Entek Manufacturing Inc. of Lebanon, Ore., projects a 25 percent sales jump in 2008, has added customers and is conducting multiple trials involving bioresins.
``We feel good about the market,'' said Kirk Hanawalt, vice president and chief operating officer, noting that 2007 was Entek's second-best sales year. He said 2008 looks even better.
Entek makes twin-screw extruders and replacement wear parts for Entek and non-Entek equipment. The firm also produces other specialty tooling and engineers turnkey manufacturing projects.
During 2007, Entek gained ``half a dozen'' new customers, accounting for about 30 percent of the firm's business, said sales and marketing director John Effmann.
Its parts segment grew 70 percent in 2007 vs. the previous year, reflecting processors ``trying to keep machines running'' as factory-floor-utilization ratios climb, Effmann said. When it comes to the non-Entek-parts business, Effmann said the firm sees ``our advantage as being in North America'' and not subject to currency values impacting machinery makers with production sites in Europe and Asia.
Entek sees growth for compounding, sheet and bioresin extrusion equipment. ``We have broadened our perspective on the market,'' Effmann said. Three or four years ago, wood-plastic composites constituted a higher percentage of Entek's business, but now ``the WPC side is flat or down a little,'' he said. But new applications are surfacing.
Entek's laboratory, managed by Dean Elliott, has been conducting an increasing number of application-oriented extrusion trials, usually testing resins. Elliott joined Entek in October.
About 40 percent of the current trials are on bioresins with some applications in packaging or automotive. In some cases, the trials seek to combine bioresins with polypropylene or polyethylene, to lay claim to environmental benefits. ``That has been done in Europe for several years and now is evolving in the U.S.,'' Effmann said.
Having prior experience working with wood is a benefit in dealing with bioresins, Hanawalt said. Each material naturally holds water and is thermally sensitive.
Entek's bioresin challenge: Perfect a machine design that can reduce a high percentage of the water, preserve the bioresin and overcome a myriad of mixing issues.
In mid-2005, Entek recruited talent to implement lean initiatives and work toward continuous operational improvements.
``With a typical U.S. mind-set, we thought we would do it in six months,'' Hanawalt said. ``But it has been a long evolutionary process taking a lot of time and effort to make incremental changes.''
Now, Christine Buckner, specialist for lean initiatives, is stationed in the heart of the manufacturing shop, and she ``helps with everyone's spark and attitude,'' Effmann said.
Demand for a 40-millimeter twin-screw extruder, introduced at NPE 2006, has stretched lead times to four months from the usual two months. Customization may push delivery to five months or longer.
Entek Manufacturing employs about 85 and contracts for human resource and information technology services from a neighbor, Entek International LLC, which processes porous silica-filled polymer battery separators.