Recycling Technologies Inc., a small maker of grinders in Hickory, has diversified beyond its roots serving the furniture industry into new areas, including makers of construction trusses - and plastic waste.
Since its founding in 1997, the small company's evolution has mirrored those of North Carolina. ``We have diversified from the furniture industry,'' said President Steve Mullis.
Recycling Technologies sold its first grinder to the plastics industry in 2003, when Catawba Plastics Inc. needed a rotary waste grinder for its recycling business in Chester, S.C. President and owner Ken Kaelin did his research, then visited four manufacturers, including RTI.
The second RTI plastics grinder went to pipe extruder Flying W Plastics Inc. in Glenville, W.Va.
Last year, RTI broke into the pharmaceuticals industry, when it sold a machine that grinds up scrap containers and disposes of the leftover medicine inside.
Recycling Technologies has just three employees - Mullis, Scott Sharp, who is the vice president, and employee Mickey Norris. Mullis and Sharp are the owners. The company brings in extra workers to help fill large orders.
In 2004, the company sold 15 grinders, generating about $700,000 in sales. Mullis said RTI has added a manufacturers' representative and is looking to add more. As sales grow, the company will hire more full-timers.
In the world of heavy-duty industrial grinders, RTI is located near some heavy-hitting competitors - Vecoplan LLC in High Point, N.C., and Weima America Inc. in Fort Mill, S.C.
Recycling Technologies touts its heavy-duty, customized machines built from thick-gauge steel.
The company buys steel and some components and does machining and fabrication at its Hickory plant. Mullis said RTI offers a two-year warranty on the grinder. A limited lifetime warranty covers the rotor and the discs.
Features include knife holders that are recessed into the rotor, instead of being placed on top, giving added strength.
The round rotor knives are indexable four to six times, with 180 degrees of rotation for easy maintenance.
RTI machines the rotor shaft, discs, knives and knife holders, using a computer-numerically controlled milling machine. The company fabricates the frame from sheets of steel.
``We do everything but the gearboxes, the motor, the cylinder and the hydraulic unit,'' Mullis said during an interview at RTI.
RTI grinders use standard parts, making it easy for customers to buy spare parts off the shelf.
``We're small. We've got to do something different,'' he said.
The vertical rotary grinders are low-speed machines, running at around 120 revolutions per minute. They operate at a high torque of 30,000 foot-pounds per inch. Capacities run up to 8,400 pounds an hour.
RTI's history is a real North Carolina story, as moves beyond furniture followed the decline of that industry. Furniture makers use grinders to size-reduce their scrap, then sell the material to makers of particle board and other end uses.
Sharp had worked at a now-defunct German company that made grinders. A few of the employees, including Sharp, decided to go out on their own, so they founded Recycling Technologies.
``They had everything set up, technically. But they didn't have the sales support,'' Mullis said. ``And if you don't have sales, you're not going to make any money.''
Enter Mullis, who bought out Sharp's three partners in 1999. His background is also straight out of the Tar Heel State. After graduating from UNC Charlotte, he worked for several different textile companies. But textiles, like the domestic furniture industry, was being hammered by imports.
``Then I was downsized in 1995. And I was completely out of a job. Could not find a job for over a year,'' he said.
Finally, Mullis started a business in an old-line Hickory industry, dyeing socks. After three years, he sold the company. Sharp had done some machinery work for his dye house.
Mullis jumped into machinery, as RTI president, sales force and milling machine operator.
Tel. (828) 304-0195, fax (828) 304-0197.