Breitkreuz Molds & Plastics Inc. has more than doubled the size of its injection molding plant in a move to enlarge the company's role as a maker of speaker grilles.
Breitkreuz, based in Sterling Heights, Mich., makes both interior automotive trim parts and production tooling at two separate locations. Until the expansion, which started in December, the company's tooling work outweighed its molding operation, said co-owner Patrick Guido.
``The [automotive] industry is rapidly replacing metal in speaker grilles with plastic,'' Guido said. ``We're one of the few suppliers to be able to mold a grille part to the lower door or make it separately. We needed to expand our plastics plant to take on more injection molding work.''
The company, purchased in 1992 by Guido and partner Kurt Dahl, spent $1.5 million to expand the size of the plastic molding plant from 13,000 to 28,000 square feet and buy equipment. It added two Ube injection presses with a clamping force of 700 tons, plus process control equipment to automate the facility.
The Center Line, Mich., plant primarily molds map-pocket speaker grilles from polypropylene and other thermoplastic resins.
With the new equipment, which was installed in May, the company now operates 15 injection presses, Guido said.
Customers include large parts suppliers such as Southfield, Mich.-based Lear Corp.; Troy, Mich.-based Textron Automotive Co. and Visteon Automotive Systems, the Dearborn, Mich.-based parts-making division of Ford Motor Co.
Those parts suppliers and others are developing full interior systems that integrate a variety of instrument panel, door panel and interior trim parts. The use of plastic parts allows several parts to be molded together, cutting labor costs and consolidating parts.
``There is cost savings in plastics,'' Guido said.
The company currently makes 15 styles of plastic speaker grilles. Visteon has started molding one of the company's grilles to a door panel on several upcoming models, Guido said.
Breitkreuz also owns a 21,000-square-foot tooling plant in Sterling Heights that supplies injection molds for automotive interior parts. The plant performs design and engineering work, areas in growing demand by larger suppliers.
The expansion is part of a major turnaround by the company, Guido said. The partners bought the small custom mold and prototyping shop from owner Hugo Breitkreuz, the son of founder Ervin Breitkreuz, six years ago.
The shop, which recorded about $2 million in sales in 1993, was transformed to a production tooling and molding operation. The tooling area was expanded in 1996.
Company sales approached $13 million last year, and 125 employees now work at the two plants, Guido said.
The company plans to continue on a controlled growth path with more expansion in the future, Guido said. With both tooling and injection molding, the company is in a position to take on more program management responsibility from its customers, he said.