DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY — Fifteen years ago, Wentworth Technologies Co. Ltd. was among the first wave of companies moving into Eastern Europe, establishing a mold making facility in the small town of Poniatowa, Poland.
Today, that facility has become the center of the company's blow mold tooling, able to compete with anyone else globally and leading the bulk of the production for the Canadian firm.
The plant in Poniatowa — along with Wentworth's other operations in the country — combines technology and a lower cost structure that has it delivering tools globally.
"Ten years ago, people asked me for two prices for molds, the North American price and the Poland price," said Wentworth founder Walter Kuskowski during an interview at K 2013 in Düsseldorf. "Now, it's all about global prices."
While wages have increased in Poland during the past decade, Kuskowski said, so have those from competing tool shops in China, and Poland has not been rising as quickly, he said. Add in the knowledge base from both Canada and Europe, and Wentworth has hit a good balance point.
"We can compete with our cost structure and with processing technologies," he said.
Kuskowski was born in Poland and emigrated to Canada in the 1960s, creating the tooling and packaging company Wentworth, which is based in Stony Creek, Ontario.
In the 1990s, as customers explored opportunities in Central and Eastern Europe, Kuskowski followed a series of leads that led to Poniatowa, a small manufacturing town that had recently lost its biggest employer.
It lacked any expertise in blow mold or PET preform tool making, but had industrial properties and a young workforce ready for opportunities.
Wentworth is now the biggest employer in Poniatowa. It has filled most of its 50,000-square-foot facility with state-of-the art manufacturing cells. It has eight high-speed Hermle CNC machines, compared to two Hermle machines in North America.
Its Polish workers have the opportunity to travel for training in North America, while North American toolmakers travel to Poland to work with their counterparts there.
The company still has full capabilities in North America, however, Kuskowski pointed out. Its facilities in Ontario and Vandalia, Ohio, can produce complete molds, or work in tandem with Polish mold makers on a final project.
Wentworth's businesses include tooling for both blow molding and PET preform molds as well as thermoforming plants for the packaging industry. It has operations in Ontario, Ohio, Poland, Germany and England.
It is in talks on a variety of future projects, including potential partnerships with Chinese mold makers looking for support in North America and Europe, Kuskowski said.
Wentworth is also looking to work with more small to mid-size companies, which have been more aggressive in seeking new PET bottle shapes and sizes recently.
Large scale drink makers have invested more in resin and lightweighting for their PET bottles recently, rather than introducing new sizes, Kuskowski said.
"New companies seem to be more interested in new ideas and more innovation," he said.
Wentworth has several new projects coming up, he said, but still are too early to discuss publicly.