Freudenberg Household Products (FHP), Germany, known in the U.S. for its line of O-Cedar mops, brooms, dust pans, etc., has joined forces with Spanish injection molder SP Berner Plastic Group, S.L., to form a joint venture company called FHP Berner U.S. In January the JV opened a molding plant in Aurora, Ill., bringing back 30 molds and millions of pounds of production capacity for mop, broom, and assorted other components that had been outsourced. The 101,000-ft² facility opened in January with 14 injection presses, ranging in size from 120 to 600 tons. Most are automated, featuring 3-axis robots from Star Automation, Milwaukee. FHP runs mostly PP homopolymer in molds up to 16 cavities.
Francesco Burrone, who designed the entire plant in cooperation with his Spanish colleagues and is currently plant manager, says FHP Berner is now in Phase 1 of a two-part plan that will include the purchase of at least another dozen presses and the doubling of its workforce to 100. FHP Berner received about $100,000 in energy incentives from its local utility for building what it described as an energy-efficient facility “from the ground up.” Two examples: office lighting is motion-activated, and the particular type of grass that surrounds the facility does not require daily watering. It also opted for a towerless mold- and machine-cooling system from Green Box America, Bensenville, Ill., and a materials-conveying system from Motan, Plainwell, Mich.
FHP Berner has hired 50 employees during the first phase, and it is expected to double in one year, says Burrone.