Commercial truck supplier CK Technologies LLC is expanding to Texas, spending more than $20 million to establish a molding and assembly foothold in the Southwest.
The Brownsville plant will be CKT's third facility, and will give the company greater access to customers in Mexico.
If you look at commercial truck and bus [markets], about 50 percent of the manufacturing is in that region, said Mark Miller, president of CKT and group vice president of the transportation unit of parent company Cascade Engineering Inc. of Grand Rapids, Mich.
Two major truck makers, Navistar Corp. and Daimler Trucks North America LLC, have assembly plants near Monterrey, Mexico. Brownsville, located just across the border from Matamoros, Mexico, provides a good location to mold, make, assemble and sequence parts, Miller said.
The 300,000-square-foot plant will open during the second quarter of 2011, with eight injection molding presses up to 4,400 tons in size. CKT expects to create 121 jobs in 2011.
The company already has production in Montpelier, Ohio, and Mount Airy, N.C.
CKT specializes in large thermoplastic parts for buses, molding and decorating both aesthetic and functional parts, with much of its work focused on replacing both metal stampings and thermoset parts with lighter-weight thermoplastics. With federal regulators beginning to eye fuel-economy standards for trucks and buses, Miller said the company is expecting more demand.
Now that they're going to have regulatory impositions on them, it will be much more important for lightweighting, especially in plastics and thermoplastics, he said.
Other CKT parts, such as chassis skirts at the bottom of the truck, play a big part in aerodynamic performance, which also improves fuel economy, he said. The company also just launched production of an in-mold painting technique that allows CKT to reduce the environmental impact of its parts, although the new plant also will have paint capabilities.
The Brownsville plant will be available to parent company Cascade Engineering to use as needed for its molding businesses, giving Cascade a potential entry into the region as well. But Miller said the plant's main focus will be on the commercial truck and bus industry.
A lot of the suppliers out there are also automotive suppliers who want to use up some of their excess capacity, but we've made it our business to do primarily truck and bus, he said. Automotive is high volume, low variety. Truck and bus is low volume, high variety. You need to be able to set up production differently.
CKT, for instance, may produce parts with 5,000 colors available on a volume of only 20,000 parts.
Brownsville has a workforce with skilled injection molding workers dating back to early maquiladora factories in the area, according to Miller.