Kobe Expands Forging Capacity 50% in Kentucky

Aug. 28, 2014
Aluminum automotive suspension products capacity now tops 5 million/year $66-million project Six mechanical forging  presses Rising demand for lightweight parts
Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products started in 2005 with a single 6,300-ton press, and then added two presses in 2006, a fourth in 2007, and two more this year.

Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products LLC, Bowling Green, Ky., has doubled its production capacity with the addition of a new melting/casting line and two 6,300-ton forging presses. It is the fourth expansion since the plant started operating in 2005. It brings to six the number of mechanical forging presses in operation there, producing aluminum automotive suspension parts.

Kobe Steel Ltd., KAAP’s parent company, reported the latest investment at $66 million, and noted the new capacity at that location is more than 5 million pieces annually (420,000/month.)  

A 150,000-sq.ft. extension to the plant also was built to house the new capacity, adjacent to the existing plant. The company also added 50 new employees with the new capacity, bringing the plant’s total to 350.

KAAP is a joint venture of Kobe Steel, Mitsui & Co. Ltd,. and Toyota Tsusho Corporation, and the largest domestic manufacturer of aluminum forgings for automotive suspensions. It supplies domestic and transplant automakers across North America.

Kobe Steel anticipates an increasing U.S. market demand for its lightweight components as a consequence of tighter fuel-economy regulations in the coming decade.

The expansion of the Kentucky operation has been paralleled by Kobe Steel’s expansion of a comparable joint-venture operation in China.  Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products (China) Co. Ltd. was launched in 2010 and later expanded with a second forging press. It now produces 1.5 million forged components per year.

Kobe Steel's joint-venture aluminum forging operations have a current capacity of 12 million parts per year — a total that's due to rise in late 2015 with the addition of a third mechanical forging press at KAAP China.

With the U.S., China, and the original KAAP forging operation at Daian, Japan, Kobe now has a global capacity of 12 million forged aluminum suspension parts per year.

That volume is due to increase again with a third forging press starting up at KAAP China next fall. Kobe Steel indicated that expansion was decided in March and is in progress now, an investment estimated at $19.3 million (¥2 billion.) KAAP China’s capacity will increase from 3 million to 4.2 million forged parts per year, and the group’s total production capacity will rise to 13.2 million forged suspension parts per year.

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Editor/Content Director - Endeavor Business Media

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others.

Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing—including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)