Thermoformer Quality Craft Corp. needs to double its manufacturing space to accommodate a recently acquired product line of Jeep plastic aftermarket accessories.
Quality Craft occupies about 4,000 square feet at its Independence, Iowa, facility. It bought three truck trailers for more storage and anticipates constructing an addition in the spring, President Arnold Johnson said in a telephone interview.
The firm acquired the product line and an unlimited identity license in July from Arlyn and Debbie Miller, owners of A.E. Miller Manufacturing Co. of Boise City, Okla. The line accounted for about 70 percent of the Miller firm's volume. Since then, the firms gradually have transferred molds, tooling, a hydraulic trimming press and a granulator.
Before acquiring the proprietary line, Quality Craft limited itself to custom thin- and thick-gauge thermoforming jobs, including blister and other kinds of packaging for medical, electronics and baked goods markets; and parts for recreational vehicles and road construction equipment.
The specialized line of heavy-gauge ABS parts includes three dashboards with speaker mounts and dashboard overlays.
``The dash was missing from older Jeeps and is an accessory on newer models,'' Johnson said. ``We make a dash that bolts on to the existing flat panel.''
Other parts include replacement glove boxes, entry guards, plenum chamber ducts to direct inside heating, fender extensions and over-the-wheel-well storage boxes.
``We figure on doing more parts with Arlyn's help,'' Johnson said.
The products fit Jeeps from early 1940s Army models through last year's civilian versions. Plastics replace cardboard and foam rubber in some applications. Most sales are made through distributor parts catalogs.
Quality Craft employs 13, including two new hires, and is launching an Internet site.
``Not all distributors sell all our parts,'' Johnson said, but soon ``a distributor can direct a customer to the Web site'' to specify the desired part.
Quality Craft operates five thermoforming machines with a maximum forming size of 4 feet by 8 feet and is adding new controls to a now-inactive sixth machine.
The firm acquired a Motionmaster five-axis, computer numerically controlled router in 1996 and eventually may add another CNC machine to meet increasing demand. Johnson said Quality Craft had 1997 sales of almost $500,000.
Inventor Arlyn Miller made the first set of fiberglass fender extenders for his Jeep in 1970. He subsequently has thermoformed ABS into the fenders and other accessories using custom-built hand fixtures, presses and ovens. His largest press has a 4-foot-by-6-foot bed. Miller Manufacturing retains the core equipment to continue producing aviation-related items and a newly patented product for the sporting goods market.
Miller found the Jeep line time-consuming, and he shared his rural community's difficulty in retaining skilled workers.