Originally Published MPMN October 2002
INDUSTRY NEWSCompany Adopts Global Vision to Capture Greater Share
United Plastics Group has Class 10,000 and Class 100,000 cleanrooms available for medical device OEMs.
Lean manufacturing practices, a commitment to constant improvement, and a global reach are not novel concepts, but they have not been seriously embraced by suppliers of molding services. At least that's the belief of United Plastics Group (UPG; Westmont, IL; www.unitedplasticsgroup.com), which is applying those principles to its molding and assembly facilities worldwide. By doing so, UPG hopes to increase its share of the medical device molding market.
A supplier of injection molding and assembly services with 11 facilities in the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and, most recently, China, UPG currently does about 11% of its business with device OEMs. It wants to see that activity grow 25 to 40% in the next 12 months, according to Richard Harris, vice president of finance and CFO. The company's aggressive efforts to streamline its business and manufacturing practices are designed to make that forecast a bottom-line reality.
"Lean manufacturing is nothing new," admits Harris, "but we are introducing that model into the molding services industry. It is still possible to become a global leader by applying these principles," he explains, because few companies in this sector have ever attempted it. The benefits to the medical device and other industries are a reduction in costs combined with an improvement in quality, he adds.
UPG has a solid foundation to attract the business of device OEMs, notes global business director Brian VanderLaan. The company's resources include an FDA-registered facility in Fremont, CA; Class 10,000 and Class 100,000 cleanrooms; and proven expertise in the fabrication of a range of medical equipment. UPG has experience manufacturing complex handheld electromedical devices and assembling blood glucose meters, diagnostic, and respiratory devices.
An array of 10- to 100-t presses enables the firm to mold a range of part sizes; pad printing, EMI and RFI solutions, and assembly processes, including sonic and vibration welding, are also available.
By introducing lean manufacturing practices and GE-developed six sigma processes to its 11 facilities, UPG is adding production efficiencies and cost reductions to those manufacturing resources. The use of multiskilled teams to reduce product-flow and setup times while minimizing waste has increased "productivity by as much as 138%," claims Chuck Villa, executive vice president, business development. "That allows us to offer engineered products at commodity prices," adds VanderLaan.
The firm also recently inaugurated a technology and development center at its plant in Anaheim, CA. Established to assist customers with product design and quality issues, the center is equipped with Intelligent Qualitative Control processing software, cavity pressure sensing technology, and high-speed CNC milling machines. It also has rapid prototyping and in-house tooling capabilities.
The objective of the tech center and, indeed, all of the systems that the company is putting in place, stresses Villa, is to help customers accelerate their products' time to market and to reduce costs.
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