By: Stephen Downer
June 16, 2014
PUEBLA, MEXICO — Tier 1 auto industry supplier Mecaplast Group says it will open its second injection molding facility in Mexico within 18 months.
The Monaco-based company is considering locating the new plant in the city of Silao.
“We are still in negotiations but it looks like it will be in Silao,” Mecaplast Chairman Thierry Manni told Plastics News June 4. Initially the new plant will have 10 injection molding machines, he added.
Silao, a fast growing industrial zone, is 300 miles northwest of Puebla. Mecaplast has manufactured parts in Puebla since 2002 when it took over French supplier Groupe NEYR’s sites in France, Spain, the Czech Republic and Mexico.
General Motors has a light vehicle assembly complex in Silao and Volkswagen AG produces engines for its Puebla and Chattanooga car assembly plants there.
Both GM and VW are customers of Mecaplast’s Puebla facility, as are Chrysler Group and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. Audi AG has named Mecaplast as a supplier for the Q5 SUV to be assembled in San José Chiapa, in the state of Puebla, from 2016, according to Mecaplast CEO Pierre Boulet.
This month Mecaplast unveiled a $1.5 million upgrade of the 70,000-square-foot Puebla factory, which employs 350, 240 of them blue-collar workers. The facility manufactures body, interior and engine parts. It contributed 36.7 million euros ($50 million) to Mecaplast’s global sales of 661 million euros ($902 million) in 2013.
Globally Mecaplast employs 6,000 at 26 plants, six technical centers and a number of other installations in 16 countries. One of the technical centers is in Mexico, which also has a customer service center.
The Puebla facility’s facelift took six months to complete. Among the major new features are a 17,000-square-feet mezzanine above the 23 presses lined up, single file, in the center of the factory floor and two large silos.
The presses include 14 KraussMaffei, seven Husky and two Netstal presses. All but two are hydraulic machines — the exceptions are two Husky machines. The presses have clamping forces ranging from 150 to 1,600 tons. All of them are fitted with Sepro robots.
Miguel Ángel Flores Botella, the plant’s production manager, explained to visitors that the new layout had led to a marked improvement in the efficiency of raw material movement inside the plant, which consumes 12 million pounds of virgin resin a year.
“What used to take an hour now takes a matter of minutes,” he said.
Mecaplast did not allow photographs to be taken inside the refurbished facility.
“This is the sort of press layout you only read about in magazines but you rarely see in real life,” commented the senior representative of a European press manufacturer.
In a speech at the unveiling ceremony in Puebla, Boulet described Mexico as “a country where we want to invest,” but he expressed doubts about Brazil, where Mecaplast opened a plant, in São Paulo, in 2000.
Asked to explain his Brazil skepticism later, Boulet said: “Brazil is very difficult. We have a very unstable [labor] environment there.”
Charles Manni, Thierry Manni’s father, started Mecaplast with half a dozen employees in 1955. He died in 2012.