Automotive lighting supplier Premier Plastic Technologies is moving more than just its plant location.
The injection molder, a subsidiary of Williams Controls Inc. of Portland, Ore., is completing a facelift to compete more efficiently in the tough automotive market.
In July, the company, known as PPT, completed a move to a newly built facility in Sterling Heights, Mich., and invested more than $6 million to upgrade operations. The plant has its official grand opening Sept. 23, when visitors will find a plant filled with new equipment — including nine just-purchased presses — and a company that is stepping into virgin territory for its growth.
``When we purchased [PPT], we inherited an old plant with old equipment,'' said Williams Controls Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Itin. ``Productionwise, it was tough to make money. Now, we are ready to make a major move to extend our manufacturing operations.''
PPT is beginning to make complete lighting systems — fully assembled lenses and housing units that can be shipped to customers, Itin said. It also will expand its in-house toolmaking and add equipment to paint or add metal trim to its lighting parts.
Publicly traded Williams wants to double sales of its PPT subsidiary to more than $10 million next year, Itin said. The company, which makes electronic sensors and controls, bought PPT in 1996 from molder Neumann Engineering and Manufacturing Inc.
At the time, PPT sales were at about $2 million, Itin said. The company's plant in Madison Heights, Mich., made plastic parts and injection molds.
The new, 62,000-square-foot site gives the firm an extra 22,000 square feet of space, said Timothy Marker, Williams Controls' vice president of sales and marketing.
All but one of the new presses are Mitsubishi models, with clamping forces of 200-2,200 tons. The Mitsubishi presses come with automated, real-time controls that help the firm track shipment and inventory levels, he said. PPT is considering new computer numerically controlled machining centers for its tooling operations.
The expansion also includes 10,000 square feet of warehouse space that PPT will use to store aftermarket auto parts. About a third of the new plant will house the toolmaking operations.
PPT is targeting work with larger lighting and interior-parts suppliers, Marker said. The plant primarily will mold taillamp lenses and housings, some forward lighting parts and interior trim pieces.
PPT is supplying one of its first complete taillight pieces for Chrysler Corp.'s 1998 Ram Charger pickup truck, sold in Mexico.
Williams expects sales of about $70 million this year, Itin said. The firm's objective is to reach $250 million in sales within five years, he said.