9451 S. Meridian Rd. Clarklake Mi 49234 • Phone 517.529.9454 • Fax 517.529.4110
Clarklake Machine, Inc. [Click For Home Page]
Clarklake Machine, Inc.
Lessen the Severity of Carousel Crashes
By Charles Bates | For the American Machinist | Penton Media, Inc. Tuesday, January 19 2010
Severe machine crashes seem to be inevitable, but now, when they happen, shops can replace only the damaged segments of a vertical machining center’s tool disk instead of the whole carousel-type disk. What makes this possible is a retrofitted CMI Segmented Tool Disk from Clarklake Machine Inc.

Often, after crashes due to accidents, machine malfunctions, operator errors or taper locks caused by debris or heat, operators must replace a machine’s entire one-piece stock tool disk. The CMI tool disk, made for Haas VF-Series CAT-40 20- tool machining centers, incorporates individual segments that are attached to a base plate and are replaceable.

The tool disk is made of precision-machined 6061-T6 billet aluminum. If the segmented disk becomes damaged, only the effected segments are replaced. Preassembled, the 21-piece unit has 20 segmented tool pockets and one base plate. This is also a “green” technology that helps reduce the overall carbon footprint of high-tech CNC equipment.

CMI Segmented CAT40 Tool Disk
CMI Segmented Tool Disks feature removable segments that allow shops to replace only damaged portions after a machine crash.

CMI Segmented CAT40 Tool Disk

Your Commitment to the CMI "Segmented" Tool Changer products is Appreciated

See on entire product line by going to eBay and typing into the Search Box HAAS TOOL CHANGER

Make your purchase in the secure manner using PAYPAL.

Now 6+ years with over 200 units purchased in 38 US States, Mexico, Canada, and the State of Israel What others have been saying... Thanks for your interest in our remarkable products, Sincerely, Bill Hirsch billh@clarklakemachine.com (517)529-9454 EX 17

"Hi Bill; Thanks for the follow-up. The disk is working fine so far. I have the 10-position disk for the Mini-Mill. The machine doesn't really run that many hours in a year, but so far everything has been fine. Again, thanks for asking. I see that as good customer service; something we all find sorely lacking in most of our dealings on this continent. Best Regards; Gord Henderson Bear Creek Machining Surrey, British Columbia, Canada 778-551-0607"

" Hi Bill I just want you to know this is the best tool disk I have ever used. I only have a small shop, but this disk has had a lot of use. It has not missed a beat since the day it was installed on my VF-1 Haas. Thanks for making a great product that has saved me time and a lot of grief. Ernie Miller Custom CNC Cutting 2528 Sterling Avenue Elkhart, IN 46516 (574)238-7524 emiller@customcnccutting.com info@customcnccutting.com

“Bill Thanks for checking in, love the product. After having installed your segmented tool disk we've never had a tool changer issue, no dropped tools, no shuttle faults and most importantly no stuck holders. I've told everyone I know whom owns a Haas about your product and they all have your number, really a great design. Good luck with continued sales on your fantastic product, God Bless and thanks again for checking in. Michael Sorensen” purchased CAT40/20, Sorensen Design,LLC Medford, Oregon 541 488-5466

"It’s not working so we just send our work to You instead Just Kidding works great Irv Stone” Purchased CAT40/20, RTD Manufacturing Jackson, Michigan 517-7831892

"Hi Bill, We have had no issues with the product and we are very happy with the purchase. We would recommend this product to others with the same machine. Thanks, Dave Bush" Purchased CAT40/20, Innovative Technologies, Columbia, Maryland(443) 878-1112

"Hi Bill, Thanks for the email. The tool disk is working fine, but keep in mind that I do not use it with a Haas toolchanger but rather for our own application. Regards, Mark Bliek" Purchased CAT40/20, Bolton Works - Precision 3D scanning (860) 646-3948

“It works great...no problems what so ever! Carlene & Ronnie Styles” purchased CAT40/20 Supreme Tool & Die Company Greer, South Carolina 864-8772634

“Hello Bill Tool disk is working fine. We are very happy with this tool. Thanks for asking.” JORGE DEL ALIZAL purchased 2@ CAT40/20 12/11/09 ALL PRO TRADING, S.A. DE C.V. DISTRIBUIDOR AUTORIZADO DE WALKER PRODUCTS TEL: 4330-1680, Tlanepantla, Mexico

"Hi Bill Works great. Very satisfied, Henry Neville” Purchased CAT40/20 on Power and Composite Technologies Amsterdamn, New York 518-843-6825Great product! Fit my VF3 with no problems. Shipped same day as ordered."

