Reasons Why Acrylic Tank Manufacturing Closed Down?

Acrylic Tank Manufacturing (ATM) was once the leading manufacturer of acrylic aquariums and products in the United States. Founded in the 1970s by industry pioneers Wayde King, Brett Raymer, and Robbie Redneck, the company produced high-quality custom acrylic tanks for celebrities, corporations, and high-profile clients for over 40 years. However, in 2020, ATM abruptly closed its doors permanently due to several key factors that led to its steady decline and ultimate demise.

A Once-Thriving Company

In its heyday in the late 1900s and early 2000s, Acrylic Tank Manufacturing was the top provider of acrylic aquariums across America. They made tanks ranging from small 50-gallon tanks for residential use up to massive 1-million-gallon tanks for hotels, zoos, aquariums, restaurants, and more. 

Their work was featured prominently on Animal Planet’s hit reality show Tanked, which followed Wayde King and Brett Raymer as they manufactured creative, custom acrylic tanks for celebrity clients like Shaquille O’Neal, Tracy Morgan, and Mario Lopez.

ATM’s yearly output peaked at around 200 original tanks annually, garnering the company a stellar reputation in the aquarium hobbyist community. Their combination of innovative designs, quality materials and construction, and decorative custom theming made them a go-to choice for individual customers as well as large commercial clients needing showpiece aquariums.

However, behind the scenes, ATM was struggling with a variety of issues that would ultimately lead to its closure. From manufacturing problems to financial woes, ATMs faced an uphill battle trying to stay viable in an increasingly competitive market. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the company could no longer stay afloat and made the difficult decision to cease operations entirely.

The Company Was Not Profitable Enough to Survive

Company Was Not Profitable

One of the fundamental reasons that ATM ended up closing its business was that the company was simply not turning enough of a profit to remain financially sustainable. As operating costs increased over the years, ATM’s margins were squeezed thinner and thinner.

Rising Costs of Raw Materials

A major factor in ATM’s shrinking profits was the steadily increasing costs of raw acrylic sheets. Acrylic is the primary material used in manufacturing aquariums because of its transparency, strength, and lightweight nature. However, acrylic prices have risen substantially worldwide in the past decade due to heightened demand combined with limitations in supply.

For ATM, this meant their biggest expenditure – the acrylic sheets to construct tanks – was eating up more and more of their budget. They had to pass some of these increasing costs onto consumers, making their products more expensive compared to competitors.

Losing Money With Each Tank Sold

Eventually, ATMs reached the point where they were losing money on every acrylic tank they produced. The company accrued substantial debt over the years that it struggled to repay. ATM did not have adequate cash flow or revenue growth to fund operations and pay back creditors. They were trapped in an unsustainable cycle of losing money on each sale.

Excessive Debt Burden

In addition to material costs, ATM shouldered significant debt due to its large production facility and equipment expenses. The company had millions in outstanding loans, which weighed heavily on its balance sheet. As interest payments on these loans accumulated, ATMs found it impossible to get out of the red and turn a profit.

The economic reality was that ATM’s business model was no longer financially viable given the competitive pressures, rising acrylic prices, stagnant demand, and large debt burden. Without a major cash infusion or drastic changes, the company could not continue losing money indefinitely. ATM simply could not sell enough tanks at high enough margins to operate profitably.

Quality Control Issues Damaged ATM’s Reputation

Making high-quality acrylic aquariums was a point of pride for ATM. However, over the years, the company faced growing problems with defects and flaws in their finished products. This resulted in damage to their previously sterling reputation among hobbyists.

Lawsuits Over Faulty Tanks

The most serious Quality Control problem ATM experienced was lawsuits from customers who received aquariums with major structural issues. There were cases of custom tanks cracking, buckling, or leaking within months of installation. Faulty adhesives and imperfect acrylic sealing were often blamed. ATM lost several high-profile lawsuits related to replacing or repairing defective tanks.

Lack of Stringent Quality Control

These incidents illuminated that ATM did not have stringent Quality Control protocols in place at their manufacturing facility. Products were shipping that had flaws or imperfections that should have been caught during the construction and inspection process. The company culture did not emphasize quality and precision at every stage.

