Molding Corp. of America recently downsized itself, moving to a smaller Southern California facility that better fits its leaner manufacturing platform.
MCA moved into a 60,000-square-foot facility in Pacoima, Calif., in October, as part of a plan to restructure itself after seeing significant chunks of its business, including consumer products and telecom work, migrate offshore, said President Mark Hurley.
``We had to evaluate where we would be in the future, and we came to the conclusion that we needed to focus on core business and revamp ourselves,'' he said in a March 3 telephone interview.
In 1998, the company had 225 employees and about $20 million in annual sales, but now finds itself with 55 staffers and $6 million in sales, he said.
Company executives say the firm got caught a bit flat-footed by the push offshore.
``The severity of jobs going offshore kind of caught us by surprise,'' Hurley said.
``Back when we were fat, dumb and happy, we had money coming in and probably didn't do the job we should have in recognizing eroding business areas and preparing for the future.''
Now, MCA is trying to build a niche as a regional molder. Much of its customer base is within 50 miles of Los Angeles and wants quick access to MCA, he said.
``If there's an issue, they like to come over and pick up parts,'' Hurley said. ``At the same time, we see we are attractive to companies that do higher-end stuff, and to companies that can't have part failure.''
In the course of restructuring, the company went from 52 injection presses at its old facility, six miles away in Burbank, Calif., to 25 presses.
It sold any presses larger than 880 tons, Hurley said.
MCA is pursuing business in medical, which is less vulnerable to offshore pressures; military, architectural products, aerospace and niche areas like recycled printer cartridges, among other markets, he said.
The company's relatively broad product mix before the economic downturn in 2001 also helped it survive by giving it a diverse potential customer base, said John Knight, director of sales and marketing.
The business in secondary operations, like painting, assembly and hot stamping, is growing, as is work for the firm's gas-assisted molding, Hurley said.
In moving to the new plant, he said, the company chose an enterprise zone, which provides tax breaks for locating in economically disadvantaged communities.
The Pacoima plant receives tax incentives, utility advantages and benefits for hiring disadvantaged workers - including people leaving welfare - that amount to several hundred thousand dollars' worth of savings a year, Hurley said.
The company's utility bills are half what they were in Burbank, for example, he said.
The company also has expanded into proprietary business in the past few years, getting into the trophy-making business and buying a local molder of fruit and vegetable baskets for the agricultural market, Hurley said.
MCA bought Pacific States Plastics in Glendale, Calif., and moved its work in-house, Hurley said. Proprietary work now accounts for about 10 percent of its business.