Despite the challenging economic climate, injection molder HTI Plastics which derives 60 percent of its business from the medical and pharmaceutical markets is embarking on a $3.5 million expansion and renovation that will add a 24,000-square-foot white room.
We are bursting at the seams, said HTI President Paul Almburg, who also is the group leader of the plastics division of HTI's parent, Plastics Cos. Enterprises in Lincoln, Neb. We probably should have done it a year ago. It was either expand or stop growing, he said in a telephone interview March 25. We would have had to turn away business if we didn't expand.
Almburg said Lincoln-based HTI posted record sales in both 2007 and 2008, was growing at a double-digit clip of more than 15 percent, and that this year has started out even better.
The new white room will be used exclusively for medical molding of products such as pharmaceutical applicators, drug-delivery devices and dosage cups, he said. The company broke ground on a new building the week of March 17. That plant is being built next to HTI's current, 48,000-square-foot facility in Lincoln, and will include 11,000 square feet of warehouse space.
We are hoping for the new building to be up and operational early in the fourth quarter, Almburg said. In addition, HTI is completely renovating 20,000 square feet of its existing plant, with 8,000 square feet to be used for clean room and assembly and the rest for secondary operations like sonic welding and pad printing.
During the next two to three years, HTI will double its number of injection molding machines from 20 to 40, with clamping forces ranging from 50-950 tons, and add 30-35 employees, Almburg said. The company now employs about 80.
HTI's plant normally operates three shifts, five days a week, but for the first 21/2 months of this year it operated seven days a week. With all the business that we have been bringing in lately, we have had a hard time keeping up, Almburg said.
The expansion and renovation will allow HTI to separate its medical and pharmaceutical business from its sporting goods and custom manufacturing, which will remain at the current site. We are experiencing very steady growth in plastic gunstocks for hunting rifles and pistols, he noted.
HTI will move equipment into the new building during the renovation, which should be completed by February.
We expect that it will take us three to five years to get up to full capacity in the new plant, hopefully three, Almburg said. We are doing this expansion in such a way that we can do another expansion in five years.
He called the current economic situation somewhat frightful.
I am concerned about it. That is why it took us until now to decide we had to do this, Almburg said. But this is the culmination of the effort we began when we reorganized five years ago to increase revenues and reduce costs through operational efficiencies.
We have done a lot of internal automation. We have our own engineering toolroom and build our own automation systems. We use a lot of robotics and automated assembly systems. That helps us compete against offshore competitors, he said. We can help our customers develop new products.
Other companies in the plastics division of investing and holding company Plastic Cos. Enterprises include Geist Plastics Inc., which extrudes polyethylene and PVC pipe, and specialty bottle blow molder Apex Plastics.