“Hi Bill, The machine is up and running, we are very pleased with the unit, we may just buy another to avoid downtime, use us as a reference anytime Thanks,Robert Guy” purchased CAT40/20 Lake Ridge Precision Company LTD, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada (905) 723-4144

“Hi Bill, It work really good, thanks for asking. Have a nice weekend. Best Regards Peter Dinh” purchased CAT40/20 Circle Precision Machining Inc. South Houston, Texas Tel: 713-946-4903

Thank you,

Clarklake Machine, Incorporated

For more information, visit The American Machinist's website at
Monthly Business Feature-Clarklake Machine
By Debbie Kelly | For The Enterprise Group of Jackson, Inc. Friday, November 13, 2009 7:32 AM
Since September 2008, many Michigan economists and business leaders have labeled the times as tough for the manufacturing industry in our State, and yet the owners of Clarklake Machine, Incorporated (CMI) have accepted the ‘new reality’ as a challenge. In spite of the poor economy its leadership have determined to move ahead and grow their company. “We are not the same company today we were back then. Right sizing our staff, living within our means, not over extending ourselves financially is our goal. We are determined to survive and nurture our industry by developing a diversified product line that attracts additional customers in new sectors and that is precisely how Clarklake Machine continues to thrive,” said Michael P. DeKarske, President and Plant Manager.

The family-run high tech precision machining business calls 9451 South Meridian Road, Clarklake, Michigan its home. CMI specializes in the manufacture of parts and components for aerospace, cardiovascular rehabilitation equipment, custom motorcycle transmissions, power generation, traditional heavy trucking, and its newest clients representing the U.S. Department of Defense. “Because of thoughtful, well constructed plans our business model is not driven by a frightened reaction of the 24/7 news cycle you hear but instead motivated by the specific demands spoken by our customers. We listen to what they are telling us. You might call the outcome - new product line development,” said DeKarske. This macro approach of flexibility has allowed the company to expand its previous customer base.

Clarklake Machine, Incorporated is the recent recipient of a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition given by the One Hundred and Eleventh U.S. Congress, Washington, DC. This honor was presented to the company on August 14, 2009 as the chosen recipient of the Jackson County Government Contractor of the Year through its collaboration with The Procurement Technical Assistance Center, a member of The Enterprise Group of Jackson, Inc.

“Clarklake Machine has successfully navigated government contract opportunities through the procurement services we offer here at our local PTAC office. The company has been able to successfully diversify its products and, as a result, has received a substantial federal government contract” stated Pennie Southwell, Program Director of PTAC.

Since then, CMI was awarded a new 5-year project from the DoD to manufacture complete wheel hub assemblies for the M119 Howitzer system required by TACOM LCMC. In addition, CMI is featured in the trade journal Manufacturing Engineering, October 2009 Edition’s Product Previews. The article and photograph discuss the development concept and public offering of their “CMI Segmented Tool Disk.” The product is enjoying sales to date in New York, Maryland, Connecticut, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Missouri, and Ontario, Canada. The fundamental nature of this unique product is that it is founded on principle of Green Technology. The CMI Segmented Tool Disk is constructed from solid high tech 6061-T6 Aluminum and replaces a part made from a cast material. The modular design actually reduces the need for future replacement and thus extends the longevity of CNC machinery while at the same time reducing the carbon foot print of the equipment throughout its life cycle.

Historically, Clarklake Machine, originally started out as a tool and die shop, the company was incorporated in 1966 as Saari Associates. Michael and his brother Mark together with their father, the late Henry DeKarske purchased the company in 1981, and received QS-9000 certification in 1997. The company has continually evolved by expanding to a 20,000 square foot facility that performs precision prototype transition to production machining, manufacturing and assemblies. The company’s knowledge of its customers’ parts enable it to improve quality and reduce costs with its state-of-the-art precision machining equipment and engineering design services. The company is noted for its fine craftsmanship and their superior quality parts at affordable prices.

CMI provides a wide range of services to a variety of industries. CMI operates at all levels of production volume, and provides prototyping, concept development and reverse engineering services.

