ROCHESTER HILLS, MICH.—A. Raymond Inc. has taken advantage of an explosive market for plastic quick connector systems on North American vehicles by enlarging its operations on this continent.
The injection molder, which specializes in making clip fastening systems, has increased space in its existing operation by more than two-thirds since 1994.
The firm plans to expand further within the next year and has purchased acreage across the street from its Rochester Hills site to build a new facility, said Donald Zinser, president and chief executive officer of A. Raymond U.S.A.
In addition, the molder is evaluating plant locations near the U.S.-Mexico border, Zinser said.
``We've had to run fast to keep up with the growth [in quick connect systems],'' Zinser said in an interview at the firm's North American headquarters in Rochester Hills. ``Our business, and our success, comes from developing product in the connector market, not just as a manufacturer. It's taken off here like crazy.''
Based in Grenoble, France, A. Raymond has carved out a niche in the North American market making specialty engineered clip fasteners. The quick-connecting fasteners attach fuel or vapor line tubing used anywhere on a vehicle from the fuel tank to the fuel rail leading to the engine. The firm also makes connectors for fuel filler necks.
The fasteners, made of nylon or acetal, replace traditional steel or rubber tubing, which require a clamp for connection. Instead, the quick couplings allow the tubing to be snap-fitted, saving time and labor costs in assembly.
Quick-connect fasteners are becoming the standard for use with fluid-handling systems, said Charles Cecil, sales and engineering manager for Eagle-Picher Industries Inc.'s fluid-handling division in Brighton, Mich. The connectors are a good match for thermoplastic multilayer or monolayer tubing now prevalent on most North American vehicles.
``There's a lot of room for another player in the quick-connector business,'' said Cecil, whose firm makes a variety of fuel and vapor line tubing. He added that quick connectors are dominating the industry, mainly due to the ease of assembly.
Three firms own a bulk of the North American business: ITT Automotive in Auburn Hills, Mich.; Bundy International in Warren, Mich.; and A. Raymond.
Since 1994, A. Raymond has added 55,000 square feet to its 85,000-square-foot Rochester Hills facility. This year the firm added five presses, bringing its total press count to 40, with clamping forces of as much as 200 tons.
The firm serves Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers making fluid-handling systems, and Big Three carmakers.
Besides quick connectors, the Michigan plant also has started making nylon and polyester windshield washer nozzles mounted on cowl screens or hoods. The U.S. unit employs 78.
The family-owned firm would not release sales or investment figures.