DUDELANGE, LUXEMBOURG — Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. is planning some earthshaking moves.
In Luxembourg, the earth already is shaking from heavy equipment laying the groundwork for Husky's $50 million, 170,000-square-foot, hot-runner and PET preform mold plant. The new plant is just part of the five-year, $185 million European expansion, aimed mainly at Husky's Dudelange campus.
In Asia, the earth shaking takes the form of news that Husky is planning some sort of manufacturing facility there.
The new building in Luxembourg will join two others — a large-tonnage machine plant and a technical center — in a campus setting reminiscent of Husky's Bolton, Ontario, headquarters, said Norbert Scheid, general manager of Husky's Luxembourg mold operations, who spoke in an Oct. 3 interview at the plant.
While the newest facility will not be completed until October or November of 1998, Scheid said workers will start work on its first hot-runner products in April from a partially completed building. Construction on the project began Sept. 1.
Currently, PET preform molds are being assembled at the Luxembourg campus technical center, which was not designed for a heavy production load, Scheid said.
``At first the technical center was one-third the size it is today,'' he said. ``It has been expanded by two-thirds, but is not suitable for manufacturing. So we decided to put up a new plant.''
Most European orders for hot runners now are being filled at Husky's Bolton facilities. When the new plant is up and running, some components for the hot runners still will come from North America, Scheid said. But plates, manifolds and final assembly will be done in Luxembourg.
``It's going to be a big advantage to have a facility over here,'' he said.
Some of those advantages include better quality control, enhanced technical support and the ability to do development work hand-in-hand with nearby customers, said Husky's Luxembourg spokesman Nick Lewis.
Husky plans to hire about 40 people for the new plant in the first half of 1998, Scheid said. He noted that his department started with three Luxembourg employees in 1995 and has grown to 145 today. The full complement of workers could number as high as 300 when the plant reaches full capacity.
Husky's Luxembourg campus in Dudelange — located in the southern tip of the tiny country — started as a large-tonnage machine plant in 1985, said Claude Bodeving, sales manager for large-tonnage presses. The company's two-platen E-series machines, with clamping forces of 1,000-4,400 U.S. tons, are made there now, he said.
The technical center, which currently houses injection machines for customer tests as well as hot-runner and PET mold operations, opened in June 1995. The growth won't necessarily stop with the new hot-runner plant.
Plans are in the works for expanding the machine-making facility, to boost capacity from its current 50 machines per year and to allow the manufacture of some machine components in-house, Lewis said.
Architects' drawings show another three buildings could fit on the more than 70 acres of land Husky leases from the Luxembourg government.
While plans are not finalized, the additional facilities could be used to make Husky's new G-series general-purpose machines and robotic equipment, Bodeving said.
Plans for Asia also are in the works, according to Stephen Eylert, vice president of the Asia-Pacific region for Husky.
``There is no question — we will have manufacturing in Asia,'' he said. ``We have major growth plans for Asia.''
Husky reported slower sales in 1996 compared with 1995: $568 million vs. $608 million. But Asian sales increased 33 percent, according to the private company's annual report.
Eylert said it is too early to comment specifically about the location or scale of any Asian manufacturing facility. But he said a final decision will be made within nine months.
High-level Husky officials are planning a trip through Asia in January, he said.
Meanwhile, another manufacturing campus is blooming in Milton, Vt., where Husky is building a hot-runner plant that will supply components to Luxembourg as well as complete systems for North and South America and Asia.
The Vermont site could grow into a 1,000-employee complex within 10 years, said Robert Schad, Husky chief executive officer.
Husky seems to be taking a two-pronged approach to global manufacturing.
The company is spreading out and concentrating operations at the same time.
The Luxembourg PET mold shop, for example, was formed when Husky moved operations there from Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1996.
With the campus approach, Husky can operate independent businesses in far-flung places.
But a fair amount of sharing goes on between the Luxembourg site and Husky's Bolton headquarters.
``Capacity is shared worldwide,'' Scheid said.
And so is design.
Husky's engineers all share the same computer-aided design/manufacturing system, so sending a mold design file from Canada to Luxembourg is as easy as using e-mail.
``On the development side, we meet on a continual basis'' with Canadian counterparts, Scheid said. ``Sometimes it is faster to work in parallel.''
Working together from continents away is made easier by Husky's use of standardized mold and hot-runner components, Scheid said.
Standardization also is key to keeping order-turnaround times as short as possible because only those parts unique to a particular customer have to be created from scratch, he said.