NEW BRAUNFELS, TEXAS — Joint venture LMS Beach is ramping up its expanded plastic and metal capabilities to make computer enclosures and anticipating higher content demands from original equipment manufacturers.
Also, the venture has a new operation in Ireland and yet-to-be-announced plans in Asia.
``We get more and more into the computer business,'' Van Holley said in an interview in his New Braunfels office. ``More of our customers want us to be more vertically integrated and add more value to their product before it comes into their facility.''
Holley reports to owners in Illinois and Indiana and oversees four burgeoning operations supplying assembled frameworks to computer makers such as Dell Computer Corp. of Round Rock, Texas, and Compaq Computer Corp. of Houston. Holley was a Dell employee from 1988-95.
In addition to the joint venture, the New Braunfels operations include:
Lightning Metal Specialties Inc., a stamping and assembly unit of Lightning Tool & Design Inc. of Elk Grove Village, Ill., that began Texas production in June 1996 and achieved ISO 9002 registration May 8.
Beach Texas, a molding and assembly unit of Beach Mold & Tool Inc. of New Albany, Ind., that constructed a contiguous, 113,000-square-foot facility on a portion of Lightning Metals' land this year.
Lightning Logistics, a Lightning Metal subsidiary with seven trucks and 40 trailers for a regional system that, since January, has drop-shipped chassis-loaded trailers at the computer makers' production lines.
Lightning Metal and Beach Mold formed LMS Beach in December. Both firms can take work unrelated to the joint venture.
With the addition, the structures occupy 223,000 square feet and are approaching a landlocked status, said Holley, LMS Beach vice president of operations. The venture stores a two-week inventory of finished goods at nearby off-site warehouses totaling 114,000 square feet.
``Staffing is up,'' he said. ``It used to be just mechanical people. Now we have an electrical engineer on staff, and we build test equipment [and] test power supplies.''
The site employs about 750.
Floppy disk and CD-ROM assemblies are being installed, but ``we haven't got to hard drives yet because of a packaging problem,'' Holley said. ``You've got to have cushioning for shock and vibration.''
Cost pressure drives the work.
``Our overheads are probably lower overall than [customers'] overheads,'' Holley said. ``I can see us putting in motherboards and hard drives.''
Rick Weber joined Beach Texas as plant manager in July, transferring from a position as quality manager at Beach Mold's Emporia, Va., facility.
Fourteen Milacron injection molding presses are in operation or being installed in permanent locations, Weber noted during a tour of the New Braunfels plant.
The units include five with clamping forces of 1,000 tons, two 500s, five 250s and two l65s. Another bay in the plant can accommodate 18-20 more presses.
Beach Texas employs 140 in four teams for round-the-clock, seven-day operations ``mostly linked with LMS work now, but custom work [is] growing,'' Weber said. ``Other customers [are] getting word we are down here.''
Beach Mold's Indiana plant supplies tools now, but Beach Texas is developing a capability, initially in tool repair and maintenance.
``Within two years, we will be equipped to make tools,'' said Weber, who reports to Holley.
In addition to the Texas activity, LMS Beach started plastics molding and metal stamping operations in a 225,000-square-foot facility in Tullamore, Ireland, on Oct. 12, Holley said.
The site will have nine injection molding machines of 165-1,000 tons and three metal stamping presses of 200-600 tons. ``Customers want us to support them on a global basis,'' Holley said.
Also, LMS Beach is ``close to making an announcement with a major company in the Far East for a joint venture there,'' he said.
``We are also looking at South America,'' Holley said. ``Brazil has some of our customers down there building product. If we need to be down there, we'll be down there.''