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Toolmaker Frimo planning new plant in Mexico

By: Catherine Kavanaugh

November 5, 2013

WIXOM, MICH. — Plastics tooling supplier Frimo Inc. will build a manufacturing operation in central Mexico as it follows customers south of the border.

Frimo President Jeff Dailey announced the plan on Oct. 24 to 250 guests from 75 companies that attended the company’s second annual TechDay North America at one of its facilities in Wixom.

“Reuters reported this week that Mexico is about to go on a $10 billion factory building spree,” Dailey told the crowd. “As our customers build new plants in Mexico it is important for Frimo to follow. The low-wage structure, relative proximity compared to other low-cost countries, and free-trade agreements also make good business sense for Frimo.”

Frimo develops and manufactures tools, machines and automated production lines that process plastics for the automotive industry. Part of the Germany-based Frimo Group, Frimo Inc. was launched 23 years ago to serve one major client, Delphi Corp., and has grown over the decades despite the recession.

Sales have doubled in the last 5 years to a current annual rate of $50 million, Dailey said, describing Frimo as financially stable with a strong balance sheet.

To support its growth, Dailey also announced that Frimo Inc. will start an apprenticeship program and invest $1.5 million into its Wixom technical center over the next two years.

In 2014, the company will buy a thermoforming machine that has in-mold grain lamination (IMGL) capabilities.

So far, Frimo has spent $6 million at the Wixom facility, which the company says houses a wide range of plastics processing technologies. In addition to thermoforming and laminating, Frimo’s processes include polyurethane processing, which is used to make vehicle instrument panels, door trims, headrests, and steering wheels, flexible trimming, punching, pressing/forming, edgefolding and joining.

“We face some critical changes as we grow and our skilled workforce ages,” Dailey said. “The state of Michigan has an extreme shortage of skilled labor. Young people aren't learning the technical skills in school needed for today's automotive workforce.”

Mexico also struggles with a lack of skilled labor, Dailey said. He did not give any time frame for when its new plant would open to serve customers in Mexico and back up operations in Michigan, saying: "...our build up will take time -- more time than we would like -- but we are fully committed to this initiative.”

Frimo Inc. currently 125 employees and contractors at two plants in Wixom and one in Ontario. The parent company started in a garage in Germany in 1962 with five employees and sales of $200,000. Today, the company has 1,200 employees worldwide and sales of $225 million.