Every few seconds, a muffled honk sounds out through Fiamm Technologies Inc., part of the testing process for the largest maker of car horns in North America.
In all, the 220 employees will turn out 17 million horns this year, supplying every General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. assembly plant in North America.
And at the northwest corner of the building, Fiamm's captive injection molding company, Cadillac Engineered Plastics, quietly is making progress of its own. During the past year, CEP has doubled its floor space to 13,000 square feet and started a new, 300-ton Engel press.
The unit has another press on order, scheduled for delivery this summer, and plans to bring in another 10 eventually.
The precision molder also is seeking additional contracts, both in the auto industry and with a cross section of other businesses.
``We're moving fairly aggressively in chasing other markets,'' said Craig Churchill, plastics business unit manager, during a March 7 interview at the Cadillac plant. ``We've been in talks with a number of folks.
``We want to be able to pick and choose select customers, the people who are interested in sophisticated, automated components.''
Churchill expects CEP to post $3 million in sales this year, and the firm hopes to expand to $10 million within the next three years.
Fiamm Technologies' parent company, Fiamm SpA of Montecchio Maggiore, Italy, has operated the Cadillac plant since 1990, picking up the operation through its purchase of French horn maker Klaxon. Fiamm added the in-house plastics plant in 1996.
Cadillac Engineered Plastics is a joint venture, 51 percent owned by Fiamm, the rest by Italy's Ocsa srl, a mold maker and molder in Vicenza that supplies Fiamm in Europe. CEP specializes in the small, complex components that go into each horn.
Its two 50-ton horizontal injection molding presses insert mold the electronic components.
Each press has multistage capabilities, with automated assembly of wires, terminal pins and connectors.
One press has 11-step automated production turning out 18,000 electronic units per day.
The technology carries over to CEP's horizontal presses, with automated delivery of ABS, nylon and acetal. CEP operates with 11 employees, two press operators per shift.
Beyond the electronic components, the firm also injection molds a variety of other parts for the horn, including the trumpet - made from two snap-together pieces that produce the actual sound.
An economy car typically has only one horn, Churchill said. Luxury vehicles can have up to four, which honk in unison. CEP produces all the components for Fiamm's North American production, and it also exports some to Europe.
Fiamm will remain CEP's biggest customer throughout its growth, he said, but the firm already has landed new business taking advantage of its capabilities.
The company's future expansion will depend on those outside sales.
``Because we're fairly lean, we feel we can be very competitive on a lot of systems,'' Churchill said.