For more information on Clarklake Machine, please visit their Web site at:

For more information, visit The EG's website at http://www.enterprisegroup.org/
Manufacturing Engineering
October, 2009 Issue Volume 143 No. 4
Prouduct Previews

Manufacturing Engineering October-2009 Manufacturing Engineering October-2009 page-71

For more information, visit The ME's website at www.sme.org/manufacturingengineering
Government Contractor of the Year Award announced
By Debbie Kelly | For the The Enterprise Group of Jackson, Inc. Monday August 10, 2009, 10:51 AM
Government Contractor of the Year Award announced

(Jackson, MI) - The Enterprise Group of Jackson's Procurement Technical Assistance Center has selected Clarklake Machine, Inc. as the Jackson County Government Contractor of the Year. The award ceremony will be held at the Clarklake Machine facility at 9451 S. Meridian Road - US 127 at 2:30 p.m. August 14. Congressman Mark Schauer will present the award.

"We re thrilled that Jackson County businesses are recognizing the benefit of participating in government contracting through PTAC services provided at The Enterprise Group of Jackson," said Scott Fleming, president and CEO of The Enterprise Group of Jackson. "The economic impact of these government contracts will help diversify the Jackson economy."

In addition to Jackson County, PTAC also serves Branch, Hillsdale, Lenawee, Eaton, Ingham, and Clinton counties. Total contract awards for the entire PTAC service area this year is over $5.5 million. PTAC, funded by various governmental partners, supports national security by ensuring a broad base of capable suppliers for the defense industry and other agencies. They offer a variety of services for Jackson County businesses, such as obtaining the ability to bid on federal contracts, market research, one-on-one business counseling, training seminars, networking events, conferences, and Internet business opportunities.

The Enterprise Group of Jackson, Inc. (EG) was established in 1997 to lead business recruitment and retention in Jackson County. Their goal is to streamline the economic development process. The EG is comprised of Jackson's leading business organizations: Jackson Area Manufacturers Association, Academy for Manufacturing Careers, Jackson Small Business & Technology Development Center, Procurement Technical Assistance Center of South Central Michigan, Armory Arts Village and Economic Development Division - former Jackson Alliance for Business Development.

For more information, visit The EG's website at
A note of thanks to all who made this award possible
Problem becomes profit for Clarklake Machine
By Chris Gautz | For the Jackson Citizen Patriot Sunday August 02, 2009, 7:16 PM
A local precision parts manufacturer knows that when your machines aren't running, customers don't get their products on time, and you're not making money.

So when three computer numerical controlled (CNC) machines broke down at the same time several months ago at Clarklake Machine, workers there had had enough.

The problem was with the carousel disk the firm was using on its Haas VF-series milling machines, which are used to produce parts for heavy-duty trucks and motorcycle transmissions.

The solid disk can hold up to 20 interchangeable tools the computer-guided machine is able to use. Over time, the disk can start to crack and will sometimes snap.

This forces the operator to remove the disk and each tool, a task that can take several hours, said Stephen DeKarske, former sales manager for the company.

"Down time is immeasurable in cost," he said.

So Matt DeKarske, the company's tooling and process engineer, came up with a tool changer carousel disk with a modular design. Each of the 20 forks that hold the tools are independently assembled with roll pins. Instead of snapping in half, only the portion being weighed down will bend. If this happens, the operator can remove the fork that has been damaged and insert a replacement.

A standard disk runs more than $600, Stephen DeKarske said, but they sell their modular disk for $525 on eBay. They also sell replacement forks.

He said they not only use them in their machines, they manufacture the disks they sell on a CNC machine that has their disk installed in it.

"This is what the American system is all about," said Bill Rayl, executive director of the Jackson Area Manufacturers Association. "Making opportunities out of adversity."

Diversification of products keeps workers busy at Clarklake Machine
By Ingrid Jacques | For the Jackson Citizen Patriot Sunday January 25, 2009, 7:02 AM
Jim Armstrong works on a part at Clarklake Machine Inc. on S. Meridian Road.Times are tough for the manufacturing industry, but the owners of Clarklake Machine Inc. are taking the pour economy as a challenge. Michael DeKarske, president and plant manager, said the company has continued to do OK through diversifying its product line.

The family-run business at 9451 S. Meridian Road specializes in parts for heavy trucks and motorcycle transmissions, but DeKarske said the business is not afraid to develop new product lines as well. This flexibility has allowed the company to pick up a few new clients. For example, the company is establishing ties with the Department of Defense and has started making parts for medical rehabilitation facilities. In addition, DeKarske said Clarklake Machine has started work for a new company that makes coverings for road signs.

