Lusida Rubber Products Inc., which recently opened its fourth China plant, is setting its sights on the U.S., including a new headquarters complex and, possibly, a manufacturing plant.
Lusida began as a silicone molder in China, in 1983, and expanded into the U.S. in 1999 by establishing a corporate headquarters in Monterey Park, Calif. Now it has launched a two-stage plan aimed at significantly expanding U.S. operations.
The project includes adding a 15,000-square-foot facility in Southern California's San Gabriel Valley area by March. LRP's markets include automotive, heavy truck and agriculture.
``We have a building that we're 90 percent firm on,'' said sales Vice President David Chao. ``It's one of three possible sites for the facility, with an option to manufacture products there if needed.''
The new complex will house human resources, engineering, design, sales and customer service, with an initial target of creating 30 jobs by 2011. The site will replace a smaller building in Monterey Park that employs 16. Phase two includes a proposal to open a factory dedicated to manufacturing in the Midwest, Chao said. But that plan hinges, in part, on a new thermoplastic elastomer product LRP is developing at its China technical center, he said. If the TPE product becomes a reality, the firm could manufacture it in San Gabriel Valley, or at a leased, 100,000-square-foot logistics center in Carson, Calif., while it searches more aggressively for a Midwest production site, Chao said.
``We're always looking for ways to be innovative with new materials, such as TPEs,'' said President Wayne Chin. ``We work with large Tier 1 automotive suppliers who are constantly asking us to find ways to reduce costs. TPE and other compounds are one way to do that. The TPE product is a top priority in the company now.''
Many of the Tier 1 suppliers LRP serves are in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and other Midwest states, he said, so it makes sense for the firm to focus on the region.
Chao said a dedicated U.S. manufacturing site concentrating on nonlabor-intensive, high-tech, low-lead-time products would give LRP a competitive advantage. The company could consider direct investment, as well as a manufacturing joint venture, for products that require materials not available in China, according to Chao.
``We have the staff and business plan in place to grow the business,'' he said.
Also, Chin added that LRP wants to open a U.S. tech center staffed with some personnel who would transfer to the site from its research and development facility in China. ``Pretty much everyone speaks English at our technical center, and that would help us with our customers,'' he said.
While seeking out expansion possibilities in the U.S., LRP recently wrapped up construction of a 100,000-square-foot plant on 10 acres in Shanghai, and stocked it with 20 100- to 250-ton presses, six 600-tonners and four 300-tonners a mix of new machines and equipment relocated from its other, smaller Shanghai plant.
Like LRP's other complexes, the site makes a variety of plastic and rubber products. Only about 25 percent of the plant's production is plastic, about 75 percent is molded rubber products, Chao said.
The plant gives LRP four factories in China: one in Ningbo, two in Shanghai and one in Zhejiang province, he said. All are ISO and TS-16949 certified.
``We got to the point where we couldn't expand our older plant in Shanghai anymore,'' Chin said, noting the need for more capacity.
``There is a push by the Chinese government to move factories to the outskirts of Shanghai due to environmental reasons,'' Chin added. ``China is actually adopting green practices in manufacturing.''
With the Shanhai project under its belt, LRP, which employs about 750 in China, is intent on growth in the U.S. ``We need to do this because we're a player on the global market,'' Chao said.
One of its biggest challenges, however, is finding potential employees in the U.S. who are fluent in both English and Chinese, and also have the technical skills and industry experience, he said.
LRP has implemented all U.S. methodologies and practices from Six Sigma to automated assembly at its plants, according to Chao, who has been with the firm for five years.
The company's products include bushings, grommets, engine dampers, door seals, bellows, shift boots and couplings for the automotive, heavy-truck, agriculture, heavy machinery, printing and railway industries.