Kann Manufacturing Corp. has sold its small rotational molding plant to concentrate fully on selling - and building - rotomolding machines from England's Alan Yorke Engineering Ltd. The machines sport a cylindrical oven that slides back and forth on rails, enclosing the mold.
Officials of the new machinery endeavor, called Yorke Kann Rotomolding, felt the captive rotomolding operation in Manchester, Iowa, could be perceived by machinery customers as a conflict of interest, said operations manager Tim Andregg. Kann sold the one-machine plant - once called KannFab Inc. and most recently known as Manchester Rotational Molding - to Rotomold LLC in Tea, S.D. Terms were not disclosed.
The move into industrial machinery marks a change for Kann, an old-line, family-owned business in Guttenberg, which is along the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa. Kann builds garbage trucks, aluminum work boats, and grain hoppers for trucks. Kann will continue to source its plastic parts - square bins for a front-loading truck with separate areas for garbage, recyclables and yard waste - from the Manchester factory.
Alan Yorke Engineering and Kann Manufacturing are not household words to U.S. rotomolders. But Yorke of Northamptonshire, England, is well-known in Europe. Kann, meanwhile, first gained experience by building its own rotomolding machine in 1994. Two years ago the company built a second machine, this time for a customer in Arkansas that wanted to get into molding.
Yorke shipped its first machine to Guttenburg last year. ``We were actually putting the machine in-house on Sept. 11,'' the day terrorists attacked the United States, Andregg said.
Rotomolding machines use arms to turn molds through stages of heating and cooling. The arms move into fixed ovens through doors on the two sides of the oven. But the oven on the Yorke machine moves into the arm, and moves away from it again, using just one door on the front of the oven, the side facing the center of the machine.
The design allows Yorke to design an oven shaped like a cylinder, closely following the path of the rotating molds. Yorke claims the shape - and an air system that recirculates 90 percent of the air inside the oven - provides uniform heating and can give 30 percent more output while saving natural gas costs.
Traditional oven designs have been square, although suppliers sometimes put inserts inside the oven to round off the corners.
``We can heat the same size with a smaller burner, which boils down to less gas usage,'' Andregg said.
Andregg always will remember the day the rotomolding machine arrived. For now, that first Yorke sits in a corner of Kann's truck factory, still unsold.
He admits that Sept. 11 - and the slumping market for all industrial machinery - makes this a difficult time to launch a rotomolding machinery company. Yorke Kann is going up against industry powerhouse Ferry Industries Inc.
But there is some evidence of thawing in the deep freeze on machinery sales, Andregg said during a July interview in Guttenberg.
Andregg finally is hearing from some potential customers he gave quotes to back in January. They're looking at spending some money.
``Instead of six months down the road, we're talking about one or two months down the road,'' he said.