The Foam Safety Experts
Automotive safety materials manufacturer Coastal Automotive is branching out to expand its applications in the automotive industry to include non-automotive opportunities. We had the opportunity to speak with Director of New Product Development Hazen Sills and Product Marketing Manager Ryan Simmons.
The story of Coastal Automotive began as Vericorr Fabricating in 2007 and was based on an agreement with Dow Automotive to produce the revolutionary IMPAXX™ foam. The original start-up was purchased by Coastal Group of Holland, Michigan, and at the end of 2008, it was renamed Coastal Automotive.
“We have exclusive rights to one of their technologies called IMPAXX™. There are benefits for both companies. Dow Automotive has deep [research and development] capabilities and we are very aligned with the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and customers. We have a good relationship moving forward, being able to apply CAE simulation and other technologies in the market space to assist the OEM in the pursuit of the optimized and safest solution,” says Hazen.
The new state of the art production facility is a repurposed manufacturing facility in Holland, Michigan. The refurbishment of roughly 200,000 square feet of manufacturing space took less than six months to accomplish.
“It was necessary in order to expand based on the amount of growth we have experienced. This allowed us to consolidate all our manufacturing in a more streamlined operation and enable our ability to further grow the business. We now have quite a bit of flexibility and look forward to future growth opportunities,” says Hazen.
Ryan explained that this has allowed Coastal Automotive to provide global support as well as retaining as many U.S. jobs. The company is expanding, so the move to a new building will better accommodate that growth and ensure a higher level of customer service with faster delivery.
“It will help with ergonomics, employee satisfaction, and help to maintain a high-quality laboratory environment in a manufacturing setting,” says Ryan.
Recently, Coastal Automotive was recently recognized with a ‘Supplier of the Year’ award in 2018 from GM and its third ‘Supplier Quality of Excellence’ award for work at its Rochester and Holland facilities.
IMPAXX™ foam is provided by Dow Automotive specifically for superior energy impact, with limited rebound that provides for superior energy absorption to an area for a sustained period compared to other technologies available on the market. This foam technology is far superior to any other material in redistributing energy.
Instead of the force of an impact rebounding back toward the occupant of the vehicle, the foam can redirect and redistribute it effectively, protecting that occupant. It was developed ten years ago by Dow and Coastal Automotive has been very effective in bringing promotion and exposure to the OEMs and has become a significant player in this space.
“This foam is unprecedented, as there are no competitors in the marketplace. Nothing comes even remotely close to it,” says Ryan.
Coastal Automotive is involved with NASCAR standard platform, and in car racing, IMPAXX™ foam is practical and valued for keeping drivers safe. “NASCAR recognized the advantages of this technology in protecting drivers, and awarded the IMPAXX™ Safety Innovation of the Year Award,” says Hazen.
NASCAR invested millions of dollars and 18 months testing multiple solutions and in the end, recognized IMPAXX™ as the superior material to shield drivers from the violent impact that NASCAR race car drivers can experience. This has been a key factor in the growth of Coastal Automotive since the company was founded.
“Since Coastal’s inception, the focus has been on providing safety and energy management solutions in the passenger car industry. Regulations are clear about head impact protection, for instance. Since then, a couple of things have happened. We are experiencing a shift in the reasons customers want to buy IMPAXX™ and our other products,” says Ryan.
The automotive Industry is extremely competitive, and the OEMs are focused on providing better protection than ever, and Coastal has also taken a giant leap in its manufacturing capabilities, providing the ability to do things it has never done in the past. As these two points come together, the company is optimistic it will be successful in expanding into new industries, and that includes commercial vehicles.
Continuing goals for Coastal include its NASCAR aspirations and entrance into other vertical industries that can benefit from its unique capabilities. Within the other market spaces, the foam manufacturer will work with OEMs and supply chains to determine where its expertise and product offerings can best be utilized.
“Our expertise is in foam conversion as well as energy management simulation on top of the capital investments made. It’s a matter of understanding the industry and the application because we are exclusive providers of high-profile material and are simply converting it to a new industry, new applications, and new customers,” says Ryan.
Coastal Automotive brings a team of engineers, valued product experts, CAE capabilities and the capital equipment to take on these new applications. The prototyping mirrors the company’s production process, and it can be quite nimble in coming up with all the materials for testing to help customers see if the material is suitable in a best-in-class speed to market manner.
“We have been recognized by them as one of their top suppliers on multiple occasions,” says Ryan. “Our engineers work closely with OEM engineers to help create the most optimal safety systems for performance and cost.”
From March 24 to 26, the Foam Expo will take place in Novi, Michigan. This is the largest exhibition for companies that manufacture or purchase technical foam products and technologies. Coastal Automotive will be there at Booth 2511, displaying its unique product lines which include the IMPAXX™ foam that was developed in partnership with Dow Automotive.
“Coastal Automotive is on the brink of an incredible growth curve. This is a great opportunity for us to meet many of our prospects in person and take the next step in relationship building. We hope to see all of our current partners at the Foam Expo and deepen existing relationships,” says Ryan.
With new contracts come new partnerships, but those will be announced at the Foam Expo taking place in March of this year; however, the company can disclose that it is looking to commercial vehicle and road construction as other possible avenues to navigate.
Coastal Automotive has two primary goals in attending the show. It aims to increase its automotive industry market presence and it wants to meet with non-automotive industries that could utilize the IMPAXX™ product line.
“This is a great opportunity for us to collaborate, better understand customer needs, and find a way to continue to deliver new and innovative solutions to the market,” says Ryan.
Continued growth is forecast and that will be aided by diversifying outside of the automotive field and expanding product portfolios with other technologies. “We are quite excited about the prospects and the relationships we can make,” says Ryan.