After more than 50 years in business, mold maker Delta Tooling Co. has changed its name and expanded its focus to go after injection molding for lower-volume, specialty vehicles.
The Auburn Hills, Mich., company will now be known as Delta Technologies Group, a name that reflects its move to parts design and manufacture, said Chief Executive Officer Peter Mozer on Jan. 13.
DTG has invested both in new molding machines, primarily from Krauss-Maffei Corp., and a new assembly and shipping facility. It has established ties with General Motors Corp. and a GM supplier, making the transition from cutting steel to molding parts a quicker process.
The company also has tapped Robert Vamos, former president of injection molders LDM Technologies Inc. and Molmec Inc., as chief operating officer. Vamos will help guide the new parts production work, Mozer said.
The company, one of the largest injection toolmakers in the United States, will maintain its mold operations at locations in Michigan and North Carolina but can no longer rely on that for future growth, he said. Global competitive pressures, slimmer profit margins and overcapacity have left many larger tool shops looking for other opportunities, Mozer said.
Other automotive-based toolmakers, including Reko International Group Inc. of Oldcastle, Ontario, and PME Cos. of Center Line, Mich., have expanded their injection molding units.
``Unfortunately, toolmaking is pretty brutal,'' Mozer said. ``My plans are to maintain in tooling and expand our production group. We've found a pretty good niche in low-volume vehicles that has been well-received, and it's time to change now.''
The company always has done some low-volume production work for customers, Mozer said. That work ramped up three years ago, when supplier ASC Inc. asked Delta to work on design and prototyping for General Motors Corp's new Chevrolet SSR. GM launched the specialty vehicle, short for Super Sport Roadster, in September 2003 and only makes about 1,500 annually.
Delta worked closely with ASC's engineering and design unit, ASC Vehicle Technologies of Oak Park, Mich. DTG's product development team designed 423 parts, did prototype tooling on 95 of those and production tooling for 62 components.
The work has led DTG to start designing and molding interior components, including parts for instrument panels, doors and trim, and some exterior parts on both the SSR and other specialty vehicles. With the SSR assembled at GM's expanded Lansing Craft Centre in Lansing, Mich., DTG decided to open a nearby distribution facility of its own.
The company opened a 15,000-square-foot sequencing and shipping facility in Lansing last summer. The facility ensures that parts ship on time daily, a new area for the tooling company, Mozer said.
DTG also installed equipment to expand parts production, both at its Auburn Hills facility and at Pinnacle Molded Plastics Corp., a minority-owned joint venture in Traverse City, Mich., where DTG has a 49 percent stake.
DTG installed three larger presses, with clamping forces ranging from 1,450-3,500 tons, in a former prototyping building on its Auburn Hills campus. That included purchasing a new, 3,500-ton Krauss Maffei press and taking two others from its mold-sampling operation.
In Traverse City, the company has a dozen machines in sizes from 90-1,000 tons that can assist with smaller-sized parts, Mozer said. The company also has assigned 15 people full-time to its in-house production group - from a workforce of about 200 employees - and is adding more people as needed.
The company is tiptoeing gently with its new unit, making certain that its molding customers are not threatened, Mozer said. For that reason, the company only wants to focus on lower-volume projects, ones that do not take significant business from a larger molder, he said.
But Mozer also believes that tooling is not coming back in North America to the high-water levels of the 1990s. The potential of a new niche has him more excited.
``I'm pretty upbeat after a tough couple of years,'' Mozer said. ``We've gotten through it and have found a way to keep growing. You have to use pure Yankee ingenuity sometimes to be able to keep headed in the right direction."