Southland Industries Inc., a maker of silicone sealing systems for the automotive industry, is investing $4 million during the next two years to diversify its business. The investment, which includes a newly created Specialty Products Division, will manufacture injection molded plastic products. The new division initially is targeting customers in the medical and electrical/electronic industries. It will process plastic, rubber and liquid silicone rubber for a variety of custom-molded products.
``It's a launch pad for us to develop the company in three or four areas,'' said President John Dannenhoffer.
Automotive sealing, the core business of Southland, has doubled in the past four years. It accounted for 65 percent of last year's sales of $47 million, Dannenhoffer said.
The Specialty Products Division will be housed in a 20,000-square-foot section of one of Southland's three plants in the Virginia Beach, Va., area. Construction on the rebuilt space is nearly complete.
To boost its plastics operation, Southland is buying six injection presses with clamping forces of 100-290 tons from MIR SpA of Italy. The machinery will operate in an enclosed area with controls in place for air temperature and quality.
As part of its expansion, Southland also is acquiring eight new presses for liquid silicone injection from Boy Machines Inc.
Southland currently operates 30 injection presses to manufacture its silicone sealing products for the auto industry. The company's main customers are Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp.
He said Southland's plan is to ``grow the Specialty Products Division around'' the core business in automotive sealing. The new division has lined up work with such customers as TRW Inc., Motorola Inc. and Rubbermaid Inc., Dannenhoffer said.
``We see a dominant part of our growth coming from that [specialty] area,'' he said.