The paint is barely dry in Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd.'s sparkling, new Asian headquarters facility in Shanghai, and the Canadian equipment maker already is mapping out plans to nearly double its space next year in anticipation of booming demand in the region.
While declining to discuss specific sales numbers, Husky Asia President Marcus Sutch said that in the past three years Husky's Asia business, which includes China, has grown threefold, and it's expected to triple again in the next five years. Such growth, if realized, would make Asia the largest business region for Husky, despite expected continued growth in North America.
The Bolton, Ontario-based company thus far has invested almost US$20 million to buy the land and create the 124,000-square-foot technical center, which it began using May 31. Husky's own factory planning group designed the building, in conjunction with an expert in feng shui, the ancient Chinese study of the natural environment that stresses health and harmony. Husky claims the facility is one of the most environmentally friendly in China.
Plans call for Husky to expand the facility, currently fitted for 100 workstations, to 240,000 square feet when it breaks ground on a machine-manufacturing hall next year. That addition will boost total investment in the site to US$35 million.
The firm last year leased an 18,300-square-foot facility about a mile from the current technical center and began hiring local staff. The company now employs 85 in Shanghai and 215 across all of Asia.
In November it started manufacturing hot runners at that temporary site, and currently is assembling a machine-manufactur- ing team there. That team is beginning what Husky calls ``incubator production'' of small injection molding presses. It is starting by assembling Hylectric machines with clamping forces of 90, 120 and 160 metric tons (100, 135 and 180 tons). Sutch said the presses are destined for the global market, including Asia.
``Alpha machines could be in testing as early as late 2005,'' Sutch said.
During a July 2 tour, Sutch showed off many features of the facility, which he claims uses 40 percent of the average amount of energy required for a typical building of its size. That reduction was accomplished in a number of ways. Construction crews ran 68 miles of polyethylene tubing under ground to create a geothermal system. The water that runs through the pipes provides radiant heating and cooling of the facility's floors and ceilings.
A simple ventilation system allows warm air to escape the building easily, and skylights, combined with extensive perimeter glazing, allow much natural light inside.
Building insulation applied to the exterior creates a significant vapor barrier. And the facility receives waste heat in the form of steam from a nearby thermoelectric plant, and converts it to hot water for use in various heating circuits.
The system is so effective that the facility needs very little air conditioning - even on the hottest days - though dehumidifiers are needed in certain areas, Sutch said. A huge store of underground water provides fire protection.
Sutch said Husky allows townspeople to picnic by the landscaped pond on the 111/2-acre site, and the facility is very secure, even though there are no walls or fences outside.
Computerized access cards are needed to gain admittance to the facility. Discreet security cameras cover the property, and they currently are monitored by personnel at the firm's Bolton headquarters in Canada - though Sutch said he could monitor them remotely via his laptop, if he wished.
Employees have access to a cafeteria, plus lockers, showers and an exercise room.
Sutch, a 33-year industry veteran who joined Husky in 1997 after working for various plastics molding companies, is passionate about Asia's role in Husky's future. His region stretches from Japan to New Zealand and from the South Pacific to the Indian subcontinent.
He has spent 1,000 days traveling in the four years that he's been based in Asia, and noted that from Hong Kong, by airplane, one ``can reach half the world's population in five hours.''
And, he added, ``everyone needs a drink'' - meaning demand for bottled water and other drinks (for which Husky makes the machines that make the bottle preforms) is close to unquenchable.
He pointed out that Husky had 84 people, speaking 12 languages, working the Chinaplas trade show booth in Shanghai recently - and that was not enough.
``Asia is not important,'' he declared; ``it's our future.''