"We do anything to keep busy," DeKarske said. And as work for the automotive industry continues to "go away," DeKarske said, successful manufacturers need to reinvent themselves.

Clarklake Machine, formerly Saari Associates Inc., was incorporated in 1966 by Roy Saari and his two partners. The business began on Airline Drive in Jackson. Despite several expansions, it's been at its current location since the 1970s. The business' 20,000-square-foot plant is roomy enough to accommodate additional growth, DeKarske said.

In 1981, DeKarske purchased the business along with his father, Henry DeKarske, and brother, Mark DeKarske. The family has owned it since. Mark DeKarske is vice president and plant supervisor. Stephen DeKarske, Michael DeKarske's son, is the company representative and sales manager.

Over the years, Michael DeKarske said Clarklake Machine has achieved a solid reputation based on a quick turnaround of products, quality customer service and leading technology. In tough times, this reputation has helped keep the business afloat. The business also strives to offer competitive pricing structures.

Stephen DeKarske's affinity for sales hasn't hurt either, his father said. "He's been making a lot of calls," Michael DeKarske said. Clarklake Machine has customers all around the country and globe, from Tennessee to Belgium to Brazil. But while it is doing better than others, DeKarske said, the business is feeling the effects of the economic climate. In the past year, he went from employing 22 people to 15. And sales are "way down" as well, he said. But DeKarske has high hopes for the future. "2009 is looking to be a much better year," he said. "We're doing our part to keep Michigan going."

Stephen DeKarske, 27, said he started working for the business when he was 15. Around a year ago, the company saw the economy take a downturn and decided to turn his position in quality control into a sales position.

While he had no previous experience in sales and marketing, Stephen DeKarske said he's enjoyed the challenge. In addition to developing the company's Web site, he said he has reached out to other Michigan businesses and even visited a student entrepreneur group at the University of Michigan as a way to encourage future business. Stephen DeKarske said he hopes to take over the company someday. "Owning the shop is a future goal," he said.
In This Corner – Mike DeKarske
By Shannon Maynard | For the Jackson Citizen Patriot Sunday Aucust 31, 2008
Mike DeKarske holds a transmition bell housing outside of Clarklake MachineMike DeKarske is co–owner of Clarklake Machine, Inc. He and his brother, Mark, have run the business since their father retired eight years ago.

Clarklake Machine, Inc. formerly Saari Associates, Inc. started in 1966. Over the past 40 years, the business has gone through many changes. It was started by Roy Saari and two partners, then purchased in 1981 by Henry DeKarske and his two sons, Mark and Mike. Eight years ago, Henry DeKarske retired, leaving his sons to run Clarklake Machine. The business has also moved and expanded several times over the years. It moved in 1978 to its current location on S. Meridian Rd. in Clarklake. Freelance writer Shannon Maynard recently sat down with Mike DeKarske to discuss the business.

Q: What does Clarklake Machine do?
A: We make parts from castings, from forgings and from bar stock. Right now we do a lot of motorcycle transmission parts. We do a lot of over–the–road truck parts and some marine engine parts.

Q: what is your secret to 42 years in business?
A: We roll with the punches. We downsize when we have to. We're also not in a huge amount of debt. We've tried to live within our means.

Q: what types of materials do you work with?
A: Aluminum, steel, stainless steel, cast iron, all kinds of iron. We can even machine plastic.

Q: In what industry is most of your customer base?
A: We do heavy truck and lift truck, motorcycle transmission; it's over–the–road stuff.

Q: What makes your business unique?
A: We make a lot of specialty parts. Not many people can work from the design stage right on through to end. People come in with a design, and we'll give it the finishing touches.

Q: How do other businesses like yours affect what you do?
A: It pushes us to work harder.

Q: Why would someone choose you over your competition?
A: We follow through. We're on time. We have a lot of experience. Our parts are good the first time. We want to work with our customers. We want to make the product better and for less money.

Q: What do you hope to see your business contribute to the community?
A: Not just a place for employment. We need to make a difference. We're probably the cleanest–talking shop around. Most shops you go into are loud and there's a lot of squabbling going on. We're not. We are drug tested and we have random screening. Pre–employment testing. In the process our people are good people. Good people do make a difference in the community.

