Precision Mold Inc. has formed an alliance with one of China's largest toolmakers to make production and prototype molds jointly for customers in the northwest United States.
Precision, based in Kent, Wash., will team with Altrust Precision Tooling Co. Ltd. of Dongguan, China, on selected mold-making projects for Precision's customers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia. Precision will manage those projects and check the molds, sending the work to the Chinese shop to build the tool, said Precision director of sales Phil Chandler.
``It brings to us an all-important broadening of our product line and adds more capacity,'' Chandler said. ``Instead of being tied up in the higher-end molds that we do, we can bring in new work.''
Altrust has about 1,500 toolmakers, making it the third-largest tool shop in China measured by employee count, said Craig Jackson, chief operating officer of Altrust USA Inc. in San Diego, the U.S. sales and marketing arm of the firm. The tool shop, established about four years ago, will open a new plant of several hundred thousand square feet in August, he said.
The alliance is one of the few for a North American tool shop with a Chinese partner. Jackson, who is looking for other partnering opportunities for Altrust, said he expects more to come.
``Companies can source molds on either of two continents, depending where the economics lie,'' Jackson said. ``Others will follow our lead. We know we've opened up some doors here.''
Precision employs 40. It has annual sales of nearly $10 million, primarily serving customers for complex, high-cavitation molds in the upper Northwest, Chandler said. Altrust will work on less-involved molds or those needed faster by Precision customers.
The company also will ship molds to China when it nears capacity at its Kent plant, he said.
Most of the molds made in China do not offer the same quality of steel used by U.S.-based mold makers and, in some cases, cannot be used for as high a production volume, Jackson said. Yet, lower labor prices can reduce mold costs by 35-45 percent, and Altrust offers the performance of a U.S.-based toolmaker, he said.
Altrust specializes in the toy market, a major industry in China, and is branching into other areas, Jackson said. It recorded about $20 million in sales last year and expects to increase that to $35 million to $40 million by early 2002, he added.