ASTON, PA. — Equipment maker Maguire Products Inc., held a news conference April 8 to roll out three new products and announce a new, full-service Asian headquarters in Singapore.
Maguire Products billed the news conference as a ``global press event.'' Founder Stephen B. Maguire, in a dinner speech the night before, said the event signaled that his company had arrived on the world plastics scene.
``This dinner represents sort of a milepost,'' he said. ``It's a definite point that we can point to and say that this really represents a transition from my house, to a well-known U.S. company, to a global company.''
Europe already accounts for 30 percent of sales of the Aston-based auxiliary equipment company, which was founded 22 years ago in Stephen B. Maguire's house.
In 1977, Maguire simply wanted to build a better pump for liquid color. Not satisfied with products on the market, he decided to build his own. Working in his house in West Chester, Pa., the divorced father looking after three sons started the company. He was 34.
The company steadily has expanded to become a major producer of gravimetric blenders, feeders and granulators. Maguire racked up $25 million in 1998 sales, and officials expect sales this year to reach $28 million to $30 million. Blenders generate 80-90 percent of those sales, although the company is diversifying its product mix.
Maguire remains a hands-on owner who dreams up all of the products, according to Maguire Products officials. Before starting his company, he worked at various plastics companies, including an injection molder and an extrusion firm.
After four years in the house, the company moved through several rented buildings, expanding steadily. In 1985, the company moved to a much larger plant in Media, Pa., outside Philadelphia. Along the way, the firm added a blender plant in Aston and started rebuilding granulators at a U.S. Granulator Division in Smithfield, R.I.
Last year, Maguire Products moved its headquarters from Media to a second plant in Aston, just down the street from its first blender plant in that town. The company has retained the Media plant, part of which it leases to its suppliers that weld frames and do machining.
Maguire's own operations are low-key workplaces that do only final assembly, using components supplied by outside companies. In the two Aston blender factories, subassemblies are lined up neatly on metal rack shelves; hundreds of hoppers and other sheet-metal parts are stacked in another area. Blenders on wheeled carts move through the assembly process.
Workers are spread out — Maguire believes in giving assembly a large amount of space. The company employs 60, but its four factories measure 120,000 square feet total — for 2,000 square feet per employee.
Conventional business wisdom says not to keep large inventories. But nobody calls the company founder conventional.
``We don't believe in running out of anything,'' he said.
For example, he orders 100-200 hoppers at a time. That gives Maguire Products a lower price and ensures that the plants can ramp up production quickly. The company can deliver products to U.S. customers in one week, and to Europe in two weeks.
In Aston, the company announced a major move into Asia, which today accounts for only about 5 percent of sales. The new Maguire Asia has its headquarters in Singapore, with a warehouse stocked with 75 blenders for shipment to the entire region. The company also has opened an office in Shanghai, China.
``Asia is our next frontier,'' said B. Patrick Smith, vice president of marketing and sales. ``We have many multinational companies that have specialized on our blender and integrated it into their manufacturing philosophies. These multinationals have been moving to China in a big way. We have to be there to service these blenders.''
In product news, the company announced:
A move into a new market of extrusion control for sheet lines, coextrued or single-layer blown film, profiles, pipe tubing or wire and cable. The Extrusion Control Network continuously analyzes material-flow information from Maguire's batch blenders, then calculates changes required in screw speed or line speed to maintain consistent throughput, and layer ratios in coextruded products. Smith said the easy-to-use system costs half the price of existing controllers, including continuous loss-in-weight blenders.
U.S. Granulator has developed a new, two-stage technology that uses a planer to shave down scrap parts, then grinds them with a Maguire Radial granulator that sports a high-speed spinning rotor. Dubbed the Shuttle Granulator, the machine features a metal box that holds scrap parts. The box moves back and forth across a planer. Shavings drop down to the Radial grinder. The company said the machine is quieter and much cheaper than a standard granulator. The first one, on display during the news conference, can accept parts measuring 30 cubic inches. The price is $25,000 — less than one-third the price of a comparable conventional granulator, according to the company.
The company also has doubled, and in some cases tripled, the maximum throughput rates of its blenders, thanks to some software tweaking by Stephen Maguire. Customers now can step down to a smaller blender, saving money. One key change: On the models that have removable hoppers, an air-driven, vertical valve replaces the slower, less-accurate auger feeder. Maguire first used vertical valves in its Micro-Blender, which it introduced at NPE 1997. Now the company has extended the valves to its middle range of blenders, the 200 and 400 Series.