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Courting the auto market

Courting the auto market

Tight profit margins and ever-tougher demands on suppliers have scared many companies away from the auto market. Not so with NMB Technologies Corp. This California-based division of Japanese manufacturing giant Minebea began supplying the U.S. auto market just 15 years ago.

Yet in the last seven years, the percentage of its revenues from that sector has climbed from 22% to almost 40%.

"Clearly the automotive market is a very good fit for NMB," notes Executive Vice President Skip Kinford. "We're a mass producer of high-quality products with a long history of manufacturing know-how."

Whether in the U.S. or in the company's sprawling facilities in Thailand, Singapore, and China, NMB factories are filled with the latest robotic systems and CNC machining centers. This equipment is essential, says Kinford, to achieve the continuous improvements needed to make a profit in the auto industry, where suppliers are expected to achieve annual cost reductions.

The first products that NMB sold to first- and second-tier auto suppliers were miniature ball bearings for throttle bodies, wiper motors, fan motors, and anti-lock brakes. But over the years, NMB has "moved up the food chain," supplying mechanical assemblies, as well as innovative brushless dc motors for electronic steering and braking. Now, the company is developing bearings, fans, motors, resolvers, and audio products for potential use in leading-edge auto applications.

In advanced applications, Kinford points out, suppliers need to be talking to their auto customers three and a half years before the first production runs. And they should be prepared to become part of the customer's development team-taking over key parts of the design. Helping NMB meet such challenges is its Detroit area technical center. There NMB engineers and technicians reduce their customers' costs by creating and validating designs and by doing dynamic and environmental testing on entire systems-not just the components NMB supplies.

Besides these long-term manufacturing, design, and test commitments, success in the auto industry also entails choosing the right customers. Says Kinford: "You need to partner with industry leaders who are investing in future technology." For more information, visit www.nmbcorp.com.

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