Kelch Corp.'s assemblies division will break ground this week on a $3 million, 60,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Cedarburg, Wis. The facility will house the division's eight Cincinnati Milacron injection presses, which have clamping forces of 50-220 tons. Another four Milacron presses are to be added when the plant opens in October, said Bill Foster, plant general manager.
The site will accommodate expansions during the next three to five years of as much as 100,000 square feet.
The division manufactures a proprietary line of patented fuel tank caps and fuel gauges for the lawn and garden equipment industry, which is the core business for 38-year-old Kelch. It has been a separate business unit for the past six years.
Kelch's other businesses, including custom injection molding and tooling for rotational molders, came later in the company's history.
The assemblies unit has five engineers who design and build all automated equipment used by the division. Foster said the focus is two-pronged: to supply the division's molded parts for its proprietary products and to mold for customers Kelch serves from its other business units.
Foster said the assemblies division struggled the first few years before finding its niche.
``We found that we were really good at inventing new products,'' he said.
Two years ago, the company obtained patents for two electronic fuel sensors that do not require their electronic parts to be submerged in the fuel, allowing safer and more reliable operation.
Last year, Kelch introduced a new gas cap, the tank inversion protection system, or Tips, a patented fuel cap that prevents spillage if the cap is tilted beyond 35 degrees. Two weeks ago, Kelch received another patent for a fuel sensor.
``In the last four years, we've developed 12 new products,'' Foster said.
The assemblies division has about 80 employees and Foster said another 40 employees will be added in the next 18 months.
During the past 10 years, Kelch's total annual sales have grown from $10 million to about $60 million.
Kelch operates seven facilities in three states, including its newest molding plant in Lenoir, N.C., which makes steering wheels for the lawn and garden equipment industry.