LAKE MARY, FLA. - Whoever first related variety to the spice of life certainly would have the notion confirmed with a look at Florida Polymers. During a recent visit to the Lake Mary plant, one injection molding machine slowly cycled every 90 seconds as corrections were done and the finishing touches made to a new product - a slick, low-profile, countertop water purifier. Not far away, a small group of workers were turning out eyeglasses for 3-D movies at Walt Disney World. Record output so far in the five-year contract: 13,050 pairs of glasses in one 10-hour day.
Those sharp contrasts say a great deal about the firm. Florida Polymers does both low-productivity jobs for customers with products like that water purifier and high-production tasks that run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
There also is a broad reach in product complexity that comes through involvement in new products, beginning with design and development through shipment of the final product.
Despite the abundance of variety in products and line speeds there is an overriding consistency of purpose at Florida Polymers, said Vice President Cole Bailey.
He said the company's products, chiefly air and water purification devices, enhance the customer's quality of life.
``The products we do are consumer-oriented. When you talk about our business as a whole, you talk about things like that,'' he said, gesturing towards a console air purification device manufactured for a Tennessee-based direct-sales company.
Florida Polymers has seven conveyor assembly lines in its 80,000-square-foot plant. There are 22 injection molding ma-chines, ranging in clamping forces of 75-850 tons. Some of the molding machines have robotic controls. There is an adjacent 56,000-square-foot warehouse served by a materials-handling tram.
The company claims to be one of the fastest-growing original equipment manufacturers of plastic products in the Southeast.
``We're a full-contract service manufacturer with unique expertise in filtration,'' Bailey said.
A typical product, for example, could be a recently introduced under-the-counter water purification device. It hooks directly to water lines and includes filters for sediment, odor, taste and lead and has quick-snap fittings for ease of installation, Bailey said.
The company has its own proprietary line it sells through manufacturer representatives to plumbers and electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning distributors. Products in that Zebra line include ductless fans, door chimes, low-energy lighting, water coolers, filters and grab bars for bathrooms.
``It's a nice business for us. The replacement filter business for the ductless fan is huge,'' Bailey said.
Typically, air-cleaner manufacturers do not have the capability to design, develop and manufacture in house.
``Most have design firms outside and take their products to another facility for manufacture, typically in Southeast Asia, or somewhere else overseas,'' Bailey said.
``We do it all, and right now we're even manufacturing products for China. We just struck a deal to manufacture a product in the United States to be shipped there. It's an air purification device, a portable air cleaner for the indoor environment of the home.
``China, unlike the United States, has regulations and laws that say, `If you bring a product into China we want to manufacture a portion of it.' We've created a bulk assembly process in which they can do the final assembly in China. We will do most of the assembly here, ship it over there in bulk containers and they do the final assembly.
``This is the first business we've done with China but we've begun shipping product to Latin America and Europe within the past two years. The business has gotten much more global.''
He said Florida Polymers has yet to ship to Mexico in spite of the North American Free Trade Agreement that took effect in January 1994.
The company currently is working with the U.S. Economic Development Commission to take part in trade missions in Latin America.
In January, 1995 the 10-year-old company was purchased by the Bailey family from NSA Inter-national. Sales this year are expected to be about $16 million, up from $13.5 million in 1995.
Growth also is reflected in employment, which has climbed to 133 employees today from an average of 95 last year, Bailey said.
``In 1995 we had sporadic growth. It was up and down. This year it's been continual, steady growth,'' Bailey said.
The proper corporate name of Florida Polymers is Polymers Inc. but it has been known as Florida Polymers for so long it continues doing business under that name, Bailey said. Eventually, he said, the company will use just the Polymers Inc. name.
``The company that under-the-counter water purification device is for came to us 10 months ago and says that although it is big in vacuum cleaners it wanted to move into a different area in the the home environment. They said, `We want to move into water. Give us some ideas.'
``We did the industrial de-sign work and put designs all over the wall. The head of the customer company came in and says, `I like this design and I like that design. I want you to manufacture them for us.' So we literally developed the product,'' Bailey said.
``That's what we do best. We can make plastic parts but the business we go after is complete design and development, OEM with global distribution,'' he said.
The firm's products are mostly PVC now but it is designing out PVC and changing chiefly to talc-filled poly-propylene.