Cashmere Molding Inc. (Woodinville)

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Greg Herlin, Cashmere Molding
Greg Herlin, president of
Cashmere Molding, oversaw a period both of automation and increased hiring.

Typical business formula: install
automation to cut production costs. Lay off employees.

Cashmere Molding’s formula:
install automation to cut production costs. Add employees.

The 19-year-old plastics molding
company, which makes products for diverse industries ranging from medical
devices to consumer and marine products, figured the depths of a recession were
a good time to invest in a new robotic tool that doubled production capacity
for a part and reduced labor costs by 70 percent, resulting in a 40 percent cut
in the overall cost of the part.

But instead of cutting employment,
Cashmere added 20 employees to help with the new business the company hoped to
snare by offering lower prices on that part.

Cashmere says it brought in five
customers who had sent their plastic-molding work to China.

Such oft-contrarian thinking
helped boost sales by 10 percent last year, Cashmere says. The company also
says the additional revenue helped provide all 51 employees with full health
care coverage, retirement plans and vacation time.

Cashmere boosted its count of
molding machines and robots from 10 to 17 in 2009. Co-founder and President
Greg Herlin hopes that continuing to invest ambitiously in innovation and
technology will keep his firm globally competitive as well as bring back
manufacturing work once thought lost for good.

“If our prices are competitive, then we will
get the work back in this country because our customer service and our
engineers are unmatched,” he says. “I’m out to prove that American
manufacturing can be competitive again.”

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Past Experience: Boeing’s Long History with China

Past Experience: Boeing’s Long History with China

Lake Union, Seattle — 1916
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China-born Wong Tsu, pictured in the foreground, was the first aeronautical engineer Bill Boeing hired at his fledgling airplane company. Wong, a graduate of MIT, designed the Model C bi-wing trainer, Boeing’s first commercial success. (The U.S. Navy bought 50.) The two-seat, open-cockpit seaplane — the first “all-Boeing” design — made its inaugural flight on November 15, 1916, over Lake Union. Wong returned to China in 1917 and helped establish that country’s aviation industry, ultimately designing more than two dozen aircraft. 

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