Tier 2 and 3 auto supplier Schlemmer USA Inc., a unit of Bavarian multinational Schlemmer GmbH, has unveiled major expansion plans that has the company involved in new projects, including possibly entering the plenum cabling sector.
Rajiv Iyengar, Schlemmer's vice president for the NAFTA region, said the firm is looking at a plenum cable product that's becoming increasingly popular in the construction industry, thanks to a higher-than-normal resistance to flames.
“We've done some material trials on that,” said Rajiv Iyengar, Schlemmer's vice president for the NAFTA region.
Iyengar, 48, who joined Schlemmer USA in 2009, overseeing its manufacturing, sales and distribution operations in San Antonio, Texas, and Puebla, Mexico, is intent on developing the business to the maximum and sees diversification as a way of contributing to growth.
In an interview, he insisted that San Antonio-based Schlemmer USA has no intention of abandoning its core business — corrugated tubing for the automotive industry. But he said the company already is supplying a comparable product to the energy industry and “trying to push ourselves into ecotech [renewable energy] solar products,” among other projects.
Schlemmer USA has about 350 customers, including all the major Tier 1 automotive industry suppliers. The firm has conducted manufacturing in Mexico for 15 years, but until 2009 it operated in the U.S. only as a distribution center for products imported from Germany and Mexico.
That year, the Mexican and U.S. businesses were placed under one management and launched manufacturing in a 60,000-square-foot factory in San Antonio, despite a significant downturn in the global automotive industry's fortunes.
Today the company employs 30 in San Antonio, which works five days a week, supplying parts used by American automakers and others.
The Mexico facility employs 56 and runs seven days a week. Its customers include European and Japanese companies with assembly plants in the NAFTA region.
Further evidence of Schlemmer USA's diversification plan is the recent installation of four Engel injection molding presses — two 220-tonners and two 330-tonners — in San Antonio.
“We have a few [injection molding] contracts from the automotive industry,” said Iyenga, an engineer who also has an MBA from Roosevelt University in Chicago, where he entered the extrusion industry.
“We'll be making cable channels, troughs and caps and probably other accessories also.”
In Mexico, the firm moved into a new factory with 50,000 square foot of space in January.
“When I took over, this [Mexico] plant had only six extrusion lines,” said Iyengar. “Now we are up to 11 and have plans to put in another four by the third or fourth quarter of this year.
“In the United States we started with four. Now we are up to seven and will add three more this year.”
Most of the extruders are made by Davis-Standard LLC of Pawcatuck, Conn., and Unicor GmbH of Hassfurt, Germany.
In dollars, Schlemmer USA's sales grew more than 60 percent from 2009-11, said Iyengar, who declined to disclose figures.
“In 2010, we used 500,000 pounds of resin in San Antonio,” he noted. “Last year, with full production, in both locations we used over 2.5 million pounds.”
By the end of 2012, the company is expecting to double that total resin usage, he said.
“I'm focusing on areas that are non-automotive and automotive areas where we can become a major player,” Iyengar said.
“We have a good game plan for the next three years and see where our growth will be. We want to manage our growth well.”
For example, the company wants to be a one-stop shop for the wire harness industry and is planning to add different types of machinery to be able to offer such services as laser welding.
Schlemmer USA also is seeking materials that withstand heat in car engines, Iyengar said, noting that mandatory fuel-efficiency regulations and emission controls have increased the under-hood heat of all cars by as much as 30° F in the past few years.
Schlemmer GmbH is based in Poing, Germany.