By: Roger Renstrom
October 5, 2012
TECATE, MEXICO (Oct. 5, 2:05 p.m. ET) — Formula Plastics Inc. is upgrading injection molding capabilities, adopting lean manufacturing processes and experiencing growth under a new leader.
Formula has invested about $1.6 million for seven new injection presses, a new Kent electrical discharge machine and a 10-square-foot humidity chamber room, said Alexander Mora, president of the Tecate, Calif.-based business.
The presses, which the firm began adding in July, include two Haitian two-shot 360-ton machines, Toshiba all-electrics of 200, 250, 300 and 610 tons and, to accommodate a large-shot size, one Toshiba hydraulic of 610 tons. Three of the presses are replacements, and four are additions. All of the presses should be operating by the end of October.
Mora aims to continue installing new all-electric injection molding machines as replacements for hydraulics.
Mora wants everyone at the business to think lean. “The sooner we accomplish this, the sooner we can begin to grow and become more successful,” he said.
“We are working hard with our customers and suppliers to make sure that we do away with any surplus. We want to operate with a just-in-time system.”
In sales, “we aim for $20 million” in 2012 vs. $18.1 million last year, Mora said in a Sept. 28 interview at Formula’s manufacturing facility in Tecate, Mexico.
Formula is legally incorporated in Tecate, Calif., where it has an office and a 500-square-foot warehouse. “The warehouse is for receiving and pickup for all items that are f.o.b. to Tecate, Calif.,” Mora said.
A few miles away in Tecate, Mexico, the firm employs 450 and has four maquiladoras with more than 130,000 square feet and 54 presses of 30-610 tons. “We may go to three maquiladoras,” to reduce paperwork and Mexican government auditing requirements, Mora said.
His entrepreneurial and philanthropic father, Elias (Alex) Mora, died unexpectedly in April 2011 at age 61.
“My father taught me everything he knew,” said Mora. “He constantly shared new experiences and issues with me every time we got together. Everyone at Formula knew I was going to take over sometime in the future; unfortunately, it was sooner than expected.”
Mora had held aerospace manufacturing positions with Boeing Co. and Goodrich Corp.’s aerostructures business and, at age 31, brought an outsider’s perspective in taking the reins at Formula Plastics. He believes the transition was smooth.
“During my first six months, I analyzed and observed the entire operation, interviewing everyone and taking notes before I made any significant changes,” he said. “One of the biggest positive changes is that we have made is implementing lean manufacturing. This was something that I learned outside of Formula, during my time in the aerospace industry.”
Formula is spending about $75,000 during 2012 for lean-related equipment and training and expects to spend another $75,000 next year.
The Tijuana, Mexico, office of Durán y Asociados Consultores SC is aiding Formula in its implementation of lean manufacturing. Mora said other training assistance comes from two of Robert Bosch GmbH’s Mexican operations, an auto parts manufacturing plant in Toluca and a mold-making operation in Mexicali.
“We are spending a lot of time in training and improvements in infrastructure to implement a 5S program, eliminate waste and determine what is value and non-value in our everyday operation,” he said. The 5S stands for Japanese words that translate roughly as: sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain.
Besides the maquiladoras in Mexico, Formula has two other contiguous plants, one focusing on tooling and tool storage. In a portion of the sixth plant, Formula operates four all-electric Toshibas in a Class 100,000 clean room and has space within its current 2,325 square feet for three more presses, and it has the ability to double the clean room operation.
At the Mexico site, Mora said, the company has the land to build two more plants if needed.
Jeff Lawrence, a Formula business developer, anticipates more work coming to North America from China as foreign “labor rates go up” and China’s infrastructure investments add to the cost.
He cited three China-related situations with potential for Formula, where companies may return business to the U.S. because of shipping and cost savings issues, among others.
Recently, Formula opened an on-site library, with two Internet-accessible computers and books for employees and residents to use. Formula, under Mora’s father, established a corporate citizenship program providing a day-care center, a medical clinic, an auditorium available for community functions and, through the Rotary Foundation, academic scholarships.