The key to becoming a global supplier is to keep local manufacturing lean and spread out the costs for more-expensive, centralized services - such as research and development, resin contracts and international sales - according to a senior official of Rosti Technical Plastics.
Smart organization is critical when you have sites in multiple countries, said Mike Sullivan, Rosti's Larkhall, Scotland-based vice president of R&D and international projects.
``It's really about keeping the sites competitive. You cannot replicate all of these resources around the world. You can't afford to,'' Sullivan said in a March 7 presentation at the Plastics News Executive Forum in Tampa.
Rosti Technical Plastics is a division of Copenhagen, Denmark-based Rosti A/S, which in turn is part of $20 billion conglomerate A.P. Moller-Maersk Group.
Telecommunications used to be Rosti's largest market. Then the bottom fell out.
``Over 40 percent of our business was in telecommunications, and that business went east pretty fast between 2001 and 2002,'' he said.
Rosti quickly followed, setting up a plant in China.
The company also diversified. Today, Rosti's markets include domestic appliances, consumer electronics, business machines, automotive and medical.
Sullivan said Rosti supplies some major brands, including Gillette Co., Electrolux AB, NRC Corp., Dell Inc., Xerox Corp. and Philips NV.
A major reorganization in recent years closed several Rosti plants in the United Kingdom. Today Rosti runs plants in Scotland, the Netherlands, Poland, Mexico and China. The company also has three U.S. factories - in Dallas; Minden, La.; and Searcy, Ark. It runs about 350 injection presses worldwide.
The firm centralizes major global services. ``These costs are diluted at the center,'' he said. Regional centers in Suzhou, China; Tilburg, Netherlands; and Searcy supply technical services to the sites. Local plants run accounting and logistics for resin.
Sullivan said Rosti plants must remain flexible - literally.
``They're not quite on wheels, but we move them around the world where the business is,'' he said.
``We have no assets which are totally dedicated to one region. We will move them to where the business is and recycle those assets. And that has paid dividends.''