LONG BEACH, CALIF. - AT&T was marketing its injection molding capability to those attending the Western Plastics Exposition Feb. 14-16 in Long Beach, but plant consolidation has delayed the communication giant's major entry into custom molding. About 40 percent of custom molding output at AT&T's Naperville, Ill., facility goes to outside customers; AT&T uses the remainder, according to Chris Miller, who sells and markets AT&T injection molding services. A year ago, the outside portion was about 20 percent.
As part of a five-building campus formerly known as AT&T Bell Laboratories, the 20,000-square-foot Naperville molding facility employs 30 toolmakers, mechanics and art designers and has two presses of 75 and 80 tons.
In Omaha, Neb., AT&T's Network Systems business unit handles large volumes on about 150 presses, with clamping forces of 25-500 tons, at a 1 million-square-foot plastics facility.
``Up to 480 press-hours per week may be available [for outside work], and 50 percent is occupied now,'' said Chuck Meyers, plastic products engineering manager in Omaha.
``We try to look for business outside, and we may have more room as we change product lines,'' Meyers said. ``A year ago, we were more aggressive in looking outside. Now, captive work predominates.''
The moderation reflects Omaha's absorption of its own injection molding requirements from an inefficient, 80-press AT&T facility in Shreveport, La. The work, valued at about $6 million, was moved to Omaha in early 1994.
In 1993, AT&T had said the Shreveport Works would do custom molding, but the plastics operation could not compete and was closed Dec. 31, 1994, eliminating 200 injection molding jobs there. However, most of those employees were relocated within the firm.
Omaha's capacity grew with the addition of more than 20 presses from Shreveport and the purchase of 17 others. Toolroom equipment and another 10 presses from Shreveport remain for sale.
AT&T subcontracted about $10 million of the Shreveport injection molding business, involving 650 molds.
David Staeheli, outsource molding project manager, said the work went to Louisiana custom molders Engineering Products in Bossier City, Premier Molding Co. in Minden and Beacon Plastics Inc. in Homer; and to Chicago molder Artag Inc. AT&T uses the molded parts in assembling telephone systems, terminals and other products in Shreveport.