Q: What are your future goals for the business?
A: I want to company to be debt free. (I'd like to add) another seat on the CAD system so we can do twice as much work and have the work (needed for the seat).
WALBERG announces HubZone designation FOR JACKSON COUNTY
congressman hosting Small Business Expo Friday in jackson
WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Congressman Tim Walberg (R–MI) today announced that after months of collaboration between officials in Jackson County, Jackson business owners and his Congressional office, Jackson County has officially been designated as having HUBZone status.

HUBZones are historically underutilized business zones, and the HUBzone Empowerment Contracting program allows small businesses in underserved areas to better compete for federal government contracts, giving local businesses a leg–up in gaining contracts to supply federal agencies, such as the Defense Department.

This important designation will help manufacturers in Jackson County and attract new jobs to the area. Small businesses in Jackson County can now earn HUBZone certification if: 1) the firm is a small business by SBA standards, 2) has a principal office within a HUBZone, 3) is owned and controlled by one or more U.S. citizens and 4) at least 35% of its employees live within a HUBZone.

"We need more thriving, successful small businesses in Jackson County, and this designation will greatly help existing businesses and bring new businesses and new jobs to Jackson County," Walberg said. "Michigan's economic turnaround depends on manufacturers innovating, growing and expanding. This designation is a step in the right direction towards bringing good–paying jobs and economic growth back to Jackson County."

"We are thrilled that Jackson County businesses have access to another means to add vitality to their businesses," said Pennie Southwell, Program Director for the Procurement Technical Assistance Center, a service provided by The Enterprise Group of Jackson.

"Healthy businesses benefit the entire community in a multitude of ways."

"This is a great thing for the people of Jackson County because it provides an opportunity for small businesses to obtain federal contracts," Mike DeKarske, President of Clarklake Machine, Inc. of Jackson County, a local contract precision machining company since 1973. "Making Jackson County a HUBZone is key to our survival and crucial for Michigan. I thank Congressman Walberg for his efforts in helping Jackson County receive this designation."

Congressman Walberg will host a Small Business Expo Friday, March 7, from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at the Alro Steel Conference Center located at 2500 Enterprise Drive in Jackson. The program will consist of presentations and Q&A by the following:

9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. – "How Small Businesses Can Sell Products to State and Federal Governments" – Procurement Technical Assistance Center

10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. – "Resources Available to Help Companies Export" – U.S. Department of Commerce

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – "Small Business Administration Programs to Help Start and Grow Your Business" – U.S. Small Business Administration

Anyone interested in starting a small business or anyone who owns or works for a business is encouraged to attend to learn how to export and sell to the federal government.

– More information about HUBZones is available at SBA
HUBZone designation may be a boost
Posted by By Chris Gautz From March 06, 2008 08:23AM of The Jackson Citizen Patriot
Small businesses in Jackson County interested in securing contracts to supply federal agencies now have a leg up on the competition.

The county has been designated a HUBZone, or historically underutilized business zone. It's an economic development program that uses federal contracting to help distressed communities.

Pennie Southwell, program director for the Procurement Technical Assistance Center, a service provided by The Enterprise Group of Jackson, said she heard about the designation possibility several months ago and began working to make it happen.

"It definitely is a plus for Jackson County," Southwell said.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R–Tipton, announced the designation Wednesday. Southwell had called Walberg's office for assistance, and he had the Small Business Administration review economic data for the county. Because of the county's high unemployment rate, it qualified for the status. The county's unemployment rate was 7.6 percent in December.

"The potential is increased jobs," Walberg said.

The Small Business Administration regulates and implements the program and maintains a listing of qualified HUBZone small businesses that federal agencies can use to locate vendors.

Small pockets of Jackson County have been designated as a HUBZone for several years, but most companies have not taken advantage of it, according to Small Business Administration records.

An exception is Mike Lutz, president of Kicking Grass Inc., who runs a landscaping business out of his Jackson home.

The disabled Vietnam veteran has contracts with the Navy and Army to provide his services.

He has been certified since 2003. He said it took about six months to get his certification, and it requires a lot of paperwork.

Being on the list as a certified business has led to a number of jobs, because government contracts require a certain percentage of the work to be done by businesses in HUBZones, Lutz said.

Extending the designation to the entire county will be a good thing, he said. "It will help us quite a bit," Lutz said.

To quality for the designation, a firm must be a small business by Small Business Administration standards, have a principal office within a HUBZone, be owned and controlled by one or more U.S. citizens and have at least 35 percent of its employees living within a HUBZone.

Southwell said she works with about 30 businesses in Jackson County that do government contract work, and she plans to encourage all of them to apply for certification.

