Electronic cable manufacturer L-com Connectivity Products is building its first China manufacturing facility, a molding and assembly plant in Suzhou, to cut costs and speed up product development.
The North Andover, Mass.-based firm is a small, privately owned maker of cables and connectivity equipment, and the 30,000-square-foot China plant marks its first manufacturing outside the United States.
L-com previously had outsourced its plastics operations in southern China and Taiwan, but will be bringing them in-house by establishing vertical overmolding in Suzhou and Andover, and by adding traditional horizontal molding this year.
Bringing operations in-house will speed manufacturing and improve product development and innovation, said Tom Barczak, corporate manufacturing director.
The company is adding about 10 25-ton vertical injection presses in Suzhou and two or three in Massachusetts, and plans to add one or two horizontal injection presses.
L-com wants its 150-employee U.S. operation to focus more on shorter runs and custom orders with a heavier design component, with the Chinese plant handling larger runs, he said. So far, the Chinese factory, which is projected to have 250 employees by late 2008, has boosted employment and business in the U.S., he said.
``We'll always need a U.S. manufacturing facility to take a lot of concepts from manufacturers and customers here, to take their designs and make them a reality,'' Barczak.
The company also wants to maintain molding and assembly capability on both continents to handle potential supply-chain disruptions like the earthquake near Taiwan that damaged fiber-optic cables and disrupted telecommunications throughout Asia, he said.
The company makes cables and connectivity products for aerospace, military and computer equipment makers, mainly manufacturing niche equipment for other companies. Because its business is more specialized, the company's markets have been fairly strong for the past half decade, he said.
L-com chose Suzhou, which is near Shanghai, for its wholly owned manufacturing plant because it was able to find technical staff with better English skills than in Shenzhen or around Beijing, and because it considers Suzhou to have a better quality of life and to be more attractive to employees, he said.