Automotive parts manufacturer Dana Holding Corp. has opened a plant in Mexico to produce molded rubber gaskets and other components for the U.S. and Mexican markets.
The Chihuahua sealing products factory which began initial production in the spring will serve the automotive, small- truck and small-engine markets, a Dana spokesman said. In addition to molded rubber gaskets, extensive technology at the site will allow the firm to make injection molded plastic gaskets, soft die-cut gaskets, stamped soft gaskets, secondary gaskets and thermal-acoustical protective shielding.
Dana did not disclose its investment in the plant. The site is expected to employ about 50 and manufacture more than 140 different parts by the end of the year, the spokesman said.
The new facility positions the company to support its customers' current and future development in the region, said Ralf Goettel, president of Dana's sealing and thermal products groups. The sealing plant's location is part of Dana's strategy to manufacture products where its customers build engines, he added.
The factory shares the same site as a separate, 68,000-square-foot thermal products plant. No elastomeric parts are made there.
Automotive gaskets are the primary elastomeric components made at the factory, and about 90 percent of the parts are either rubber or plastic, the spokesman said. Over the next 18 months, however, that percentage will drop to about 50 percent as volumes for stamped gaskets and thermal-acoustical protective shielding expand via growth at the plant and new contracts.
Dana's decision to locate its facility in Chihuahua isn't based solely on the Mexican market. The spokesman said many U.S. and European customers also have plants in Mexico, which the new operation can support locally.
The primary edge in manufacturing in Mexico for the Toledo-based company, he said, is proximity to customers there.
``There is a huge logistical advantage by being located where your customers are doing business,'' he said.
By May, the Chihuahua facility is expected to gain the TS 16949 quality management system standard for automotive-related products. It also should achieve ``clean plant'' certification, a program sponsored by the Mexican government's environmental agencies that confirms an operation complies with all federal, state and local environmental regulations, the spokesman said.
Some of the steps Dana is taking to meet the certifications include using recycled water in a chiller system for high-heat presses, installing skylights that span the width of the building to reduce energy consumption, and operating evaporation coolers for the manufacturing area.
Dana formerly known as Dana Corp. exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Feb. 1, nearly two years after the filing. The company posted corporate sales of $8.72 billion in 2007, with about $650 million coming from rubber product sales.