A Sanford, Fla., firm that started out making specialty carts is set on becoming a custom rotomolding operation. So far, Pro Model Engineering Inc. has invested about $750,000 for a new, 12,000-square-foot plant in Sanford, and an FSP rotational molding machine, which has been running jobs since last month, said owner and chief executive Jim Kline. By year's end he expects to have a second machine in place.
The firm has made its name in custom fabrications using multiple materials. For 10 years it has been crafting huge vending carts for food and merchandise, for customers such as Universal Studios. Two years ago Pro Model added acrylic display cases to its talents. Last year it bought a Lamco vacuum former for various custom work.
Kline said his company plans to convert some of its carts, now built from metal, plastic, foam and fiberglass, to rotomolded plastic. In three years, he expects his month-old rotomolding business to make up 80 percent of Pro Model's total sales.
Overall, plastics sales this year will be about $3.5 million, he said. The company employs 15.
Though Pro Model is new to rotomolding, the man heading those operations is no rookie. Kline's son Ryan left his position as a plant manager at rotomolder Ashland Plastics to help launch the new business at his Dad's firm. For several years, Kline said he had been trying to coax Ryan to move from Ashland, Ohio, to Florida, to join the Pro Model team. Ryan thought it over and eventually agreed, on one condition: ``If you want to get into rotomolding, I'd consider coming down,'' he told his father.
With nine years' rotomolding experience, Ryan, now vice president of operations, is the reason for the firm's new direction. Currently, he is in the midst of hiring about 10 people for rotomolding and finishing operations.
The FSP machine is a 1996-model, three-arm carousel with one offset arm and a 7-foot swing. Also new, is a mixer for in-house compounding. By year's end 1997 Kline plans to expand further by building a separate warehouse on a newly acquired 11/2-.acre plot.
Though Pro Model is mainly a custom house, it has a few proprietary lines, including a brand-new rotomolded product - a 42-inch-square polyethylene tub for materials storage.
Kline said Planet Hollywood restaurants and companies such as Franklin Mint use Pro Model's acrylic cases to display memorabilia merchandise. Pro Model currently is supplying 300 cases to a single Planet Hollywood restaurant in Nashville, Tenn.
Kline developed a cold-forming process to manufacture the acrylic cases with curved fronts. Unlike vacuum forming, the process allows the acrylic to keep its clarity, he said.