A joint venture of Progressive Components International Corp. and toolmaking industrialist Francis Lim plan in April to open a component-distribution center in Singapore serving mold makers in the Asia-Pacific market.
Also, Progressive Components of Wauconda, Ill., expects by late May to establish its fifth domestic site, a regional service center in the Akron, Ohio, area.
Each center ``puts product closer to our customers,'' Glenn Starkey, president of the distribution and design firm, said in a telephone interview.
The Asian thrust dovetails with the firm's first-time exhibit at the ASEANplas 99 trade show March 23-26 in Singapore.
Lim heads the new Singapore-incorporated venture, Progressive Components Asia Pte. Ltd., as managing director. He had been sales manager with mold-base manufacturer Tan Poh Kwan in Singapore.
The new entity is establishing a network of Asian distributors in another Progressive Components expansion. Exhibiting at the October K'98 show in Germany bolstered a European network that now includes six distributors.
``U.S. toolmakers have some challenges up ahead, but ones I believe they can succeed at,'' Starkey said. ``The keys are to embrace rapid technologies, develop marketing presence and also consider utilizing overseas alliances.''
Last fall, Progressive Components and two partners invested to help hot-runner manufacturer Mastip Technology Ltd. of Auckland, New Zealand, expand its factory and broaden its product line. Other partners are Hales Tool & Die Supplies Pty. Ltd. of Braeside, Australia, and Lugand Industries of Oyonnax, France.
Brothers Glenn and Donald Starkey acquired the business from their father, Donald Sr., in 1989. Glenn manages engineering and sales, and Don deals with operational, finance and human resource functions.
Regional expansions took place in Minnesota in 1991; Watertown, Conn., in 1996; and Anaheim, Calif., in 1997.
Progressive Components employs 45 including 30 in Wauconda. Sales reached $13 million in 1998 and are projected to hit $16 million this year.
The largest category involves standard mold components such as ejector pins, leader pins and bushings.
Company-designed mold-action items are growing in sales, and the firm recently added rapid-tooling inserts and electric-connect systems.
Outside firms make proprietary items to Progressive's specifications. ``Outsourcing is the way for us to go,'' Glenn Starkey said. He prefers to invest in new product development and geographic expansion rather than manufacture in-house.
In February, an entrepreneurial studies group at the University of Illinois at Chicago inducted the Starkey brothers into the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame.