FINDLAY, OHIO — Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies will invest about $8.6 million to expand its automotive sealing facility in Findlay to accommodate increased customer requirements for quality components.
The firm said its Findlay plant produces about 700 high performance plastic parts for customers, including vehicle manufacturers and Tier 1 and 2 suppliers. The company will add 43,000 square feet to the 50,000-square-foot facility.
The construction and equipment upgrades are projected to be complete by winter 2015. Production is projected to increase by about 25 percent. The site currently manufactures about 185 million seals and related components annually.
The facility also will gain a test laboratory, quality laboratory and some office space.
“Automotive has been really good since the recovery,” Freudenberg-NOK President Theodore Duclos said. “We have had new business come into Findlay and the kinds of products that they make. We've found that we've gotten basically to the limit of the size of the facility, and it makes sense right now to expand.”
The Findlay operation produces a variety of automotive parts that are integral in vehicle transmission through both compression and injection molding, which includes seal rings, thrust washers, pistons and assemblies.
The firm said the facility maintains nearly perfect statistics in the areas of quality, delivery and customer retention. Duclos said the plant is mostly automotive-focused, but it does have a small portion of product that serves other industry.
“Most of our plants are relatively specific to a type of industry or a type of product,” Duclos said. “The Findlay facility is relatively unique with the types of products that it makes.”
Roy Schroeder, Findlay's lead center manager for fluid power automotive, said the facility utilizes high temperature thermoplastics, primarily polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). The expansion is in response to the automotive industry transitioning from six-speed transmissions to eight-, nine- or 10-speed transmissions.
Duclos said the purpose for the transition is to improve fuel economy, and as the number of speeds in vehicle transmissions increase, Freudenberg-NOK's market should continue to grow.
“As that trend continues, it gives us the chance to have increased product going into those transmissions,” Schroeder said.
Duclos said the firm still is finalizing incentive programs with the state and local governments. Freudenberg-NOK said that the expansion will create new jobs, but the final number is still to be determined. The firm's release said the expansion could result in about 148 jobs being retained and the creation of about 25 new ones.
The company said it worked with Jobs-Ohio, state and local officials on incentives to support the expansion. The firm said it will host a formal groundbreaking celebration on June 19.
Single-cavity net shape molding
Findlay has become Freudenberg-NOK's lead facility in adopting its single-cavity net shape molding manufacturing approach, which Schroeder said began at the plant in 2010. The approach uses compact, custom-engineered one cavity injection and compression molding machines instead of multi-cavity machines to produce thermoplastic parts.
Freudenberg-NOK said the process improves part quality while reducing scrap and waste. Duclos said the new approach is still in the early stages of being adopted in other facilities.
“We have machines in other facilities that are practicing it, but we're still in a relatively introductory phase where we're refining the technology,” Duclos said.
Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies is an Americas joint venture between Freudenberg and Co. in Germany and NOK Corp. in Japan. It manufactures advanced sealing technologies for the aerospace, agriculture, appliance, automotive, construction, diesel engine, energy, food and beverage, heavy industry and pharmaceutical industries.
The joint venture is headquartered in Plymouth, Mich., and operates more than 20 facilities across the Americas.