Customer Backlash

Word spread quickly in online forums and communities that ATMs were churning out defective and unreliable tanks. Their brand reputation took a major hit. Lifelong customers lost trust in the company and became reluctant to invest in their aquariums. Bad publicity surrounding the lawsuits and quality issues made sales plummet.

By compromising quality for quantity, ATM ended up doing immense damage to the very reputation that had bolstered sales for decades. Their failure to prevent large numbers of flawed tanks from leaving the facility ultimately proved devastating.

Management Missteps Compounded the Issues

Questionable leadership decisions and blunders by ATM’s management exacerbated the challenges the company already faced with finances and quality.

Failing to Adapt to Shifting Consumer Preferences

The management team at ATM failed to keep pace with changes in what customers wanted. For example, rimless aquarium tanks grew in popularity due to their modern, minimalist aesthetics. But ATM continued cranking out tanks with bulky plastic frames. Adaptability was not their strong suit.

Prioritizing Quantity Over Customer Satisfaction

Obsessed with growth, ATM’s leaders pushed for producing higher quantities of tanks, above all else. This led to an atmosphere where meeting daily metrics was prioritized over taking time to carefully construct each tank. Customer satisfaction and service took a backseat to volume.

Lack of Marketing Innovation

Management made no effort to expand ATM’s marketing tactics beyond trade shows and print ads in aquarium magazines. No attempts were made to leverage social media or digital marketing to attract younger demographics. Their marketing became stale and ineffective.

Sales Team Could Not Retain Customers

Customer relations were mishandled by an ineffective sales team that grew complacent. The sales staff was unable to address customer complaints or retain business. The churn rate increased rapidly as loyal customers jumped ship.

ATM’s management failed to address any problems proactively. Their inaction and inability to change course resulted in losing market share year after year. Customers noticed the decline in quality and service.

Minimal Brand Awareness and Promotion

Another area where ATMs fell dramatically short was marketing and promoting their products to consumers. They did not prioritize brand awareness and advertising.

Lack of Online Presence

ATM’s competitors used content marketing, social media ads, YouTube influencer campaigns, and search engine optimization to sell tanks. Meanwhile, ATM did not even have a Facebook business page. Their online presence was almost non-existent outside of their dated website.

No Targeted Ad Campaigns

The company never took advantage of the power of Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and other digital channels to get their products in front of motivated buyers. No money was allocated to run targeted promotions that highlighted their capabilities.

Failure to Reach Younger Demographics

ATM made no discernible attempts to engage Millennial or Gen Z audiences through social media or tailored messaging. Their brand failed to evolve beyond Baby Boomers who remembered them from the glory days.

Trade Shows Alone Were Not Enough

While trade shows generated some leads, this single marketing channel was wholly inadequate to create sufficient brand awareness and sales funnel activity. But management insisted it was enough.

ATM ultimately ceded the entire digital landscape to competitors who filled it with targeted promotions. The lack of marketing investment and innovation was yet another factor accelerating their collapse.

Failure to Meet Customer Delivery Expectations

One of ATM’s biggest weaknesses was their inability to deliver acrylic tanks to customers within promised timeframes. Customers routinely had to wait months longer than expected for their orders.

Overpromising Unrealistic Timelines

Eager to make sales, ATM sales reps frequently quoted overly ambitious delivery dates, rather than realistic ones. Manufacturing delays were common but rarely communicated proactively to set proper expectations.

Months-Long Manufacturing Delays

Supply chain issues, equipment failures, labor shortages, and other complications regularly delayed production schedules. Some customers had to wait 3-6 months for tanks that were promised in 6-8 weeks.

Lack of Proactive Communication

When delays happened, ATM did a poor job of getting out ahead and informing customers. Excuse-laden emails or phone calls only came when angry customers demanded updates weeks later.

Customer Frustration and Cancellations

The constant delays eroded customer trust and satisfaction rapidly. Many filed complaints or demanded refunds. Some customers canceled orders altogether after months of waiting. ATM’s manufacturing struggles and communication problems cost them dearly.

The failure to accurately set and meet customer expectations for order delivery was the final nail in the coffin for ATM. Unkept promises ultimately did irreparable damage to their reputation.

