Hot-runner company Mold-Masters Ltd. will move its main manufacturing operation into what President Jonathon Fischer describes as a fully automated cyber-factory in 2006.
The company, based in Georgetown, Ontario, where it has no more room to expand, has been waiting while water supply is routed to an area a few miles down the road in Halton Hills.
Construction of the 300,000-square-foot plant will begin around the middle of next year. When complete, the plant's high level of automation, together with the full implementation of new work procedures, will give it twice the capacity of Mold-Masters' existing plant, while employing the same number of people, Fischer said.
Mold-Masters started implementing the Toyota Production System 18 months ago. Manufacturing lead times for custom manifolds have been cut from 18 days to eight, he said.
``We feel that over the next year we should be able to cut that down to around four days,'' he said in an interview at K 2004, held Oct. 20-27 in Dusseldorf.
The plant will by outfitted with mostly new equipment. Some machine tools from Georgetown are likely to be moved to Mold-Masters' plant in Kun-Shan, just outside Shanghai. That plant has begun production, but the use of hot runners is at such a high level in China that more capacity probably will be needed by 2007, Fischer said.
Mold-Masters has spent $16 million equipping the 75,000-square- foot China facility. The plant's first manifold was shipped to Japan during the show, but Fischer said future sales will be almost entirely in China. It will reach full production by year's end.
``The most interesting thing [in China] is the size of the programs. If there was a program for toothbrushes here in Europe, you might have 10 tools. For a program in China, you'd be looking at 50 tools. About 90 percent of the telecommunications market does its molding in China,'' he said.
The company also will open a sales and service operation in India next year.
``We won't manufacture directly, but there may be other things,'' Fischer said of the India plans.
Though he would not elaborate, he said the India market could be very lucrative inside five years. ``It's growing very rapidly, but it will take longer than China,'' he said.