Mike Gould isn't kidding when he says the Factory Planning Group at Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. is ready to help build plastics plants anywhere in the world - because it is coordinating Husky's new technical center in China.
``We are responsible for designing and building our own Husky facilities,'' said Gould, vice president of factory planning.
The 120,000-square-foot Shanghai technical center also will serve as Husky's new Asian headquarters. Husky will begin making hot runners there in early 2004, and may build injection molding machines there in the future.
Working on the project has given the 20-person Factory Planning Group valuable contacts in China, such as local architects, construction companies and building design firms.
``We're building relationships and partners in that region, to be able to help clients move into that region more quickly,'' Gould said in an interview earlier this year at Husky's Bolton headquarters.
With its roots in high-speed packaging machines, Husky has a history of planning factories for customers. In a company time line displayed at Bolton, one photo shows a highly automated packaging factory from the 1960s, with just a few people tending a roomful of Husky presses.
Last year, the firm reorganized to split off the FPG unit. Factory Planning used to be linked with the Automated Systems Group under the umbrella systems division. Now, Automated Systems designs work cells, robots and conveying systems. Gould said his group is a ``focused, concentrated effort on factory planning services.''
Husky does not break out sales for Factory Planning.
Gould said Factory Planning can handle a range of projects, from benchmarking a newly purchased plastics plant to helping a molder decide whether to try new markets, or to set up a factory in another country. Clients do not have to be Husky machinery customers, he said.
Larger plastics processors used to have staffs dedicated to those issues, but many firms have cut back to reduce costs, he said.
``They're busy running the plant day to day, so they really don't have the time to stop, step back and say, `Where are we, relative to other market segments and other industry benchmarks, and how can we improve this operation? What are going to be the logical steps? What are the things we're going to do differently?' ''
The Factory Planning team audits the operation then comes up with improvement ideas. Some suggestions include long-term changes. The bottom line, Gould said, is: ``How will they become the lowest-cost producer and ultimately compete, where maybe they're not competitive today?''
The Husky employees get down to basics on infrastructure, covering things like equipment utilization, energy use, resin distribution and what type of chiller a molding plant is using.
``Every project is different, but it starts with having an audit team go into a facility, getting a report and talking with the client to identify what should the next steps be,'' Gould said. ``Then we can take it through to the end and get it finalized.''
Husky has done some exotic projects. FPG coordinated the construction of Niigon Technologies, a 46,000-square-foot injection molding factory at Moose Deer Point First Nation, an Indian reservation in Ontario. Niigon was started by the Schad Foundation, a charitable organization set up by Husky founder Robert Schad.
And think of Husky the next time you drink Fiji Natural Artesian Water from a high-end PET bottle. The Husky group set up a plant for Natural Waters of Viti Ltd. The challenge was building a water-bottling plant with in-house bottle production, in an environmentally sensitive area atop an aquifer on the Fiji island of Viti Levu.
``This was an example of a company saying, `We have a green-field [site] and a clean sheet of paper. How can we do this, and how can Husky help get us up and running in a very short period of time?' In that case, we did the design and we managed the engineering and the construction and turnkey commissioning of the plant,'' Gould said.
Husky installed diesel power generation, since the remote site did not have a power grid. But the plant is ready to move to cogeneration of power.
``When we have enough chilled water load, we'll use the waste heat from the diesel generation system to generate chilled water, lowering our overall energy requirement as well as having a highly efficient plant,'' he said.