Shape Inc. plans to open a West Coast plant within 13 months to mold computer card packaging and jewel boxes, primarily for the CD-ROM industry. ``We had requests from major CD-ROM replicators to get capacity on the West Coast,'' said Thomas Parkinson, Shape's president and chief executive officer.
The company plans initially to produce 40 million to 50 million jewel cases annually at the new plant, ramping up to 100 million or more cases. Currently, Shape has the capacity to produce 150 million jewel cases annually at its Dadesville, Ala., facility and 50 million annually at its Biddeford, Maine, headquarters plant.
The company has not selected a plant site, but Parkinson said Shape is considering midcoastal California, which would allow it to serve the San Francisco Bay area, the Northwest and the Los Angeles Basin. It also would enable the company to serve Asian markets competitively, he said.
Shape already owns a building in Tucson, Ariz., and Parkinson said the company may consider adding both California and Tucson plants in the long term.
Shape is in good shape these days. After experiencing difficulties a few years ago, Parkinson said, the injection molder now is focused and taking advantage of strong market conditions.
Parkinson said Shape's new strategies include moving facilities closer to its customer base and moving mature products into emerging markets. The company also is looking at joint venture opportunities in Third World countries. and ``where the VCR is the emerging technology,'' he said.
Shape's much-improved financial and market positions can be attributed to its decision to focus on two major growth areas for packaging: commercial electronics and computers.
However, Parkinson said resin prices increased so quickly that customers did not have time to adjust, so many increases could not be passed through.
That ``put us in a position of having our technology replaced by alternative materials, especially in the area of packaging, which is hurting the growth of that business,'' he said.
He cited an example in which a replicator could choose to use a paperboard sleeve instead of a three-piece plastic jewel box.
However, Shape is doing well despite the resin problems.
``We're surviving by adding more value to our products in the markets we serve,'' he said. ``Business is very strong and we intend to grow Shape.''