SINGAPORE — Custom injection molder and mold maker Fu Yu Manufacturing Ltd. persisted through Asia's economic difficulties and sees improvement ahead.
``1999 will be a different year in comparison with the difficulties of 1998,'' Steven Ho, executive director, said in an interview at company headquarters in Singapore.
Fu Yu experienced a 17 percent sales reduction last year and, for the first time in half a decade, did not open a new plant in Malaysia or China. Fu Yu has six Singapore factories employing 1,300.
The publicly traded firm recorded profit of S$11.2 million (US$7.54 million) on sales of S$203 million (US$136.6 million) in 1997. At that time, Fu Yu described itself as ``the largest, independent, one-stop supplier of plastic injection molds and injection molded parts in Singapore.''
Four entrepreneurs formed Fu Yu in 1978, and all still are involved in the firm, which serves multinational original equipment manufacturers.
``We expanded to Pinang, Malaysia, in 1994 to support Apple'' Computer Inc., Ho said. Other plants opened in Johore, Malaysia, and Guangdong, China, in 1995; Tianjin, China, in 1996 to support Motorola Inc.; and Shanghai, China, in 1997. The China operations are small, he said.
Hewlett-Packard Co. accounts for about 45 percent of sales, and Motorola, 20 percent. Other key customers include Apple, Philips Electronics NV and Iomega Corp.
Fu Yu becomes involved with OEMs' early design work. The firm has 10 designers for new projects and another 16 designing molds. Precision processes include micro, insert, gas-assisted and thin-wall molding.
Annually, the firm processes about 12 million pounds of ABS, accounting for 30 percent of total resin use, and 10 million pounds of polycarbonate.
Typically, Fu Yu makes the molds and manufactures high-value plastic products in Singapore, and assigns less-critical jobs to the lower-wage sites to the north. Fu Yu operates 200 injection molding machines with clamping forces of 40-1,300 tons. The company uses Unigraphics, Pro/Engineer and Solid Designer software for mold making, which accounts for about 15 percent of the business. Also, Fu Yu does some subassembly work.
The firm has invested more than US$8 million in a research and development unit formed in 1997.
Ho said that Singapore's educational orientation poses a difficulty. The country trains high-technology talent, but he claims it is not interested in machine operators. As a result, Fu Yu needs to import operators from China on work programs, sending them home after two-year stints.