Together we’ll get through this season and come out the other side stronger.”

Kent agrees. “I am so very thankful that our colleagues here at Ajax are showing great courage despite unavoidable adverse conditions,” he said. “With a team like this, success is not merely possible; it’s likely.”

More content is available on the Ajax Metal Forming Solutions blog. Please visit www.ajaxmfs.com/ajax-news.

About Ajax Metal Forming Solutions

Ajax Metal Forming Solutions is an ISO 9001:2015 manufacturer that produces engineered parts for companies in climate control, transportation, architecture, auxiliary power, engineered products, and related industries. The company’s diverse ownership group includes 3rd generation family members, key company leaders, and Heartland Equity Partners, a mission-based private equity company. Ajax employs about 75 colleagues at the company’s Minneapolis campus. Visit Ajax at www.ajaxmfs.com.

About Heartland Equity Partners

Heartland Equity Partners is a Midwest investment fund focused on value creation through a process of investment, growth, and long-term retention. The fund invests in successful Upper Midwest manufacturing, value-added distribution, and business services companies that demonstrate stability and profitable growth opportunities.  Visit Heartland Equity Partners at www.heartland.fund.

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Ajax Partners With University of Minnesota Ventilator Design Team

Ajax Partners With University of Minnesota Ventilator Design Team

Minneapolis, March 30, 2020 – When it comes to COVID-19 illness, ventilators can save lives. But there’s too few to go around.

That’s why University of Minnesota Anesthesiologist Stephen Richardson came up with a ventilator design that uses low-cost, off-the-shelf parts and could be manufactured quickly.  But he needed a prototype for his design, so he turned to the U of M’s Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center (BMDC) for assistance.

The BMDC team, headed by Dr. Art Erdman, a long-time University of Minnesota mechanical engineering professor, set up an emergency manufacturing and assembly facility and is now on generation 3.2 of the ventilator prototype, now called the “Coventor.”

“To date, we have been addressing at least five projects in response to the crisis. The first is the Coventor-A COVID-19 Ventilation System,” Dr. Erdman stated Friday in a BMDC email. “We are in awe of the tremendous outpouring of all the offers to help us in our development of a low-cost ventilation system in response to the COVID-19 crisis.”

Cara Piazza, a U of M Graduate Student in Mechanical Engineering who works on the Coventor project at the BMDC, said Dr. Richardson presented his idea a few weeks ago. “We were all hands on deck with this project. It’s a great idea. We do what we do for moments like this.”

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a global shortage of ventilators, devices that are critical to the survival of many COVID-19 patients. Many ventilators were already in use by non-COVID-19 patients, leaving emergency rooms in desperation.

“What’s unique about our design is that it’s a low-cost, mass-production unit that gets the job done. It’s designed for emergency use. We can send our design all over the world, and it can be reproduced.”

Cara is responsible for working with companies who are partnering with the BMDC to design and develop parts that are not available off-the-shelf or online.  More than 300 companies and individuals submitted offers to help, she said.

Making The Connection

“There were key components of our generation 3.2 design that needed sheet metal. Through our connection with Ajax, we were able to meet a need for 25 units,” Cara said. “We may have units in hospitals next month, maybe even sooner.”

The connection happened almost by chance.  A member of the Ajax board picked up the Sunday paper and read about the BMDC project last week and realized that Ajax was in a good position to assist.

Ajax manufactures parts for HVACR (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration), healthcare, transportation, agriculture, and other critical industries. The company is classified as an essential service provider by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and remains open.

The board member, through a mutual friend, facilitated introductions Sunday morning.  Dr. Richardson explained his idea to the Ajax team and sent a drawing for examination. Kent Djubek, Ajax president, set the wheels in motion that day.

Into Production

By Sunday afternoon, Kent had enlisted the services of Talon Ganz, engineer and lead programmer at Ajax, to apply his expertise in SolidWorks® CAD/CAM applications. Talon quickly prepared the files needed to operate Ajax’s computerized fabrication machinery.

Talon and Kent recommended several design improvements that would lower costs and speed production. Rather than machining parts from billet aluminum, which would have been slow and expensive, the Ajax team decided to laser-cut the parts from stainless steel, a durable material that is widely available. The Ajax team also suggested the elimination of through-bolts by using the Ajax auto tapper.

