A newly formed Florida injection molder with world-class aspirations is ramping up production.
``We've taken a blank piece of paper'' and designed an optimal automated factory, Michael Bentz, president of Micro Molding Technologies Inc., said in a telephone interview. ``Fresh people, fresh ideas [and] no turf wars'' are part of the start-up strategy at the Boynton Beach, Fla., firm.
Bentz applies his extensive experience in closed-loop controllers and computer-integrated manufacturing in aiming for the company's vision: zero-defect deliveries. He believes generic technology advances often fail to address customers' specific needs.
An undisclosed investor owns both Micro Molding Technologies and sister company Packaging Concepts Inc., also in Boynton Beach, and has funded the start-up firm without assuming debt.
Micro Molding has good financial backing, capability of processing high-performance materials consistently and the potential to exceed $100 million in sales eventually, said Paul Reynolds, a technical service engineer in Summit, N.J., with Hoechst Group's Ticona business unit.
Managers view the new, 25,000-square-foot facility on 21/2 acres as a pilot plant needing most of two years to mature. Short-term plans call for duplicating the concept elsewhere at globally strategic locations.
``You can't go and buy a molding company'' without getting unhappy customers, maintenance-hungry machines and inefficient molds, said Thomas Talbot, Micro Molding Technologies executive vice president.
Micro Molding invested more than $3 million in real estate, basic facility improvements and equipment from its April incorporation to the Jan. 5 manufacturing launch. The firm has a 1998 capital budget of more than $1 million.
Micro Molding started with four Nissei injection molding machines with clamping forces of 40-300 tons. Each automated press has lights-out production capabilities and Conair temperature controllers, grinders and other auxiliary equipment.
An RJG cavity-pressure control system monitors molded parts, rejecting those that fail an electronic template's standards.
Another eight Nisseis, most with clamping forces of 40-175 tons, should arrive by May. Now, the Micro Molding plant employs 10, mostly engineers, and will double that number to handle the additional equipment. In three to four years, the company expects to have a total of 25 presses.
Micro Molding believes it has an industry first: a real-time 100 percent electronically networked operation that uses a DartWin process monitoring and controlling system from RJG Technologies Inc. of Traverse City, Mich., and a Windows NT-upgrade office management and manufacturing system.
Initially, Micro Molding is focusing on nylon and polyester electrical connectors; noninvasive medical-device parts made of liquid crystal polymer; decorative cosmetic parts; and Packaging Concepts' line of pump assemblies, actuators and closure parts of polypropylene and polyethylene. Some molds have 32 or 64 cavities.
Packaging Concepts assembles proprietary and custom spray-pump products, and also performs secondary operations, such as pad printing, sonic welding and automated assembly.
For now, Packaging Concepts' operation occupies part of Micro Molding's plant, but next-door construction will give it a separate home, and give Micro Molding an assembly location, in about a year.
Micro Molding has a technology alliance with Engineering Plastics Solutions Group Inc. of Stoneham, Mass.
``I haven't come across any company that has done it this way,'' Tim Torode, EPSG operations director, said in characterizing Micro Molding's start with a clean slate.
Bentz, Talbot and general manager Blaine Priebe all previously worked at Security Plastics Inc. in Miami Lakes, Fla. Priebe also worked at Palm Beach Precision Molding in Riviera Beach, Fla.
While Micro Molding relies on RJG for process monitors, Bentz conceives the development of control technologies outside RJG's scope. Bentz envisions analytical packages for manipulating and interpreting data ``and feeding it back for processing.''
``Our products would not be in competition with RJG,'' he said.