Channell Commercial Corp. has allocated more than $3.2 million to expand plastics injection molding capabilities in England and Australia this year. "We are heavily invested," William Channell Jr., president and chief operating officer, said in a telephone interview.
Temecula, Calif.-based Channell Commercial designs and makes telecommunications equipment with plastic and metal components for telephone, cable television and power utility network providers. In addition to injection molding, the plastic processes include structural foam, rotational, transfer and compression molding.
Channell wanted more of a critical mass in England and Australia to increase capacities and export into other regions.
The firm's engineers design thermoplastic and metal fabricated enclosures, termination and connector devices and other systems, and then select the correct material for the application. Channell controls material selection.
Acquisitions during 1997-98 and different procurement practices, however, left Channell using two dozen thermoplastic resins.
"We want to get that to four to six," he said.
Meanwhile, transferring a product to another manufacturing location may require resizing tools to accommodate different materials.
Channell is renovating its 92,000-square-foot Orpington, England, facility and plans to gear up high-volume production of a new copper wire connectivity product.
The new Mini-Rocker supports telephone companies' needs to complete local loops and the broadband industry's addition of phone service to its menu. The labor-saving mechanism automatically strips, connects and protects twisted copper pairs.
About 60 percent of Orpington's plastics work is injection molding, and the remainder involves extrusion.
The firm moved its Sydney, Australia, operation, including extensive injection molding, to a 65,000-square-foot site. The old site was 39,000 square feet. Telstra Corp. Ltd. of Melbourne, Australia — a company partially owned by the government — is a major customer.
One current project at the Sydney plant involves molding and assembling a 6-inch-by-8-inch wall enclosure made of acrylic styrene acrylonitrile for Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. using internal connectors from the facility in England. The product touches on several Channell technical and operational advances.
Last year, Channell introduced a laminated coating process with the trade named TLC that cuts metal corrosion and avoids steps such as zinc electroplating and hot-dip galvanizing. A new electrostatic paint line in Temecula applies a custom compounded thermoplastic elastomer blend on metal parts. TLC thickness ranges from 0.004-0.008 inch.
"The coating process provides superior corrosion resistance and replaces metal finishing," said Andrew Zogby, vice president of marketing. "We are in a full-scale transition."
The Australia division has satellite operations in Hong Kong and Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom division has a satellite operation in Manchester, England.
Channell is focusing technical efforts in five product-oriented centers, emphasizing plastic and metal enclosures in Temecula; copper connector-connectivity and heat-shrink extrusion in Orpington; passive radio frequency electronics in Charlotte, N.C.; and fiber optics in Sydney.
Channell intends to invest in more process and product development at the centers and to have each operating division market all lines within its geographic area.
The Temecula operation, Channell's largest, occupies 352,000 square feet. Development on its 3 acres is nearly complete.
"We are contemplating some expansion due to needs for both rotational and injection molding, maybe by the end of 2001," Zogby said.
The company's largest domestic customers last year were AT&T Corp.'s TCI unit, Cox Communications Inc., Comcast Corp., MediaOne Group Inc. and Time Warner Inc. Top international customers were Telstra and Middendorp Co., both based in Australia; Rogers Communications Inc. in Canada; and England-based Telewest Communications plc and Hunting Engineering Ltd.
Channell reported profit of $9.3 million on 1999 sales of $121.3 million. Previous-year profit was $8.1 million on sales of $92.7 million.