"This will open more bidding opportunities," Southwell said. "It gives them a little edge up."

Walberg said the HUBZone designation will help companies that are capable of –– but have not gotten involved in –– doing government jobs.

Mike DeKarske, president of Clarklake Machine Inc., which does precision machining, has been looking into how to land government contracts.

DeKarske said he hopes this certification will give the company an edge.

He said any help for this area is good.

"We've lost quite a few jobs in Jackson County," he said.
Diversifying could help suppliers facing cuts
By Linda Stiles | For Jackson Citizen Patriot 02/03/2002
Downsizing by the Big Three has hurt – 570 factory jobs lost in Jackson last year – but most say it could have been worse.

Jackson–area automotive parts makers aren't putting all their eggs in one basket these days, and that should help the county economy weather this recession better than in past downturns.
"We're busier than ever" despite the downturn, said Michael DeKarske, co–owner of Clarklake Machine Inc.
The small, family owned machining factory on S. Meridian Road supplies the vehicle industry. But the company has expanded its customers from automotive to heavy trucks and motorcycle parts.
The shop is in the business of producing replacement parts – a segment of the industry that also is more stable, DeKarske said.
Other manufacturers also have changed since the past recession, adding a bigger mix of customers or perhaps even snagging work outside the automotive industry, said Steve Czarnecki, who heads the countywide economic development agency, The Enterprise Group of Jackson Inc.
Then, when the Big Three announces a downsizing – as Ford Motor Co. did recently, saying it would close five plants and discontinue four models – the smaller factories are less apt to take a huge hit.
"Part of the good news for Jackson is that we're more diversified as an economy," Czarnecki said.
Economists are hopeful the worst is over.
The county's unemployment rate rose to a six–year high in December, at 6.1 percent. But with key economic indicators rising for the third straight month in December, some analysts say the economy is poised to expand in the next three to six months.
"The strong signal from the indicators means that the recession could be over soon," said Ken Goldstein, an economist with the Conference Board in New York, a business–funded research group.
Meanwhile, more than 570 Jackson County workers have lost their jobs in plant closings in factories related to the automotive industry in the past year. Others are on layoff, as shops adjust their work force to deal with the decline. Manufacturing jobs decreased by a total of 700, or 5.6 percent, in 2001 compared to 2000.
But other automotive–related industries are growing and expanding.
TAC Manufacturing Inc. recently announced a $12 million expansion to produce wood and leather steering wheels for the Lexus sport utility vehicle. Construction will begin this spring on the plant expansion. The new work will add 25 to 40 new jobs at full production by the end of 2003, for a total of at least 325 workers.
The Japanese–owned factory supplies mainly Toyota and Nissan. Sales for the Japanese name plates have been more stable than for Big Three products, said Mark Santucci, a consultant to the parts industry at Elm International in East Lansing.
"They've been doing pretty well. Therefore, we've been doing well," said Mike Maurer, operations director at the plant on County Farm Road.
Michigan Automotive Compressor Inc., the county's largest industrial employer with more than 850 workers, is completing work to install $46.7 million in new equipment at the factory at Dearing Road and I–94. MACI also counts Toyota and Honda as customers, along with the Big Three.
And the MacSteel division of Houston–based Quanex Corp. is completing a $30 million expansion that will add about 20 new jobs to the division's Napoleon Township factory. The plant employs about 350 and is about 75 percent automotive related.
But "we watch the trends closely by market," said Robert V. Kelly Jr., president of the MacSteel plant in Jackson and another in Fort Smith, Ark.
When automotive declines, the MacSteel factories diversify to supply the energy and defense industries. Products include steel bars used to make tools and pipe for drilling and exploration, shell casings and parts for armored personnel carriers, Kelly said.
A number of other smaller Jackson factories have expanded, Czarnecki said.
The smaller businesses are more capable of responding quickly to market conditions, he said.
For example, Clarklake Machine worked to obtain quality certification several years ago, before it was required. The rigorous process means the company has documented that it has systems in place to produce quality parts, and it is certified by inspectors.
The QS 9000 rating positioned the factory to pick up an additional contract when the number of orders for a particular replacement part became too small to be practical for the bigger parts maker to produce. "It fits our niche," DeKarske said.

