By: Roger Renstrom
September 14, 2012
ESCONDIDO, CALIF. (Sept. 14, 1:45 p.m. ET) — Thermoformer InterTrade Industries moved its heavy-gauge and computer numerically controlled operations 2 miles in Southern California, while maintaining its thin-gauge work in a separate location.
“We have experienced solid growth this year,” said Niki Kopenhaver, president and chief operating officer of parent firm American Innotek Inc. of Escondido, Calif. “This move gave InterTrade more space and allows for expansion.”
Now, the InterTrade subsidiary handles administrative and distribution functions and operates six heavy-gauge lines largely for aerospace work in a leased 34,000-square-foot building in Westminster. Heartland and Exxel manufactured most of the machines.
A leased 26,000-square-foot facility in Huntington Beach for thin-gauge work uses nine Illig in-line and one Sencorp mainly for medical and retail packaging jobs. Other end markets include automotive, consumer products and electronics.
“We are in the process of getting quotes on a number of heavy-gauge lines that would be in operation by the end of the year or during 2013,” she said.
The work that moved to Westminster was previously in a second Huntington Beach location that InterTrade vacated July 23.
“We found it increasingly difficult to maneuver in a plant too small for us, and we were out of power,” Kopenhaver said. “The power issue was the driving force for the move. We knew the plant layout was not ideal for efficiencies.”
A space planner evaluated the potential for adding power. “We realized that it would cost a couple hundred thousand dollars to do that,” she said. “Rather, we spent money in infrastructure for a new facility.” The Westminster site, formerly a distribution center, lacked power and air-line capabilities for manufacturing.
Both buildings were recertified under ISO 9001 on Aug. 23. InterTrade had undergone a standards’ audit in May, “but requirements by medical companies and defense firms like Lockheed Martin” necessitated the recertification, Kopenhaver said.
Among product lines, American Innotek provides thermoformed trays to some retail customers in the storage market. “In the early 2000s, we were having those trays thermoformed in Mexico, but prices increased dramatically,” Kopenhaver said. “We retooled and bought the work to southern California” but again experienced price increases.
Vertical integration was a goal in American Innotek’s May 2005 acquisition of InterTrade from a privately held group.
In another move, American Innotek bought polyurethane foam molder Olea International Inc. of Santa Ana, Calif., in September 2008. “For a number of projects, we do foam molding and integrate components into heavy-gauge thermoformed parts,” she said. That work occurs in Westminster now.
InterTrade acquired the assets of Plastic Concept Inc. from the estate of innovative entrepreneur Horst Schulze in September 2010.
Kopenhaver praised Schulze’s acumen. “Younger people talk about black belt and kaizan” processes, she said. Schulze “had it implemented before he could spell it.” InterTrade continues to use the PCI building in Huntington Beach.
InterTrade employs about 30 and, in addition to plastics processing, offers in-house computer-aided design, three- and five-axis computer numerically controlled routing and multiple secondary services.
While not disclosing figures, Kopenhaver projected that InterTrade should record 2012 sales “in excess of 200 percent” vs. last year.
That includes “a down month for moving” to Westminster, she said. “We have been able to pick up new customers, primarily in aerospace and medical. We think we have a team of the right people in place to make things happen.”
American Innotek was founded in 1988 aiming to invest in innovation and technology. The result is a diversified consumer products company.
The firm’s other operations include Brief Relief lines for liquid and solid human waste disposal, Restop sanitation solutions for outdoor enthusiasts and Neatnix personal organizational tools. InterTrade does vacuum and pressure thermoforming of some components of those products.