Mack Group Inc. is adding sheet metal fabrication to its production services, a move it expects will speed up product development for original equipment manufacturers. Mack also said it will open a Far East buying office in Hong Kong late this spring, mainly to streamline its sourcing of subassemblies and metal components in the region.
The Arlington, Vt., firm said it will install metal-forming machinery at its expanded head-office plant to complement its plastics injection molding, design, prototyping and assembly abilities. It said it will devote about 20,000 square feet to the sheet metal operation, which is due to start up in early summer.
Jeff Somple, Mack Group vice president of sales and engineering, said in a telephone interview that a key benefit will be shorter product development cycles. Mack has outsourced sheet metal fabrication, mainly among U.S. firms. By bringing most such work in-house, it will have more control over helping OEMs develop new products.
Mack, a major processor with 1999 custom injection molding sales of $392 million, has been expanding its product development expertise. Last summer it bought prototype specialist Apple Pattern Co. Inc. of Gardner, Mass., to complement its computer-aided design and engineering center Mack Design, established in Rochester, N.Y., in 1997.
The company will offer "soft-tooled metal fabrication." Somple said the fabrication involves a rotatable turret containing various tool bits to perform specific functions, such as drilling, punching and cutting in a programmable sequence at a single manufacturing center. Soft-tool technology is ideally suited for short to medium production runs and is less costly than developing "hard tools" for high-volume metal fabrication, he added. The technology will make complex metal components for enclosures for electronics, telecommunications and other markets.
The company has bought two manufacturing cells from Trumpf Inc., a Farmington, Conn., subsidiary of Trumpf GmbH of Ditzingen, Germany. One cell will include laser cutting.
Mack more than doubled its Arlington plant's size last year to 320,000 square feet and now has enough space to devote a section to metal. It runs 25 presses from 300-1000 tons at the headquarters facility. Metal and plastic components made at the site can be assembled there as well.
Mack will join a number of injection molders who have installed metal fabricating or formed joint ventures with metal fabricators to cut costs in making plastic/metal hybrid enclosures for computers and other equipment.
The company's new Hong Kong office will help it source more labor-intensive components from Asia to cut costs. It already buys about 15 percent of its outsourced supplies from Asia and predicts that will grow. Somple said it mainly will buy cable bundles, fans, thermal devices, circuit boards, metal parts and similar components in Asia.
Plastics will represent a small amount of sourcing in Asia, but Mack could buy small, standard plastic parts, such as fasteners, gears and clips. Large plastic parts carry a freight penalty if made in Asia and imported to Mack's U.S. assembly plants.
Mack also doesn't expect to outsource plastic parts that are subject to design changes. Mack spokeswoman Julie Horst said the sourcing will have no significant impact on Mack's U.S. plastics operations.
Mack recorded total sales of $404 million last year. It runs 93 injection presses with a few exceeding 2,000 tons at nine plants in the United States.