The three owners of custom PVC sheet extruder Walton Plastics Inc. combine business skills with hands-on experience and a commitment to quality sheet.
President Steve Wake said the brother team of Marvin and Tim Bollinger are ideal partners. The Bollingers began working in plastics extrusion right out of high school. They joined with Wake to start Walton Plastics in 1992 with a single used machine in this northeastern Ohio city.
Tim and Marvin are very good at processing. They're constantly trying to improve production and the process. They can both run the lines and know the equipment, Wake said.
Wake has run several companies. The thing I hate the most is customers complaining, he said. If you can solve a customer's problems and give them a good price and keep them happy, it is so much easier to sell.
Marvin Bollinger said the brothers are ready to oblige. After working for other people, they are glad to run a plastics company where they control the operation.
I just love making really good sheet. Because I look at, somebody's going to be using this, Marvin Bollinger said. That's why I was always proud of what I was making. I wanted that thing to look great.
Walton Plastics extrudes thick- and thin-gauge PVC sheet for thermoforming and printing and laminating applications. We have a pretty diverse group of customers, Wake said. Walton's customers convert the sheet into products for a variety of markets, such as pallets, signs, packaging, industrial and marine items, and wall panels for clean rooms in hospitals, pharmacies, biotechnology, electronics and the food industry.
One specialized application is soundproofing walls, made from PVC sheet loaded with a filler of powered rock.
Walton Plastics runs four sheet lines and employs 27 people. Sales reached $8.2 million in 2008. Rigid PVC sheet accounts for about 85 percent of the business.
Walton Plastics been a low-key company that has grown largely by word-of-mouth. Wake handled sales until the company hired its first sales person a few years ago. Walton Plastics is making its first appearance in the Plastics News ranking of film and sheet manufacturers, published in this issue.
When it comes to customers and spe- cifics about technology, Wake and the Bollingers play it close to the vest. They declined to release customer names for this story. They also don't give plant tours or talk much about their sheet lines.
But for customers, the flat management structure and technical expertise is an attraction, Wake said. We're very easy to work with for companies that have new projects coming on, or they want to do something a little different. We don't have to get a lot of approvals up and down the line, he said.
Management keeps some capacity in reserve, so the sheet extruder can respond quickly to customer orders.
Walton Plastics started out modestly. Marvin and Tim Bollinger were the only two employees, each trading off 12-hour shifts. They still spend most of their time in the 40,000-square-foot factory, Marvin as plant manager and Tim as production manager.
The plastics careers of the brothers, natives of tiny Marshall, Ind., followed a similar path. Marvin got interested in plastics when a friend, who worked at Futurex Industries Inc. in nearby Bloomingdale, took him to see the sheet extrusion operation. I thought, 'Man this is so interesting.' So that's when I thought, 'Hey, this is something I want to go after,' he recalled.
Right after graduating from high school in 1980, Marvin got a job there, and Tim followed a few years later when he graduated.
They soaked it all up. That was my college. I learned everything there was, how to troubleshoot these machines, Marvin said.
Experienced gained at Futurex led to a job for Marvin as production manager at a sheet extruder and thermoformer in Virginia, a company that is no longer in business. Again, his brother joined him.
In the late 1980s, they met Wake, who bought the sheet and re-sold it for a company called GLT Products.
Tim Bollinger picked up experience in profile extrusion, taking a job at Omni Products International Inc. in Richmond, Va., an extruder and manufacturer of outdoor furniture.
After a few years of discussions, Wake and the Bollinger brothers decided to start their own sheet extrusion company. The brothers found a used sheet line in Cleveland. GLT already had a building available in nearby Walton Hills.
Marvin and Tim Bollinger rebuilt the extrusion line and downstream equipment. They were the entire workforce for the first two years.
I wanted to bring Tim in too, because I knew what he knew, Marvin said. And that way, I had someone out here fighting to make sure we get a good product.
Walton Plastics replaced the used line with a brand new one and gradually began to hire employees and train them.
The owners have moved conservatively to build Walton Plastics.
We could've built this company a lot faster and a lot bigger if we wanted to. But we stayed underneath the radar, Marvin Bollinger said. We just wanted to make good products.
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