United Plastics Group Inc. has invested at least $10 million to create a medical-grade facility in Suzhou, China, and is eyeing more expansion.
The company aims to expand rapidly in low-cost regions, said Richard Harris, who has been UPG chief executive officer since October. He had been UPG chief financial officer since mid-2001.
Half of the new plant's 115,000 square feet is dedicated to clean room activities, including 25,000 square feet in a Class 100 configuration. The site employs 75 now.
Space is available for 60 injection molding presses. ``We have eight in place - Toshiba all-electrics of 80-600 tons,'' Harris said at Medical Design & Manufacturing West, held Jan. 31-Feb. 2 in Anaheim.
The project gives UPG its third facility in Suzhou. One 40,000-square-foot plant that opened in late 2002 employs 40, including 25 mold makers. A 25,000-square-foot molding and assembly site opened in 2001 and now employs more than 100 and has 18 presses, also with clamping forces of 80-600 tons.
While customers want a U.S. connection, they also want UPG to manage business activities, including supply-chain logistics, on a global basis, Harris said.
``Medical customers are moving into a new realm,'' Harris said, noting developments in microfluidics technology, blood analysis and laboratory tests.
``UPG is providing a new set of eyes,'' he said. ``We help them brainstorm for solutions'' regarding production sites, automation systems and technology.
During 2005, UPG invested $2.5 million to strengthen its U.S. resources, Harris said. The company hired 15 program managers, five technical engineers and others in Internet-based software program development.
The firm spent $5 million to establish its second plant in Apodaca district, near Monterrey, Mexico. That site opened in November. UPG moved 25 injection presses of 28-600 tons to the site from an El Paso, Texas, facility that UPG closed in June. The site can accommodate 37 presses.
UPG employs about 1,500 - including more than 50 in sales, engineering and programming at its Oak Brook, Ill., headquarters. UPG offices moved recently from nearby Westmont, Ill. Annual sales are approaching $200 million. North American facilities, including five in the United States and two in Mexico, are responsible for $130 million in sales.
``We plan to grow aggressively in low-cost regions with sophisticated products and continue our growth strategy in the U.S.,'' Harris said. ``We are currently looking at expansion elsewhere.''