United Plastics Group plans to have its first Asian injection molding plant fully operating by June, a move the company said will help it recoup electronics and telecommunications business that has migrated to the Far East.
The 23,000-square-foot plant in Suzhou, China, will start with five to 10 injection presses. Assembly operations will begin in March, with molding and painting operations beginning by late May or June, said Chris Terry, marketing director for Westmont, Ill.-based UPG.
UPG had said it wanted to be in China and Malaysia by the first quarter of 2002, but company officials had not provided details. Terry was interviewed at the Plastec West show, held Feb. 5-7 in Anaheim.
``We knew we had to be in Asia,'' Terry said. ``The global customers have said, `If you are going to continue to do business, you need to be in Asia.' ''
The company first thought about starting an operation in Malaysia in late 2001 and following that with China. But customer demand changed those plans and UPG decided to begin with China, Terry said.
UPG plans to continue its partnership with Singapore-based molder First Engineering Ltd.
The Asian expansion comes as UPG dramatically has scaled back in North America in recent months, closing four molding plants. The firm had been heavily invested in the electronics and telecommunications industry, which increasingly has moved to low-cost manufacturing locations in Asia. The company is trying to retool itself to respond.
``In the next 10 months, you won't buy a cell phone made in the U.S.A.,'' said Robert Alvarez, vice president of applications engineering.
The company is shedding plants after several years of very rapid growth and acquisitions, including acquiring the SPM injection molding unit from Dynacast International Ltd. in August 2000. UPG also has been hit by the slowing economy, company officials said.
The Suzhou plant will have a Class 100,000 clean room, and will have a mold shop for maintenance repair.
``We lost to competition in Asia,'' Terry said. As a result, ``we are relentlessly and aggressively going after Asia.''