– Reach reporter Linda Stiles at lstiles@citpat.com or 768–4918. Mlive
Title: Two brothers make machine business a family production
By Dana George–Berberich | Jackson Citizen Patriot 10/01/2000
Operating Clarklake Machine Inc. is a joint effort for the DeKarske family.
Not only do brothers Mark and Mike DeKarske own the business but their wives, two brothers and several of their children work there.
They have a long history with the machining plant. Starting years before they began their own careers. Their father worked in the shop as a tool and die maker.
Mark and Mike began working there part time as teen–agers when the company was owned by another family. But they enjoyed the work and continued on after high school.
"It`s all I`ve ever known," Mike said.
Nineteen years ago, the former owners retired and sold the business to Mark, Mike and their father, Henry. It`s been a sometimes wonderful, sometimes rocky, road. The one constant has been the loyalty they`ve shone each other.

"It works out fine," Mike said. "We all just have our own area of expertise."
The company not only provides for their family, but it also is a good way to stay near to each other.
"Every day is like a family reunion," Mike said.
Not that owning the business has been all fun and games. "Our greatest challenge is to get and keep good employees," Mark said,
As the family has dealt with debt and the pressures of keeping up with business, they`ve adopted a single "philosophy: Never give up.
"No matter what was happening, there was never a time when we gave up. I`d just take more blood pressure medicine," Mark said, laughing.
The DeKarske brothers believe having started at the shop helps them know the business inside out. They know what it`s like to work in a busy plant and aren`t afraid to "turn a knob" when need be.
Now that their father has retired from the business, it`s up to the brothers to make certain things run smoothly. To that end. They keep in mind the importance of working together. A sign hanging on Mike`s office wall may sum it up best :
No matter how it starts
No matter who is right
At the end of a family argument
Nobody wins the fight

Suppliers and demand. Auto suppliers watch as profits drop, ranks decline.
By Rick Haglund and Linda Stiles | Jackson Citizen Patriot 06/26/1998
Jackson County's small automotive–parts factories could profit from a struggle for survival that is forcing some of their larger brethren out of business.
"We think we can do it better than the big boys. For the most part, we can (produce) for less," said Michael DeKarske, president of Clarklake Machine Inc. A growing auto–parts supplier on S. Meridian Road in Columbia Township.
Some larger companies are not as fortunate.
One study of supplier business performance shows the median gross profit margin of 51 large, publicly held suppliers has dipped to a level not seen since the 1992 recession. Nineteen of those companies are headquartered in Michigan.
Among the poorest performers was Muskegon–based SPX Corp., parent company of the former Kent–Moore Tool Division plant on Enterprise Drive in Micor Industrial Park, which closed in 1996.
Spartan Corp., a maker of both defense and automotive equipment based in Jackson, was ranked as a Mid–range performer in the survey.
Experts said the auto–markers relentless demands for annual price cuts in parts are taking a financial toll.
"We did not envision this to be as severe as it is," says Dennis Virag, managing director of Ann Arbor–based Automotive Consulting Group Inc.. which conducted the study.
However, some Jackson–area suppliers said they've been able to profit despite the price squeezes by designing ways to do things better, faster and cheaper. By passing those savings on to their customers they're able to land additional work and grow and expand.
Clarklake Machine, for example, saved one customer $60,00 a year by improving shipping efficiency. It was as simple as replacing wooden sheets with cardboard between layers of clutch housings. Which are then plastic–shrink–wrapped in stacks for shipping.
Because the shop is small, work can be designed more efficiently, DeKarske said. Instead of a long production line of several machines to drill several holes and shave various contours, the Clarklake operation invests in computerized machining centers that do several operations at once. Saving space also results in saving money.
"We process parts differently," than larger companies, said DeKarske, who owns the business with his father, Henry, and brother Mark.
Alan Merriman works at retooling a slant–bed turret lathe for production on a new part at Clarklake Machine
In the past three years, the company has expanded the factory and added 15 employees, for a total of 50 over three shifts.
Nearby Production Saw and Machine Inc, built a multimillion–dollar new factory three years ago to accommodate growth. Its secret to success was also built on engineering efficiency, said Charles Savage, marketing sales manager for the automotive parts maker.
"You find ways to be competitive," he said.
The price squeeze on suppliers could come back to bite the Big Three.
The larger suppliers help with technical innovations in areas such as suspension systems and interiors. Unless profit rise, the suppliers might cut back on technological developments, which would limit the automakers' ability to outsource design and engineering work.
Another concern surrounding the profit pinch is the timing.
"If you're not making money in good times. What's going to happen when things don't even go bad but just (go) moderate?" said Alan Baum, director of forecasting at Grand Rapids–based IRN Inc., a supplier consultant.
Already, hundreds of companies are exiting the auto–supply business by selling themselves to other suppliers or simply closing the doors.
Aeroquip Corp. closed a plastics trim plant in Spring Arbor last summer after saying it didn't want to gear up for a trend to produce entire car interiors.
Other well–known manufacturing, conglomerates are spinning off their auto–parts units because the financial returns have sunk to unacceptable levels.
Allied Signal Inc., which recently acquired sealant maker ADCO Technologies Inc. on Page Avenue, has announced the sale of its auto–parts subsidiaries.
In the first six months of the year there were a record 111 mergers and acquisitions in the auto–supply industry, according to the Ann Arbor office of Seidman & Co. inc., a New York–based investment banking firm.
Despite the gloomy profit picture at many suppliers, some analysts said there is no crisis, at least not yet.
Most large suppliers are generating more than enough cash to play for operations and meet debt payments, says David Andrea, an auto–industry analyst at Roney & Co. in Detroit.
A major reason that profit margins have eroded at large suppliers is many of them have gone on a worldwide acquisition binge, Andrea says.
As domestic automakers have expanded into new markets, such as Asia and South America, big American suppliers have purchased supply companies in those regions so they can quickly serve their customers.
But the financial performance of many of these acquired firms was poor, dragging down overall profits.
Assessing the financial condition of smaller suppliers, many of which are privately owned and don't publicly report profits, is more difficult. But experts said smaller suppliers are subject to many of the same business pressures that large suppliers face.
"There are some suppliers who are so good at what they do they can't be touched by competitors. They're making money hand over fist," Baum says. "But these companies aren't typical."