Negative Reputation and Reviews

Through a combination of these missteps, ATM developed an overwhelmingly negative reputation with customers in the aquarium space. Unresolved complaints piled up along with bad reviews online.

Unaddressed Customer Complaints

Customers with legitimate complaints about flawed products, terrible service, or late deliveries rarely received responses from ATMs. Emails and calls went unreturned as problems festered.

Scathing Online Reviews

Disgruntled customers took to forums, Facebook, Yelp, Google, and elsewhere to post scathing reviews about the poor quality tanks and terrible experiences dealing with ATMs. The negative sentiment spread widely.

Loss of Trust and Loyalty

Formerly loyal customers became jaded by the lack of accountability and transparency. Many who had spent thousands on ATM products over the years took their business elsewhere.

Sales and Revenue Plummeted

The cascade of negative word-of-mouth, whether online or offline, was impossible to ignore. It strangled sales and revenue as ATM’s reputation shifted from glowing to toxic.

The harm to ATM’s brand and reputation proved to be disastrous and permanently alienated a huge portion of their formerly devoted customer base. The damage was irreversible.

Why ATM Closed – In Summary

  • Unprofitable – High material costs and excessive debt burden
  • Lawsuits over defective tanks – Quality control issues resulted in litigation
  • Ineffective leadership and management – Failure to adapt to the market or fix obvious issues
  • Lack of marketing – Minimal investment in brand awareness and promotions
  • Unmet delivery timelines – Overpromising and constant delays eroded trust
  • Toxic reputation – Angry customers and scathing reviews spread widely online

The combination of these missteps over an extended period put ATM on an inescapable path to failure. Declining revenue, cash flow issues, poor leadership decisions, lack of innovation, reputational damage, and high overhead costs put the final nails in the coffin for ATM.

The COVID-19 pandemic added even more challenges when it hit in 2020. ATM could no longer withstand the financial pressures and closed down completely, ending an era of acrylic tank manufacturing.

The Far-Reaching Impacts of the ATM Closure

When the shuttering of ATMs was announced in mid-2020, it sent shockwaves through the aquarium industry. Hobbyists, competitors, and vendors were all affected in various ways.

Shortage of Acrylic Aquariums

With ATM’s 100,000 tanks per year production capacity gone, it left a huge void in acrylic tank supply. Competitors could not immediately ramp up production to compensate. This resulted in shortages of acrylic options on the market.

Increased Demand for Used Tanks

The scarcity of new acrylic tank availability caused demand and prices for used tanks to skyrocket. Websites like Craigslist saw a surge of listings for used ATM-branded tanks and equipment.

Job Losses

Approximately 200 employees lost their jobs, from factory workers to office personnel. Many had been with the company for over 20 years, leaving them suddenly unemployed.

Lost Manufacturing Capabilities

ATM’s closure meant a loss of technical expertise and proprietary techniques for bending and bonding acrylic. Competitors were unable to replicate ATM’s ability to manufacture especially large tanks.

Replacement Parts Scarcity

Those seeking replacement parts for repairing existing ATM tanks faced a complete lack of supply. Filter pumps, lids, and other unique components were unavailable once the inventory sold out.

Customer Scramble for New Tanks

Hobbyists planning dream ATM tanks had to hurriedly find alternatives as orders went unfulfilled. Local aquarium stores saw spikes in glass tank sales.

The repercussions spread through the interconnected aquarium industry ecosystem. ATM’s closure left huge gaps that took years to be filled by the remaining players.

Viable Alternatives to Acrylic Aquariums

In the wake of ATM’s closure, many hobbyists found themselves seeking alternative tank options. Thankfully, several comparable materials provide excellent aquarium functionality and aesthetics.

Glass Aquariums

Glass aquariums have many attractive qualities:

  • Extremely durable and shatter-resistant
  • Heavier than acrylic but still manageable
  • Allows for smaller tank dimensions (e.g. 10 gallons)
  • Often lower cost than acrylic

For most household aquarists, glass tanks are the simplest tried-and-true option. Brands like Tetra and Aqueon offer glass tanks ranging from 2.5 to 300 gallons at reasonable price points.

