Germany's Maschinenfabrik Spaichingen GmbH has invested a lot of time and energy trying to create a market for its ultrasonic welding machines in the North American automotive industry.
Its MS Plastic Welders Inc. subsidiary in Brighton, Mich., has met with automakers and suppliers alike to create a demand for its equipment. Now that work is beginning to pay off, and MS is about to invest $24 million to create a factory to build the welding systems in the United States.
``We're beginning to sell 30-40 machines a year, and at that point it no longer makes sense to import them from Germany,'' said Mark Pucel, vice president of MS Plastic Welders.
With the new plant set for Fowlerville, Mich., Maschinenfabrik will boost its presence in North America from five people at the existing technical and sales office in Brighton to 50 employees in Fowlerville.
MS ultrasonic welding systems are used in a variety of automotive applications, with a focus on brackets and sensors used in bumper fascia. Since the company opened, it has assembled and tested equipment produced at the parent company's facility in Spaichingen, Germany.
The expansion begins with a 33,000-square-foot leased facility in Fowlerville, up from 6,000 square feet in Brighton now, Pucel said. The company will open there in December. By 2009, it plans to move into a larger site in Fowlerville, a 65,000-square-foot facility it will own.
MS is hiring employees for the Fowlerville expansion. It also will have five technical employees from Germany who will help launch U.S. production.
The firm is seeking tax abatements to help finance the work.
Pucel said it was important for MS to stay close to the metro Detroit region, the center of the U.S. auto industry. The company considered sites in the Detroit suburbs of Farmington Hills and Novi, but found a friendlier reception for manufacturing operations in Fowlerville, which is about 60 miles from downtown Detroit.
North America also won out over alternative growth plans for the German company. Maschinenfabrik considered investing in China, Pucel said, but decided to spend its money in the United States instead, believing that its auto industry represents more stable growth opportunities for the firm.