Weathering the Storm

Shape Corp.
Written by William Young

Full-service impact energy management supplier Shape Corp. specializes in multi-material solutions, including steel, aluminum, plastics, composites and hybrid solutions. While its global headquarters is in Michigan, this company has manufacturing facilities and offices established in countries around the world.

Having been in business for 47 years, the company expanded its aluminum capabilities by acquiring Magnode in 2018, bringing 70 years of expertise and technology that allows it to stand out from others in the aluminum industry.

The complex geometry, engineered alloys, and tolerances developed over the past seven decades are in heavy demand. While the company’s work is anchored in the automotive industry, its aluminum division additionally serves a range of sectors. More recently, it is increasingly focusing its attention on electric vehicles (EVs).

Since the company’s previous profile in Business in Focus in 2018, Shape Corp. has continued to build its brand. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) customers now understand that this is a multi-material company with aluminum as a large part of a bigger whole, so the company has seen a lot of growth. Shape Corp. continues to invest in resources, processes, and systems to support customers, as well as expanding its global outfits, an endeavor bolstered by its current presence in Asia, Europe and Mexico.

Complex impact energy management structures are the company’s bread-and-butter within the automotive industry, whether supplying components or a full assembly. Connected to this demand are EVs with their significant aluminum content, as Managing Director of Shape’s Aluminum Division, Mark Butterfield, explains.

“An EV structure or battery tray is very complex, so the ability to produce complex larger profiles and a very tight tolerance with alloys that are developed specifically for that product’s performance needs aids in assembly and [in] total value of those products,” he says.

The more complex the part that is required, the more value Shape Corp. can bring to a client’s project, and the company will frequently engage with customers early in a project to provide the kind of technical direction at which it excels. OEMs work closely with company team members, and Butterfield credits this as a big reason for increased customer confidence.

Butterfield is also quick to credit the efforts of the workforce as contributing to the company’s growth and continued success. Shape is “very niche and specialized and respected in the industry for what we do. It requires a specialized workforce in every aspect… success is based off of team members.” Workers undergo a lot of training and must demonstrate a thorough understanding of the project.

Shape Corp. adapted well to the remarkable events of 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, the company took early actions to prioritize the protection of team members and customers as well as the health of the business. Butterfield feels that this strengthened the company throughout the necessary reworking of its processes. Into June-July 2020, predictions of increased sales volume would prove correct, as Shape was able to meet the growing demand from essential market segments like government, medical, military, and infrastructure.

“We were able to take advantage of our experience and customer base to mitigate the impact of COVID,” Butterfield says. As restrictions now begin to alleviate and a return to normalcy seems imminent, the company has become affected by an industry-wide semiconductor shortage, which continues to leave a significant market impact. Industry, at large, is still working through the shortage, as companies like Shape look to minimize ill effects by utilizing their networks of customers and market segments to fill those voids.

Shape Corp. left 2020 in a strong position with respect to performance and demand despite any pandemic-related setbacks, as the aluminum industry – and extrusion in particular – was strong in several areas. The building and construction sectors are recovering, and automotive has stayed strong, so demand still exists in the company’s regular industry customer segments.

As 2021 continues, Shape is recovering from both the ongoing semiconductor shortage and the lingering effects of COVID-19. The company has done its best to diminish risk associated with these hurdles, and the company will be implementing key measures in 2023 to achieve its goals for 2025.

As Butterfield says, “We’re the aluminum division associated with Shape Corp., but we are a truly a multi-material, solutions-based company – plastics, composites, steel, et cetera – allowing us to best serve our customers’ needs.”

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