Delphi Packard Electric Systems plans to build a plant that will include 110 injection molding machines to produce the next generation of automotive electronics equipment. The Warren, Ohio, facility - expected to start production in mid-1996 - will push Delphi Packard Electric's total molding capacity to more than 1,000 presses in nine locations.
Delphi Packard Electric manufactures automotive power and signal distribution systems. Sales in 1994 were $4.4 billion. It is a division of Delphi Automo-tive Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors Corp. that had 1994 sales of $26.1 billion.
Delphi Packard Electric made wiring sets for 11.3 million vehicles in 1994 - for 15 of the top 20 vehicle makers in the world - and claims a 22.4 percent market share. About 31 percent of its business is for manufacturers other than GM, and that percentage is growing rapidly.
The new plant will be fully self-contained.
``Raw materials will come in one door and complete assemblies will go out the other,'' said spokesman James B. Kobus.
He said the plant's products will be used in the next generation of systems for on-board diagnostics, collision avoidance, navigation, tracking and emission control.
The company did not reveal the expected cost of the plant, which will be located in one of Delphi Packard Electric's existing buildings.
Ken Ellsworth, superintendent of molding operations in Warren, said the new plant will move the company into larger-tonnage precision molding because future electrical distribution centers will need bus bars with 60, 80 or more terminals. Current applications use bus bars with half as many terminals.
``For Packard Electric, large is 150- to 200-ton machines with shot sizes of 8-14 ounces,'' Ells-worth said in a telephone interview. ``We are looking at ways we can make parts this size more precisely.''
No decision has been made on the types and sizes of presses, but Delphi Packard Electric plans to use hot-runner technology for the first time.
``Implementation teams are working on the project now,''
Kobus said, ``and we have already achieved changes in la-bor agreements that we need.''
The plant is expected to employ 1,200.
Delphi Packard Electric employs about 10,000 in the Warren area at its division headquarters, two molding plants, a compounding plant and other support operations.
Production workers in Warren and the company's two Mississippi molding plants belong to the International Union of Electrical Workers.
The business has increased its molding capacity significantly since 1988, when it installed 60 Battenfeld presses at Brook-haven, Miss. The firm added another 60-press cell at Brookhaven in 1990 and installed a third cell at Warren in 1992. It now is phasing in a fourth cell in Clinton, Miss. Company officials dub the cells PreMo, for precision molding.
The automotive industry's shift from electrical connectors to smaller, thin-walled electronic connectors has spurred the molding expansion.
Delphi Packard Electric, then known as Packard Electric, designed the 60-machine PreMo cells in 1987. It started by qualifying machinery makers, and after selecting the top two contenders, set up a four-month pilot operation in Warren to develop the presses, tooling concepts and auxiliary equipment.
The result was the 60-press cell running Battenfeld 17- and 38-ton presses that accommodate standard and offset horizontal injection. Molds are single-cavity. Each press has a customized scale that takes two measurements each time a part drops.
Cycle time is eight to 12 seconds and the system is designed so that mold changes (good part to good part) of three to five minutes are normal. Production runs may be as low as 10 parts.
One employee tends 12 machines in a PreMo cell. No supervisors or other support personnel are on duty for the second and third shifts.
PreMo cell machines are calibrated identically so that molds from one can be shifted to another at the same or a different plant and run without tweaking.
``This system has been so successful because Packard Electric took so much time to evaluate the process,'' said Wolfgang Meyer, president of Battenfeld of America Inc. ``A lot of bugs in the complete system were ironed out before manufacturing started.''
The Warren operation houses a PreMo cell with 60 Battenfelds (24 17-ton and 36 38-ton machines) in one plant and 230 Van Dorn presses in a second plant. The Van Dorns have 38-300 tons of clamping force, but most are 200 tons or smaller. The larger plant runs more than 1,500 tools to manufacture nearly 2,400 different parts. Toolmaking for all plants is done at Warren.
The Warren plants also make connectors for air bags, transmissions and engine controls.
``These are the type of things that are really growing in the automotive industry,'' Ellsworth said.
The current Warren molding operation will be expanded, but he declined to give details.
He said many of the lessons learned with the PreMo cells have been adapted to other precision and conventional molding operations at Warren. The 230-press plant averages about 50 mold changes a day compared with about six mold changes at the PreMo plant.
The Warren operation manufactured 1.53 billion parts in 1993, boosted that by 21.6 percent to 1.86 billion in 1994, and expects this year to increase output to 2.03 billion parts - nearly a one-third increase over 1993-all with the same presses. The firm, which went from five-day to seven-day operation in April 1994, said capacity utilization is 98 percent.
``You have to do a lot of planning to achieve that kind of efficiency,'' Ellsworth said. ``You have to perform preventive maintenance on machines and tools so that when you need them, they are ready to go.''
Delphi Packard Electric also has molding operations in Mexico, Germany, Austria, China and Brazil. The Saltillo, Mexico, plant is a joint venture with Gruppo Condumex. It currently has 11 injection molding machines, but that number is likely to increase substantially during the next year, Kobus said.
At its various locations, Delphi Packard Electric also does its own extrusion - primarily to make automotive wiring - and its own blow molding.