Reddog Industries Inc. of Erie, Pa., is run by three brothers who have worked just about every job in their 100-employee injection mold-making plant. That sweeper-to-manager backgound appears to be paying off in this era when mold makers try to offer a widening variety of services to customers racing to move products to the marketplace.
The company is family-owned and operated by brothers John L. Hilbert, vice president, sales and engineering, and Bill Hilbert Jr., who serves as vice president, manufacturing. A third brother, Joe, does the company's purchasing.
``The biggest advantage to learning from the ground up is no one knows and understands your business and what the customer expects better than you do,'' John Hilbert said. ``Bluntly, it's your blood in the thing. You appreciate more the efforts of everyone from the apprentice to the highly skilled tool maker. You know the problems they can experience. And, knowing what they experience helps you to motivate them to accomplish what you want, which is what the customer wants.''
The growth at 27-year-old Reddog Industries is highly visible. It includes the ongoing addition of brick and mortar, machinery and personnel, Hilbert said.
Sales growth is coming from a broad front.
``One of the areas we're drawing a lot of business from is health-care products. That's been a real plus for us this year. But the growth in sales also is coming from producers of institutional, home and commercial products like truck boxes, containers, buckets and lawn and garden items,'' Hilbert said.
Reddog, named for a football play in which a quarterback is blitzed by opponents, is a full-service mold maker that prides itself on its computer numerically controlled milling and electrical discharge machining capabilities.
``Through early involvement in product and mold design we've established a forte in developing customers' products from initial concept on, in terms of fit, function and aesthetics. Our early involvement gives the customer a higher quality end product and superior mold design. Part-design problems are solved prior to any steel cutting. The best way we can serve the ever-increasing needs of our customers is to provide as many services as possible under one roof, in-house,'' he said.
The brothers assumed operation of the company in 1989 from their father, Bill Hilbert Sr., who serves as president and chief executive officer. Sales in 1989 were about $6 million and had doubled by the close of 1993. In 1994, sales totaled $14 million and are projected to reach $15 million for this year.
In 1993 and 1994 Reddog bought three injection molding machines and more are coming. Those machines, a 1,600-ton Natco, a 700-ton Cincinnati Milacron and a 230-ton Van Dorn, are used strictly for sampling and testing customers' molds.
``We're going to add a 2,500-ton Cincinnati and another 700-ton wide platen, probably also a Cincinnati. We're looking for year-end delivery,'' John Hilbert said.
In the past few years Reddog also has bought design software, electric discharge machines, overhead cranes, milling machines and machining centers.
Reddog has just broken ground on a project that is adding to the approximately 58,000 square feet the firm now has on the east side of Erie, very close to downtown. The expansion will increase the company's mold-building capability and its molding capacity for sampling, testing and pilot runs.
``We have a parking lot between two buildings and we're closing that in so the total molding space will be about 30,000 square feet and the mold-building space will be about 75,000 square feet,'' Hilbert said.
Expansion, begun in 1989, is being done in three stages. The total cost will be about $4.3 million. Financing is being done internally, Hilbert said.
``There's about $500,000 coming from the state in the form of a low-interest loan.''
He said the loan is part of a state economic development program the company has used previously.
``We have about 115 employees now, up from about 100 as recently as 14 months ago. We have 15 in engineering, about 100 in manufacturing.''
Many mold makers face persistent problems in hiring personnel needed in periods of growth.
``We crossed that finding people bridge a couple of years ago. What we do mainly now is bring people in and educate and train internally, teaching them the way we do it,'' Hilbert said.
``I'm not saying we don't bring people in from the outside, but the majority of our folks come from inside. We have an extensive apprenticeship program with, typically, about 10 folks on the floor and two in engineering.''
As for the outlook, Hilbert said, ``It's tremendous, just fantastic. I hope nothing happens that would change that. We certainly don't see any negatives coming and we're looking at the end of the year for deliveries of the machines.''