If a customer calls, we jump
Amy Yuhn Special Writer | Jackson Citizen Patriot 08/27/1991
Saari Associates weathering economic storm with quality work.
Many automotive companies and their suppliers have hit rough roads with the recent downturn in the economy, and more than one Jackson area company has been left reeling from the lack of business. But Saari Associates, 9451 S. Meridian, has weathered the storm. In fact, Saari has seen its business pick up in the past few months.

President Henry P. DeKarske, who owns Saari with his sons Mark H. and Michael P. DeKarske, said Saari's commitment to quality keeps the customers coming back.

Essentially, Saari machines and produces components that go into parts made by other companies. Occasionally, they will be hired to design prototype parts.

General manager stressed that Saari is not a manufacturing service contractor, but dose all its own manufacturing in one building. He said the company tries to avoid subcontracting as much as possible to maintain quality control.

After a business slowdown last spring, Saari picked up its pace, adding a third shift in April and hiring 16 new employees, bringing the total number of workers to about 40.

Saari, whose employees to machining and some assembly for companies like Rockwell International, Clark Equipment C. and Saginaw Steering, has been in Clarklake since 1960, DeKarske bought the company in 1981.

DeKarske said he has tried to diversify the customer base during the past several years to avoid losses when the economy is in a slump. Saari supplies to companies all over Michigan, the Midwest and as far away as North Carolina and Tennessee.

"If we have a slowdown due to a model year change we keep busy with some prototype work," DeKarske said. "But if a customer calls, we jump."

Saari has about 200 parts on its parts list. Despite expected annual sales of close to $3 million, DeKarske said he constantly is looking to expand and improve operations.

During the next two years, DeKarske said, he plans to double the size of the building and hire new employees as business merits. He said there are no plans to change locations, since the building is near three major roads.

While neither DeKarske of the General Manager will give away the secrets to their success, both stressed the importance of involving employees in the operation. General Manager said the company's philosophy is one that has evolved over several years. DeKarske has been around sence the business first started and General Manager came on board in 1986.

"It's a business that's run by everybody," DeKarske said. "Everybody has an input and everyone is kept will–informed. Everyone can do anyone else's job."

DeKarske said keeping employees on top of techniques is one way Saari stays successful. The company sponsors in–house training courses at area colleges. DeKarske said this program improves the quality of work and employee morale.

General Manager said one of the biggest factors improving production during the past several years is the use of computer controlled equipment to maintain quality. Computers can predict tool usage and signal when a part needs to be replaced, thus maintaining quality in production.

DeKarske said the cooperative effort from the machinists on up to the management will insure the company will stay active.

"We have good people and we produce a quality part on time at a reasonable price," DeKarske said.

Made In The USA!
Made In The USA!