As for business in Asia, the concern was and is high

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Outsourcing Continues Don Hardin, sales manager at Fabrïk Molded Plastics (McHenry, IL), says his company views SARS as a very serious situation and is taking the appropriate measures with regards to travel and internal policies. But he adds that the company’s future plans remain unchanged.

“Today’s economy is a global economy and our long-term strategies have not changed, but we recognize the importance of having a well-balanced portfolio of North American suppliers, as well as offshore sources,” Hardin says. “We will continue to purchase tooling from our offshore suppliers and are currently expanding our capabilities in low-labor-cost countries through strategic alliances.”

“Our existing business with China is mainly the sourcing of injection molds. We also export molded parts,” says Leo J. Montagna, president of Lee Plastics Inc. (Sterling, MA). “We have been in touch with our mold source over there, and they’ve told us that mainly shipping seems to be affected, noting longer transit times and higher costs.“

Multinational Micromolding Stu Kaplan, president of Makuta Technics Inc. (Columbus IN), which specializes in micromolding: “We have not been affected by the SARS outbreak. We are still shipping parts to China. However, I recently spoke with the management of Sansyu Hong Kong, our sister company. They have 40 people, the normal staffing, running 120 Sumitomo molding machines similar to ours. Two weeks ago, they were all healthy, but were, as they put it, ‘very, very nervous.’ Fortunately, our Sansyu Precision system of automation enables the factory to operate with fewer people handling parts.” Charles A. Sholtis, CEO of Plastic Molding Technology Inc. (Seymour, CT), another multinational custom molder: “Yes, SARS has definitely had an impact on our business plans at PMT. Sourcing molds and establishing a molding presence in the Asian region has been postponed until next year. Travel plans have been cancelled. We are seeing some business being sourced here instead of China.”

Machine suppliers’ SARS remedies

We asked molding machinery suppliers how SARS was impacting their business and travel plans. Their responses echoed those from other members in the molding community-travel’s down, anxiety’s up.

Christoph Schumacher, marketing and corporate communications, Arburg GmbH + Co. (Lossburg, Germany): “Our business has not been affected by SARS, as far as direct sales of machinery and equipment goes. There are other global economic influences of larger importance affecting sales. But, of course, we are reducing trips to Asia, trips from Asia to here, and travel within Asia.”

Bob Koch, president, Boy Machines Inc. (Exton, PA): “SARS has not affected Boy Machines’ business, as it is almost solely conducted in the U.S. I cancelled one trip to Toronto because of SARS, but it was an optional, relatively unimportant trip.”

Steve Schroeder, president, Epco LLC (Fremont, OH): “We would be very careful and very reluctant to send personnel to areas that have major cases of SARS outbreaks without obtaining more information on the disease and the probability of infection for visitors.”

Guido Radig, marketing director, Krauss-Maffei (Germany): “Yes, SARS has had an impact. Fewer worldwide business trips are planned, particularly to Asia and America/Canada. We will handle the business more by telephone or by e-mail. Our local representatives will take care of our customers in China through our offices in Shanghai.

“If the rate of infections increases in China, Singapore, and Canada, then the impact on our global business will be disastrous. The effect of AIDS in Africa is much more serious, comparatively speaking, but SARS concerns important regions of our business, and the transmission speed of SARS can be very serious. There is nothing available yet to kill the virus. The speed of globalization by traveling will slow down long term, as far we can see it.”

Paul Caprio, vice president, Krauss-Maffei (U.S.): “From the U.S. perspective, the SARS epidemic only created a concern for traveling to Toronto when the WHO put that city on notice. During this time, we planned to take care of our customers on a employee volunteer basis. This meant an employee that did not want to travel there could decline.

“We did not worry about supporting our existing customers there, because we have employees living in Toronto that could handle the work if required.

“As for business in Asia, the concern was and is high, but like in Toronto, we have employees and fully staffed offices already in existence in those areas that are heavily affected. We have no intention of stopping our business in these areas at all. Unfortunately, this becomes part of their daily life because our employees live and work there.

“We have several American customers that have facilities in Asia. I know that they are continuing to do business in these regions, and the Americans themselves are not anxious to travel there at this time, but I am not aware of anyone refusing travel.

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