ROCHESTER HILLS, MICH. — Precision French molder AdduXi Group is opening its first factory outside of its home country — in a Detroit suburb — and the top local executive said the time is right, as the U.S. automotive industry is on a roll.
“All the ingredients for success are really together in Detroit right now, and we strongly believe that AdduXi's going to make the best of it,” said Xavier Ovize, CEO of the plant in Rochester Hills. “This is the right time with the right product and the right place.”
AdduXi officials set up the 27,000-square-foot factory, with four Billion all-electric, Select injection molding machines, in July and August. Ovize said the goal is to begin molding parts by the end of this year. In the first quarter of 2015, AdduXi will add automated production and assembly equipment — a hallmark of the main factory in France.
AdduXi Group and Billion SA are neighbors in the town of Billignat, in the French Plastic Valley, the Oyonnax region. And they're both exhibiting at Fakuma — AdduXi at Stand B2-2308 and Billion at Stand B3-3104.
AdduXi in France molds tight-tolerance auto parts, many with electronics molded-in using insert molding — which the company calls hybrid parts. The firm also does reel-to-reel molding.
During a Sept. 11 visit to AdduXi's new Michigan plant, Ovize showed parts that go in every part of a car: sensor housings, window lifters, fan shrouds, part-assist sensors, connectors and sensors for electronic motors, powertrain, transmission, brakes, thermal sensors and more.
Many of the parts are two-shot overmolded on plated copper, gold or platinum, and have molded-in soft gaskets. The company runs engineering resins, including nylon, PPS, PPO and PEI.
One especially complex part is a solenoid valve bobbin. The coil is wound by AdduXi on automated equipment, then the company adds more electronic components such as a connector and overmolds the final part to enclose the bobbin in a plastic housing.
“It's very broad, across the car,” Ovize said. “The common denominator here is technical materials that we transform, and the requested features and quality of the final product. It's high end, high quality plastic parts.”
Parts are quality checked using vision systems, electronic tests, or both.
The Rochester Hills factory already has a Hexagon Metrology coordinate measuring machine — the first piece of equipment at its quality lab.
Customers of the Tier 2 supplier asked AdduXi to set up a factory in North America.
“That's something that's very valuable to this industry. If you want to be credible, if you want to be serious, you need to be everywhere,” Ovize said. “If you want to be successful in automotive in the U.S., you want to be represented not just with sales people. You want to be industrial. And that's what we're doing now.”
It marks a major investment of about $5 million to $6 million for the mid-sized French company, which has sales of about $65 million.
In a telephone interview, Alain Palisse, the CEO and owner said AdduXi in France runs more than 60 injection molding machines, with clamping forces from 25-320 tons. More than two-thirds of them are Billions. Palisse said the company also has 14 automation lines.
AdduXi employs 235, he said.
Palisse founded AdduXi in 1996. He said the company has grown about 15 percent a year.
Ovize said the company has impressive technology, especially for a company of its size.
“And the growth is really in the more value-added parts, such as what we call the hybrid parts. The multi-component parts,” he said.
Palisse added: “The alliance between plastics and metal is a very important thing for the next 10 years.”
Right now, automakers want innovative parts that integrate features, through a high number of components and capabilities, Ovize said. That opens the door to hybrid plastic parts.
Palisse filed papers of incorporation in the United States in 2009. Obviously, the timing was not right to set up U.S. production during the recession. But this is a great time right now, Ovize said.
“Most companies that could pass through those tough years, are stronger than ever,” Ovize said. “The volumes are back up, in terms of production of cars. And manufacturers are developing new products again, which was not the case a few years ago, when everything stopped and production and development was low. Now everything's back up. So this is a great time for all the parts suppliers and innovators because there is business. There is a need for innovation.
“Customers are demanding more. Their minds are more open than ever to new ideas. Quality levels have increased a lot. And people realize that innovation really is an important fact,” he said.
So far, the company has hired Ovize as CEO in Michigan, an operations manager, a quality manager, a process engineer and an office manager. When production begins, they will hire operators and more technicians.
During the mid-September visit, all four Billion presses sat ready for action, each equipped with a Sepro robot and a takeoff conveyor. The all-electric presses have clamping forces of 50, 100, 150 and 200 tons. They will be linked electronically to AdduXi's headquarters in France and to Billion.
The plant is highly connected in other ways, as well. Two large conference rooms have video screens for teleconferencing around the world.
Officials of Billion SA also are excited about AdduXi's new U.S. factory. The French molder already has many Billion-brand presses at the headquarters plant. Although well-known in Europe, Billion has not sold many machines in North America, other than to a French cosmetics maker.
“I think it's a good reference for us to show what we can do,” said Billion CEO Korbinian Kiesl. “AdduXi is a very good company, very well-known in Europe.”
The plant in Rochester Hills looks brand new, after extensive remodeling. The overall building was a former Dana Corp. factory that closed in 2012. The developer divided up the building into smaller spaces. AdduXi leases the factory.
AdduXi plans to hold a grand opening in Michigan on Oct. 23 — the week after Fakuma.
Ovize is French, but he's a veteran of Detroit, who has worked in the United States for 20 years, much of it in the rubber parts industry. The mechanical engineer helped set up three divisions for Hutchinson Corp.
True to Detroit, he loves cars. And over the years, he's seen good foreign companies fail to crack Detroit because they don't become “industrial” — don't set up U.S. manufacturing. AdduXi, for example, currently ships parts molded in France to customers in the United States and Mexico.
“In automotive today, every customer will ask their strategic vendors to be global just like they are. AdduXi has been a good, solid growing European group. Now we're taking the next steps coming to North America following and supporting our customers over here,” Ovize said. “And down the road we don't exclude as well, in Central America and Asia. And with that, we would complete the loop and become truly global.”
AdduXi's customers include major multinationals, such as Bosch, Brose, Delphi and Continental. Some customers said they need suppliers in Mexico, but Palisse said the molder wants to establish a good manufacturing base in the United States first.
And being in North America will help bring new customers, Palisse said. “The second row of potential customers will be probably the Japanese. We expect to work rapidly with the Japanese and the Koreans. And of course, the Americans too,” he said.