Xccent Inc. has moved into the rubber industry by launching a unit that will serve the health-care market.
Unlike many other rubber product startups, the plastic products maker from Osceola, Wis., has committed to manufacturing its rubber-latex-dipped ice bags and feminine-care kits in the U.S. rather than low-cost production countries, said John Mathiesen, Xccent's president and chief executive officer.
The new rubber division is housed at Xccent's 80,000-square-foot Osceola plant. Mathiesen anticipates the unit will produce about 650,000 ice bags this year. Both the bags and feminine kits are dip molded and flocked.
``We had available space at the Osceola plant where we built a dedicated 25-station center and added machinery for the new business,'' Mathiesen said.
The firm, which has 12 dipping machines in Osceola, also operates a 35,000-square-foot facility in Fort Payne, Ala., where it makes commercial playground equipment and employs 16.
Xccent did not have to add to its 100-member work force, which is part of Xccent's medical and industrial business. The firm did not disclose the project's exact cost, but Mathiesen said the company devoted a considerable amount of money to its capital improvement.
The center is competitive with overseas operations and also was designed to handle gloves, catheters and other products, he said at the International Latex Conference, held Aug 21-22 in Las Vegas.
The computerized work center operates with a conveyor system. Dissimilar molds can run at the same time, and the system recognizes each at a particular station, said Gregg Reinmann, director of business development, who was brought in to help build the rubber division.
More offerings for the pharmaceutical and medical industries also are likely to be added in the next year or so, Reinmann said. ``We can branch out from our present niches because our work center is very flexible.''
Reinmann said one of his primary goals is to expand Xccent's product line using synthetic alternative polymers, citing catheters, ultrasound covers and radiation-resistant gloves as prime possibilities.
He has a long background in the rubber industry. He was manager of continuous improvement at Hospira Inc. for three years and worked at its parent company, Abbott Laboratories, for 13 years.
``Gregg brings us expertise in rubber molding, and we have a strong background in PVC dipping, so we did have a lot of knowledge when we started this,'' Mathiesen said.
Xccent, which was formerly Nickelson Plastics Inc. before Mathiesen bought the firm and changed its name in 2003, has been positioning itself for growth during the last four years. It's made strong headway in its three other businesses: commercial playground equipment, recreation playground assemblies and exterior decking.
The firm constructs the playground equipment with vinyl-coated steel and makes its decks using a variety of materials, Mathiesen said.
He said Xccent Medical and Industrial, the fourth business, makes a number of different items, including vinyl-coated products for the electrical applications on industrial side, while medical focuses on rubber goods.