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Bourns becomes latest victim of automotive industry

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JAMES P. LEUTE
March 12, 2009
— Bourns Inc., a relative newcomer to Janesville's manufacturing scene, plans to close its operation here and eliminate 148 jobs in the next 12 to 18 months.

Bourns bought the automotive sensor business of SSI Technologies in June 2006. Since the acquisition, the Janesville facility served as the North American headquarters of the Bourns Automotive Division.


Because of a slowdown in the automotive industry, Bourns will consolidate operations and close the facility on Palmer Drive. Employees there make sensor components for automotive customers on three continents.


The Janesville plant also is home to the division's North American engineering and research and development activities.


Bourns, based in Riverside, Calif., will transfer the plant's production to other Bourns automotive facilities in Mexico and Hungary. Engineering and research and development activities will go to a facility in Michigan.


"We are facing the reality that our customers expect us to provide the highest quality products at ever lower prices," said Jeff Pyle, vice president and general manager of the Bourns Automotive Division. "Bourns' automotive business has excess costs and manufacturing space which need to be addressed. While we are confident that the automotive industry will prosper over the longer term, we must restructure our automotive business now to reflect current realities."


Bourns makes automotive sensors, circuit protection solutions, magnetic products, microelectronic modules, precision potentiometers, panel controls and encoders and resistive products. In addition to the automotive sector, Bourns also supplies the telecommunications, computer, industrial, instrumentation, consumer, non-critical life support medical, audio and other sectors.


When it bought a portion of SSI's Controls Technologies Division in 2006, Bourns acquired assets for the development and production of electric power steering torque and position sensors and rotational speed sensors for ABS and electronic transmission applications for automotive markets worldwide.


At the time, Bourns extended employment offers to approximately 300 workers.


The sale also included an SSI manufacturing plant in Chihuahua, Mexico, as well as engineering and sales offices in Novi, Mich.


The non-automotive portion of the controls division that SSI retained continues in operation. It makes up one-third of the company's business.


The other two-thirds is SSI's Sintered Specialties Division, which is a leader in stainless steel components for a variety of industries.


SSI operates out of facilities on Palmer Drive and West Court Street in Janesville.



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