History of Ajax Metal Forming Solutions
The company now known as Ajax Metal Forming Solutions was founded shortly after the end of WWII in 1945 by Swedish immigrant and inventor Erick Julius Ajax. Erick was a skilled machinist with an entrepreneurial spirit who received several U.S. patents for his product ideas. Providing machine shop services out of his garage, then later out of a 6,000 square foot space in the Northtown train yards in Minneapolis, Erick was joined by his sons Wallace “Bud” and Warren Ajax. Together they operated the company as E.J. Ajax & Sons.
Following Erick’s death in 1948, Bud and Warren managed the fledgling company through several stages of growth until 1982, when the company was purchased by Erick’s youngest son, Sheldon, and his wife, Barbara. In 1985, Sheldon and Barbara moved the company to its current plant location in Fridley, Minnesota. With two production bays and 12,000 square feet of space, Sheldon and Barbara continued to grow the company, assisted by other members of the Ajax family.
Sheldon and Barbara’s sons, Erick and Tom, joined the firm in the early 1980s and began to learn the business, assuming positions in production, purchasing, human resources, information technology, and customer account management. The business continued to flourish into the 90s, requiring expansion into a third production bay and bringing the company’s total space to 18,000 square feet. By 1995, new and larger customers were being added and production space was tight. The company then bought the entire plant building and leased portions to tenants.
Sheldon and Barbera retired in 1997 and sold the business to Erick and Tom. Together, these two grandsons of the founder embarked on a growth plan that included the occupation of the entire 60,000 square foot plant building. A second location adjacent to the first was purchased in 2016 that now serves as the company’s business office.
(L-R) Heartland Board Members Tom Ajax, Erick Ajax, VP of Sales Don Wellman, and President Kent Djubek.
Erick retired in 2017 and Tom in 2018, having together built an impressive legacy of business acumen, bold innovation, and outstanding corporate citizenship. Company President Kent Djubek and Vice President of Sales Don Wellman assumed day-to-day responsibilities for operating the company.
As part of their retirement plan, Erick and Tom made the decision to sell the majority of the company. In the fall of 2017, Heartland Equity Partners of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, acquired a majority ownership position in E.J. Ajax and Sons, Inc. and changed the name of the company to Ajax Metal Forming Solutions. Heartland is an investment fund focused on growth, good stewardship, and honoring the legacy of previous owners by preserving their values and creating good jobs in Midwestern communities.
Erick and Tom Ajax continue as equity owners and have joined the board of directors. Don Wellman, vice president of sales and marketing, also expanded his ownership position and provides leadership for the growing customer relationship team at Ajax.
In May of 2021, the company opened a second manufacturing location in the Raleigh, North Carolina area. The 25,000 square foot facility will provide sheet metal fabrication and related metal forming services for new and existing Ajax customers along the Atlantic Coast.
This new location brought total employment to more than 80 colleagues in both locations.
Ajax Company Timeline of Events
1945 – Following the end of WWII, grandfather Erick Ajax began providing machine shop services to customers in Minneapolis.
1945 to 1982 – Working out of a six thousand square foot shop in south Fridley, Minnesota, sons Bud and Warren Ajax operated the company until it was purchased by Sheldon and Barbara Ajax in 1982, the parents of the current owners.
1982 – Tom Ajax joined the company.
1984 – Erick Ajax joined the company.
1988 – The company leased a portion of the current building and moved in, operating from two production bays. Tom Ajax is appointed company president.
1995 – The company purchased the current building and leasing a portion of the building to tenants.
1997 – Sheldon and Barbara retired and sold the business to the current owners, Tom and Erick Ajax. Tom and Erick used operating profits to make the purchase and never missed a payment.
1993 – Erick Ajax developed the company’s first apprenticeship program with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.
2001 – The company purchased a new Minster 200-ton press for $500,000, the largest capital equipment investment in the company’s history. This large machine adds high-volume progressive metal forming to the company’s capabilities, lowering per-part costs to the customer while increasing quality.
2004 – Kent Djubek appointed company president. Kent’s depth of metal forming experience and breadth of knowledge make him the ideal person for that role.
2008 – The company purchased a new LVD Strippit programmable turret press, an extremely versatile programmable press that can produce perfectly formed parts from a variety of metal types at high speed, enabling the company to sell to a new tier of OEM customer. The investment was $500,000.
2012 – The company invested in a new Salvagnini Fiber Laser at a cost of $1 million. This programmable machine uses a computer-controlled beam of light to cut metal sheets into shapes with extreme detail and accuracy.
2013 – The company purchased a 90-ton Cincinnati press brake, and another 175- ton in 2015. The company also invested in two AIDA servo presses at a cost of $500,00 each. Servo technology becomes a game-changer in metal forming, providing exciting new forming capabilities and once again attracting new OEM customers to the company.
2014 – Ajax receives ISO 9001:2008 certification, with further certification to the new 2015 ISO standard, in recognition of the company’s world-class quality management systems.
2015 – The company took over total occupancy of the building as tenant leases expire, bringing production space up to 50,000 square feet. Another LVD Strippit turret press is purchased. More emphasis is placed on marketing, including attending trade shows and purchasing a new show exhibit that displays videos, photos, and formed part samples. The exhibit uses double-sided graphics so that it can be converted for recruiting events by Curt Jasper.
2016 – The company added new technology to the Quality Assurance lab, including a new FARO measurement arm and scanning probe. This enables the company to perform 3D inspections of the formed parts they produce and to reverse engineer parts that customers provide.
2017 – The company purchased the adjacent building, adding 22,000 square feet of floor space. Erick Ajax retires. Tom Ajax stays on part time.
2021 – Second production location opened in Wilson, North Carolina, adding 25,000 square feet of production space.