DES MOINES, IOWA - Plastic lumber makers come and go, but to survive they must concentrate on doing things their competitors don't. Cloyce Palmer, president of Alket Industries Inc., a Kalona, Iowa, extruder of lumber and sheet from recycled plastics, is adding a second plastic lumber line as soon as possible.
``We try to steer away from making picnic tables and park benches, because there are an awful lot of guys out there that got into that business and couldn't make it,'' he said while manning his company's booth at the Mid-States Plastics Confer-ence and Exhibition.
The show was held June 4-5 in Des Moines.
Palmer said that instead of those frequently made items, Alket has concentrated on picket fencing components, mailbox posts, some dimensional lumber and a number of other products he is not willing to discuss.
``We started out just making sheet from recycled polyethylene drums,'' he said. ``Then a customer came and asked us if we could make a part for something in the lumber line and we said, `Sure.' ''
He said the company used some cheap scrap tubing and came up with an industrial part that was perfect for the application.
Since then Alket has concentrated on industrial and original equipment manufacturer applications with success, and is adding the second line to help do a completely new product.
``I think too many lumber makers try to be too high-end, and there is just so much decking and picnic table work to do, so you have to keep filling the niches,'' he said.
``You also have to watch what your material is. We use only drums, and only the drums that we know what they are. We got a load of drums from overseas one time, and heated it to the capacity of the machine, and it still wasn't melting. Who knows what it was?''
Lumber making is about 20 percent of his business now, but he thinks it can increase to almost equal the sheet business.
``There's new applications for sheet from recycled material all the time too,'' he said. ``The recycled materials work so well, I don't think I'll ever have to buy virgin resin.''