Unlike most of their Asian-based counterparts, Thomson Consumer Electronics Inc. and Zenith Electronics Corp. injection mold most of their plastic television cabinets in-house. Thomson, which makes upscale ProScan, mid-line RCA and low-price GE-brand TV sets, assembles TVs in Carmel, Ind. Thomson molds large cabinets in the Indianapolis area and makes cabinets for 19- and 20-inch sets in a 2-year-old plastics operation in Ciudad Ju rez, Mexico. It makes its smaller TVs in Asia.
``There is pressure on manufacturers to constantly reduce the price of products,'' Thomson spokesman David H. Arland said in a telephone interview from Carmel. ``Competition forces us to find new ways to reduce expenses.''
Only Thomson's largest cabinets are sourced out, and most of them are wood, Arland said. Thomson is a unit of Paris-based Thomson multimedia.
``If it were not for our facilities in Ju rez, there would be no operations in Indiana,'' Arland said. ``We would be a lot more expensive than our competitors.''
In the 1994 model year, Thomson's brands had a U.S. direct-view color TV market share of 22.3 percent, according to ``Tele-vision Digest'' newsletter. Philips NV of Eindhoven, the Netherlands, had a 14.4 percent share with its Magnavox and three smaller brands. Zenith's share was 10 percent; and Sony's, 7 percent.
These leaders and others compete in an enormous market. U.S. sales of direct-view color TV receivers to dealers will exceed $7.4 billion this year, according to the Electronic Industries Association.
Zenith molds across the street from its assembly plant in Reynosa, Mexico. It employs 300 at the newly built plastics molding operation, which consolidates work formerly done in Springfield, Mo.
``We plan to produce 2.8 million cabinets this year,'' said Phil Savoia, vice president of manufacturing for Zenith's eastern region.
The plant will have 32 presses with 700-1,500 tons of clamping force, Savoia said, after the final two presses are installed. The presses also mold housings and shelves. Eight silos feed the resins. Zenith invested $20 million in the equipment.
A conveyor system traverses a street, connecting the 230,000-square-foot plastics operation directly into Zenith's final assembly plant.
The arrangement reduces materials handling and inventories and simplifies production scheduling.
Zenith is headquartered in Glenview, Ill.