ST. LOUIS — In September, the new owners of structural foam processor DeKalb Molded Plastics Co. inherited a company with depressed sales and few new contracts, and one sorely in need of attention.
Six months later, the Butler, Ind.-based company has turned the corner on sales faster than anticipated, said Jeffrey Rodgers, president and co-owner.
``It's been a bit of a honeymoon,'' Rodgers said. ``We don't necessarily want it to end just yet.''
If contracts come in as expected this year, DeKalb eventually plans to move to a larger site and begin investing in new equipment, he said in a March 30 interview at the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Structural Plastics Division meeting in St. Louis.
``Our next move may have to be with brick and mortar if we keep this up,'' Rodgers said. ``At the pace we're on now, we'll outgrow our current site this year. That's great to say after so short a time as a new company.''
The company, founded in 1979, still bills itself as the new DeKalb.
Rodgers and former plant manager Rick Walters bought the operation from JSJ Corp., a manufacturer in Grand Haven, Mich., that had decided the facility did not fit its core injection molding businesses.
Sales had dropped to $8 million in 1997 from $9.5 million the year before, mainly due to the loss of several contracts. Meanwhile, JSJ was shopping the company for buyers, a process that took about 20 months.
Now, the company expects sales volume to move back to 1996 levels this year with a more aggressive sales effort and broader use of a proprietary, high-gloss painting system that the company first developed in 1995.
The system, created with the help of paint supplier Sherwin-Williams Co., adds a smooth finish on the company's low-pressure structural foam parts, Walters said.
Traditionally, those structural parts have a rougher, textured surface. The process uses a special filling preparation with a customized primer to level the areas and add a better sheen.
Two years ago, the company added a new paint line to take advantage of the process. Its first customer was bowling products manufacturer Brunswick Corp. of Muskegon, Mich., which used the high-gloss foam molded products for its overhead and floor-mounted monitors in bowling alleys, Walters said.
Now, the company is marketing that capability to new clients in the recreation industry, Rodgers said. That market, as well as materials-handling products, computer business equipment and medical cabinetry account for most of DeKalb's sales.
The company, which employs about 65, operates four low-pressure presses with clamping forces of as much as 400 tons. Its 80,000-square-foot facility also has two conventional injection molding machines.