Executives of Little Tikes Co. have told hourly workers the toy maker may outsource its injection and blow molding, to focus on its ``core competency'' - rotational molding - at its plant in Hudson, Ohio.
Spokeswoman Jean Rupar confirmed management told plant workers about the possible outsourcing during a meeting March 8, ``just as a courtesy to give them an update on the state of the business and let them know what might happen.''
``No decision has been made,'' Rupar said. ``There were no big announcements.''
If Little Tikes does outsource the work, that could mean a cut of more than 100 jobs, she said. The injection molding and blow molding would go to companies in Ohio or nearby states.
Rupar said a decision on outsourcing probably will be made by early April.
The company will keep rotomolding operations in Hudson, Rupar said.
Little Tikes employs about 875 at its headquarters and Hudson plant: 650 hourly and 225 salaried.
Tikes laid off 22 people Jan. 19, including the head of purchasing and the vice president of research and development.
In recent years, Little Tikes has increased the injection molded content of its toys, including sourcing more of its smaller toys from China, such as flashlights and cars and trucks. The company also has introduced wood toys.
Little Tikes and its major competitor, toy rotomolder Step2 Co. of nearby Streetsboro, Ohio, are under pressure because of resin prices sent skyrocketing by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year, and big-box retailers that have limited shelf space for their playground equipment and other big, hollow toys.
In 2004, Little Tikes increased its blow molding and injection molding in Hudson - its only remaining North American factory. The company closed its blow molding plant in Sebring, Ohio, and moved the machines to Hudson. Little Tikes also picked up some injection presses from the flagship Rubbermaid Home Products plant that closed down.
Little Tikes is owned by Newell Rubbermaid Inc., which is in the midst of a major restructuring to close one-third of its 80 manufacturing facilities and cut 5,000 jobs. The goal is to reduce manufacturing overhead, reach higher capacity utilization and invest in specific brands. The strategy includes moving more work to low-cost countries and outsourcing.
Last year, Plastics News reported that Canadian toy maker Mega Bloks Inc. of Montreal was looking at buying Little Tikes. But Mega Bloks ended up acquiring Rose Art of Livingston, N.J., which makes Magnetix construction sets, arts and crafts products and games and puzzles.