SOUTH BEND, IND. — Since Jack Welter and a management team bought Elkhart Plastics' custom rotomolding operations in early 2011, it has continued to boost production and management.
Now CEO, Welter, who joined Elkhart after founder Dick Petersberg was killed in a car accident, has been part of the 25-year-old rotomolder almost from the start and throughout its ownership changes.
"Our respected position in the rotational molding industry didn't happen overnight," said Welter. "We leveraged our application engineering and manufacturing technologies acquired over decades in the RV and marine industries into the heavy-truck and commercial construction-equipment markets."
Petersberg launched Elkhart in 1988 with a single machine to rotomold tanks for Indiana's recreational vehicle industry. About 1½ years later, Welter stepped into a finance position to help run the firm with Rod Juday. Now Welter is overseeing expansions at its South Bend headquarters plant and at its Ridgefield, Wash., plant — where it will add eight to 10 new jobs by 2014 to make diesel exhaust fluid systems.
Noah Wass joined in July as engineering manager at Ridgefield and is in charge of developing new markets for the firm. Since February Jeff Giacchino, the original founder of Elkhart's Littleton, Colo., and Ridgefield plants (as PDM Molding, later seling them to Low & Bonar plc), again has a stake in those operations as vice president and a company shareholder.
In Indiana, the firm runs plants in South Bend, Elkhart and Middlebury — its largest with more than 200,000 square feet and housing 40 percent of its total workforce of 550. Today, across all five factories, Elkhart Plastics has more than 600,000 square feet of manufacturing space, 42 rotomolding machines and nine computer numerically controlled routers.
Technology is important, Welter said, but skilled employees are a key to good rotomolding. "The only limiting factor to celebrating another 25 years is people," he said.