Venture Plastics Inc. is ready to play on a global stage, thanks to its new plant set to open this summer in El Paso, Texas.
VPI enjoys a core of loyal, long-standing customers - a definite strength - but Venture officials know that's no longer enough to survive in the brutally competitive custom molding arena.
``It's those customers that are driving us with that global aspect, to go beyond the borders of northeast Ohio,'' Steve Trapp, vice president and general manager, said in a March 28 interview at company headquarters in Newton Falls.
Executives are working to improve VPI's standing by beefing up design, controlling costs through advanced plant monitoring and opening up the new plant to serve customers' operations in Texas and Mexico.
Trapp said Venture plans to install eight to 10 injection presses in the 55,000-square-foot El Paso plant, which should begin operations July 1. Clamping forces will range from 300-700 tons. About half the machines will be new and half will be moved from Venture's two factories in Newton Falls and Burton, Ohio.
VPI's goal during the next five years is to move into the upper 25 percent of U.S. custom molders, based on sales, profit, manufacturing overhead, inventory turns and administrative costs, he said. That would mean sales of about $50 million - a big jump from 2005 sales of $19 million, generated from 150 employees in Newton Falls and Burton, Ohio. The firm runs 28 injection molding presses at both plants, with up to 725 tons of clamping force.
Trapp agrees that's a pretty aggressive goal. But he said VPI starts with some big advantages, especially a diverse base of eight to 10 solid, long-term customers. Most are not far from Venture's headquarters. The firm was founded in 1969 by Ken Groff, who remains majority owner today.
VPI's largest market is cars and heavy trucks, accounting for 28 percent of sales. Other markets include appliances, telecommunications, consumer goods and industrial parts. Some key customers are Commscope Inc., a telecommunications company; Dover Corp. and its line of components for gas stations; Delphi Connection Systems; ladder manufacturer Werner Co. and the Frigidaire unit of Electrolux AB.
Many of those customers are setting up manufacturing outside of the northeast Ohio/western Pennsylvania area.
``If we're going to be sensitive to our key accounts, [we have to] go where they want us to go,'' Trapp said. ``And Mexico is the first step.''
Venture has set up teams dedicated to each major customer.
Trapp said several customers will support the El Paso plant. Last year, the company got a jump-start by hiring a sales engineer in Ju rez, Mexico.
Venture signed a lease/purchase agreement for the Texas plant. The building already has water lines, cranes and a good electrical system. Venture will install resin-conveying equipment.
The company recently purchased three Mitsubishi injection presses. One of them, a 500-tonner, will go to El Paso. Trapp said Newton Falls is getting the other two, which have clamping forces of 610 and 720 tons.
Several things set VPI apart from other smaller molders, said Bryon Osborne, director of sales and marketing. The company uses RJG Inc.'s mold-cavity pressure-monitoring equipment. Each injection press has a production-monitoring system from Mattec Corp., tied into an IQMS enterprise-resource-planning system for both factories. A design engineering team has started running Moldflow Corp. mold-filling simulation software on a SolidWorks Corp. computer-aided-design system.
On some presses, robots screen out bad parts from the good.
The company also does structural foam molding, overmolding and insert molding. ``We like to do complex parts,'' said Gary Flattum, vice president of operations.
According to Trapp, Venture's sales increased 15 percent in 2005, as it picked up $2.5 million worth of new business.
The firm also passed a milestone by picking up the auto industry TS 16949 certification.