Valeo Sylvania Automotive Lighting Systems, a major supplier to Nissan, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler in the NAFTA region, is doubling the size and capacity of its plastics molding plant in Queretaro, Mexico, as it prepares to cater to new customers Honda and Toyota.
According to Victor Torres, managing director of Mexican subsidiary Valeo Sylvania Iluminacón S de RL, the plant will start supplying Honda and Toyota in January 2008. The expansion will be complete by June, he said.
``Annual sales will jump from $65 million today to between $100 million and $110 million by January, 2009,'' Torres said.
Total investment in duplicating the plant's industrial space from 43,000 square feet to 82,000 square feet and buying new machinery is $23 million, said Torres, adding that ``in the next three years we plan to buy between 10 and 15 new presses.'' The plant is in the municipality of Santa Rosa de J uregui, Mexico.
Valeo Sylvania is standardizing on Milacron injection presses, especially its two-platen MG model and Powerline all-electric presses, said Milacron sales manager Paul Rudzinski.
Torres recalled that the plant was operating in the red three years after it started full production in June 1999. Quality was poor; there had been four plant directors in the first few years, ``and it was the worst of a dozen or so Valeo plants in Mexico,'' he said.
Torres, a Mexican whose maternal grandparents were both French, arrived in October 2002, with instructions to make the operation profitable or oversee its closure.
``We had huge potential, but the first thing we had to do was to develop an industrial strategy. At the time we had four presses. Two were Milacrons, one was a Husky and the fourth an Engel. The first decision we took was that every single large part, cosmetic or otherwise, had to be made in Queretaro.''
He started talking to the company's suppliers. ``Milacron had the best approach, technically speaking. What was important for us was that they understood what was at stake. We didn't want a supplier but a partner who could help us to grow.''
Today, 3½ years later, the plant's quality is considered a benchmark in the lighting industry in Mexico, in which Hella and Automotive Lighting are among the major competitors, according to Torres.
The company has 400 production workers and 170 other employees, some of whom have trained at Valeo Sylvania's headquarters in Seymour, Ind. Its 18 molding machines include 11 100-ton injection presses, four electric presses of between 300 and 500 tons, one 1,500-ton multicolor machine and two small hydraulic presses. Most of the equipment is from Milacron, although an old Husky, an Engel and a Krauss-Maffei thermoset machine are also on the premises.
The company also has a new metalizer system for headlamp reflectors that can produce 3.5 million reflectors per year.
Formed in early 1998, Valeo Sylvania Lighting Systems is a 50-50 joint venture between German lighting producer Osram GmbH of Munich and Valeo SA, a French auto parts supplier.