NEW YORK — Hoping to turn the corner on stagnant sales and the bankruptcy of two key customers, custom molder Triple S Plastics Inc. replaced its chief executive officer and is building two plants.
The Vicksburg, Mich.-based company announced May 25 that it is opening a 60,000-square-foot injection molding and assembly plant in Fort Worth, Texas, to serve the telecommunications market and is building a larger headquarters for its rapid prototyping unit, Dynacept.
The company also said it hired former Clausing Industrial Inc. CEO A. Christian Schauer as its new chief executive. Schauer replaces Dan Canavan, who will remain as chairman. Company officials touted Schauer's experience in building Clausing's business, particularly internationally.
Triple S's sales were flat at $67.7 million in the fiscal year ended March 31, and the company reported a loss of $1 million, after earning $1.5 million in the prior fiscal year.
Company officials attributed the problems in 1998 to bankruptcy filings by customers McCulloch Corp. and printer cartridge maker Nu-Kote Holdings Inc., and to lost business from a third major customer Triple S officials declined to identify.
``Bankruptcy really took a lot out of us in the last fiscal year,'' Canavan said in a May 26 interview at the Medical Design and Manufacturing East show in New York. ``That is behind us now.''
The company's Tucson, Ariz., plant remains underused, and filling that will be ``key to cutting losses going forward,'' Canavan said. The company said it is reassessing its entire operations to reduce costs. Canavan said the company has no plans to close the Arizona facility.
Canavan, who has been CEO since 1986, said the firm's problems began before its customers' bankruptcy filings last year.
``The board is anxious for the company to move forward,'' Canavan said. ``We've been stagnant for three years. ... A lot of assets are not as busy as they should be.''
Clausing Industrial is a Kalamazoo, Mich., maker of industrial equipment like drill presses and bandsaws. Clausing is a subsidiary of United Kingdom-based 600 Group plc. Schauer has served on Triple S's board since 1990.
Canavan will work full time on the company's sales strategy.
Triple S is looking to its two new plants to help turn the corner.
The Fort Worth facility will be the company's first all-electric injection molding plant, with seven presses of up to 245 tons. The company has a facility near Austin, Texas, but its telecommunications customers, including Nokia, want the new plant to be closer to their manufacturing, Canavan said.
The facility also will do subassembly work, something its telecommunications customers want more of, said Philip Weaver, vice president of human resources for Triple S.
The new plant will cost about $3 million, with two presses and some equipment transferred from other plants, Canavan said. It will have room for up to 30 presses, and company officials plan to have 22 presses there in the next two years.
The company hopes to start production in the leased building in 60 days.
The new prototyping unit headquarters is part of Triple S's effort to provide a more complete range of product development, said Michael Primavera, president of the Dynacept subsidiary. Triple S acquired Dynacept last summer.
The headquarters will include four injection presses between 85-385 tons to do test runs of parts, and will have several electric discharge machines, he said. Bedford Hills, N.Y.-based Dynacept has 33 employees in its 11,000-square-foot plant, but will have 24,000 square feet and 50 employees when the $4 million facility opens in February, he said.
The company also is looking to grow internationally, but officials said it is more focused on its U.S. business and has not entirely developed its global strategy.
``When you start getting close to $100 million, you need to look overseas,'' Canavan said. ``We have customers who are trying to pull us in that direction.''