By: Michael Lauzon
July 17, 2014
Polyfab Corp. is expanding its automation and injection molding capacity.
The Sheboygan, Wis., company will spend more than $10 million to build a plant addition and equip it with extensive robotics and other automation equipment and new injection presses.
“We are continuing to grow at 11 percent a year and are running out of room,” said Polyfab President and Chairman Rick Gill in a phone interview.
In addition to more press-side robotics, Polyfab will install an in-plant product transportation system with guided vehicles to deliver filled boxes to a pallet-wrapping station. Gill said the transportation system will be used for high-volume jobs in the new 52,000-square-foot addition, which could be completed by late November. Some production in the current 50,000-square-foot facility will be moved into the addition to take advantage of the higher level of automation.
Gill said the investments are part of its ongoing efficiency program. As less time is needed per employee at injection presses, they are being cross-trained to take on more responsibilities.
Gill said the building addition will have room for 20 presses. Polyfab has two new presses for installation there and will add more as business demands. The firm now runs 18 presses with clamp forces of 35 to 700 tons. Sheboygan’s Plan Commission has approved supporting the project. Polyfab has requested the city issue industrial development revenue bonds for the project.
Polyfab is a diverse molder with annual sales of about $15 million. It employs 67 but expects to add 35 more over three years after the expansion comes on stream.
Polyfab’s quality control capabilities allowed it to capture new business in 2011 making valves and fittings for a company that supplies components for natural gas distribution. Gill said the job is a demanding one. It involves bimodal high density polyethylene, a difficult material to mold to the precise dimensions required for the parts. The application demands a resin with an exceptionally long lifetime underground.
“In the natural gas industry, if you make a bad part you can blow up a house,” Gill warned.
Polyfab installed special cavity pressure control equipment for molding the gas-line parts.
Polyfab is one of the molders that captured the gas-line components work after the undisclosed customer shut down its internal division that was doing the molding. The new work helped offset a big chunk of business it lost to its former main customer in the food production industry.
Other important markets for Polyfab are packaging and medical. It runs a clean molding cell in its climate-controlled facility. Other capabilities include insert and overmolding, decorating, assembly, lights-out production and a tool room.
Polyfab is a family-owned business started by Rick’s parents, John and Millie Gill in 1971. Gill has emphasized productivity since he took over the company’s reins in 1985.