EXCEL TO EXPAND NYLONCRAFT BY $6 MILLION

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Excel Industries Inc. has launched a major expansion at its Nyloncraft plastics manufacturing plant in Mishawaka, Ind., as it awaits the start of the single-biggest automotive contract ever awarded to the plant.

Excel, based in Elkhart, Ind., will spend about $6 million over the next year to add six injection molding presses and other secondary equipment to the plant. In addition, the facility's square footage will grow by more than one-fourth to accommodate increased production.

The expansion supports an $8 million annual contract recently awarded by General Motors Corp. to Excel's Plastics Products Group. In fall 1998, the Mishawaka plant will begin producing plastic exterior trim components and rear slide window frames for GM's redesigned C/K line of pickup trucks.

The plant, which currently employs 360, will add at least 30 people, said operations director Terry Rensberger.

``It's a major contract, and we're excited to get the work,'' Rensberger said. ``Fortunately, we have the space to grow at this facility.''

The plant expansion comes on the heels of announcements by Excel within the past year that it would close metal fabricating plants in Rockford, Ill., and Battle Creek, Mich., due to production shortfalls.

The new contract reverses that trend, said spokesman William Schall. The plant will add another 31,000 square feet to its current 120,000-square-foot space. The six presses, as well as robotics and automated materials-handling equipment, will be installed later this year on concrete slabs being poured at the site.

The new equipment will include two vertical presses with clamping forces of 500 tons and four horizontal presses with 725 tons of clamping force. The plant currently has 35 injection presses.

The Mishawaka plant now makes plastic air-suspension systems, vacuum manifolds and steering components for Ford Motor Co. and GM vehicles. Other production includes air pistons for Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. in Nashville, Tenn., and outboard motor covers primarily for Outboard Marine Corp. in Waukegan, Ill. The plant also does some parts assembly.

The facility processes glass-filled polyester, nylon and other engineered resins to make the parts. Excel will mold exterior trim components for the new GM pickup trucks using nylon 6/6 resin with a PVC overmold, and will produce the rear window frames with acrylic styrene acrylonitrile.

Excel purchased the Mishawaka facility in 1988 from Nyloncraft, a privately held company. As part of its plastics group, Excel operates another Nyloncraft plant in Bowling Green, Ky., and plants under the Mark 1 Molded Plastics name in Jonesville, Mich., and Henry, Tenn. Together, the plants have 99 injection presses.

Excel, a publicly traded company, recorded sales of $887 million with profit of $19.1 million during calendar year 1996. The firm's Plastics Products Group recorded $84 million in North American injection molding sales during the same period and was ranked 57th on Plastics News' recently released listing of top North American injection molders.