TRAVERSE CITY. Mich. -- Dura Automotive Systems Inc. has turned around its shifter business and plans to export shifters to South Korea and China from Michigan, thanks to a new production system.
Ford Motor Co. credited the new "supercell" system used to produce gear shifters with saving it $25 million.
Rochester Hills, Mich.,-based Dura has won $85 million over the past 18 months with the new system, said Tim Stephens, vice president and general manager for shifter systems and cable operations. Contracts include shifters for a Ssangyong Motors car in South Korea and a General Motors car made and sold in China.
"The model is working," said Stephens, who spoke Monday at the annual Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City. Dura's annual global shifter sales are $300 million.
Dura invested in new machines, changed its production system, created a common shifter and stopped buying the shifter plate from another supplier. It added an injection-molding machine into the supercell.
The result: Dura cut the time from raw materials hitting the door to finished product leaving from 10 days to three, cut the product-development time from 36 months to 18 and reduced the number of employees operating a cell from 75 to 25.
Stephens said early collaboration with Ford was key to the program. Dura's system saves customers tooling costs because it uses a common shifter that can be used in different car models with minimal changes.
That cuts tooling from $1.5 million in some cases to $400,000, Stephens said. The system already is winning repeat business.
"There's a tendency for (automakers) to stay with it when it works," he said.
Stephens said skyrocketing plastic-resin costs are a problem, but Dura's contracts with the new system are profitable.