Airplast Cleans Up in the Automotive Market
This French firm specializes in manufacturing air filtration and engine parts for automotive OEMs and the aftermarket.
By Karen Koenig
Airplast needs no extra paper trails to validate its success in the automotive industry. In fact, this Villers-Bretonneux, France-based division of Mecaplast uses approximately 21,000 feet of paper daily to manufacture air filters for OEMs and the automotive aftermarket.
|Inside Airplasts 71,500-square-foot plant are 19 injection molding machines, three pleating machines and two machines for manufacturing the polyo/isocyanate filter seals.
Approximately 109,000 air filters are produced daily by Airplast, accounting for 67 percent of the companys overall $34 million dollar business, says Jean-Christophe Brun, plant methods manager. In addition, each day Airplast manufactures an estimated 20,000 element filters for the automotive aftermarket, approximately 1,260 rocker covers and 1,360 other diverse vehicle products; respectively these products account for 13 percent, 11 percent and 9 percent of its sales.
At the beginning our customers were only French companies Peugeot, Citron. Now, our customers are worldwide. We also work with GM, Nissan, Mercedes Benz, VAG, Toyota, Audi and Renault. We expect our sales to reach $49 million by 2003, Brun says.
By that time, Airplast also expects to have achieved ISO 14000 certification as well as TS 16949. The company has already achieved its EAQF, VDA, ISO 9001 and QS 9000 certifications. We follow a total quality management program. Our next step is just-in-time manufacturing on large items to help us reduce our stock, Brun adds.
Injection Molding Engine Parts
In the beginning we only produced the air filters. Now we produce the whole product, Brun says.
Rocker covers, air filter housings and other products for automotive engine applications are produced daily at the plant. The engine components are injection molded on Airplasts 19 presses which range in size from 200 ton to 700 ton and are equipped with Sepro robots. According to Daniel Darcel, plant manager, the robots not only aid the material handling, but also help the company maintain its daily high production rates.
Also helping to maintain production rates is the layout of injection molders and welders in a cell system. According to Darcel, the placement of Kiefel, Branson
and Mecasonic welders directly in line with molders has saved the company countless hours of time otherwise needed to move the parts from one end of the plant to the other.
|A mixture of polyo/isocyanate is sprayed into a mold to produce the seals which are adhered directly onto the pleated paper. The company can produce 19,000 air filters per day.
Quality control checks are performed during each stage of the operation. Our process is very efficient. We are able to produce under 1 percent scrap, Darcel adds.
A Pleat in Time
Located nearby the injection molding machines are Depose polyurethane machines and three pleating machines used to manufacture the paper filter elements.
Airplast manufactures 20 different types of filters for OEMs; even more styles are available for the automotive aftermarket. To manufacture the filters, water is first added to special paper, which is heated and then placed into machines specifically designed for the process. Adhesive is added and the product is run through the pleating machines, Darcel explains.
The pleating machines feed speeds are approximately 1,430 feet per minute. After the glue dries, the paper is cut online. It takes 2,457 meters (approximately 21 feet) of paper for each filter, he adds. Each filter weighs approximately 10 ounces upon completion.
To produce the polyurethane seals for the filters, Airplast uses a mixture of polyo/isocyanate which, when exposed to air, expands to three times its size. It makes a thermoset seal on the filters. This gets sprayed into a mold, and we put the paper onto it. We can produce 20,000 of these per day, working three shifts on the two polyurethane machines, Darcel says.
Quality control checks are routinely run during the various stages of the filter construction. Although the majority of filters are earmarked for sale to the automotive aftermarket, Airplast also contracts with OEMs to install its filters directly into housings manufactured in the plant.
We even had a job where we had to buy the filter from a company already working with (the automaker), install it in our filter housing, then sell it back to the company so they could sell the complete part (to the automaker), Brun relates. Simply another facet of Airplasts commitment to service, he adds.
The Making of Mecaplast
Founded in 1955 by Charles Manni, Mecaplast specialized in the injection molding of plastic parts for a select group of markets. By 1964, Manni expanded the interest of his Monaco-based company into the automotive industry, with the manufacture of the 204 fan for Peugeot.
Business grew quickly, forcing Manni in 1969 to create Precis Meca, thus separating Mecaplasts large injection molding business from its other interests. The inception of Robomat in 1975 successfully transferred the business group responsible for the conception and manufacturing of specific assembly equipment away from Mecaplasts other day-to-day concerns.
The company continues to grow. Today, in addition to Precis Meca and Robomat, there are 20 businesses under the Mecaplast umbrella located worldwide, specifically: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States. Future plans call for the opening of businesses in Iran, Mexico, Poland, Thailand and Tunisia.
France-based Airplast, in combination with Mecaplasts other automotive divisions, account for 83 percent of the companys overall $320 million business. Customers for the engine, interior and body application components include: DaimlerChrysler, Delphi, Denso, Fiat, Ford, GM, Honda, IBC, Isuzu, Maindra & Mahindra, Mitsubishi, PSA, Renault, Siemens, Telco, Toyota, VDO, Visteon, Volkswagon and Volvo.
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