Wright shifts into high gear with big assembly contract

SANTA ROSA -- Wright Engineered Plastics is doubling the size of its production facility and adding 100 workers to accommodate greater demand for injection molding of parts as well as assembly of products in the U.S.

[caption id="attachment_77001" align="alignright" width="280"] Wright Engineered Plastics' experience in telecommunications manufacturing and medical-device clean-production standards help land a big contract for molding and assembling fiber-optic cable television set-top boxes.[/caption]

Wright is set to relocate in August to a 46,000-square-foot new plant at 3681 N. Laughlin Rd. near Charles M. Schulz--Sonoma County Airport, consolidating from a nearby plant and warehouse. In addition to double-digit revenue growth in recent years and an estimated 25 percent this year, a new customer that required a significant increase in assembly work plus filling a number of ocean-going containers on site necessitated the move, according to Barbara Roberts, chief executive officer.

"We have a number of customers that are expanding their operations and are interested in maintaining manufacturing in the U.S., and new customers have decided to bring manufacturing to the U.S.," Ms. Roberts said. "It's very good to hear. I think that many of the (original equipment manufacturers) have discovered the loss of engineering support when manufacturing is moved from being close to R&D efforts. A penny saved on manufacturing overseas is drowned out by the cost of engineering and design changes."

Because injection-molded plastics production can be light on labor after tooling is in place, it can be done close to the design center, she noted.

More so than onshoring manufacturing for existing products, Wright is seeing increasingly more new products being made in the U.S., rather than outside the country.

"For a while, we were quoting for molding then shipping molded products overseas for assembly," Ms. Roberts said. "Now, we're quoting for molding and assembly."

Small-scale manufacturers already are having Wright do some assembly because of the extra time and transportation cost of sending products overseas.

Wright has been looking as far south as Petaluma for suitable larger production space for a few years. Those plans were accelerated in January, when the Sterling, Va.-based U.S. division of Opterna, whose president lives in the Bay Area, signed up Wright to make large numbers of molded components for new fiber-optics cable television set-top boxes, largely bound for new-infrastructure in foreign markets.

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