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Rotomolder Stern moves into bigger parts

By: Frank Antosiewicz

November 26, 2012

Stern Assembly Inc. is taking steps to handle bigger parts and improve its work flow with a new machine and a move to a 50,000-square-foot facility in Brainerd, Minn.

“We’re actually moving to a building that was formerly used by Image Rotomolding,” said Shawn Hunstad, president and owner of Stern Cos. Inc., parent of Stern Assembly.

Stern Assembly moved from an older, larger, 90,000-square-foot facility in Riverton about 10 miles away. The move began in September and the last machine was fired up Nov. 12.

“It’s very attractive building because it was built for rotomolding. The infrastructure, the ceiling height and everything else is perfectly suitable for what we do,” Hunstad said by telephone.

Image Rotomolding Enterprises Inc. had used the building, but that firm was bought out by its customer and moved to Alabama. The building was later used by a wood products maker.

The plant is connected to a natural gas line, which Hunstad cited as a key consideration. In Riverton, the firm used propane for the larger machines. The plant is also roomier in that Riverton had a lot more supporting beams to work around.

Hunstad said the firm bought a used Ferry 370 rotomolding machine that is capable of producing 12-foot parts. The older building would not have been able to accommodate its installation. He expects the machine to be up and running by mid-January.

“Customers have added larger parts that we are not currently able to do,” he said.

He said the firm is experiencing growth via its customers and also is seeing more possibilities in supplying the agricultural market.

The firm is running leaner, using less material, and has improved product flow and efficiency.

Hunstad said the latest machine will be its fifth. It has two Ferry clamshell machines — a two-arm shuttle and an independent four-arm carousel. It also has a REI 120 and a Ferry 280.

Stern Assembly employs 35 and Hunstad said that it will add six to eight more people.

The company also does assembly of such items as fuel tanks and storage boxes. Customers include Polaris Industries Inc. and Arctic Cat, both of which make recreation and utility vehicles.

Stern Cos. Inc. has two subsidiaries: Stern Assembly, which includes rotomolding; and Stern Industries Inc., a broker of plastic and rubber parts.