Plant: Production of plastic parts began in October 2002 at the first China-based injection molding plant of United Plastics Group Inc., (UPG) Westmont, Ill. Situated in Suzhou, China's "Silicon Valley" near Shanghai, the 24,000-square-foot facility shares an industrial park with more than 100 industry heavyweights. With export processing centers on-site and Shanghai's international airport 50 minutes away, shipments can be out of the factory and in the air to customers within two days, says the company. Production equipment includes 20 Van Dorn Demag presses rated from 30 to 400 tons. The presses include Conair Sepro full-servo robotics, centralized chillers and back-up power systems for all critical equipment, including air and water systems. The fully equipped tool room includes electrical-discharge machines, lathes, surface grinders and milling machines. The facility also contains a class-10,000 clean room and a paint line for parts up to 18 inches square and 6 inches high. The paint line is equipped with 120 meters of conveyors, robotic part-handling systems and three curing systems, including ultra violet. The Suzhou plant will be followed by two more in 2003, says Chuck Villa, UPG's executive vice president for business development. Eventually, the company's total number of plants in China could number more than five, he adds. Manufacturing Strategy: The productivity of the new 24,000-square-foot plant demonstrates the potential of lean manufacturing principles. "We took a program that was running in the U.S. in about 60,000 square feet, and we leaned it down and moved into this building in about half the space and one-third the labor," says Villa. "We'll still be able to generate about the same amount of revenue." Corporate Strategy: Villa says the new facility is the company's most important plant opening since the company's inception. (UPG also has facilities in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Mexico, Minnesota, Texas and the United Kingdom.) "It fulfills our mission of being a global supplier to our global accounts." Adds CEO Shannon White, "Our advanced technology along with unparalleled program management will enable manufacturers in China to rapidly deliver next-generation products to the marketplace. The Suzhou facility [is designed to] raise the bar for plastic manufacturers in Asia [by] delivering higher quality products at competitive prices." UPG expects to serve customers in the consumer products, electronics, telecommunications, medical and automotive industries. States Villa, "Being in China allows us to service local original design manufacturers and regional locations of global contract electronics manufacturers as well as our worldwide OEM customers." Locations profiles selected siting and facility strategies by manufacturing companies. Send submissions to Senior Editor John S. McClenahen at [email protected].