Swiss hot-runner manufacturer Unitemp SA wants to increase its share of the North American market by beginning local manufacturing.
Unitemp's Softline Corp. unit is building a St. Joseph, Mich., facility of at least 9,000 square feet. The plant will begin by making nozzles, and plans to manufacture complete hot-runner systems by late 2000 or early 2001.
Construction costing $700,000-$800,000 should begin by midsummer with operations starting in December, Udo Kolter, Softline general manager, said in a telephone interview. Another $200,000 will be spent on ``the first few machines'' for production, he said.
Courroux, Switzerland-based Unitemp formed Softline in December 1997 and soon relocated Kolter to develop the North American market. Previously a Michigan agent had represented Unitemp in the region.
Softline recently rebounded from a major October fire. The operation had three offices and was sharing a work area and warehouse with eight other businesses. The blaze destroyed the leased St. Joseph building and its contents.
``We lost everything,'' including tools, controllers, spare parts, computers and engineering gear, Kolter said. Softline's losses totaled $100,000.
Now, Softline's seven employees handle small repairs, engineering, customer support, maintenance, marketing and sales from temporary quarters nearby.
``We are taking small steps,'' Kolter said.
Those measures include the addition of a skilled Unitemp trainer in the fall to help replicate Swiss practices at the new nozzle and hot-runner manufacturing facility.
In Switzerland, Unitemp employs about 65 and occupies about 12,000 square feet.