PHOENIX - PHC Industries Inc., a custom processor in Camden, N.J., has a long manufacturing history, but only recently has it experienced rapid growth, under the leadership of its new owners. Cynthia S. Kerr, partner and vice president of sales and marketing, said PHC has experienced several evolutions since the company's founding in 1924 as a maker of briefcases.
With the briefcase market so competitive in those early days, the owner decided to specialize in handles. In 1971, PHC started making some of its handles out of plastics for a variety of industries. As each market moved offshore, said Kerr, the company found it had to change, moving from one niche to another.
PHC finally settled into the automotive industry during the 1970s, supplying interior trim, wood fascias and subassemblies. In 1989, Kerr and her two partners, Tony Petraitis, president in charge of operations, and Chairman Jack Stover, purchased PHC.
``We were looking for a small manufacturer, something low-tech with a good customer base,'' said Kerr.
She and two of her employees were in Phoenix at the Plastics for Portable and Wireless Electronics conference, exploring opportunities to use the company's capabilities in areas other than automotive as they seek to diversify the firm's customer base.
``You can get schizophrenic about the automotive industry,'' she said.
In addition to 11 injection presses including a new 300-ton vertical press from Hull for insert molding, a small Boy machine and two new Van Dorn Demags, PHC has two vacuum formers, one dedicated to prototyping projects, and two profile extruders.
The trio's success in growing PHC from a $5 million business to more than $10 million in annual sales comes from its focus on research and development of new products and processes.
Kerr also has formed an R&D group called Vesta Technovations, which is being incorporated as a wholly owned subsidiary of PHC.
One of its recent developments is a process for eliminating the secondary application of shielding on vacuum formed parts. Vesta has filed for a patent on the process, which can trap shielding material between two layers of plastic material in twin-sheet forming, or form it in a single-sheet application.
Vesta is heavy in engineering talent and works closely with its original equipment manufactuer customers and other Tier 1 OEM suppliers to provide support in product design and development.
``We provide an engineering SWAT team to help OEMs accelerate the product development cycle and mold-build,'' Kerr said. ``First-tier automotive suppliers are being squeezed, so we'll sell our engineering expertise to them and help get the job done.''
Kerr said Vesta Technovations has given the firm entry into new projects and the opportunity to provide OEMs with a different perspective on what suppliers can offer in a time when many industries, including the automotive industry, are in a state of flux.