ENGINEERED SPECIALTY ADDS 2,200-TON PRESS

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Engineered Specialty Plastics of Hot Springs, Ark., will increase its large-tonnage capability with the addition of a 2,200-ton Cincinnati Milacron injection molding machine by mid-June.

``This addition will increase our 700- to 2,200-ton offering to 11 work cells with full robotics,'' said John Capeless, vice president and general manager since April 1996. ESP will have a total of 31 machines with clamping forces starting at 45 tons.

The molder is rebounding from last year's loss of its most significant customer, a unit of Osaka, Japan-based Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd.

Sanyo's orders for plastic television cabinets accounted for 23 percent of ESP's sales in fiscal 1996. ESP offset the revenue loss through heavy marketing and achieved ``a more diversified and profitable portfolio of business,'' the company said.

Key markets for molded parts include electronics, consumer products, communications and medical devices. Capeless said two cabinet users and a consumer products firm appear interested in using the Milacron machine's heft.

ESP makes a proprietary line of plastic Life Time-brand lavatory and kitchen faucets that are sold through mass merchandisers, home centers and hardware stores.

Finishing operations include a 650-foot paint conveyor, 20 paint spray booths, machines for silk screening, hot stamping, pad printing and sonic welding and a 150-foot-long motorized assembly line.

``Recently, we added a rotary assembly line,'' Capeless said. ``We take 10 parts and subassemble them for telephone handsets.''

ESP is a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Engineered Support Systems Inc., which acquired the business from an investor group in 1993.

Another subsidiary, Engineered Air Inc., makes military ground support equipment.

The parent company, which trades on the Nasdaq National Market, reported a profit of $3.3 million on sales of $81.5 million for the fiscal year ending Oct. 31.

ESP employs 155, owns and occupies a 120,000-square-foot facility and had fiscal 1996 sales of $22.3 million.