Volume 8 | Issue 1 | Year 2005

Hi-Lex has always been a leading supplier of innovative, high quality electro mechanical devices and control cables ideally tailored to its customer needs. Through an extensive international network and advanced R&D capabilities, Hi-Lex supplies the major automakers with today’s high-end solutions.

It is also the market leader in cable applications for a range of recreational vehicles as well, such as boats, all-terrain vehicles, personal watercraft, motorcycles and golf carts. In addition, Hi-Lex’s products meet the unique needs of myriad industrial applications.

Higher & Higher
Hi-Lex North American Group was established in 1978 in Battle Creek, Mich. by Nippon Cable System, a major supplier of automotive and recreational eletromechanical devices headquartered in Japan. The company significantly expanded its market share into control cables and by 1989 launched production of window regulators by establishing a plant in nearby Litchfield, Mich. In 1993, Hi-Lex opened an additional plant in Queretaro, Mexico (just north of Mexico City) to support expanding demand. This 100,000-square-foot plant makes nearly half the volume of the company’s total automotive cables and employs 600 people.

Hi-Lex also established a technical center in Troy, Mich. to further support its R&D efforts specific to the North American market. This 140,000-square-foot facility employs 425 people and includes specialty cable sales, engineering, manufacturing and testing capabilities. The center of its automotive operation, Hi-Lex engineers offer customers a variety of different formats in which to create, including CAD/CAE, SDRC, CATIA, Unigraphics and Autocad.

Environmental conditions are simulated in a number of different chambers to ensure proper operation on a vehicle; tests for noise are conducted in an anechoic room, which doesn’t have or produce echoes. Automated assembly lines allow Hi-Lex to gain cost advantages while maintaining strict quality control. Prototype facilities are capable of full processing, and include a machine shop, zinc die-casting and mechanical assembly

The company uses its technology to continually find new applications to improve function and ease of use for the driver – the ultimate customer. Moreover, even after products are designed, they are continually improved to make them more efficient, lighter weight, more reliable and safer.

“Today we continue to strengthen our presence in the industry by always adding new products and developing new technologies,” says Ed Barry, vice president of sales and marketing for Hi-Lex. “We make a 100-percent commitment to continuous improvement in the design, manufacture, delivery and cost – a mission that all our associates adhere to and believe in.”

Hi-Lex Controls in Litchfield, Mich. is the center for the company’s window regulator manufacturing. It is located on 15 acres in southwest Michigan and measures about 172,000 square feet. Because the plant molds much of the parts used in window regulators, it can maintain and control high quality and reliability. Hi-Lex has also placed another feather in its cap with QS-9000 and ISO 14001 certifications.

Window Wonderland
Hi-Lex window regulators offer a solution for those hard-to-solve weight reduction problems in automobile and truck doors. One of the world’s largest manufacturers of window regulators, its products are in most foreign and nearly all domestic cars that move glass. Hi-Lex has received wide recognition for its superior quality, technology, price and delivery. With all automakers using window regulators, Hi-Lex supplies 30 percent of the overall market, making it the industry’s largest player.

Products of note include its single lift drum and cable window regulator, a lightweight system that yields smooth window operation and long-term durability. It is unique because of its rail and carrier plate design, which provides good stability and excellent mechanical efficiency. This window regulator can be easily integrated into door module systems and is most commonly used in four-door sedans.

The Hi-Lex dual lift drum and cable window regulator provides maximum glass stability and strength. Hi-Lex’s patented cable design assures long-term reliability and smooth operation.This window regulator can be integrated into the door module system and is most commonly used on two door coupes.

The arm and sector window regulator provides good glass stability and excellent long-term reliability. The mechanical efficiencies work best in cases in which glass does not have a small drop radius. This window regulator can be easily integrated into door module systems and is most commonly used in truck or van doors.

“The transition in the automotive industry from arm and sector design to drum and cable design marked a big change,” explains Barry. “It allowed a better fit. The drum and cable has a curve to it and fits the more modern car styles, so when General Motors made the switch and didn’t have the capabilities in-house, we were there with a solution.”

Hi-Lex is now differentiating itself with power sliding doors – usually operated manually – for pickup trucks as well as a power lift gate for SUVs. Hi-Lex recently won a major contract with a leading car dealer to provide the lift gate for its vehicles and hopes this contract will be its next big revenue generator.” You have to constantly reinvent yourself and your products. If you’re not doing that, you’re not doing your job. And you won’t continue to be in business,” says Barry.

Another trend is toward more products oriented toward door module systems. “Customers are getting away from the component supply mentality. They want more of a system supply, meaning that if we make a piece of trim and someone else makes the latches, we’re being asked to put that all together and deliver it as a whole. We’ve won some major business by providing this service.”

Above all, innovation is what Hi-Lex is known for and it is committed to reinvesting profits into new products. “Ultimately, it’s about quality, delivery and price,” says Barry. Hi-Lex also boasts exceptional quality assurance, setting in place standards that have been duplicated throughout the industry. These standards for excellence include employee participation and teamwork through all facets of the production cycles. Statistical problem solving design, as well as regular employee/management meetings and specific job-related training ensures that the quality assurance plan is functional at every step of production. In this way, Hi-Lex will ensure its place among the preferred list of automotive suppliers for many years to come.

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