KSM in Shelby on course for growth

Shelby, March 10, 2016: Production only started in 2014 for German automotive supplier KSM Castings Group, and yet the production site in Shelby is already a success story.

The fully automated production facility of the German KSM Castings Group in Shelby, NC, USA, is filled with state of the art production technology, numerous industrial robots and perfectly aligned production lines. Aluminum transmission components have been processed via high pressure die casting and machining in this latest plant of the automotive supplier since 2014.

The decision for a new production site in Shelby is part of the corporate strategy for KSM and Chinese owner CITIC Dicastal Co. Ltd., of which KSM is a one hundred percent subsidiary. The Chinese CITIC Group, counts on global growth and development in new markets – also in the USA.

Activities for the expansion began in 2012. There were good reasons for selecting Shelby for the new project. “Our Customers are not far away so we can quickly react on demands and have fast deliveries”, reported Jan-Christoph Schwarck, Plant Manager. The first meeting between KSM, representatives of Cleveland County and the City of Shelby took place in June 2012. By the end of the year 2012, KSM Castings NC Inc. was founded. Foundation was laid for the new plant, located at 120 Blue Brook Drive, Shelby in July 2013. Included in the $55 million project was a 120.000 sq. ft. (11.200m²) building. $38 million was allocated to die casting production with two 750 ton machines and one 900 ton machine as well as machining lines. Construction work for the project was completed ten months later in May 2014. The first component was produced only 3 months later, in August 2014. In the summer of 2015, an additional 3 die casting machines with clamping forces of 3,000 tons, and 1,350 tons were installed for the production of transmission housings and inner transmission parts. Since then, 18,500 transmission parts per week for the Customer ZF have rolled off the assembly lines.

In order to guarantee high quality demands of transmission housings, numerous process steps are necessary, starting with melting, casting, cooling and deburring, up to machining. In addition, there are high requirements for cleanliness and residual dirt for transmissions and inner transmission parts. As a result, parts are thoroughly washed and then tested for leakage and flow through. “Oil bearing components have to be 100% pressure tight and clean, otherwise they cannot be used.” added Schwarck. Machined components are then directly passed on to the production line of the Customer where they are assembled.

In order to manage the high volume of work and complex processes, KSM have employed 128 well trained specialists and managers at the Shelby Site. 44 year-old Kenneth Richardson has worked at KSM in Shelby from the early beginning. For many years he worked as an accomplished foundry technologist in a local foundry. When the foundry closed three years ago, he started his career at KSM. “I heard in the media about the new KSM Plant and immediately submitted my application, with success” Richardson was happy to say while standing at a die casting machine and checking casted parts. “At KSM I could re-enter my profession and further develop.” He is proud of the fact that within one year and out of nothing, a state of the art production facility was built and put into operation. “We never had this before in Shelby. This is why in 2014, KSM was the recipient of the “Industry of the Year Award” presented by the Cleveland County Chamber of Commerce.” stated Schwarck, Plant Manager.

Collaboration with European colleagues have also worked out well. Hermann Coen, one of six expatriates which KSM sent from Europe to Shelby, came from the KSM Plant in Wuppertal. While at Wuppertal, Hermann was instrumental in putting a product in service. This product was later transferred to Shelby where Hermann together with his engineering team are responsible for all products, and for testing the programs for complete production lines. Coen feels comfortable in Shelby: “The team, the atmosphere and the cooperation with our US colleagues is excellent. There is a lot we can learn from one another and share our experiences.” he reported.

Excellent conditions in Shelby also make Plant Manager Schwarck proud: “The Customer’s satisfaction illustrates the high quality of our products. Already in the first year we reached an external quality rate of 155 ppm”. Future automotive industry technology will remain focused on energy efficiency and installing lighter components in vehicles. This technology will continue to be a notable trend at KSM as the demand for high quality and light weight cast components continues. For this reason, the site will install another casting process in the middle of 2016. A new building with 50,000 sq. ft. (4.600 m²) will be built and will be occupied with Counter Pressure Casting (CPC) machines. Initially $27 million will be invested in new construction and the first production machines for CPC processes. Overall, KSM will invest $80 million and hire 80 new employees between now and 2022 to support CPC processes. In total, KSM Shelby will have made investments of $135 million and will employ 269 employees at its Shelby site.

In 2018, the production of chassis parts for a major German OEM will start. “With the expansion of this site we will continue with our strategy to be on site, offer different production processes for our Customers and supply the local markets.” explained Franz Friedrich Butz, CEO of the KSM Castings Group.

Compared to conventional die casting processes, the CPC process is different. Here, the pressures of furnace and mold can be adjusted independently of one another, so form filling and solidification of the melt under pressure is possible. Another advantage of the CPC process is the high cooling rate of the material. Therefore it is suitable for components with a high static and dynamic load such as chassis components.

However, engagement of KSM in Shelby goes far beyond the production. The Company is working together with local educational institutions on a concept for its own robot training center. In addition to this, there will be special educational programs designed for and made available to KSM. “A good education is the best investment into the future of young people, even in the USA. We are taking a serious approach to this here in Shelby.” added Schwarck.

And there is more news to report: In the traditional automotive Detroit area, KSM has opened an engineering office together with its owner CITIC Dicastal. “The proximity to General Motors, Chrysler and Ford was decisive for the site selection. At this location we will develop, construct and optimize products directly on site and together with our Customer.” said Butz.

Background: The KSM Castings Group is a leading producer of automotive lightweight components for chassis, transmissions, engines and steering. Specialized in aluminum and magnesium components, KSM strives for the top position in both technology and quality. As an important supplier to the global automotive industry, the company is already among the top employers. Reliable partnerships, customer orientation and cost effectiveness are essential key points of the company’s strategy. The basis, however, are first-class employees.

KSM operates 8 production plants in Germany, Czech Republic, USA and China with a total of approximately 3,300 employees. Among its customers are the major automotive producers and automotive suppliers like Volkswagen, Daimler, ZF, Benteler and Bosch. In 2015, the company group achieved a turnover of approximately 520 million EUR.

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