Although other custom molding areas are growing, Olamon Industries temporarily has cut its work force because of a slowdown in audio cassette markets.
Olamon General Manager Albert Marquis said he intends to rehire 33 people who were laid off last week for a six- to eight-week period. They all work in the cassette molding area, which is working off inventory backlogs at Olamon's Old Town, Maine, plant.
``Other [molding] areas are going full out,'' he said.
Olamon Industries has diversified its lines, recently adding people, space and better-margin products demanding higher technology and work skills.
Commodity pricing has eroded sales of the company's historical base: audio cassettes and compact disc jewel boxes. The audio niche now accounts for about 55 percent of Olamon's total sales vs. 80 percent three years ago, Marquis said in a telephone interview.
``We have purposely sought out proprietary products that will provide us with better margins,'' Marquis said.
Olamon has experienced a 250 percent year-to-year boost in automotive molding work for the Lemforder Corp. plant in Brewer, Maine, and completed development work that in November led to molding plastic packaging vials for the Osram Sylvania Inc. facility in Bangor, Maine.
Olamon is molding a specialized, multi-image jewel case for Gelardi Design of Kennebunkport, Maine, and working with a local inventor on a new toy ``that promises to be quite hot,'' said Kristin Taylor, vice president of sales and marketing.
For two new projects, Olamon has extended into concept development, electronic component purchasing and more-sophisticated final assembly. The products are a proprietary tactical landing light system and a portable rapid deployment security system.
Northrop Grumman Corp.'s electronics division in Rolling Meadows, Ill., granted Olamon an exclusive, long-term license to manufacture and market the landing system. The battery-powered system gives helicopters safer nighttime access to unprepared landing zones.
Production includes eight plastic components made of polystyrene, ABS and polycarbonate.
``They were adventurous enough to go out and get a technology that was beyond their capacity,'' said Fred Sharpe, an international business developer based in West Chicago, Ill.
Fred Sharpe & Associates Inc. is setting up a network of aeronautical-related distributors to handle Olamon's landing outside North America.
For the portable security system, Olamon created a wireless communications kit using components from Pittway Corp.'s Ademco Group of Syosset, N.Y. ADT Security Services of Alexandria, Va., markets the product, known as the Panther System, to federal agencies.
Packaged in a fiberglass Pelican transport case, the standard kit enables a corporate traveler to set up and remotely control six door-window transmitters and two passive infrared motion detectors.
Olamon employs 125 and in January occupied a new, 7,000-square-foot addition that brings its facility to 40,000 square feet.
Olamon had sales of $12 million for fiscal 1998, which ended Sept. 30, and projects $13.2 million in the current fiscal year. The firm's 17 injection molding machines have clamping forces of 75-350 tons. Five of the presses arrived between December and June, and Olamon may need more to support Lemforder requirements.
By February, Olamon, a limited partnership owned by the Penobscot Indian Nation, anticipates a final review on its application for ISO 9002 registration.
Plastics News correspondent Michael Lauzon contributed to this story.