Hobson Mould Works Inc. is expanding its plant and broadening its products to include new technology, equipment and training.
Employees bought the mold-making firm from publicly traded Essef Corp. in late 1996. At the time, they set a goal to reach $20 million in sales by the year 2000, said President Gerald Hobson.
That has led to an accelerated investment path and a recasting of some operations at Hobson, which completed 1997 with $9.1 million in sales.
``Blow molds will always be our main core business,'' Hobson said. ``The expansion will help get molds out the door in arrow-shot fashion. What we'd like to do now is sell systems internationally with the molds, the machines and the training included.''
The Shell Rock, Iowa, firm, which has 111 employees, is investing a total of $4.6 million in construction and equipment to enlarge its mold-building facility and consolidate other operations.
The firm is adding 40,000 square feet to its 80,000-square-foot plant. When finished in late fall, the $1.6 million building project will result in a two-story office that will house design and engineering departments, quality control, sales and other staff functions.
Several of those operations are now in a separate building, Hobson said.
The addition also will include an on-site training center. Hobson Tech will start this fall with 14 students and can accommodate as many as 120 people, Hobson said.
The company also will expand its toolmaking area, adding four high-speed, computer numerically controlled machining centers. Hobson currently has nine CNC machining centers.
The other aspect of Hobson's broadening grip is blow molding systems. The company recently was granted exclusive rights to sell blow molding machines in North and South America for Placo Co. Ltd. of Iwatsuki, Japan.
Hobson has sold Placo machines since 1992, but not under an exclusive contract. The two-year agreement will allow the firm to move into new regions with the machines and begin offering its molds in a package with the equipment, Hobson said.
Hobson also signed an agreement in August with Nippon Steel Chemical Co. Ltd. of Tokyo to market a new blow molding process in the United States. The Area Selective Multilayer technology can be used for coextruded parts to provide better surface finish and parts integration, according to Hobson.
Applications could include blow molded automotive bumpers and instrument panels made entirely with thermoplastic olefins and elastomers, he said.
With tooling, new processes and machinery in hand, the company now plans to sell itself as a blow molding systems supplier, Hobson said.
The company also has an on-site aluminum foundry and rapid prototyping capabilities that will continue after the expansion.