Ceramic Aquariums

Ceramic aquariums offer seamless designs at competitive prices:

  • Made from inert, non-toxic materials safe for fish
  • Naturally bacteria and algae resistant
  • More impact resistant than glass
  • Seamless curves for a modern aesthetic

Leading ceramic tank brands include Vepotek and Ceramique. Tanks range from small bowls (1-2 gallons) up to 40+ gallon tanks. Ceramic allows for elegant rimless designs.

Acrylic Tanks from Alternative Manufacturers

While ATM is gone, many companies still produce quality acrylic aquariums:

  • TruVu (American company; rimless designs)
  • Clear for Life (USA-made; custom tanks)
  • AquaOptim (European brand; rimless)
  • AquaMaxx Aquariums (Hong Kong-based)

These brands help fill the void left by ATMs using modern manufacturing techniques. Their tank sizes, shapes, and quality provide comparable alternatives.

Custom Building Using Plastic Sheeting

For DIY enthusiasts, custom tanks can be built using sheets of plastics like PVC or acrylic:

  • Purchase plastic sheets and cut to size
  • Bond panels together using solvents
  • Seal the seams using silicone
  • Install needed fixtures and filters

This approach takes effort and skill but allows full customization and oversized tanks if desired. Kits from companies like Tenecor make it simpler.

With some research and planning, hobbyists have ample alternatives to find the perfect replacement tank whether looking for an off-the-shelf option or a fully custom-built aquarium. The rise of rimless tanks also provides modern options.

The History and Origins of ATM

Acrylic Tank Manufacturing has a long, winding history that traces back to the 1970s. Founders Wayde King and Brett Raymer helped build it into an aquarium industry powerhouse.

How ATM Was Founded

Wayde King and Brett Raymer met in the early 1970s while working for a plastic fabrication company in California. They saw strong demand for acrylic aquariums and decided to branch off on their own. In 1976, the pair officially founded Acrylic Tank Manufacturing (ATM) focusing specifically on aquariums.

Rapid Growth as an Industry Leader

ATM’s tanks quickly earned a reputation for their crystal-clear aesthetics, durability, and seamless acrylic construction. Their technical skills gave them an edge. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, ATM became the go-to source for acrylic aquariums across the country. Corporate clients like Disney and MGM ordered massive tanks.

Expanded Capabilities and Capacity

To meet demand, ATMs moved into increasingly large fabrication facilities with advanced equipment. Their capacity expanded from 500 tanks per year originally to over 10,000 tanks annually by the 2000s. They manufactured aquariums from 50 gallons up to 1,000,000+ gallons.

Tanked TV Show Boosted Popularity

ATM’s profile grew enormously when Animal Planet launched the reality TV show Tanked in 2011. It followed Wayde and Brett building ostentatious tanks for celebrities. This ushered in new fans and business. ATM’s work was seen by millions each week.

Decline and Eventual Closure in 2020

Despite the TV spotlight, ATM silently struggled with the growing issues detailed previously. The company declined over the 2010s until the COVID-19 pandemic finally necessitated complete closure in 2020 after over 40 successful years.

ATM was an inspiring American entrepreneurship story that introduced acrylic aquariums to the mainstream. Their legacy lives on in home aquariums and massive tanks still on display across the country.

Making Your Acrylic Aquarium

With ATM’s customized tanks no longer an option, some aquarium hobbyists choose to create their acrylic tanks. This allows full customization and oversized tanks if desired.

Acquiring the Raw Materials

The starting point is purchasing cast acrylic sheets in the desired thickness, typically 0.25 inch to 0.5 inch for smaller tanks. Edges can be bonded using acrylic solvent cement. Local plastics suppliers or online retailers offer sheets precut to common dimensions.

Design Preferences

Tanks can be fabricated as basic rectangles or more complex shapes like hexagons. Rimless acrylic designs are also possible for a contemporary look. Consider drawing up plans for the exact dimensions and appearance desired.

Cutting the Acrylic Panels

A table saw with a fine-toothed blade of at least 60 teeth is recommended for cleanly cutting acrylic sheets to size without cracking. Take precautions against overheating. A circular saw or jigsaw are other options. Use straight edges and measure carefully to cut uniform panels.

