PENDERGRASS, GA. — Just eight months after production began, Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd. is expanding the size range of injection molding machines built at its U.S. assembly plant.
Sumitomo officials also will start looking for U.S. suppliers of screws, barrels, platens and other components later this year, said Dennis Cady, who runs the Pendergrass machinery operation.
Tokyo-based Sumitomo has spent $10 million to build and equip the 40,000-square-foot plant, which is about 50 miles northeast of Atlanta. The factory has built 26 presses since production began last October, said Cady, manufacturing manager. The first machines were shipped in December.
The plant, nestled in the red Georgia hills off Interstate 85, already is getting more work. Initially, Sumitomo executives limited the plant to SH presses with clamping forces from 55-176 tons. Now that range has been extended up to 385 tons. The SH machines are Sumitomo's general-purpose presses.
During a plant tour in May, workers were finishing the first of these larger machines, a 220-ton press.
Cady said a 15-ton overhead crane will be delivered in June to handle the larger presses. Air pallets will move the machines on a cushion of air. The plant currently has 8-ton cranes.
Meanwhile, the Pendergrass plant's 22 employees are keeping busy turning out 5-10 presses a month. Workers there weld the frames and build hydraulic tanks, but all the remaining subassemblies and components come direct from Sumitomo's main plant in Chiba, Japan, Cady said.
The sparkling, air-conditioned plant has three assembly bays. Two computer numerically controlled metalworking machines finish the platens that come from Chiba. A laser cutter fashions the steel plate.
Employees use two of the plant's three assembly bays to manufacture presses. In the third bay, they prepare the machines for shipment to Sumitomo warehouses or customers. The Pendergrass operation does not warehouse finished machines.
During the start-up phase, Sumitomo wanted to source components from Japan. Cady said the company will begin searching for U.S. suppliers later this year. For now, components get shipped from Chiba in kits, with parts for one machine all together.
The company still will import from Japan its all-electric SES presses, high-speed SGM units and general-purpose SH machines in clamping forces larger than 385 tons and smaller than 55 tons, according to Jerry Boggs, vice president of the U.S. headquarters, SHI Plastics Machinery Inc.
For Pendergrass, Boggs said, the goal is to build 20 machines a month in three years.
Sumitomo will keep the SHI Plastics Machinery offices in Norcross, Ga.