Latex condom maker Custom Services International Inc. has expanded its product line and is entering the examination glove industry.
The company has begun manufacturing single-use latex examination gloves at its 126,000-sq.-ft. plant in Eufaula, Ala., according to Lillie C. Thomas, vice president of operations and quality assurance.
``We've begun making them for industrial, household or utility use,'' she said at the fifth annual International Latex Conference, held July 30-31 in the Akron suburb of Fairlawn. ``We'll move into the medical market by the third quarter. We believe there is a place for a U.S. manufacturer of natural latex gloves. But we'll have to get people to ignore the price points and concentrate on our products' quality.''
Most latex glove companies have moved their production to Asia, Mexico or other countries to take advantage of cheaper labor. However, Thomas said CSI is committed to building its condom and glove manufacturing base in the U.S.
The minority-owned Las Vegas-headquartered company does have an international division and several small production facilities that together span about 200,000 square feet in China. But most of its manufacturing has been done at its Eufaula factory since it purchased the building from SSL International P.L.C. in September 2000. The Alabama plant operates under CSI's domestic subsidiary, LMR International Inc.
The company, with a U.S. work force of about 240, is developing a marketing plan for its new gloves, which Thomas said are the low-protein, lightly powdered variety. ``We're also exploring several other avenues of growth,'' she said, while not elaborating.
CSI sees itself as a niche manufacturer and supplier of latex gloves but may broaden that scope down the road.
While it's building an industrial, household and, eventually, medical glove segment, the company's main emphasis will continue to be condoms, Thomas said, adding that since it began manufacturing in Eufaula, the company has increased its condom output by more than 100-fold.
``In a tough business climate,'' she said, ``CSI continues to be viable and profitable.''
The firm, which also has been manufacturing condoms abroad since 1995, serves as an international supplier for public health agencies, organizations and programs. The company can produce more than 1 billion condoms annually, she said.
``We've grown because we've been aggressive pulling in public health contracts,'' Thomas said. ``The condoms we manufacture here are shipped overseas and to 43 different states in the U.S. Our quality level is over 98 percent.''
The public health segment is growing. There's currently a need for about 254 billion contraceptives annually, Thomas said. And that figure, along with the number of government agencies, health care and charitable organizations that distribute condoms, is likely to climb.
CSI has the capabilities to fill their needs, she said, because the firm is licensed to make more than 40 different kinds of condoms.
``I think there are several opportunities in the contraceptive industry that offer us the opportunity to expand and we are exploring them.'' She did not specify what they were for proprietary reasons.
``Our goal has always been to be a primary high quality condom supplier to the public health segment,'' Thomas said.