Pressured by customers to move globally, automotive supplier Fawn Industries has responded by preparing to injection mold in Mexico and by launching partnerships in Asia and Europe.
``We're basically a small company, but we still need to get that check mark from our customers for being a global player,'' said John Franzone, president and chief executive officer of the Timonium, Md., company. ``When customers call on us, they ask those global questions. If we don't have a ticket to the show, we don't get in.''
Fawn's expansion in Chihuahua, Mexico, comes at a time when other molders there are complaining of business lost to Asia. But Fawn is hedging its bets by signing a joint venture agreement to work with a Singapore company that has two plants in China and Malaysia.
The company opened the Chihuahua plant in January 2000 after purchasing the facility from now-defunct Security Plastics Inc. of Miami Lakes, Fla. Until now, though, Fawn used only a small portion of the 65,000-square-foot facility, primarily for sorting and assembly work.
Several of Fawn's customers, including Delphi Corp. and Visteon Corp., have large facilities in Mexico, Franzone said.
``Most of the products we build now go to Mexico,'' he said. ``More and more, it's harder to ship those products from [the United States].''
The Maryland company will add a full-scale presence in Mexico by installing 20 injection presses by the third quarter, about 15 of them in May, and bring decorating services there. Most of the Nissei presses will have clamping forces of 75-300 tons, with several of them as large as 500 tons, Franzone said.
For the automotive market, the company molds and decorates interior lenses and back plates for instrument panels and produces parts for vehicle radios, climate-control systems and interior handlamp controls. Fawn paints and decorates its own parts.
Fawn will spend close to $1 million to add equipment, mostly used, in Mexico and shift some presses from its Middlesex, N.C., facility, Franzone said. The former Security Plastics facility did not need much renovation before adding molding, he added.
The company will hire about 50 employees in Mexico this year for a total of 170 by the fourth quarter, he said.
Fawn also signed agreements the week of Feb. 10 with suppliers First Engineering Ltd. of Singapore and Intepl stico SA of Marinha Grande, Portugal, to work together on projects for carmakers, Franzone said. The company will split sales for parts that they develop and manufacture with those companies, he said.
In most of those cases, Fawn will provide technology and engineering support and the overseas companies will mold and decorate the products, Franzone said.
First Engineering is a prominent toolmaker that also performs molding work in China and Malaysia. It also has a supply agreement with United Plastics Group Inc. of Westmont, Ill.
Intepl stico, founded by a former executive with injection molder SPM Inc., builds tools and does molding for many European customers, Franzone said.
Fawn, founded in 1950, decided it was time to move its business forward after several slow years, he said. The company recorded about $35 million in sales during 2002, down from close to $55 million in 1999, according to Plastics News rankings. In 2000, the company consolidated operations and closed a Tennessee plant.