Belgian thermoformer Vitalo Group plans to build its third factory in China, as the firm continues an expansion plan that has seen it double sales worldwide since 2003.
The privately held company also recently doubled the size of its factory in Guangzhou and said its growth in China is driven by global manufacturers relocating operations and by Chinese companies seeking better packaging to boost their own exports to the United States and Europe.
Vitalo, which has seen sales go from about 40 million euros ($45.3 million) in 2003 to 80 million euros ($100.5 million) last year, needs the plant in Beijing to complement geographically its facilities in Guangzhou and Suzhou, said Ronny Debaere, global market development leader.
The firm, which is based in Meulebeke, Belgium, also expanded the Suzhou factory last year.
``China is the most important factor for Vitalo right now, along with some emerging markets like India,'' Debaere said in an interview at MedTec China 2007, held Aug. 28-30 in Shanghai. ``The mission is very clear - we want to be recognized as the global leader in thermoforming.''
The company has factories in Belgium, China, Mexico, the Philippines, Slovakia and Thailand, and employs about 1,000 worldwide, double its staff in 2004.
The Beijing plant will be similar in size to the other two Chinese facilities, with five to seven thermoforming lines and about 125 employees, and is slated to open in early 2008. It will have a Class 7 (or old Class 10,000) clean room, as other China facilities and most of its plants have.
``Every plant has the same engineering and production platform,'' Debaere said.
The firm is not moving work from Belgium, but generating new business in China, he said. Vitalo built its first plant in China in 1999, in Guangzhou, and does about 22 million euros ($30 million) in annual sales from China.
The company's main markets are packaging and components for hard-drive discs, telecommunications and electronics equipment, and medical devices.
It built its first plant outside its Belgium base in 1996, following the hard-drive disc-making industry to the Philippines. Vitalo since has made that country its Asian base for engineering and product development, to complement similar services it provides for Europe from Belgium.
The company is looking to set up a similar office at its Reynosa, Mexico, facility, so it will have 24-hour engineering services on three continents, Debaere said. Vitalo opened the Mexican facility earlier this year with two extrusion lines.
The firm also plans to open a plant in India in 2008, targeting telecommunications and electronics customers.
``Definitely, we are going to India,'' Debaere said.
Vitalo is owned by Koramic Investment Group of Kortrijk, Belgium. Koramic bought Vitalo in 1998 from the Christiaens family, which founded the firm in 1936. Vitalo also does acoustic material fabrication and thermo-compression of fibers.