Bart Stuchell has built systems for nuclear power plants and blades for jet engines. In February, he and his wife Mary Ann bought Sare Plastics in Alliance, a custom injection molder that turns out more down-to-earth parts, like louvered air outlets and grilles for cars and outlets for central vacuum cleaners.
The Stuchells bought the company from Paul Sare, who founded it in 1982. In 1985, the molder moved to its current, 37,000-square-foot building in an industrial section of Alliance. Terms were not disclosed.
Sare Plastics is small, with a dozen injection presses and 35 employees. But Stuchell, a technical expert with an entrepreneurial bent, said the company has the potential to expand beyond its base in automotive.
One big reason: ISO certification. Paul Sare hired Stuchell in 2003, as director of quality, and he was part of a team that got Sare Plastics certified, in early 2004, to ISO 9001:2000.
``It's critical to grow a company,'' Stuchell said. ``The beauty of ISO is it allows you to organize your processes in a way to become more productive.''
Having ISO sets Sare Plastics apart from other small molders. ``We want to be a nice intermediary from the `ma and pa shops' to the big buys. [Customers] are going to look at me and say, `Hey, this is a reliable option for us,' '' Stuchell said.
The new plastics owner has an unusual background. His only pure plastics experience is the two years he has spent at Sare. But he's a quick study who has owned a company before.
``I've been in manufacturing from day one out of high school. ... I'm fascinated by turning raw materials into reality. It's something that I get excited about,'' he said March 25 at the Alliance factory.
For 15 years, Bart Stuchell worked at the Alliance research and development center of Babcock & Wilcox Inc., which makes power generation equipment. He made prototypes and did tests on metal parts - impact tests and tensile strength measurements, similar to the testing of plastic parts, he said.
After B&W, Stuchell co-founded a company that made on-line corrosion monitoring equipment for nuclear power plants.
Then he went to work at PCC Airfoils in Minerva, Ohio, which makes aircraft engine blades. He compares PCC's ``lost wax'' investment casting process to plastics. ``When I was in supervision, I worked in the wax department where we did injection of waxes, which is similar to the injection molding process,'' Stuchell said.
He came to Sare Plastics from PCC Airfoils. After he worked at the molding plant for awhile, Paul Sare told Stuchell he was interested in selling. Stuchell already was looking at buying another company.
Stuchell had a good comfort level, because he had already known Paul Sare for about 10 years before joining the company.
Sare remains as a consultant. Stuchell also is putting together a diverse board of directors that will include experts from the plastics industry.
Stuchell would like to return Sare Plastics to its past status as a larger operation. At one time, the plant employed more than 100 people and did extensive assembly, with a conveyor moving parts through workstations.
The plant still has a dedicated assembly area away from the plant floor. Employees also do some basic contract assembly of metal parts, such as metal staking. Stuchell would like to tie in more molding with assembly to produce final products. The company already does that with the automotive air outlets.
Sare Plastics runs 12 injection presses with clamping forces from 50-500 tons, including Niigatas, JSWs and HPMs. Company veteran Jean Carlile runs the quality laboratory. Mary Ann Stuchell - who owns 51 percent of Sare Plastics - is an accountant who works as the company's controller.
Bart Stuchell said automotive accounts for 90 percent of sales, although he declined to give a dollar amount. He wants to diversify the business into other markets, focusing on regional customers. ``We can do 10 million pieces a month, with our current equipment,'' he said.
Bart Stuchell knows running a small molder is not easy. But he's enthusiastic: ``I'm fascinated with the complexity of it. Right now, `the maze is before me' is the way I describe it. I have to find my way through that maze. I'm excited because it allows me to apply some of my technical expertise to the industry.''