A desire to be closer to key customers is prompting AMS Plastics Inc. of El Cajon, Calif., to build a 52,000-square-foot molding plant in Mexicali, Mexico, about 100 miles east of Tijuana. Plans call for the facility to be completed by March. The Mexicali plant initially will have 10 injection molding machines with clamping forces of 50-700 tons, and one or two blow molding machines. Presses will be added as capacity is needed, with a total of 28 injection presses and four blow molding machines planned when the plant reaches its full capacity.
AMS President Tom Plein entered the market in Mexico in 1993, with a facility in Tijuana. Operaciones de Clase Mundial operates 20 Toshiba injection molding machines with clamping forces of 50-500 tons, in a 38,000-square-foot plant. The success of that plant, along with encouragement from customers who are putting plants in Mexicali, made the decision to do it again an easy one.
``It's tough to forge deep, long-lasting relationships with customers when you're a thousand miles away,'' said Plein, adding that the Mexicali plant abuts the facilities of two AMS customers.
``We can deliver parts across the parking lot,'' he said. ``It fits our strategy of getting close to our customers.''
AMS is a custom molder serving the consumer electronics, industrial and medical markets.
Plein looked at the Mexicali location prior to building in Tijuana, but decided that for a first venture, Tijuana's proximity to San Diego made it easier to start up and establish a plant.
When it comes to machinery, Plein believes that new equipment is the optimum way to go, even in Mexico.
``People had their doubts when we decided to buy all new presses for Tijuana,'' said Plein. ``Some people believe that you send all your old equipment to Mexico, but my theory is that if you buy new you maximize your up-time and you make better parts more consistently.''
Each new machine has pick-and-place robots to provide higher production efficiency and consistency in an area where technical expertise is lacking among employees. However, AMS is upgrading its employees' skills by offering schooling.
Harry M. Tice, general manager of the Tijuana plant, said AMS hires a teacher to come to the plant one full day each week to teach classes in reading, writing and basic math on a grade-school level. In January, AMS will offer high school-level classes. ``This program helps keep our turnover rate to a minimum,'' he said.
AMS is setting up material requirements planning systems and real-time production monitoring systems that will electronically link all three plants. Each facility also offers a variety of secondary operations and assembly.
At the El Cajon plant, AMS recently installed a new industrial blow molding machine from Cincinnati Milacron Inc. to provide industrial packaging such as cases. The 32,000-square-foot plant houses 12 injection molding machines with clamping forces of 50-400 tons, most of those in a clean room molding environment.
Plein said there is a lack of industrial blow molders in the Southern California area.
``We see that market growing,'' he said.
AMS sales manager Jamey Watson, formerly with Cincinnati Milacron, said his company's success can be traced to its focus.
``We stay focused and predict very well where our customers are going, and where we want to go and why. Then we commit to be in that business,'' he said.