Globalization.

Globalization. To many domestic processors, it signifies “cheap imports” and “outsourcing” and is about as welcome as bird flu. Number one on these processors’ list of worries is foreign competition in regions of lower labor cost that can steal away domestic customers.

But globalization need not be a dirty word. A number of firms see it as an opportunity as well as a challenge: They have taken the initiative to set up plants, joint ventures, or alliances abroad to take advantage of fast-growing local markets and capture a competitive advantage to benefit their existing OEM customers.

Not every processing business is vulnerable to overseas competition. Some products are too bulky to ship across an ocean; some are made in too-small quantities; some have short product lives and frequent changes; and some need delivery on too-short notice. Some processors have deliberately sought out such market niches to insulate themselves from foreign competition.

Others gird themselves against overseas competitors by adopting technologies that give them an edge in efficiency, productivity, and quality.

To explore this variety of strategies and how they are being applied, Plastics Technology editors interviewed processors in the fields of injection molding, extrusion, blow molding, and thermoforming. Their approaches may give others ideas for how to meet the global challenge.