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January 08 55 KSRInternational the cost of shipping from Mexico to the northern US assembly plants would wipe out any gains.” So Mexican production goes to other Latin American plants and to auto manufacturers in the south of the US. As well as Detroit’s ‘big three’, KRS supplies to Nissan and other Japanese manufacturers. Altogether, the company produces between 40,000 and 50,000 pedalbox units each day. Worldwide, it employs in the region of 1,500 people, around 200 of them in Ridgetown. That level of output from a relatively small workforce is an indication of an automated production process. “We have invested quite heavily in automated systems, that’s correct. The drivers have been cost and quality,” said Nunn. “We started our improvement process, including automation, over ten years ago and it has become embedded in KSR’s culture.” Innovation, too, has been a core KSR value since it was established in 1945. Over decades, its latches and door handles have become the standard for heavy trucks. The next step, which it has already taken, is to provide customers with single-source electronic, plastic and metal control systems. “Everything from brake pedals to throttle pedals are becoming drive-by-wire,” said Nunn. “We’re developing a line of ETC (electronic throttle controls) and non-contact ETCs that are just going into production in Brazil.” That came about because KSR undertakes some positioning sensor work for Ford and extended the concept to the pedalbox. The Blue Oval has already placed a number of orders for them. “It’s a challenging part of the business because electronics develop so fast. We’re not the only company that offers ETC but, as we have electronic expertise in-house, we are in a somewhat unique position, as we’re able to combine mechanical and plastic components with electronics. We do electronic brakes as well and provide the whole assembly, including clutch for various world markets, throttle and brake products in a single assembly—we’re a complete one-stop shop.” Both KSR and Ford had experienced some problems with suppliers of electrical components. KSR’s solution was to bring the expertise inhouse. Ford’s solution was to come to KSR for the solution to its engine positioning sensor. After a trial period, in which there were no warranty problems, Nunn expects KSR to be in full production by summer. Electronic braking systems aren’t as advanced as throttles but KRS is working towards full brake-by-wire. The key seems to be non-contact resistors. “With non-contact electronics, if the mathematics are correct, it will work,” he explained. “We have a quite sophisticated testing facility, which puts the brake system through a large number of cycles at various temperatures. They have to pass a lot of tests of durability before they’re passed safe to incorporate.” But there is also the question of ‘feel’—the resistance of the pedal that the driver becomes familiar with. “We use a system called historesis to give the feel on the pedals. It feels exactly the same as if it’s connected to the engine.” Possibly even better, as there are no cables to stretch or mechanical connections to work loose. “Drive-bywire isn’t such a leap for the system itself, but it is a challenge for the wheels. We have to be sure the sensors will stop the wheels with a sensor-based system. We’re a few years from full production yet but we can see the day when brake-by-wire will be standard fi ttings.” Over the next fi ve years, KSR expects its Mexican operations to expand but not necessarily at the expense of established operations in its major markets. “We’ll probably get bigger in Europe; our location in the Czech Republic is favored for delivery to all parts of the Continent,” said Nunn. “We expect to grow globally, faster outside of North America and to broaden our customer base. We will continue to develop electrical parts in conjunction with our plastics and metal capabilities. We have that unique capability and it’s a major competitive advantage.” DeSantis Industrial Springs & Stampings Inc. (DISS) has been supplying custom designed springs, wire forms, stampings and assemblies to a worldwide market since 1974. A reputation for quality, reliability and service, coupled with manufacturing versatility, makes DeSantis a valuable partner to any business. Our goal is to continually satisfy the expectations of our customers through the implementation of TS 16949. DISS Our relationship with KSR dates back to 1981, and we have since enjoyed a close business relationship with them, developing cost effective solutions in the replacement of steel and magnesium components with engineering grade plastics. We look forward to a continuing successful business relationship with KSR for another 26 years at least. Scott Douglas Plastics