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SUS mulling US aluminum frames plant

Keywords: Tags  SUS, Yasuo Ishida, structural aluminum frames, extrusion, GreenFrame Series, aluminum frames, factory automation, automotive assembly Toyota

CHICAGO — SUS Corp. is considering building a U.S. manufacturing facility for its GreenFrame Series structural aluminum frames and other products used in the factory automation, furniture, and architectural and construction sectors, a company executive said.

The Shizuoka, Japan-based machinery and components makers this past week introduced the GreenFrame Series to the North American market at the Automation Technology Expo in Chicago. SUS sources aluminum for the product from Thailand, but would look to get product locally if a U.S. location were built, SUS president Yasuo Ishida said in an interview with AMM.

"As the business grows, we hope that we can work together with U.S. extrusion factories to supply aluminum," Ishida said via a translator, although he noted that the company hadn’t contacted U.S. extruders yet. "We are still researching."

It’s also too early to say where a U.S. facility might be located, a company spokeswoman told AMM Sept. 12.

The GreenFrame Series is already widely used in auto assembly plants in Japan and elsewhere in Asia, Ishida said. In North America, the product is at work at some Toyota Motor Corp. facilities, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and Mazda Motor Corp. plants in Mexico, and automotive supplier Denso Corp.’s operations in Michigan and Tennessee, he said.

SUS hopes to see the GreenFrame Series gain traction among other automotive companies and perhaps in other industries as well, Ishida said. It’s too early to say how much SUS might invest in the United States, what the capacity of any U.S. facility might be or how many people it might employ, he said.

"That is something we would have to make a decision on based on the sales performance and the orders coming in," Ishida said. But if "everything goes well," a U.S. facility could be in the cards within the next two years, he said.

Ishida touted the company’s GreenFrame Series, rolled out in Japan a decade ago and elsewhere overseas about six years ago, as more corrosion resistant and roughly half the weight of a similar steel product.

He conceded that it might be more expensive initially than a comparable steel system, but argued that its benefits—including its light weight that makes it easier to use—offsets the higher up-front cost. Other GreenFrame Series benefits include ease of assembly and a semi-automated "Karakuri" system that relies primarily on gravity instead of electricity for movement, he said.

While the GreenFrame Series is currently deployed to a limited extent in the North American automotive sector, SUS would like to see the system expand into other industries and, if successful, to introduce other company products to North America, Ishida said. A U.S. factory would likely be able to produce the GreenFrame Series and other products, he said.

"This material (aluminum) still has a new history, and when it comes to its applications and uses it’s not completely matured yet," he said. "We are at this time introducing only the (GreenFrame) Series. However, as a company ... we are hoping to be able to introduce more of our product lines to the U.S. in the future," Ishida said, adding that those products include systems for automotive assemblies along with items as basic as household shelving.

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