Century Extrusion is a leading global supplier of highly engineered twin screw extrusion systems as well as high performance process section components. The Michigan based company delivers a complete range of products, from single machines to entire turnkey production plants.
Century Extrusion is also one of the largest suppliers in the world of replacement parts for twin screw extruders. This includes parts for machines produced by other manufacturers as well as for Century Extrusion’s own models.
The company is known for the quality of its products, which are built for extreme wear, high speed/high torque processing, and machine reliability. “One of our strong suits is that the equipment we build here is really known as being technically, and from a reliability standpoint, the best of the best,” says Charlie Spearing, Century Extrusion’s General Manager of Global Sales and Tech. Century Extrusion is also recognized for its market leading service department. “Besides the equipment itself—which really makes us stand out—I would say we are really the industry leader in the service and the parts.”
Century Extrusion was launched in 1969 as a high tolerance machine parts manufacturer and has had a strong history of service ever since. “The culture of being responsive, of being detail-oriented, of understanding that people who need parts are sometimes down—that culture was driven into this company for years,” Mr. Spearing explains. “Years later we evolved into being a machine builder and that culture translated perfectly into the machinery business.”
The company continues to expand its capabilities. “Our scope is so, so much bigger than it was years ago. Today we are doing turnkey plants. And, the larger we get in scope, the more beneficial our culture is.” The team prides itself on adaptability and flexibility to ensure that customers get exactly what they want. “They [customers] say, ‘your competitors tell us what we are going to get and how it will be.’ But they see us as very collaborative, very responsive, very flexible. And when you get into [building] a whole plant, that is really, really a benefit to the customer.”
A global reach
Century Extrusion expanded into China while maintaining an active plant in Michigan. “We acquired the company in China in 2007 and one of the greatest [accomplishments] in our last ten years is that what we have done in China has not cannibalized what we have done here at all. It has actually helped our site in Michigan grow.”
The Chinese plant and the US plant each have separate, yet complementary, purposes. “Here [in Michigan] we make the machine that competes at the very highest level technically,” Mr. Spearing explains. “In China we have a machine that is designed to be very economical. We also have a machine where we take the critical components that are manufactured here and assemble them with what we call noncritical components in China, so we are able to deliver a very high-performance but cost-effective machine.”
The overseas expansion was customer-driven. “Some of the customers that we built [for] in Europe and North America said, ‘we want to expand in Asia and we need to compete with companies that are based there, so we need to take a hard look at the equipment that we put into these plants in Asia.” Century Extrusion stepped up to provide that superior machinery, and the expansion opened the gateway for even more future growth. “We acquired a nice portion of the market in Asia and that has really been a springboard to expand into a number of other regions around the world.”
This global presence brings significant advantages that the team dubs “local service, global reach.” Customers that have only one location benefit from Century Extrusion’s knowledge of broader markets, while still receiving personalized service. “We have many, many customers that only have one facility,” Mr. Spearing shares. “They want to know that is going on in the rest of the world and have us bring our experience to them.”
The team also has many multinational customers, which also benefit from the company’s local service and global reach. “These are the largest customers, the largest producers in the world in the plastics and chemical markets. What they want us to be able to do is to develop a platform for them—a certain machine or a certain process line—and they want to make sure that we can repeat that around the world wherever their plant is, but also understand that there might be local specifications, regulations, or safety rules.”
Century Extrusion has been careful to maintain high standards at its plant in China. “We have global reach and for us to successfully do that we have to very closely and carefully manage our other facility. We worked very, very hard to make sure that our quality standards were translated to our people and processes in China.” The company sent employees to work in the Chinese plant for long periods of time in order to create a smooth transition and ensure quality production. “I lived there for a year,” Mr. Spearing remembers. “We had our engineering manager live there for a year as well as our international sales manager. We also had an employee from our site in China live in the US for a year. It was a two-way exchange. We wanted to learn more about the operation, more about culturally what is different about customers. But we also wanted to help our folks in China understand what we felt was key to success.”
Community involvement and company culture
Century Extrusion is an active member of the community and the broader industry. The industry faces a significant workforce shortage and the team is stepping in to help alleviate the situation. This ongoing effort includes the president’s involvement in a steering committee at a local trade institute. “We do get involved with the local trade institutions. We [are] trying to drive the growth of the machine-building machinist by offering our input [on] what we thought were key points to their education and skill set to help develop that pool of the workforce.”
The company also offers training programs to help build and maintain the industry’s pool of talent. “We have ramped up internal training. It was always there, but we have really pushed harder on that the last few years.” In addition, the team is very involved in local community-building nonprofits such as 4-H. Century Extrusion also fundraises for its own employees. “We often do benefit dinners if an employee has a problem that taxes them financially. I would say twice a quarter we have a potluck and people donate whatever they feel like they can to back up the employee. The company matches what the employees contribute.”
The company also supports employees through a robust wellness initiative. “We have a lot of employee [programs] that are unique for our region,” Mr. Spearing shares. “We have an excellent employee wellness program here to support activities that will contribute to health in a positive way.” Through this program, Century Extrusion offers reimbursements on gym memberships and discounts on insurance if certain health metrics are met. The company also sponsors races and other fitness activities. “We pay for those for anybody who wants to participate.” A company wellness committee publishes a newsletter every month that covers everything from healthy eating tips to the latest fitness gadgets.
The company’s concern for employee welfare has also led to a top-notch safety program. “We continuously receive the industry’s highest marks and have won numerous awards. We go way, way beyond the industry standards.”
Looking ahead, the team plans to continue supporting employees and producing market-leading product that is known for its quality and reliability. Staying ahead of the game will likely mean ramping up the company’s international presence even more. “Geographical presence is number one,” Mr. Spearing summarizes. “[We will] continue to leverage not only the combined capabilities of our sites, but the specialized capabilities. Here in Michigan we are the technical center of competence; in China [it is about] speed and being cost-effective. So we will continue to leverage both ends of that.”