Bonding the Pieces Together

Special acrylic solvent cements are used to chemically fuse the acrylic pieces into watertight seams. Clamps may be used to hold pieces in place while bonding. Apply cement along the edges according to specifications, allowing proper cure time.

Adding Features and Accessories

Drill holes to install filtration systems, water pumps, lights, lid hinges, and any other needed hardware. Place acrylic tank dividers before sealing if creating multiple chambers. Silicone sealant waterproofs small gaps or corners.

Safety and Structural Considerations

Oversized tanks require added bracing and reinforcement, especially if installed with water above eye level. Acrylic scratches more easily than glass so take care during cleaning. Ensure the stand can bear heavy loads before filling with water and rock/corals.

Constructing an acrylic aquarium is an advanced DIY project but enables complete customization. Kits with precut acrylic panels and bonding solutions simplify the process considerably.

Turnkey Acrylic Tank Options Still Available

Turnkey Acrylic Tank

While ATM is gone, turnkey acrylic aquarium options still exist from specialty manufacturers across the globe:

TruVu Aquariums – Based in Wisconsin, TruVu uses premium cast acrylic to produce rimless tanks from 15 to 250+ gallons in contemporary designs. Their brand focuses on mid-sized tanks for home use.

Clearaquatic – Texas-based company using precision laser cutting and welding to fabricate flawless acrylic tanks up to 500 gallons capacity with clear silicone seams.

Clear for Life – In California, Clear for Life uses aircraft-grade acrylic and European glues to create sturdy custom tanks from 150 to over 50,000 gallons.

AquaMaxx Aquariums – Originating in Hong Kong, AquaMaxx offers affordable rimless or rimmed acrylic tanks from 12 to 135 gallons for saltwater and freshwater uses.

AquaOptim – From Europe, AquaOptim builds unique curved front acrylic aquariums in sizes ranging from 25 to 260 gallons with open or euro-braced styles.

These modern manufacturers help fill the void left by ATMs with high-clarity acrylic tanks of all sizes for hobbyists and professionals alike. They represent the evolution of acrylic tank-building technology.

Frequently Asked Questions

With the closure of ATMs, many common questions have arisen about the state of the business and the future of the key people involved.

Is ATM permanently out of business?

Yes, ATM is completely out of business as of 2020 with no plans announced to reopen or resume operations. The company filed for bankruptcy and shut down manufacturing.

Who were the founders of ATM?

ATM was founded in the 1970s by owners Wayde King and Brett Raymer, who were pioneers in commercial acrylic tank production.

What is Brett Raymer working on now?

Raymer has continued television projects including a spinoff show “Tanked Out of Water” exploring builds away from ATM. He is no longer involved with ATM.

What does ATM stand for?

ATM is the acronym for Acrylic Tank Manufacturing, the original name of the company started by Wayde and Brett.

Could ATM ever reopen?

While unlikely, it is theoretically possible ATM could return under new ownership. However, the brand damage may be irreparable.

Are ATM acrylic tanks still good quality?

During ATM’s declining years, quality suffered compared to earlier decades when they were industry leaders. Buying used older tanks is recommended.

The closure left many loyal customers with questions about the company’s history and future. While ATM is gone, their legacy inspires other acrylic tank makers.

Conclusion

The permanent shuttering of Acrylic Tank Manufacturing in 2020 marked the end of an era in the aquarium hobby. ATM’s struggles with profitability, manufacturing flaws, company leadership, brand marketing, customer service, and retention ultimately led to its downfall after 40+ years as an industry leader.

The company left behind an impact on the hobby felt through equipment shortages, employment loss, lack of replacement parts, and gaps in acrylic tank manufacturing capacity. Their compelling history and many landmark tanks ensure ATM’s legacy lives on.

For all its faults, ATM helped drive acrylic aquariums into the mainstream. Modern manufacturers learned from their mistakes and continue improving acrylic tank designs using emerging technologies. While the ATM story ended sadly, the future of the hobby remains bright and innovative.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsOvppPL2qU&pp=ygUqV2h5IEFjcnlsaWMgVGFuayBNYW51ZmFjdHVyaW5nIENsb3NlZCBEb3du

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