Production of high-volume, close-tolerance plastic gears and gear trains for automotive applications is growing considerably at SPM Inc.'s Minneapolis plant.
The plastics replace mostly metal-cast gears in power window lifts and transmissions for power seats, air management, wipers, power mirrors, environmental controls and hidden headlamps, General Manager Thomas Opielowski said by telephone.
Automotive-related business is approaching the plant's volume of gears for electronic copiers, printers and ink cartridges. Gears will account for about $4.5 million of SPM Minneapolis' sales of $16 million in 1999, Opielowski said. The 65,000-square-foot site employs 120 and had 1998 sales of $14.5 million.
SPM Minneapolis has invested $2.4 million for 15 injection molding machines; five Star Automation servo-robots; and replacement central drying, materials-handling and water systems since May 1998. Another $1.2 million is budgeted for improvements in the next year.
The plant operates 49 injection presses with clamping forces of 50-310 tons, including 34 Van Dorns, eight Toshibas, four Nisseis, two Milacrons and one Arburg. Presses average less than 10 years of service, down from about 17 years in 1995, when Dynacast/SPM acquired the facility.
Mostly, SPM Minneapolis uses engineering-grade resins such as polysulfone, acetal and nylon.
Assembly work is moving one block to an 8,000-square-foot building, initially using 2,000 square feet for value-added operations.
``We need room in the main plant,'' Opielowski said.
He plans to add a work shift and become ``a full-blown, seven-day operation'' by early 2000. The plant currently operates on a five-day schedule with occasional weekend work.
SPM has other injection molding operations in Anaheim and Fremont, Calif.; Houston and El Paso, Texas; Hickory, N.C.; Hillsboro, Ore.; Arecibo, Puerto Rico; Montreal; Guadalajara and Apodaca, Mexico; Malacca, Malaysia; and Mountain Ash, Wales.
Venture capital firm Cinven of London led a management buyout April 15 that acquired both Anaheim-based SPM and Alcester, England-based metal die-caster Dynacast from Coats Viyella plc of London.