Injection molder Wilbert Plastic Services evolves to pursue auto business

By Kerri Jansen
Staff Reporter

Published: June 19, 2014 11:56 am ET
Updated: June 19, 2014 12:02 pm ET

Image By: Wilbert Plastic Services Wilbert Plastic Services embraced new opportunities in the auto industry to survive turmoil.

Related to this story

Topics Automotive, Injection Molding, United States

In 2009, the recession landed hard on Wilbert Plastic Services. Headquartered in Belmont, N.C., the company had already been showing signs of decline before the global market downturn pushed it further into financial turmoil.

“In addition to having taken on some over-aggressive expansion, the company was just generally underperforming,” said President and CEO Greg Botner.

At the time, Wilbert’s floundering Lebanon, Ky., injection molding facility made parts for the appliance industry. Today, the plant churns out more than 49,000 components daily for Ford Motor Co. vehicles, with that number set to nearly double this year.

The shift didn’t happen by accident. Wilbert management identified the automotive industry as a promising opportunity and overhauled operations to position themselves in that market.

“We knew that with the growth of the automotive industry in the mid-south and the southern states where we have a strong presence, that we couldn’t ignore being in that marketplace,” said Botner, who joined the company in 2005 as a member of its board of directors.

The Lebanon facility’s primary client, Ford, has major operations in nearby Louisville.

Wilbert focused on hiring management-level and support-level staff who had experience in the automotive industry.

“It’s been our experience that the people that are experienced in that industry come with good capabilities and developed skill sets for manufacturing,” Botner said.

Turning around the company’s performance operationally created a pathway to being able to do business with Ford, he added.

 “That plant and its regional proximity to Louisville, and our collective experience as a management group, it all kind of converged, and Ford’s open-mindedness to having a supplier who had the knowledge but not yet proven capability to supply them, they took that risk with us,” Botner said.

Wilbert produces parts for the Ford Escape; future Ford projects are in the works. And the new business has brought more changes to the facility.

“Logistics management in that plant had to take a huge step forward,” Botner said, including reworking its management of inventory and the flow of returnable dunnage between Wilbert and its customer facilities.

Wilbert also expanded the facility and upgraded its equipment, introducing automation, Botner said. The plant currently runs presses up to 2,500 tons of clamping force and recently purchased several new machines.

“It’s definitely advanced for a like-kind business,” he said. “We’re using a lot of robotics in that facility, a lot of automation, we’re using some more exotic molding techniques.”

Wilbert’s conversion to produce exclusively automotive parts at its Lebanon plant required retraining efforts as well, Botner said.

“Retraining and refocusing the way we do business, as well as introducing automation and a higher rate of turnover in terms of product, were our challenges,” he said. “And the management team there did a great job in terms of reinventing themselves.”


Comments

Injection molder Wilbert Plastic Services evolves to pursue auto business

By Kerri Jansen
Staff Reporter

Published: June 19, 2014 11:56 am ET
Updated: June 19, 2014 12:02 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Report: Brands are falling short on packaging sustainability

January 29, 2015 5:19 pm ET

Packaging in general, and plastic packaging in particular, has a long way to go in terms of recycling, according to a pair of environmental groups.    More

Image

Lund adds to aftermarket auto products portfolio with buy of Bushwacker

January 29, 2015 2:49 pm ET

Lund International Inc. has expanded its portfolio of plastic aftermarket vehicle accessories by acquiring Bushwacker Inc.    More

Image

Falcon Plastics expands in South Dakota

January 29, 2015 11:45 am ET

Falcon Plastics Inc. is putting the final touches on a 60,000 square foot addition that will nearly double the size of its Brookings, S.D.,...    More

Image

Plastics News Now: Losing weight with style, plastics in the Dragons' Den

January 29, 2015 6:00 am ET

A 19-year-old entrepreneur brings business to a U.K. injection molder after winning support on TV's Dragons' Den, auto suppliers combine...    More

Image

Plastics enter 2015 on a high note

January 29, 2015 10:10 am ET

Now that the preliminary round of December data is officially in the books, I can state unequivocally that 2014 was an outstanding year for the U.S. p...    More

Market Reports

Plastics in Automotive: Innovation & Emerging Trends

This special report newly released by PN and sponsored by The Conair Group examines current trends in the use of plastics in automotive, materials innovations and the changing landscape. It includes a review of legislative/regulatory activity impacting vehicle development and lightweighting, market opportunities & challenges for mold and toolmakers, innovative design strategies being implemented by major OEMs and suppliers, as well as a review of key indicators in Canada, Mexico, Brazil and China.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Injection Molding Market Analysis & Processor Rankings

Plastics News BUNDLED package contains our in-depth Market Analysis of the Injection Molding segment. You will gain keen insight on current trends and our economic outlook.

As a BONUS this includes PN's updated 2014 database of North American Injection Molders RANKED by sales volume. Sort, merge, mail & prospect by end market, materials processed, region, # of plants and more.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events