In an industry filled with companies slashing jobs, production or shutting down altogether, Weatherchem Corp. stands as an example of how an injection molder remains healthy in down times and flourishes in good times.
The Twinsburg, Ohio-based maker of polypropylene caps and closures has added four new all-electric Engel presses to its plant floor to supply a newly acquired customer with an assortment of never-before-seen caps. Weatherchem officials would not give details about the new caps.
The machines are the first Engel presses on a plant floor filled mostly with Husky-made machinery. Weatherchem officials said they anticipate running the presses for 8-10 years.
The four new machines give Weatherchem a 16-press operation at its 100,000-square-foot facility in Twinsburg, which runs 24-7, year-round. The addition represents a 24 percent capacity increase, officials said.
Bob Rodgers, Weatherchem's manager of manufacturing engineering, cited expected energy and noise reduction and cleanliness as motivating factors in the firm's decision to go with the new Engel presses. The machines are equipped with add-on high-speed clamping and high-speed injection options.
The key to making any good plastic part is to get the plastic in there as fast as it will allow, Rodgers said in a Feb. 19 interview at Weatherchem's headquarters. These [machines] were a good match for the style of molding we do.
Weatherchem molds caps and closures with living hinges for several end markets, including food involving some liquid products, nutraceuticals (vitamins and supplements), chemicals, and various dry goods.
The key to staying financially healthy enough for major growth in the toughest of economies involves not trying to be all things to all people, but to focus on specific niches and serving them with gusto, said Carol Rinder, Weatherchem's vice president of operations.
According to Cleveland-based research firm Freedonia Group Inc., U.S. demand for caps and closures is projected to spike about 5 percent annually, reaching $6.9 billion in 2010 about 221 billion units.
Increased demand for child-resistant and dispensing closures is being fueled by regulations enacted in 2002. Plastic closures are expected to be the fastest-growing industry segment, at the expense of metal, Freedonia Group said.
Weatherchem will continue to focus on value-added applications for niche markets to avoid getting into a pricing competition with low-cost, foreign competitors, principally those in China, according to Rodgers.