After making an ownership shift, a name change and a machinery addition, Innovative Injection Technologies Inc. is looking for that next big challenge.
That could come from much farther afield than the suburb that the company calls home. Innovative Injection is looking at Brazil as a potential destination for an injection molding plant, a decision that is still too preliminary to call.
Otherwise, i2tech, as the company is known, will continue to expand its product lines and markets as a custom molder, said President Robert Janeczko. As a new company, it wants to hike sales from $24.2 million last year to $35 million by end of 2006, Janeczko said in a May 10 interview at company headquarters in West Des Moines.
Janeczko, who plans to retire in 2010 and turn the reins over to his son Josh and business partner Stuart Oxer, wants to keep momentum rolling for a company with both a long history and a new start.
``I already announced my retirement date, so our employees will know that we did not buy the company to flip it to someone else,'' said Janeczko, 63. ``We are managing the company as a considerably smaller firm than in the past, when we had larger, corporate ownership. We have employees and managers behind it and a lot of commitment to our future.''
Going to Brazil could be a boon and a burden for a company the size of i2tech, Janeczko admitted. One of its larger customers, Deere & Co. of Moline, Ill., has set up operations there and has asked whether i2tech would like to join it there as a Deere supplier.
I2tech is investigating the possibility but has not determined whether that would make good business sense for a company its size, Janeczko said. The company instead might look at opportunities for growth closer to home.
As a company, i2tech is of recent vintage. In 2003, a group led by Janeczko bought the plant from Morton Industrial Group Inc., a large maker of metal and plastic parts. The company, based in Morton, Ill., decided to excise its plastics operations and sold many of its thermoforming plants to Wilbert Inc.
The West Des Moines operation was one of Morton's top-running plants and the only one specializing in custom injection molding, Janeczko said. Janeczko, a Morton executive who once headed Morton Metalcraft, had become president of the Iowa plant before the sale. The company posed the idea of Janeczko buying the operation, after allowing him time to secure bank loans, he said.
``If I couldn't commit to buying the business, I could still be president of it,'' he said.
Janeczko brought in Oxer, the facility's general manager, and Josh Janeczko, the site's operations manager, to buy the assets. Janeczko went from once working for a $275 million company to managing a single-site facility that is seeking to top $26 million this year. But Morton was getting smaller, too, and Janeczko wanted to try his hand as a business owner.
The plant's 145 employees all receive profit-sharing checks, increasing trust and job commitment, he said. Last year, $452,000 was handed out to employees in gain-sharing, up more than $300,000 from the previous year.
Employees held a contest to pick the new name, coming up with whimsical selections such as ``Dr. Bob's Injections'' before settling on the current heading, a mix of two separate entries.
While management is new, the plant has a past. Founded in 1960 as Mid-Central Plastics Inc., it boasts what Janeczko said is the first injection press sold by Cincinnati Milacron, a circa-1968, 375-ton unit that still runs. The site has been a Deere supplier for 34 years, a date recently discovered from an old purchase invoice.
The plant has been updated for the times with new equipment, and the staff has Six Sigma training.
A sixth plant addition in 2004 brought a 3,000-ton Nissei machine that Janeczko said is probably the largest press in Iowa. With only a few other large injection molders in the state, he may be right.
Deere is the company's largest customer, and i2tech continually is finding new business with the company - including making a moisture pad for a cotton baler, a recent addition.
The company also has made 186 parts for Arctic Cat Inc. and its line of snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles. I2tech has won awards for a stacking office chair and is starting to mold plastic siding for an undisclosed customer in building and construction.
While i2tech spent $3 million last year on equipment, it does not plan a similar capital outlay in 2005, Janeczko said. Instead, the company will look at long-term customer opportunities, including that possibility in Brazil. By Dec. 31, 2006, the company wants to hit that $35 million sales plateau - $30 million from injection molding and $5 million from tooling repair and maintenance - and up the employee base to at least 150 people.
Those goals may require another expansion in West Des Moines or growth elsewhere, Janeczko said. Taking care of business in-house, including enhancing speed to market, could help blunt the advantage of parts made in China or other far-off places, he said.
``You can't believe someone who says you can't compete unless you go overseas,'' Janeczko said. ``We don't have 30 days on the water for shipping time, and we can make mold changes and work with short lead times. You can't be doing that if you don't avail yourselves of better opportunities here.''