Hoosiers to Build Parts for Ferraris, Lambos

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BWI says advancements in its MagneRide suspension system are driving business. BWI says advancements in its MagneRide suspension system are driving business.

A new manufacturing facility in Greenfield will soon be making parts that help deliver the luxurious ride drivers expect when behind the wheel of a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Cadillac. China-based BeijingWest Industries, Co. Ltd. (BWI) will begin operations later this year at the facility, which is the company’s first manufacturing operation in the U.S. It marks a defining chapter for the company that has navigated bumps in the road; after an unwanted move to Mexico, executives are delighted the journey has led back to the U.S.

In 2009, BWI acquired the business of Delphi Chassis Systems when the major manufacturer went bankrupt.

“They had determined they would not sell the manufacturing facility in Dayton, [Ohio], so we were forced to move to Chihuahua, Mexico and move about 200 machines from Dayton to Mexico,” says BWI Vice President of Operations Tom Gold. “Unlike many companies, we were forced to move to Mexico; it was not by our own choice. It was a very challenging time.”

But the company says it has been able to grow and diversify; BWI opened an additional plant in the Czech Republic and a second in Beijing. The new Indiana plant will mark the company’s third since 2009 and its first U.S. manufacturing facility. BWI says it hit a milestone in 2016, generating $2 billion in new business.

“We won a tremendous amount of business in 2015 and 2016—to the point where we really had no space left in Chihuahua, and we needed a second North American site,” says Gold. “It ultimately came down to geographic location, driven by where our customers and suppliers are, which are primarily in the Midwest.”

Gold says the Greenfield operation will be BWI’s most automated and high-tech plant. The company has built additional production sites in Poland, England and China in recent years, but Gold says, “we’re going to be investing in more automation in this plant than any in the world.”

Workers at the Greenfield operation, which is expected to create about 440 jobs by 2021, will be building BWI’s portfolio of suspension products. Among them is the company’s high-end MagneRide product, which incorporates a specialized fluid into the vehicle’s four shock absorbers. It’s controlled electronically, instead of by the valves or moving parts on traditional shock absorbers.

“It’s an electronic suspension that’s the fastest and most responsive suspension system in the world,” says Gold. “We’re not the largest suspension manufacturer in the world; we need to be unique and differentiate ourselves from other competitors. Advancements in our MagneRide system and our control suspension technology have been driving business.”

In addition to supplying iconic brands such as Ferrari and Lamborghini, BWI’s client list includes GM, Ford, Land Rover and BMW. The company manufactures other suspension systems, including passive shock absorbers and air suspension products.

After being produced at the Greenfield, the products will be shipped throughout the Midwest. Gold says Indiana’s status as the Crossroads of America was a key factor in choosing Greenfield, as well as the state’s workforce pipeline. He says the integration of universities and Ivy Tech Community College “is something we haven’t found anywhere else.”

“We struggle in the Czech Republic, Mexico and China to find capable technicians, especially as we move into automation and the electronic age,” says Gold. “Honestly, we didn’t even know about Ivy Tech when we chose Indiana. As we’ve learned, we’ve become such a proponent of the opportunity there. We always get concerned about having highly-trained engineers, but you need highly-trained technicians too, especially with automation. Ivy Tech is a perfect fit for us.”

Gold says the next chapter of BWI’s unique “full-circle” story will include Hoosiers building the parts for a plush ride in some of the industry’s most luxurious cars.

Gold says the reliability of automation has increased in recent years and “really changes the game.”
Gold says the coordination among all of Indiana’s economic development “parts” led BWI to choose Greenfield.
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