Spanish auto supplier Grupo Antolin is considering the potential for future acquisitions to strengthen its electronics expertise, even as it also invests in more — and more efficient — manufacturing.
Grupo Antolin, which doubled in size in 2015 when it purchased the interiors business of Magna International Inc., is positioning itself as a maker of interior parts that integrate lighting and electronics. This “smart” lighting would be the key communication tool between a connected, autonomous car and the driver, said Maria Helena Antolin, director, vice chair and a member of the board of directors for Grupo Antolin, at the Center for Automotive Research’s auto industry Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.
“That’s what we’re talking about, integrating lights with all of our parts, making a light that is intelligent,” she said. “We are convinced that the interiors will be one of the greatest beneficiaries of the [automotive] revolution that is coming.”
To get to that point, however, Grupo Antolin needs to boost its in-house expertise.
“We know electronics are going to be very important, and this is not our core business,” Maria Antolin said. “We need to look for other companies, maybe just partnerships or maybe by buying some small companies. We don’t know which yet, but we’re open and listening.”
Burgos, Spain-based Grupo Antolin is now in its second generation of leadership from the Antolin family.
It was No. 2 in the most recent Plastics News ranking of North American injection moulders with an estimated $1.5bn (€1.27bn) in sales in the region. North America represents 23% of its total global sales of nearly $5.7bn (€4.8bn) in 2017.
And it is continuing to grow. In June, it officially opened its 368,000-square-foot facility in Shelby Township, Michigan, making door panels and overhead systems for Fiat Chrysler’s Ram truck. It is currently looking to add 200 more workers to the 350 originally hired for the site.
In January, it announced plans to invest $51m (€43.5m) in three new plants in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
All of its global plants are focused on more than just turning out parts, however, Maria Antolin said.
Grupo Antolin is developing new, sustainable surfaces using renewable materials such as cork or wood, she said. And it is increasingly making those parts while taking advantage of advanced manufacturing programs, such as those that fall under the Industry 4.0 umbrella.
Grupo Antolin“We know electronics are going to be very important, and this is not our core business,” Maria Antolin said.
Using Industry 4.0 technology
“We are talking of using industry 4.0 in quality, in maintenance and in logistics,” Antolin said, “for quality for zero defects, for being able to have preventive maintenance to be able not have to stop a [production] line because something in missing.”
Grupo Antolin is using sensors and software supplied by outside suppliers and developing its own tools to upgrade its moulding and assembling, she said.
Improved manufacturing flow is about more than just adding new capital equipment to the shop floor, she said. The more a manufacturer like Grupo Antolin can control and predict its production, the more flexible that production can be.
And the more flexible the supplier, the more important those suppliers will be to the automakers who are bringing new products to the streets.
“Changing the way vehicles are produced is having an impact on the entire value chain,” Antolin said. “The future vehicle will have to be updated quicker. The manufacturers will have to adapt their product constantly.”
Grupo Antolin is in the middle of a manufacturing improvement program it calls Manufacturing of Tomorrow, or MOT.
“We are applying tools and strategies,” she said. “With rapid collection and online management of data, thanks to the intercommunication of the machine, we can be not only more competitive but also predictive.”
As MOT is implemented, in-line cameras do visual inspection on each part to make sure it meets specifications as part of Grupo Antolin’s zero defect goals. Sensors in the machine make sure maintenance happens on a regular basis, rather than risk a press going down at the wrong time.
And Industry 4.0 and similar programs are key to helping the company meet weight and cost reduction goals, which will makes their customers happy.
“All of this Industry 4.0 [investment] is going to help us also to be more efficient in our lines, in our processes, in our materials,” Antolin said. “And in the end, we are going to be able to offer a better price to our clients because this is what they always want, right?”