SAN JOSE, CALIF. — Computer enclosure maker Trend Technologies Inc. is spending more than $35 million during 1998-99 to address the needs of original equipment manufacturers with sophisticated supply chains.
Global manufacturing is one goal, along with adding a design department. In addition, Trend continues integrating plastics molding, metal bending and assembly close to customers' plants.
``There's a lot to be done; we can't do it all at once,'' said John Millis, corporate marketing director.
A new plant in Round Rock, Texas, constitutes a prime example of what Trend thinks a top OEM wants an enclosure maker to have in one place: injection molding, metal stamping, mechanical assembly, tooling maintenance and logistics management.
Production in Round Rock began in late 1998 at two custom-built plants with a total of 177,000 square feet, near key customer Dell Computer Corp.
Trend currently has manufacturing plants in North America and Europe. However, Millis said, the San Jose-based company needs to improve its ability to supply customers on three continents — not just two.
``I see the enclosure industry pushing this metal-plastic philosophy under one roof and three-continent manufacturing,'' Millis said. ``We need the ability to supply three continents [and be] competitively priced. To do so, we need to be a local supplier.''
For now, Trend stocks inventory in Asia, primarily in Malaysia; in Europe, in Scotland and Ireland; and in Florida. But the firm experiences slow cash flow on the overseas shipments and warehousing.
There is ``no reason we can't source three sets of injection molds for the same part [and] run [them] at three different locations throughout the world,'' Millis said. ``Shipping costs are a big customer concern.''
Trend focuses on working with a few top firms such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard Co., Sun Microsystems Inc., Compaq Computer Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc.
``They have the most sophisticated supply chains and the most people knocking on their doors,'' he said.
Top competitors for Trend include Foxconn (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd.; Singapore Shinei Sangyo Pte. Ltd.; a joint venture of Lightning Metal Specialties Inc. and Beach Mold & Tool Inc.; and Palo Alto Products International Pte. Ltd.
``Supply-base consolidation at the OEMs is a pretty big deal these days,'' Millis said.
OEMs audit down to a handful of suppliers and keep the successful ones on edge through comparisons.
``You know where you stand against your competition,'' he said.
Trend has about 1,800 employees and reported 1998 sales of $197 million.
North American OEM sites use about 75 percent of Trend's output; Europe, 20 percent; and Asia, 5 percent.
Trend tries to become involved upfront in a design and make its enclosures easier to manufacture.
``If we get the opportunity to design kinks out early, we can save some time for them, and we are more inclined to get the manufacturing and tooling part of the job,'' Millis said.
And early access to design concepts can hasten toolmaking.
``Sometimes we may provide design consulting but not get the job,'' he said. ``That can be a bitter pill to swallow, but it is part of our business.''
Trend consults with customer and independent design teams, but the company may have its own design department within 18 months, he said.
Trend operates 149 injection molding machines with clamping forces up to 1,650 tons, 66 precision metal-stamping machines to 600 tons, and a variety of mold-making computer numerically controlled machining centers, electric discharge machines, mills and grinders.
For plastics processing in its various locations, Trend's San Jose shop procures about 250 tools annually.
It makes two-thirds in-house and has three or four key suppliers that make the rest, Millis said. Trend's Longmont, Colo., facility makes another 25-30 tools annually.