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June 1, 1997

3 Min Read
Where to move?
                   wherever the customer wants.

plant-site.gifTo paraphrase, sometimes being near the customer is not just the best thing, it is the only thing. Certainly this has proved true for Casco Molded Plastics Inc. (Wichita, KS), and there is every expectation the concept will be further substantiated with the recent addition of a fourth molding facility in El Paso, TX.

Casco was founded in 1979, as a 10,000-sq-ft facility with three machines, to mold consumer products for a Chesebrough-Ponds plant located in Missouri. As demands grew, so did Casco's facility, to its current 130,000 sq ft. In 1984, Casco opened a second plant, this time in Winfield, KS, to meet the needs of a customer located there. By 1992, a third plant was opened in New Braunfels, TX, again to be close to an existing customer. In fact, both the Winfield and New Braunfels plants are "right next door to the customer," says Cliff Russell, senior vice president and general manager. A fourth expansion, an 88,000-sq-ft plant, opened in El Paso, TX in January - in close proximity to a customer, naturally.

"It is important with all our customers that we be geographically close. That's really been the main driver in all our decisions for expansion," Russell says, with one qualification, "as long as the business warrants it. We have found that this is the best way to solidify relationships and that it's more cost-effective for both companies in the long run."

The decision to expand to El Paso came about because "we had agreed with a customer being served from the New Braunfels facility that when a certain level of business was achieved, we'd move to a location closer to it." In addition, Casco wanted to target the El Paso area for maquiladora work; this has paid off. New opportunities have opened up, especially as a Tier Two automotive supplier. In addition to the company's mainstay consumer product molding, the El Paso plant will mold for electrical/electronic markets. At start-up in January, there were 10 machines and plans to add 13 by summer; employees numbered 10, with more to come as machines are added.

A building was bought rather than constructed; it previously belonged to the customer, where it was being used for assembly. The company did not investigate economic development agencies. "Economic incentives were just not a factor in this move, or in any of our moves, for that matter. Generally, there are not a lot of incentives offered for buying an existing building. Incentives are more for building new."

The company relocated a few people, but for the technical and manager levels, "we found a lot of people are available in the area when they're offered the right kind of company to work for," comments Russell. "Lots of companies move into El Paso on a shoestring, and then go bankrupt a year or two down the road. Casco has been around for a while and has enough operations elsewhere to be attractive to good people looking for work."

Casco recently attained ISO 9001 certification for its Wichita facility, where it currently molds products for, among others, the Coleman Co. Inc., also of Wichita, and is close to achieving ISO 9002 at all its other plants. The El Paso plant will help Casco achieve $50 million in custom molding sales this year, and will increase total plant area to 425,000 sq ft. The company now has approximately 600 employees overall.

There were no particular problems along the way, according to Russell. "I can tell you this, though," he says. "It helps to have commitments from customers before you go in and just build a plant or put in machines on speculation. If those relationships are already built, it makes an expansion much easier than if you put speculative equipment in and then go out and try and find somebody who needs molding time."

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