A major Mexican supplier of plastic automotive headlamp housings and other components plans to invest $2 million in a new Engel press and associated auxiliary equipment this year to keep up with the global trend for outsized headlamps.
“The future is larger headlamps, which makes us think that we'll need a 1,300-ton press,” said Daniel Rodes Arenas, managing director of GD Components de México SA de CV of Jiutepec, near Cuernavaca.
The private company has grown from sales of $500,000 in 2000 to $10 million in 2011. It plans to have the press up and running by midyear 2013.
A team of ex-employees of a Mexican thermoformer launched GD Components in 1997. The company has 14 injection presses with clamping forces of between 28 and 1,000 tons — 12 Engels, a Demag and a KraussMaffei. The company also has a ShapeGrabber3-D scanner.
Among GD Components' local customers are Volkswagen, Hella KGaA Hueck, General Motors, Spanish auto interiors multinational Grupo Antolín-Irausa, Kautex Textron and Automotive Lighting Corp. Volkswagen accounts for 55 percent of the firm's business, according to Marco Castilla Canto, GD Components' deputy director in charge of operations.
The Volkswagen work is split in three segments: engine parts, interiors and cable routing. GD also supplies headlamp housings for Hella for use in cars like the New Beetle, and it makes the fuse box for the Jetta A5 and Bora Variant's electrical system, as well as cable routing for the Jetta A6.
The company manufactures about 250 different parts per year, according to Rodes, a business administrator with a degree from Mexico City's Iberoamericana University and a graduate of the Instituto Tecnológico Autónoma de México.
Rodes said GD Components is in direct competition with North American and European suppliers, and that capabilities, not Mexico's labor costs, are a significant factor in winning contracts.
Castilla pointed out that the firm has a 25-parts-per-million rating and is improving every year.
“We want to stay in lighting, although there are persistent requests from front-end companies to be their suppliers,” said Castilla, a chemical engineering graduate of Mexico's National University. “We may go into that, but it depends on the added value. With the lighting, we also do assembly. Injection alone would not sustain us. A big part of our operation is assembly.”
Rather than getting carried away by its average annual sales growth of 19 percent from 1998 through 2011, he said, GD Components' success made it realize the importance of being “prudent in our investments and very efficient — in our use of electricity supplies, for example. Energy supplies are good here but they're not first-world.”
GD Components processed 2.57 million pounds of resins in 2011, including polyacetal, ABS, acrylic styrene acrylonitrile, polyamide elastomers, polycarbonate, polypropylene and polyethylene, Castilla said.
The firm employs 198, up from 150 a year ago. By late February it was working at 80 percent of production capacity in its 64,600-square-foot space, and planning future expansion. The plant previously was occupied by Siemens AG and acquired by GD in 2000.