Custom manufacturer A&E Plastics Inc. and thermoformer TCI Vacuum Forming Co. Inc. of Elk Grove Village, Ill., are taking their unusual working relationship and moving down the road together later this year. The two firms plan to move 17 miles to a facility under construction on a nearly 3-acre lot in Elgin's Windsor Commerce Center.
The joint acquisition and expansion continues an unusual business relationship for two men who met while working as mold makers in 1980.
Now, on adjacent plant floors, they jointly own but separately operate businesses that share reception, marketing and accounting services and, in total, generated 1994 sales of $7 million.
A&E President Maynard Ostrowski, 43, and TCI President John M. Vlnka, 46, find success in paying attention to projects involving tooling, prototypes, short runs and/or full-run production. Vlnka terms sales growth over the past three years ``astronomical.''
Sometimes, their proximity simplifies a customer's needs, and Ostrowski and Vlnka bid on orders the other person would fulfill.
``They pretty much fall in the partnership type of groove,'' said Paul Alongi, president of thermoforming equipment manufacturer MAAC Machinery Corp. in Itasca, Ill. ``We don't view them as separate entities.''
Vlnka noted: ``Each understands the other's objectives. We coexist and flourish in the current business arrangement.''
In 1983, Ostrowski, Vlnka and a third partner founded A&E Models in Chicago and, in 1985, took the name A&E Plastics when the third person left. Eventually, A&E ran out of space.
A facility search led to the suburbs and an Elk Grove Village building that TCI occupied. In January 1989, Ostrowski andVlnka bought both the 20,000-square-foot building and the TCI business from sheet extruder Futurex Industries Inc. of Bloomingdale, Ind.
Now that site ``is bursting at the seams,'' said Alan Rosenfield, sales engineer for both firms.
Vlnka said the new, 40,000-square-foot building, expandable to 60,000 square feet, should be ready for occupancy by year's end and will provide space to add an in-house accountant. The land and facility will cost about $2 million, Vlnka said.
A&E specializes in short-run niche products, has seven mold makers among 30 employees and generated 1994 sales of $3.5 million.
``We will expand to 12 injection molding machines from seven,'' Ostrowski said.
A&E's molding equipment includes three Kawaguchis, a Natco, a Van Dorn and a New Britain with clamping forces of 75-400 tons. Also, MasterCam, CadKey and Pro Engineer computer workstations and three computer numerically controlled machining centers populate A&E's manufacturing area.
Leading A&E customers include Motorola Corp.'s cellular infrastructure unit of Arlington Heights, Ill.; Group Schneider's Zenith Data Systems unit of St. Joseph, Mich.; and Cummins-Allison Corp. of Mount Prospect, Ill.
Founded in 1968, TCI specializes in heavy-gauge and pressure-forming processes, employs 35 and also had 1994 sales of $3.5 million.
Recently, TCI acquired a $125,000 Motion Master five-axis CNC router with a 4-by-6-foot table and 36 inches of vertical travel.
``The new machine is up and running,'' Vlnka said, ``and we will add one more MAAC'' vacuum forming machine in addition to an existing 60-inch-wide MAAC three-station rotary.
Other vacuum-forming equipment includes two Comets and three Kosters.
TCI custom forms products for electronic, communication, leisure, beverage and food, consumer, automotive, office equipment and display markets.
``We are investigating avenues such as painting and pad printing to complement our existing businesses,'' Vlnka said, but ``for now we are concentrating on getting the new building finished and the move accomplished.''