Toledo Molding & Die Inc. is starting construction on what will be its largest plant and a showplace to give the company an inside track on blow molded automotive parts.
The Toledo-based company will break ground at the end of August for the 115,000-square-foot plant in Bowling Green, Ohio. Initially, the facility will include six twin-head blow molding machines, with that number escalating to 16 machines in three years.
The new site allows the company to blow mold heating and air-conditioning ducts, a project that should double the company's $100 million in annual sales by early next century, said President Donald Harbaugh.
The company initially will invest about $10 million in the building and equipment and increase that total to close to $18 million by the year 2001, Harbaugh said.
The plant will start with 20 employees, with plans to reach 200 by 2002, he said.
While the first new machines are being installed, the company will work with Cincinnati-based equipment manufacturer Cincinnati Milacron to develop new blow molding machines with improved controls and better repeatability, Harbaugh said.
The plant takes Toledo Molding in a new direction from its core business of injection molding, mold making and prototype work. The company had leased its first blow molding facility, a 15,000-square-foot site in Bowling Green, in January 1997 and installed three machines in anticipation of cultivating new business.
``This helps fulfill our full-service commitment to our customers [in air-handling products],'' Harbaugh said. ``We had to make a move to protect our investment and our position. A lot of air ducts are now blow molded because of lower-cost tooling, but few [auto] suppliers have the capabilities that we now do in blow molding.''
A major leg up for the new plant was provided by Dearborn, Mich.-based Visteon Automotive Systems, a minority owner in Toledo Molding. The new plant will primarily ship the blow molded air ducts to a Visteon instrument-panel production plant in Saline, Mich., Harbaugh said.
Visteon hiked its ownership share in Toledo Molding from 18 to 35 percent in August 1997. Visteon officials, who were unavailable for comment late last week, said at the time that they hoped to forge a stronger bond with Toledo Molding.
That prediction is bearing fruit. Toledo Molding is currently blow molding air ducts for Ford Motor Co.'s Grand Marquis and Lincoln Continental Town Car. Upcoming contracts include several new Ford luxury vehicles and an expected entry-level luxury car from Jaguar Cars Ltd., which is owned by Ford.
Other new projects include ductwork for an upcoming replacement vehicle for Ford's Escort and a contract with Mazda Motor Corp. for a new sport utility vehicle, Harbaugh said.
Visteon is owned by Ford and operates as its parts-making business unit.
Toledo Molding injection molds air-handling products such as the cooling module for the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable, as well as radiator condensers and fan shrouds. Besides the blow molding equipment, the company operates 52 injection presses with clamping forces ranging from 85-1,760 tons.
Some of those parts, including some of the air-handling parts and front-end cooling systems, will be assembled at one of Toledo Molding's two plants in Delphos, Ohio, Harbaugh said. Others will be shipped directly to Visteon plants for assembly.
Harbaugh and his brother, executive vice president Mel Harbaugh, bought Toledo Molding in 1989. At the time, sales were close to $30 million. Now, the company has more than tripled that volume at its five current Ohio plants, which employ 700.
One of those plants in Delphos is close in size to the planned Bowling Green facility and has 90,000 square feet of space. That Delphos plant is surrounded by 42 acres and could eventually be expanded, Harbaugh said.
With the added blow molding operation, the company would like to move beyond its prime Ford business, Harbaugh said. Visteon is taking the same approach. The company has set a goal to do 20 percent of its work with carmakers other than Ford.
``This gives us flexibility we've never had before with air-handling parts,'' Harbaugh said. ``We're looking to aggressively go after new business with [original equipment manufacturers] and in other blow molding parts. That's also Visteon's strategy to expand the market and its customer base.''