COLUMBUS, OHIO — Apparently, being a self-sufficient acrylic sheet-making business is not enough for Plaskolite Inc. of Columbus. At least that's the word from Mitchell Grindley, the firm's vice president of marketing and sales.
``We get up every day and worry about the flexibility of our facility,'' Grindley said in a July 17 interview at his Columbus office.
All of that worrying has led Plaskolite to invest $40 million in capital improvements since 1993, an investment figure Grindley believes is the highest in the acrylic sheet market. The firm's Optix-brand acrylic sheet has found uses in products ranging from signs to skylights to bus shelter walls.
Most recently, Plaskolite expanded its polymer production facility by 30 percent to a total capacity of 60 million pounds. That expansion was up and running in March, and the company will announce an additional expansion — in Columbus or elsewhere — by mid-1999, Grindley said.
Unlike most privately owned acrylic sheet makers, Plaskolite produces its own polymethyl methacrylate resin in-house. The company uses most of its Optix resin to make its own Optix-brand sheet, but it also sells acrylic resin to 15 outside firms.
As a result of its resin production, Plaskolite claims to be the largest private buyer of acrylic monomer in the United States.
Grindley said Plaskolite's self-contained status gives the company a strong cost position against its competitors.
``Unlike our competition in the acrylic sheet business, we're competing with major chemical companies who have other agendas,'' Grindley said. ``But acrylic sheet is our business. This is what we're all about.''
Plaskolite is also on the prowl to acquire another mirrored sheet manufacturing firm. The company, which produces Fabback-brand mirrored sheet, entered the market when it acquired Mir-Acryl Co. of Detroit in 1994. Grindley said the company sees good growth opportunities for mirrored applications in the display and toy markets.
An additional extrusion line, set to be on-line early next year, will allow Plaskolite to produce acrylic films as thick as 1 inch. Grindell said this thickness, primarily used in furniture applications, is currently made by only one American extruder.
Plaskolite ranked 57th in Plastics News' 1996 survey of North American film and sheet makers, with related sales of $85 million.
In addition to the Columbus works, which has 300 employees on more than a dozen extrusion lines, Plaskolite operates a light manufacturing and distribution center in Phoenix and a distribution center in Doesburg, the Netherlands.
Plaskolite's ability to go beyond the industry's standard 4-foot-by-8-foot production size allows for a broader customer base, Grindley said. The firm's lines can produce widths ranging from 1 foot to almost 9 feet.
``We specialize more because we're set up to do that,'' he said.``Most other sheet makers are set up as production houses with just the one size.''