Alabama-based injection molder Mid-South Industries Inc. wants to tackle its region's growing automotive market, and is starting with a partnership with a major toolmaker.
MSI on Feb. 25 signed a deal with automotive mold maker M2M International Ltd. to jointly produce and repair molds at MSI's main campus in Gadsden.
The 50-50 partnership will allow the companies to sell a range of mold-making services to the many automakers in the region, said MSI Chief Executive Officer Harold Weaver. Alabama and the surrounding region are lined with numerous automotive and supplier plants.
``We're looking out beyond today and assessing ourselves,'' said Weaver, whose company is a leading North American maker of small parts for electronics and appliances. ``We're considering what we have to do to go after the automotive market. M2M can assist us, and we've structured this together.''
The firms will launch a tooling mall at the site, bringing in outside vendors to lease space at the facility, said M2M President Richard Myers. A mold texturing company, Complete Surface Technologies Inc. of Rockford, Mich., and a fixturing company, Prominent Fixture and Gauge Ltd. of Windsor, Ontario, will be initial tenants, Myers said.
M2M also plans to pull in some help with a faraway source. The company has an alliance with Tokyo-based Ikegami Mold Engineering Co. Ltd. and plans to add several Ikegami employees to its Alabama operation by the end of this year. Those workers can be a bridge to the area's many Japan-based carmakers, he said.
``The tooling mall will reduce overhead and allow us to offer more services,'' said Myers, whose company is based in Wallaceburg, Ontario. ``These days you have to be a global trader, and this gives us a fixed point in the South to do that. The project is moving even quicker than planned right now.''
The firms hope to move equipment and employees to the facility by early summer, Myers said. The operation will be called MS-2, combining the company names.
M2M had been considering restructuring its operations for the past two years, Myers said. The company, with sales of about C$15 million (US11.1 million) last year, had built a sprawling operation that included a separate injection molding shop in Wallaceburg and an engineering firm, Synergetic LLC, that operated from Romeo, Mich.
M2M sold the Romeo plant on Dec. 15 to Tom Barr, who is starting an injection mold operation at the 10,000-square-foot site. Barr, formerly plant manager of Detroit-based mold maker Corver Engineering Co., has named his new company TK Mold & Engineering Inc. His company will continue to work on production tooling projects with M2M, Barr said Feb. 26. The company will start with 11 employees and focus on tooling for small-size parts, such as automotive cables, and repair work, he said.
Family-owned MSI, based in Gadsden, has operations in dies and stampings as well as injection molding, which accounts for about 45 percent of its work, Weaver said. The firm recorded $230 million in sales last year and has other operations in Kentucky and Mexico.
MSI's existing tooling operation, a small maintenance and repair shop called Black Creek Tool & Mold, will merge with M2M's operation at a vacant 40,000-square-foot building in Gadsden. The operation will start with about 14 employees, half from MSI and the rest from M2M and Ikegami, Weaver said.
MSI has specialized in small parts, while M2M has built tooling for larger components.
``There are other vendors in the area, but very few who can do full-service packages,'' Weaver said.
MSI continues to look for expansion opportunities. The company opened its plant in Matamoros, Mexico, two years ago, primarily to mold appliance parts. Now the company may add a plant in the Ju rez area for molding and assembly, Weaver said.
The tooling mall also opens the door to smaller companies that may not be able to afford a location on their own, said Phil Hatton, president of Prominent Fixture.
``The South is an area we'd like to be for automotive work, but there's too much risk for us to go on our own,'' said Hatton, whose company has 16 employees.