Growing business in an economically depressed economy isn’t easy, but Mergon Corp., a global company with industrial blowmolding operations in Anderson, SC, is trying to do just that by adding injection molding at that facility. Allan Hinchliffe Mergon is headquartered in Ireland, and has another facility in the Czech Republic.
Mergon established the plant in South Carolina in 1998 to better service a major copy machine manufacturer with blowmolded toner cartridges and waste bottles. The company had been processing these in Ireland and shipping them, but being close to the OEM has been a factor in the growth of Mergon’s South Carolina business.
The company’s Czech operation also is an industrial blowmolder of, for example, hospital bed panel assemblies and power tool cases. The site in Ireland also produces healthcare products and business equipment components, as well as traffic management systems (barriers), power tool cases, wheels for trash containers, and packaging. Mergon’s Irish plant also earned recent approval from a major automotive system supplier for manufacture of injection molded windscreen washer systems.
Allan Hinchliffe, general manager for the North American division, says that the decision to add injection molding in Anderson “gives us more opportunities to put value in and take cost out.” He added that it’s also a great way to mark 10 years in business in the U.S. “The decision to add injection molding technology gives us significant opportunities to grow our business with existing customers in both the U.S. and Europe,” he predicts.
Many of Mergon’s blowmolded components, such as those toner bottles, are married with injection molded parts. The bottle also has an injection molded component that the company was outsourcing to a custom molder. “Bringing that component in-house means we don’t have the extra shipping and warehousing costs,” Hinchliffe says. “Molders have to be as lean as we can be in order to thrive, but it also has to be based on practicality.”
Mergon’s primary business in Anderson is blowmolding components such as underhood parts, behind-the-dash systems like air ducting, underfloor parts, and small off-road engine fuel tanks for the automotive OEMs.
In early July, Mergon Corp. acquired five Nissei and one Arburg injection molding machines ranging from 40 to 300 tons, an investment of more than $1 million. Hinchliffe says these initially are handling the work brought in-house for those business equipment components. “The expansion of the business in Anderson is testament to Mergon’s commitment to our U.S. customers, our employees, and the area,” Hinchliffe states. “Mergon’s philosophy is to build long-term supply partnerships with our customers based on innovation and excellence in quality and customer service. Expanding our technology portfolio will certainly help us achieve this.”
Hinchliffe notes his background is in injection molding, and the company has had an interest in expanding into that process for some time. “We have a huge potential customer base here in this area,” says Hinchliffe. “Blowmolding tends to be a smaller number of components, particularly in a car—a lot less than injection molded parts. However, there is a synergy in engine components between the two processes, and it seems to be working. Customers now know we have injection molding as well. Our intention in Anderson is to grow injection molding to a similar size as blowmolding.”
The automotive market came on strong for Mergon about five years ago when it began blowmolding air-duct systems, primarily for BMW in Greer. “That’s been the primary growth over the past few years,” says Hinchliffe. “They want to cut down on inventory and cut down on freight costs. When gas got quite expensive that became a really big issue. A lot of OEMs accepted suppliers from far away when freight costs weren’t such a factor, but automotive OEMs want suppliers close so they can receive multiple deliveries per day and minimize inventory.”
Opportunity is out there, he says, noting, “The Southeast is an ideal site for an automotive supplier. We believe there’s a lot of opportunities for companies like ours."—[email protected]