The plan worked out. The stainless blanks were cut on one of the Ajax Salvagnini L3 fiber optic lasers, then deburred and formed on a press brake. By Monday afternoon, the team had ten units for Cara to examine. She then contacted Kent with a few more improvements, and by late morning on Wednesday, just three days after the drawings were delivered, Cara picked up 25 assembled enclosures that she rushed back to the BMDC for final assembly. “We had super-fast sheet metal work,” she said.

Ajax provided all programming and consulting services, materials, and labor for this project at no cost to the BMDC. The company keeps stainless steel on hand, so the team did not have to wait for materials.

“What was most gratifying to me was the enthusiasm our colleagues had for this project,” Kent said. “We prioritized this work because we knew the need was extreme. Community service has an empowering effect on people.”

About The University of Minnesota Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center

The BMDC, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is missioned to train the next generation of medical device innovators, to accelerate medical device development, to support teaching programs, to interface with the medical industry, and to help improve health care worldwide.

The BMDC is the namesake of electrical engineer and mathematician Earl E. Bakken, a founder of Medtronic, one of the world’s largest medical device companies.  Mr. Bakken developed the first external, battery-operated, transistorized, wearable artificial pacemaker in 1957. Visit the BDMC http://www.mdc.umn.edu.

About Ajax Metal Forming Solutions

Ajax Metal Forming Solutions is an ISO 9001:2015 metal forming solutions provider serving industrial and commercial manufacturers.  The company’s diverse ownership group includes 3rd generation family members, key company leaders, and Heartland Equity Partners, a mission-based private equity company.

Ajax is celebrating its 75th year in 2020.  The company employs about 65 colleagues at the company’s Minneapolis campus. Visit Ajax at www.ajaxmfs.com.

The Components Produced By Ajax – This is a SolidWorks® model of the 4-part Coventor enclosure produced by Ajax Metal Forming Solutions of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Ajax recommended several design improvements that made the Coventor faster and easier to manufacture and assemble.

The Coventor Prototypes – Ajax delivered 25 assembled Coventor enclosures to the University of Minnesota Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The BMDC set up an emergency manufacturing facility to complete the Coventor assemblies.

It’s Time For The Metal Forming Industry To Shine

It’s Time For The Metal Forming Industry To Shine

A Message Of Inspiration From Ajax President Kent Djubek.

America has a remarkable ability to land on its feet. That will once again be the case as we fight past this current pandemic.

The management group here at Ajax remains very confident in our ability to emerge from this crisis stronger, smarter, and better prepared. Our 75 arduous but productive years have hardened us against challenges. We know we can win.

Three years ago, we teamed up with Heartland Equity Partners, a community-minded investment fund with an outstanding record of stewardship. We’re fortunate to have a leadership team this experienced and resourceful.

On the people side of the equation, there’s even more to appreciate. Our department heads are proven individuals who are committed to their assignments. Our colleagues on the plant floor are demonstrating impressive bravery as they press on despite uncertainty.

We also view this moment as a rare opportunity to form our young people into the manufacturing leaders of the future. They’ll fall back on this experience and use it to project confidence each time a storm gathers on the horizon. They’ll also learn critical steps for maintaining the wellness of a workforce as they witness everything we’re doing at both our locations to prevent spread.

Most importantly, our essential industry customers continue to demand the parts and services Ajax provides. With guidance from the National Association of Manufacturers, the Centers for Disease Control, the Precision Metalforming Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we have followed guidelines perfectly and have maintained our critical supplier status.

Due to the nature of COVID-19, air handling and purification is an area of immediate need among health care providers. With decades of experience serving heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration companies, as well as medical instrument manufacturers, Ajax will continue to provide our customers with the formed parts they require to meet this demand.  Ajax is indeed part of the solution.

My belief that America has the resources and the will to endure is shared by many. Congress is taking action to pump new life into the American economy. Our manufacturing community has the perseverance to get past this character-building moment.

It’s time for the metal forming industry to shine.  All it will take is teamwork.

Ajax At Design2Part

Ajax At Design2Part

Ajax Metal Forming Solutions is exhibiting in booth 331 today, November 14, at the Design2Part trade show in Charlotte, North Carolina. Visit Ajax Vice President of Sales Don Wellman and Sales Engineer Jayson Marcott and take a look at the dozens of metal formed parts they have on hand in the Ajax exhibit.