German auto supplier Behr GmbH & Co. KG has spent more than $100 million to overhaul a former DaimlerChrysler Corp. parts plant in Dayton, Ohio, since buying it in 2002.
The company brought in new injection molding presses, robots and auxiliary equipment for the plastics side of the business and new equipment for its metal operations, along with improved floors, lighting and electrical systems.
In all, about 70 percent of the Dayton site has been replaced, with more investment to come, said Dean Arneson, plant manager and vice president of Behr America.
The work has paid off, with new contracts coming on-line at Dayton and more business in North America. As a result, Behr has quadrupled its engineering staff and is locating a manufacturing site in Mexico.
``We have had significant investments in terms of jobs and new products,'' said Behr America President and Chief Executive Officer Frank Mueller, in an April 3 interview at the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress in Detroit.
Behr already was injection molding radiator end tanks and air-conditioning housings for Chrysler vehicles in Dayton, Arneson said. Now it has launched new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning business for General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., with more work coming on-line later this year, he said.
At the same time, Behr is investing $8.5 million to add 69,000 square feet to its North American headquarters in Troy, Mich. The company opened the Troy facility, with engineering, research and administration, in 2002 with 100 employees. When the expansion is complete, Behr will have 500 people at the site.
Behr has planned to build a $13 million facility in Mexico, which it expects could house 250 employees. The plant will not have plastics processing when it opens but may add it later, Arneson said. Behr has not decided on an exact location for the plant, he said.
Mueller credited Behr's growth to business acquired along with the Dayton plant as well as its participation in the joint venture Hella Behr Plastic Omnium.
HBPO marries Behr's heating and cooling products with lighting from Hella KG Hueck & Co. and structural plastics and bumper fascia from Plastic Omnium Co. to produce complete front-end modules. The venture allows the partners to sell parts independently or as part of a complete system.
``It gives us another avenue into the market,'' Mueller said.