The Society of the Plastics Industry has reported that U.S. imports of plastics products grew 43.6 percent between 1997 and 2002, while exports grew only 10.6 percent. The report, soon to be updated through 2004, blames increasing natural gas prices, the high value of the U.S. dollar and increased trade with Asia as the three primary factors for the increase. The plastics industry, while the fourth largest in the United States, is clearly being squeezed by widespread outsourcing trends, making it harder for firms of all sizes to compete on price in a market that has become increasingly hungry for cheaper products.
A plastics injection facility in Lusby, Md., however, believes it has the key to prosperity in this highly competitive industry. CPM Fastools, a subsidiary of Chesapeake Plastics Manufacturing, began operations this month with the delivery of new laser sintering and cryogenics equipment valued at over $500,000. Co-owners Mark McGrath and Steven Moore say this new equipment allows their company to compete against Asian counterparts with technology that is rare in the United States; in fact, their new equipment is the first of its kind in Maryland.
McGrath says that many American manufacturers complain about the Asian markets and how difficult it is to compete against them. “Last year, we lost nearly $100,000 in business because we couldn’t get the tools and molds we needed fast enough. With this new technology, we are able to compete on price, speed to market and customization. Faster, better, cheaper is what everyone wants and this new laser sintering process allows us to service the American plastics industry with the tools and molds they need to stay competitive.”
Moore states that this technology will be a tremendous boon for the plastics manufacturing industry in the United States. “This technology is perfect for any company that wants an American-made tool or prototype for security reasons or to protect their design or patent rights,” he said. “We have found a way to compete against the drain of products being made overseas by workers being paid 29 cents per hour – we have created a company that is not labor-enhanced, but rather technology-enhanced, and this way of thinking is the wave of the future for the American manufacturing industry.
The company is also able to produce metal parts and cryogenics that have nothing to do with the plastics industry, such as those needed to replace aging aircraft parts or in industries where original equipment manufacturers no longer support a spare parts program. CPM Fastools can reproduce the parts – or even just concept pieces – without the need to wait for drawings and machining, thus providing manufacturers with solid modeling and finished parts in a fraction of the time and at a greatly reduced costs.
CPM Fastools’ parent company, Chesapeake Plastics Manufacturing, has been going strong for two years. After their employer closed a similar plastics manufacturing plant in Prince Frederick, Md. in October, 2003, McGrath and Moore decided to purchase their former employer’s equipment, re-hire many of their newly unemployed colleagues and start their own business. The company specializes in modern injection molding for the maritime and construction trades, Department of Defense contracting support and the after-market auto industry.
McGrath and Moore credit a good deal of their success to the assistance they received from the Calvert County Department of Economic Development during their growth. “We firmly believe the Calvert County Department of Economic Development is one of the most supportive counties in Maryland for business growth and development,” said McGrath. “The Department of Economic Development has helped us with loans, business advice, and simple but much-appreciated encouragement,” he said. Moore added, “The support of the Board of Calvert County Commissioners has also been a key factor in our decision to locate and grow our business here in Calvert County.”
For more information on CPM Fastools or Chesapeake Plastics Manufacturing, please call 410.326.3004, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Web sites at www.cpmfastools.com or www.chesapeakeplastics.com. For more information about the Calvert County, Maryland Department of Economic Development, call 410.535.4583, 800.331.9771 or 301.855.1880; send an e-mail to email@example.com, or visit our Web site at www.ecalvert.com.