Four years ago, when electronics was hot and no one wanted to supply the auto industry, United Plastics Group Inc. decided to buck the customer flow and push into Detroit.
Now, the Westmont, Ill.-based injection molder is seeing the results - boasting a 40 percent increase in contracts to auto suppliers by 2003 - and growing even as the industry cuts its supply base.
UPG's success is due to an intense partnering strategy that allows the firm to offer its auto customers enhanced components, according to John Szkutnik, vice president of strategic business for UPG's auto unit.
Szkutnik made his comments at the Society of Automotive Engineers 2002 World Congress in Detroit.
``It's really all about grabbing more market share,'' he said. ``We tell them, `We'll help you reduce your supply by offering you two services through one contract.' ''
UPG has partnerships with specialists in painting, laser etching, hard coating and other plastics decorative systems. The intent is to offer customers one public face when it is time to make a sale.
For instance, at its new plant in Suzhou, China, the molder will have space and operations in its 23,000-square-foot factory for Daltek Inc., a Dalton, Ga.-based specialist in painting and laser decorations.
While the Chinese expansion will supply electronics customers, it also will be available as automotive customers explore opportunities in Asia, according to Szkutnik.
``We'll be able to take customers there,'' he said. ``They can see the plant, know what's there. They know us; they know what we can do.''
The firm is intent on spreading its exposure to a mix of industries, Szkutnik said. A slowdown in the electronics, telecommunications and computer industries has forced UPG to shut down some operations, but at the same time it is looking at a steadily increasing volume to auto suppliers.
This year, the car business will make up 13 percent of UPG's more than $350 million annual sales base.
The company is aiming to boost that number to 25-30 percent.