The plant employs 60 to 70, including some from the former Bliss Technologies, and expects to hire more as it grows.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- Quaker Manufacturing Corp.'s year-old Austintown plant is ready to battle for contracts from the Big Three automakers, now that it's acquired quality certifications that Ford, General Motors and Daimler-Chrysler demand.
Jeffrey Whinnery, quality assurance manager, said an independent auditing company has awarded the metal stamping and electro-static painting plant QS9000, 1998 and ISO, 1993 quality certifications.
The successful, weeklong audit culminated seven months of preparation by employees at the Four Mile Run Road plant.
"This could substantially increase our business," he said. "The Big Three automakers all require certification to this level, so it opens a large market to us and gives us an edge over competitors."
Companies supplying parts to the automakers are also interested in buying from manufacturers who have achieved a high quality certification level, he said, because it makes it easier for them to maintain and prove their own quality credentials.
Whinnery said the company is "aggressively seeking new business" for the metal brackets, braces and other components it produces and expects to expand its work force as it grows.
"We have big plans," he said.
The audit: Smithers Quality Assessments Inc. of Akron, the auditing firm, reviewed every plant process, from purchasing of materials, to manufacturing, from shipping to inspection and record-keeping.
"You not only have to do things right, you have to be able to prove that you did it right," Whinnery explained.
Quaker will be required to submit to regular auditor inspections every six months to retain the certifications.
With headquarters in Salem, Quaker bought the Austintown plant at a bankruptcy auction in Detroit last spring, about a month after the former Bliss Technologies shut down its operations there and in Newton Falls.
The Bliss closings idled about 350 in Newton Falls and 150 in Austintown.
Bliss, an automotive supplier which made bumpers for Ford Econoline vans and other motor vehicle products, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2000.
Whinnery said the company renamed the Austintown facility Quaker Manufacturing Inc. and now employs between 60 and 70 full-time workers there.
Some former Bliss employees were hired, but Whinnery could not say how many.
Sprucing up: Quaker is also working on an extensive remodeling and refurbishing of the plant and its administrative offices, he said.
Quaker's Salem headquarters, which has tool-and-die and metal stamping divisions, also maintains the quality certifications recently acquired by its Austintown plant.
Don Hartman, general manager, said the Salem plant is a Tier 2 supplier for General Motors, meaning it supplies parts for some of the automaker's Tier 1 parts suppliers.
The plant also provides occasional factory assistance for GM when the automaker has an equipment problem, he said.
Plastech Engineered Products of Dearborn, Mich., bought the former Bliss plant at 1536 First St. in Newton Falls.
Plastech officials did not return calls requesting information about the facility.