The next chapter in Nypro Inc.'s Hungarian story is under construction inside the company's 20,000-square-foot plant in Nagyigmand.
The Clinton, Mass.-based molder and mold maker already has proved its ability to turn out highly complex parts for cell phones, wireless modems and consumer health care for the global marketplace from its foothold in central Europe.
Now the firm is building a small clean room within the building's walls for medical products, creating another production niche for itself in the region.
``We would not survive here just as a shoot-and-ship molder,'' said Balazs Kalmar, general manager of Nypro Hungary. ``There are already 300-400 molders in Hungary who are shoot and ship. We needed to excel beyond that.''
Nypro Hungary is part of the latest wave of manufacturers to hit central Europe, moving in as the country joined the European Union and rapidly proving it can produce parts with the same quality level and high-end technology as anywhere else in the world.
``You can produce high-value products in this area,'' Kalmar said during an Oct. 5 interview at Nypro's plant, tucked into a small town in western Hungary, about halfway between Budapest and Vienna, Austria.
Nypro largely came to Hungary because Espoo, Finland-based Nokia Oyj, one of its biggest customers, opened a plant nearby and wanted its suppliers close.
Following the company's growth strategy, Nypro looked for a partner to create a joint venture. It found Karsai Holding Inc. in Tata.
``They made good old consumer products, things like hangers and shower heads,'' Kalmar said. ``The basics were there, but they were not supplying to global customers.''
And with global customers like Nokia coming in, the existing owners knew they needed help to rise to those expectations.
``They needed new equipment, and a typical Hungarian company couldn't afford it,'' he said.
Partnering with Nypro gave the Massachusetts molder access to people who understood the culture and the business community, while Karsai had someone that could improve its capabilities.
Those improvements began almost immediately, with Nypro sending its people to Hungary to help workers and management adjust to the fast pace and demands of its customers. There was not much time to waste, Kalmar said.
``We had to convert the mind-set in six months,'' he said.
But the conversion took. Nypro invested in new equipment and transferred technology from other sites. As demand for its products grew, the company moved to the new facility in Nagyigmand, which boasts capabilities in thin-wall production, laser etching, in-mold labeling, automated production, two-shot molding and assembly.
The complete phone cases Nypro turns out in Hungary consist of six to eight separate parts, with additional painting and assembly.
Nypro has since bought out Karsai's interest, but the lessons Karsai learned from working with Nypro has helped it open another injection molding shop - one of the few that understands the demands needed to work as a Nypro subsupplier.
The former partners are among the few outside companies Nypro relies on within Hungary.
``The mind-set with almost everyone else is not there yet,'' Kalmar said.
The plant now has 830 employees and 38 presses, including one that runs a 96-cavity mold and uses a ton a resin per day for a consumer health-care product.
With the medical molding clean room, which was being completed in the fall, the company can reach out to even more customers, Kalmar said. He added that Nypro is in talks with customers anxious to find a Hungarian source for its parts.
``We have the potential here for so much more,'' he said. ``Our company is still young. We started serious work just five years ago, but the customers trust us.''