MAGNAFORM INC. GROWING PAINS COME FROM SUCCESS IN 2 AREAS

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Growth in separate thermoforming and rotational molding operations has pushed an Elkhart, Ind., firm toward a major facility improvement.

``We may expand our current facility or seek out a new one, but I want it done by the end of the year,'' said Scott Robbins, president since Jan. 1 of Magnaform Inc., which does business as Wrico Industries.

The company supplies customized parts for the recreational vehicle, automotive and agricultural markets. Thermoforming employs 25 and in a 33,000-square-foot facility. Across the street, rotomolding employs 20 in a 24,000-square-foot plant.

Robbins is seeking to lease 60,000 square feet with an option to purchase. He wants to combine the thermoforming and rotational molding operations under one roof and eliminate wasteful duplications.

``We have two shipping points, two warehouse points, snow [as a winter interference] and indirect manufacturing costs,'' Robbins said.

Wrico took delivery this month of a used Thermwood 70 five-axis, computer numerically controlled router.

In September, Wrico added a 6-foot-by-8-foot, three-station Comet rotary press in an effort to capture long-run business. Previously, the company relied on single-shuttle operations to produce quantities compatible with the RV production of 60-80 units weekly.

``Now, we're in the thousands'' and need more productive equipment, he said.

A single-shuttle thermoformer produced 13,000 sliding cargo trays for the Oldsmobile Bravada sports utility vehicle until General Motors Corp. redesigned the part out of 1997 models.

Also, Wrico operates Plasti-Vac Inc. 4-foot-by-6-foot and 8-foot-by-12-foot presses, the latter for tub and shower surrounds, and uses eight thermoforming ovens for processing parts of polyethylene, ABS, polystyrene and polypropylene.

The firm recorded 1996 sales of $3.4 million, of which thermoforming accounted for $2.3 million, up from $1.7 million the previous year.

``We think thermoforming will be $2.8 [million] this year,'' Robbins said, ``and we would like to buy an additional rotary [press] next year.''

On the other side of Cooper Drive, the rotational molding division grew in its first full year of operations to 1996 sales of $1.1 million.

The operation needs storage silos and bulk handling equipment to remain competitive, and Robbins would prefer to install them only once. He forecasts 1997 rotomolding sales of more than $1.7 million.