At Kasai Mexicana, S.A. de C.V., innovation is a key factor in daily operations. The Mexico-based enterprise is part of Kasai Kogyo, Ltd., a leading Japanese firm specializing in door trim, console boxes and head lining materials for the automotive industry. But the company designs its own products, notes Administration Director Roberto Alcala.
The company develops its own technology for plastic injection molds, a technique that allows it to implement the latest designs and finishes into its products. Results have been substantial and enabled the company to emerge as a leading supplier to major auto assemblers such as Nissan and Honda.
That makes Kasai Mexicana an integral part of its parent company, a corporation that boasts a rich and long heritage. Headquartered in Hachioji City, Tokyo, Kasai Kogyo, Ltd., has roots that date back to 1912, when it opened a textile factory. Today Kasai Kogyo carries out operations throughout Japan, and it has production and development facilities located in the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico, China, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia.
Further, it operates under a compelling principle: The most important elements of an automobile’s interior are safety and comfort. Guided by this standard, the firm designs, develops and engineers products that it places under the strictest standards of quality control. Further, the manufacture of products is eco-friendly, as it involves recyclable materials.
MOVE TO MEXICO
In 1997, Kasai Kogyo invested $12 million to create a manufacturing plant in Mexico. Kasai Mexicana began production two years later. Today, the company is Kasai Kogyo’s single Mexican outpost – located in Leon, in the central state of Guanajuato, one of the nation’s major economic centers for business and industry.
Kasai Mexicana’s facilities encompass 73,000 square meters, including 15,000 square meters of plant operation. Capacity is impressive. The company’s 850 employees churn out as many as 600,000 door units each year.
An essential part of the global automotive industry, Kasai Mexicana has produced doors for a variety of models, including the Nissan Sentra, Honda Pilot, Honda MDX, and Honda Odyssey. Look for its products in the latest models: the New Sentra, Nissan Tsuru, Nissan Tida-Versa, Nissan Camion, Nissan March, Nissan New Versa, Honda CRV, and New Honda CRV.
For each model, the company offers interior elements such as door trim, console box, and head lining materials. “We make nearly everything for the inside of a car, with the exception of the dashboard,” says Alcala.
Kasai Mexicana develops its own technology for its production processes, a strategy that has allowed the company greater control over quality and innovation. One example is its Kasai Press Molding, a low-pressure molding system that injects plastic along with the exterior texture, creating a one-layer, high-quality finish.
Kasai Mexicana also uses a simultaneous forming system, in which polystock for substrate and the exterior texture are heated and then formed at the same time. Kasai Mexicana also utilizes the Kimekomi method, through which the trim fabric is bonded and then inserted into the edge of the door’s groove.
Through injection molding processes at the plant, plastic is poured into a mold and then hardens. Under a different method, known as powder slush forming, the exterior layer, which has the feel of natural leather, is molded by feeding PVC power into the heated tool and rotating it. For vacuum forming, sharp lines are created on door trims by using a vacuum to form a heated layer into the tool. The company also deploys a compressed air assist process, in which the dash insulator is produced by suctioning the heated exterior layer and blowing cold air into the back side of acoustical material.
In its plant, the company has injection machines with capacities starting at 220 tons and going up to 3,000. It also has KPM unit systems and machinery for insulator dash manufacturing.
Currently, about 80 percent of the company’s assembled products are sent for exportation. The products reach a variety of locations throughout the world, including the North America, South America, Europe and the Middle East.
Kasai Mexicana has TS-16949:2002 certification. It is a three-time recipient of the Zero Defects Award and the Quality Master Award, both issued by Nissan. It has also received a Recognition of Excellence from Honda de Mexico.
Such recognition underscores the company’s efforts. Kasai Mexicana strives to maintain its position as a cutting-edge player in the auto supply chain. It continually seeks ways to offer customers new products equipped with the latest technology. It also focuses on creating products that include top safety features. Throughout its development and production phases, the company embraces an environmentally friendly approach. To ensure quality, it sends products through a series of tests, including impact testing, temperature change testing, and discoloration testing.
Mexico’s automotive industry has grown substantially in recent years. In this expansion era, Kasai Mexicana emerged as a regional leader in its surrounding tri-state area (Aguascalientes, Jalisco, and Guanajuato). It has also contributed to the economy in its surrounding area by providing jobs. In addition, it offers a positive example, setting the highest standards for other auto industry suppliers.
Its financial health has been robust. From 2003 to 2011, Kasai Mexicana realized 400-percent growth. Increased production capacity matches its employee population growth. In 2003, Kasai Mexicana had just over 100 workers. By 2011, it boasted more than 800 people on its payroll.
While the company currently operates one plant in Leon, Guanajuato, it plans to expand. It has a project in place to increase the size of its current plant. Also, in June 2012, company officials expect to begin the construction of a second plant, which is scheduled to be opened toward the end of 2013. The second plant will mean new jobs, for between 600 to 800 people, notes Alcala.
Expansion plans coincide with a forecasted need for higher production levels. “We’re growing with the arrival of new assemblers and clients,” says Alcala.
In addition to continuing its work for top clients such as Nissan and Honda, the company is looking at potentially participating in new plants set up by Honda and Mazda. “In the next three years, we hope to increase our current production capacity by 100 percent,” Alcala adds.
This move will put the company in a solid position to partner with leading companies in the automotive industry, and it will also provide an opportunity to offer clients an even wider range of highly innovative, quality products.