Helmet maker's Detroit move means more work for Sturgis Molded Products

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Xenith LLC Sturgis Molded Products will mold the polycarbonate shell and face mask clips for Xenith LLC, which has shifted production to Detroit.

Sturgis Molded Products (SMP) scored a big order from football gear manufacturer Xenith LLC, which relocated the manufacturing and assembly of its products from Lowell, Mass., to Detroit.

SMP will make between 40,000 and 50,000 polycarbonate helmet shells and the injection molded clips for face masks at its recently expanded facility in Sturgis, Mich., Ben Kevern, sales account manager, said in a telephone interview following an April 28 event at the Detroit warehouse where the parts will be assembled.

 “They found us,” Kevern said. “They carved out a radius around Detroit and set out on a hunt of injection molders. We ended up on their list. After touring our facility, talking with our people and seeing our product base they chose SMP as the best fit for the injection molding of their helmet shells and helmet clips.”

SMP also makes safety components for the automotive industry as well as bleacher seats and parts for the appliance industry. Along with a skilled workforce, the company had recently added a 22,000-square foot warehouse and four injection molding presses, putting it in a good position to win the Xenith job.

“We make airbag housings that protect human life and other automotive safety products, so this falls into that niche for us,” Kevern said. “Our employees really like making that type of product. They feel like they’re making a difference and it allows us to have that strong emphasis on part quality because a bad part leaving our shop could compromise some safety aspects. We like having that rewarding type of product in our facility.”

Xenith LLC Xenith will assemble the injection molded outer shells, inner protective padding and face masks in Detroit.

SMP will be making the hard, shiny exteriors of the football helmets in several sizes and 12 colors. The company also will make the clips — six per helmet — to secure the face masks. The parts will be sent to the Detroit assembly crew.

“They take the face mask, the inside bonnet with shock absorbers and the chin straps and put all those pieces together to make a fully assembled helmet,” Kevern said. “It’s funny that [auto supplier] Lear [Corp.] is helping Xenith with the labor force, because Lear is one of our injection molding customers so there’s a little triangle there.”

SMP isn’t doing any hiring for its part of the helmet production, but the job will give its current employees the chance to work more hours, Kevern added.

“This filled up the existing capacity we had,” he said. “Right now the current orders have us making between 40,000 and 50,000 helmet shells through July, so through the second quarter. We don’t know what’s coming after that yet but hopefully more.”

Xenith helmets use air bladders that look similar to hockey pucks within the shell and padding to act similar to automotive air bags, serving as shock-absorbers and minimizing head movement during collisions.

The three models currently on the company website retail from $165 for a youth model to $399 for the top version.

It also sells shoulder pads, accessories and apparel.

Former Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, now with the Buffalo Bills, is Xenith’s lone NFL endorser, although other NFL players have reportedly worn the company’s helmets, including Ray Rice, Matt Birk, Ricky Williams, and Dallas Clark, according to a Boston sports website.

The company has picked up sponsorship deals with several football organizations, and its website said it is an official supplier to the NFL.

Bill Shea of Crain’s Detroit Business contributed to this report.