Technology is not just for state-of-the-art parts.
At its 68,000-square-foot molding and mold-making plant in Grand Rapids, Erwin Quarder Inc. is putting its engineering expertise to work. The firm is looking for new ways to make shoot-and-ship injection molded pieces, as well as the high-end electronic automotive components that are a more frequent target of high-tech molding.
The wider focus allows the company to compete for business that otherwise might be shipped overseas.
``We can keep jobs here,'' said Mark Reister, president and chief executive officer, during a March 26 interview at Erwin Quarder. ``We're promoting technology, and we're meeting with customers so that customers can understand what is possible within the market today.''
Technology has helped the U.S. subsidiary of Germany's Erwin Quarder Systemtecknik GmbH of Espelkamp expand twice in Grand Rapids. The company is now at 68,000 square feet, up from 40,000 square feet in 2006.
Erwin Quarder is running 19 presses in Grand Rapids now, with five set to go to a new site in Puebla, Mexico, which opens this spring to meet customer demands for parts there. The five injection presses will be replaced with newer ones from Arburg GmbH.
The company's capabilities in North America include mold building, processing and automation. With its ``tandem mold technology'' system, Erwin Quarder uses one standard press and one mold to make two completely different pieces in one mold cycle.
Tandem molding offers an improvement in processing capacity and production that cuts the piece price by up to 15 percent, said Wilhelm Kliewer, technical sales/product manager.
Add in the savings in shipping and logistics by keeping production local, and Erwin Quarder has a new competitive angle, he said.
``We're here and we can support your market locally,'' he said.
With tandem molding, the company uses a press's alternating injection phases and the parting lines within the tool to create parts that have up to a 40 percent difference in shot size, Kliewer said.
That means Erwin Quarder can make both a case and its cover in one tool and on one press. It has five tandem projects now, with more coming in. Later this year, it will add MuCell processing to the tandem mold program.
But the firm also uses engineering in higher-end parts, such as for automotive electronics. A connector currently in production in Grand Rapids uses overmolding, a die stamp and robotics to automate 11 different production steps into one process that takes the part from pellet to packaging. That makes the customer happy, Reister said, because there are fewer places where human error could come into play on a critical part.
But technology only works as a business angle when customers are comfortable with it, Kliewer noted. The company has ``technology days'' to meet with buyers and introduce them to the benefits available to firms willing to take a new look at potential production, he said.
``We've found that once they have learned about something, and they understand it, they're willing to go forward,'' he said.
The company is also working closely with students to bring them on board as well. Erwin Quarder is sponsoring classes at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., on tandem mold technology.
``These are our future engineers,'' Reister said. ``They're going to be our decision makers.''