Plant news: Catching the drift

Shawano High School students build car for racing style originated in Japan

Posted on Mar 15, 2018 :: Plant News
Jessica Thiel
Posted by , Insight on Manufacturing Staff Writer

They’re a group of teenage boys driving in what may appear to be an out-of-control fashion, but it’s no cause for concern.

This bunch of kids comes from Shawano High School, which last year created a drift club with community support and the help of Patrick Polk, manager of Shawano racetrack US Air Motorsports.

Observing the rising popularity of the auto racing form, which originated in Japan and was popularized in “The Fast and the Furious” movie franchise, Polk approached Shawano High School automotive instructor Jeremy Hodkiewicz with the idea of creating a drift club.

Polk gave the group a modified Legends racecar, a five-eighths scale car, and a group of local track professionals helped set up the vehicle for maximum performance before turning it over to the club. The students then got to work transforming it.

Hodkiewicz and a group of five students worked after school on the project last winter, taking the car, which features a 1200cc Yahama FJ motorcycle engine, down to a bare frame and making modifications to steering and suspension and adding a hand brake for controlled sliding. Drift racing involves driving a vehicle in a controlled slide through a corner.

“It’s meant to be somewhat of an educational piece. They’re working on cars. It’s a spinoff of my auto classes,” Hodkiewicz says. “The bigger part of it is motivating students to get involved in the auto industry and the racing world.”

It seems to be working. Hodkiewicz says some of his students plan to pursue careers in the industry, and many have caught the racing bug. This year, the club’s size has doubled to 10 students, who continue to work on last year’s car.

Of course, it helps that students get a chance to get behind the wheel. They start off mastering figure eights in a parking lot before heading to the track.

“The amount of horsepower for the size of the car is incredible, so they get to feel what it’s like to actually drive a racecar,” Hodkiewicz says.

Running the club is a big and expensive commitment, Hodkiewicz says, but local businesses have been extremely supportive, donating money to sponsor the car. Shawano has become a popular site for drifting. A club from Chicago, for example, rents the track at US Air Motorsports.

“It’s a neat project that the kids are learning about the automotive industry and learning to work together,” says Mike Borlee, a member of the board at the Automobile Gallery in Green Bay, which has the drift car on display through the end of March.

Borlee, who also teaches in the auto program at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, says in programs like this one, students learn the hard skills of working on cars as well as soft ones such as communication, selling sponsorships and teamwork.

“They’re the guys that are going to fix the car you’re going to drive,” Borlee says. “It’s extremely important to teach kids that these are skills that are needed.” 

Oshkosh Defense lands $476 million contract

The U.S. Army has awarded Oshkosh Defense a contract valued at $476 million to build next-generation medium tactical vehicles.

The firm fixed price requirements contract spans up to seven ordering years for the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles, and there’s no cap on the number of vehicles the Army may purchase.

Oshkosh Defense has manufactured and sustained more than 150,000 tactical wheeled vehicles for the U.S. Department of Defense and its allies. Oshkosh Defense was first awarded the FMTV contract following a competitive evaluation in 2009 and, to date, has delivered more than 36,000 FMTV trucks and trailers.

Oshkosh Defense submitted the FMTV A2 proposal in response to the U.S. Army’s competitive RFP that required bidders to validate and produce an upgraded FMTV A2 fleet of vehicles with improved payload, underbody protection, ride quality, mobility, engine power, electronics, diagnostics and safety enhancements.

The future generation FMTV A2 will include 16 models and associated trailers capable of carrying payloads ranging from 3-ton to 10-ton and performing a wide range of duties from supporting combat missions, to relief efforts, to logistics and supply operations.

The Army also recently placed a $106 million order for Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, the eighth JLTV order since the contract was awarded in August 2015.

Marinette Marine awarded Navy design contract

The U.S. Navy awarded Fincantieri Marinette Marine a $15 million contract to redesign its guided missile frigate.

Closely matched to U.S. Navy requirements, six FREMM frigates are in service with the Italian Navy and have successfully completed multi-role missions worldwide. A FREMM-based design also was chosen in Australia for the Royal Australian Navy.

Fincantieri Marinette Marine has teamed with Gibbs & Cox and Trident Maritime Systems to evolve FREMM to U.S. design standards. This wholly American team will develop a ship design, which, in case of award of the construction contract, would be built at Fincantieri shipyards in the United States.

• A keel-laying ceremony was held at Fincantieri Marinette Marine for the future USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul, the U.S. Navy’s 21st littoral combat ship. The Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Marine team has delivered five ships to the Navy to date. The future USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul is one of eight ships in various stages of construction at Fincantieri Marinette Marine, with one more in long-lead production.

FVWDB receives $300,000 in worker training grants

The Fox Valley Workforce Development Board received two Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Fast Forward Grants valued at more than $300,000.

The dollars will be used to train 60 workers in either manufacturing fundamentals or press brake operations, both critical employment needs. The FVWDB partnered with eight companies on the two grants and named Fox Valley Technical College as its education provider for all training.

The Mechanical Fundamentals Grant provides $200,000 to train 36 employees to repair mechanical equipment in an industrial setting. Companies continue to find it difficult, if not impossible, to find experienced mechanical maintenance staff. Projected demographic shifts, due to baby boomer retirements, will only increase the severity of this issue.

Companies partnering in the Mechanical Fundamentals Grant are:

• Gusmer Enterprises and Waupaca Foundry, Waupaca

• Hoffmaster Creative, Oshkosh

• Creative Converting, Clintonville

• JM Smucker, Ripon

The Press Brake Grant, a $110,194 award, will train 24 employees in press brake operation. Additional trained operators allow companies to remain competitive. Jay Manufacturing, Muza Metal Products and SMC Metal Fabricators, all of Oshkosh, are partnering on the grant.

Mayline/Safco to shut down Sheboygan furniture plant

The parent company of furniture company Mayline/Safco announced plans to close the Sheboygan Mayline/Safco plant and move operations to Iowa. The move will result in the loss of 185 positions.

The company cited lack of sufficient modern industrial facilities in Sheboygan, State of Wisconsin joint reporting income tax and challenges in recruiting and retaining workforce.

The Sheboygan Economic Development Corp. has been in contact with the Job Center of Sheboygan County and Bay Area Workforce Development Board to assist with re-employment of Mayline/Safco employees prior to the discontinuation of the company’s Sheboygan operations.

Lakeside Foods to expand Manitowoc packaging facility

Lakeside Foods Inc. announced plans to expand its Manitowoc packaging facility.

The $40 million planned expansion would include a 100,000-square-foot addition. The new space would include an expanded frozen warehouse and increased refrigerated packaging space for its operations. Groundbreaking is expected in spring 2018, with completion projected for spring 2019. The company anticipates adding 40 new jobs.

Carnivore Meat Co. to expand production facilities

Raw pet food maker Carnivore Meat Co., maker of Vital Essentials and Vital Cat, is expected to open expanded production facilities in Green Bay this month.

The 5,350-square-foot expansion is aimed at doubling freeze-dried production in 2018, and the company plans to add 20 new jobs. Carnivore Meat Co. has committed to $6 million in capital improvements, which includes the expansion and addition of new equipment, including custom-built freeze-drying units.