STONEY CREEK, ONTARIO — Tiercon Industries Inc. plans to open a new automotive component painting facility in Stoney Creek.
The firm invested about C$25 million (US$17 million) in the operation, which is due to begin commercial operation in midsummer. The paint plant complements Tiercon's injection molding facility next door and will allow the firm to take up new painting contracts with Tier 1 and Tier 2 auto components firms.
``We needed a finishing operation,'' Stephen Turner, vice president and chief operating officer, said during a June 7 tour of the new plant. The company has been sending most of its paint work outside, but painting ``is too important a part of the process to not control it,'' Turner said.
The new line can paint auto parts as long as 91 inches. A floor-mounted conveyor carries parts through a six-stage power washer, a primer booth and oven and then a topcoat booth and oven. Robots do all of the painting on the 3,000-foot-long line. Parts take four hours to traverse the system. Layout in the 162,000-square-foot plant allows assembly as soon as parts exit the paint line.
Turner predicts about half the paint operation's work will be parts molded by Tiercon in Stoney Creek and the rest will be for automotive suppliers such as Magna International Inc. It has sales potential of about C$50 million (US$34 million) a year, boosting Stoney Creek's annual molding and sales capacity to more than C$150 million (US$102 million).
Tiercon began planning the paint operation when it bought the Stoney Creek molding plant last summer. Magna had acquired the molding operation when it bought Triam Automotive Inc. in the spring of 1998, but didn't want to keep it. Tiercon acquired the molding plant, then Tiercon itself was purchased by auto parts firm Noble International Ltd. of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Tiercon operates a small painting operation, Centrifugal Coaters Inc. of Oakville, Ontario, which it plans to close late this year when a current rubber-parts painting contract runs out, according to Turner.
Tiercon is responding to automotive original equipment manufacturers' demands for a range of services from their suppliers. Turner said his firm should attract new business because its programs run from mold design to finishing and assembly. It works closely with mold builder Omega Tool Corp. of Windsor, Ontario, which formerly owned the Stoney Creek molding plant.
Turner highlighted several efficiency and environmental highlights of the paint operation. Color changes take only 45 seconds and involve paint losses of less than a liter, making short runs feasible. An air-handling system totally encloses the wash and paint systems to minimize dust in the operation. Wash and exhaust systems keep airborne plant emissions at very low levels.
An off-line test facility allows process fine tuning before part painting is done on a commercial scale. Programmable-logic controllers operate and monitor all stages of the process and make it possible to check profitability of a job in progress.
Tiercon's expansion plans go beyond the paint operation. This year it will buy and install two 2,200-ton Milacron presses at an undisclosed customer location. In 2001, it plans to build a molding addition in Stoney Creek. Meanwhile, it is scouting acquisition opportunities in a market now characterized by high selling prices.
Tiercon now runs 27 presses up to 3,300 tons in Stoney Creek. It molds exterior and interior parts, many of them for General Motors Corp. cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles.
The company is Noble's main plastics and painting business. Noble, traded on the American Stock Exchange, also makes laser-welded steel blanks, stampings and glove-box latches and owns a small painting plant in Vassar, Mich.
Tiercon's Stoney Creek employment will reach about 500 when the 200-employee paint operation is in full swing.