Auxiliary equipment maker Conair Group announced Feb. 14 it will move manufacturing of Metaplast downstream extrusion equipment from the Montreal area to Franklin, Pa. Conair said it will close the plant in Lachine, Quebec, but will keep the Metaplast headquarters in the Montreal area, including its sales and application-development functions. Conair will continue to handle customer support and engineering in Lachine but also will get support for those functions from its headquarters and technical center in Pittsburgh.
About 30-35 manufacturing employees have been laid off, according to Conrad Bessemer, Conair's vice president of operations,
Conair bought Metaplast in 1997, a few months after Conair announced it was centralizing production in Franklin.
Metaplast makes downstream equipment such as calibration tables, sizers, spray tanks, pullers and saws. The machines are used in the production of window components, fencing, small-diameter pipe and other products.
Bessemer said Metaplast's fast growth and sales to U.S. customers spurred the move to Franklin, where Conair can build and ship products faster. The Franklin building is better equipped than Lachine, with overhead cranes, automatic laser metal cutting and computer numerically controlled bending and punching machinery.
Conair claims the business quadrupled in the two years that Conair has owned Metaplast, outstripping the Canadian plant's capacity. As a result, Conair has outsourced some production to local suppliers and to the main Franklin plant. Franklin, which already was making Gatto downstream extrusion equipment, produced about a third of Metaplast's total production in 1999, the company said.
"In light of this tremendous growth, the migration of manufacturing to the expanded and consolidated Conair production facility in Franklin is a natural evolution for Metaplast," Bessemer said in a news release.
A source familiar with the company claimed that "Conair demanded us to subcontract every part possible" regardless of the cost. Bessemer, in a telephone interview, said the Metaplast plant simply could not match growing demand.
Some of the laid-off workers will pick up jobs at a competitor, Custom Downstream Systems Inc. in St. Laurent, near Montreal. CDS was started in 1997 by several ex-Metaplast employees. CDS President Franco Pecora plans to hire about 10-20 of the laid-off workers.
Conair employs a total of 600, including about 400 in Franklin. Bessemer said Conair hired about 100 new manufacturing employees at Franklin when it began the consolidation.