Worthington Industries Inc.'s Custom Plastics Group has forged an alliance with a German injection molder to make automotive parts in each other's plants.
The alliance with Troester Systeme und Komponenten of Breitengussbach, Germany, gives each company a jumping-off point to sell and produce more automotive products to carmakers globally.
Worthington Industries, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, does not operate plastics facilities in Europe, while Troester, known as TSK, has a similar lack of plants in North America. The agreement, financial details of which were not announced, also allows the companies to share technology in the design and prototyping arenas.
Both companies produce and assemble a variety of injection molded parts for interior and exterior automotive applications. Unlike Worthington's plastics group, TSK specializes exclusively in the use of polyurethane for such components as instrument panels, bumpers and exterior trim.
Worthington uses a handful of thermoplastic materials to make decorative and functional auto components including air-conditioning louvers and dashboard assemblies.
The alliance provides both companies access to a total of 20 plants — 11 operated by Worthington's Custom Plastics Group and nine owned by TSK, one of Europe's largest producers of polyurethane parts.
In addition, TSK is building its first South American plant. The 100,000-square-foot facility, which is scheduled to open in October 1998 in Juiz de Fora, Brazil, will primarily serve a nearby plant run by Mercedes-Benz do Brasil SA, said TSK President Guenther Troester. The plant will begin with five injection presses with clamping forces of 500-2,300 tons.
TSK, which recorded $132 million in 1996 sales, also operates a plant near Shanghai, China, in a joint venture with the Chinese government under the name Shangzhou TSK Plastics Precision LP. TSK owns 51 percent.
Worthington and TSK will exchange plant personnel as part of the alliance, Troester said. Also, when one of TSK's customers needs work done in North America, TSK will use Worthington's facilities to make the parts, he added. The same scenario will occur for Worthington in Europe, China and Brazil.
``The main issue was that we share the same philosophy with Worthington,'' Troester said. ``We can comfortably combine our know-how at our plants to produce components less expensively than it would be for us to build new plants in North America.''
TSK primarily works with European automakers such as BMW AG, Mercedes-Benz AG and General Motors Corp.'s Adam Opel AG division. Troester added that the alliance was especially critical because both BMW and Mercedes-Benz have opened U.S. plants.
The German supplier had shopped the idea of an alliance with several other large U.S. suppliers, Troester said. Those suppliers included Cambridge Industries Inc. of Madison, Heights, Mich., and Becker Group of Sterling Heights, Mich. But Worthington seemed like the best fit, he said.
The Ohio parts maker's plastics group recorded $325 million in injection molding sales during 1996, placing it 11th on Plastics News' ranking of North American injection molders. Overall, the publicly held company, which also makes processed steel products and metal castings, recorded $1.5 billion in 1996 sales.
Those sales results do not figure in the December acquisition of Plastics Manufacturing Inc. of Harrisburg, N.C. The company, which recorded 1996 sales of $27 million, makes injection molded and thermoformed parts at five plants in Harrisburg and Concord, N.C.
The alliance with TSK will help Worthington grow its business beyond its core North American customers, said spokesman Dennis Minshell.
``It allows our plastics group to initiate a global presence without investing at a higher cost,'' Minshell said.
Excluding the PMI transaction, Worthington operates 240 injection presses, according to Plastics News' survey. Tonnage figures were not disclosed.
The company has about 4,000 employees in its plastics group and more than 12,500 employees overall.
TSK operates 200 presses with clamping forces ranging from 50-2,500 tons, Troester said. The company has about 1,000 employees.