‘Metal Surgeons’ mark 45 years

Accraline still in founder’s family

KEVIN ALLEN South Bend Tribune kallen@sbtinfo.com Aug 12, 2013


BREMEN – There’s a steady hum inside Accraline’s machine shop.

It’s the sound of a busy place, one where people have work to do.

A man at one station carefully uses a rubber mallet to move a steel part into its exact placement on a towering forging press. The sound of metal grinding can be heard in the background at another machine.

“Technically, anything man-made in this world starts in a machine shop,” Accraline General Manager Cris Cormican said. “Your shirt, your shoes, your iPhone.”

Before most products land on a store shelf, they’re made with molds or machines themselves fabricated in a shop like Accraline, which has been in Bremen for 45 years.

Richard Cormican started the company in 1968 with one machine in a small garage downtown. His sons, Cris and Mark Cormican, run it now.

“He and his partner bought one machine, and ran it day and night until they got the machine paid for,” Cris Cormican said of his father. “Then they bought a second machine and just went on from there. You hire one employee, and then you pay for your third machine and work your way up slowly.”

Accraline moved in 1974 to a 4,000-square-foot building on West Bike Street in the industrial area on Bremen’s northwest side. Since then, the company’s complex has grown to encompass more than 50,000 square feet.

Cris Cormican said the business, which employs about 20 people, has succeeded because of its depth and diversity.

“We have three or four of the same machine, so we always have backups if one were to break down,” he said. “Or if volume were to increase quickly, we could increase our output just as quickly.”

Accraline has customers, such as Caterpillar, in the heavy-equipment industry. It also works with companies that make machine tools and energy firms involved in oil, natural gas and power generation, including components for wind turbines.

The company has customers across the United States as well as in Europe and China. Workers were preparing a shipment of axles for a California trolley system during The Tribune’s recent visit.

Cormican said Accraline makes a lot of custom, one-of-a-kind parts that weigh as much as 40,000 pounds. He pointed out a 28,000-pound component for a forging press that will be shipped to a customer in Cleveland.

“The neat thing about that design is it’s probably out of the ’30s or ’40s, but it’s such a good design they still build them,” he said. “That ought to tell you how long it took to wear one out, because here it is 80 years later before they need another new one.”

Accraline uses manual-run machines for its custom orders, but it also has computer numerical control machines — commonly referred to as CNCs — for volume production.

“A lot of your machine shops are production shops, where they’ll run 10 or 20 or hundreds or thousands of an item or a family of items,” Cormican said. “The CNCs are the way to go with those kinds of parts. But if there’s only one of them, it’s almost faster to use a manual machine.”

The shop has a mix of high-tech CNCs as well as manual machines, some of which date back to the 1940s and have been refurbished in house by Accraline employees.

Cormican said all of the shop’s employees are journeymen tool-and-die makers and able to run different pieces of equipment. The company calls those workers “metal surgeons” to reflect their expertise.

“They understand the projects front to back, top to bottom,” he said.

Even Cormican, who grew up around Accraline and spent time at the shop instead of “watching Saturday-morning cartoons,” does a little bit of everything at the business.

When asked his job title for this article, he responded with a laugh, “I haven’t decided on one yet.”

Asked again, he settled on one.

“General manager,” he said. “How’s that?”