TKA Plastics Corp. is building its automotive-related injection molding business, a few years after losing a key customer.
The company is nearing the end of a two-year, $1 million machinery upgrade. President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Cherry Sr. expects to spend a lot more in the next three to five years on equipment and new processes.
TKA's 52,000-square-foot facility in Winchester, Tenn., has 14 injection molding machines, with clamping forces of 90-1,000 tons.
Cherry said that as an African-American-owned supplier, the company has a few more opportunities to bid on projects, but ``it still boils down for us to meet the price, meet the delivery and meet the quality.''
``Being a minority gives us the opportunity to be in the position to make quotes and bids, but there are no guarantees,'' Cherry said.
The company started in the automotive business eight years ago as a supplier for Del-Met Corp., but TKA ran into trouble in 2001, when Del-Met decided to restructure, a move that included closing a 120-employee plant in Portand, Tenn.
``When Del-Met hit some obstacles, we felt a lot of pain with them,'' Cherry said.
At the time, Del-Met, which eventually was sold to Zanini Auto Grup of Barcelona, Spain, accounted for about half of TKA's sales, plus it provided TKA with a lot of engineering support.
TKA reacted by expanding its sales, marketing and engineering capabilities. The firm also offers secondary services like assembly and pad printing.
Cherry said other customers, including General Motors Corp. and Johnson Controls Inc., stuck with TKA, and that enabled the company to get through tough times.
TKA survived a big drop in sales in 2002 and rebounded to boost sales by 20 percent during 2003.
``It is a story of survival. The small companies and a lot of the big companies that were around when we started in 1996 and 1997 are not around now. Even a lot of the big companies have had to peck and scratch to stay in business,'' he said.
Cherry said he enjoys working in a family operation. He is joined at the company by three sons, Michael Jr., Mark and Bryant.
TKA is near many of its automotive customers. The company makes interior parts for Saturn, Nissan, Toyota, GM and Mercedes Benz.
The area is a hotbed for automotive suppliers, according to Henry Huerkamp, executive director of the Franklin County Industrial Development Board in Winchester.
Huerkamp noted that the county added 623 new jobs last year, including 418 at a Nissan plant. He pointed out that Nissan, Saturn, and Toyota all have plants within a couple of hours of Winchester.
Huerkamp said Del-Met was bought out by Zanini and is still operating.