Roughly one year ago, three men combined energies and assets to breathe air into a flailing lost-foam business. In 2009, Alliance Foam Technologies LLC in Centralia, Mo., was recognized as Business of the Year by the Centralia Chamber of Commerce. The company's officials are expecting 10-12 percent sales growth in 2010.
Lost-foam patterns are supplied to the foundry industry as a cost-effective alternative to complex cast-metal parts, according to Alliance's Web site. The Centralia location had been operated as Diversified Plastics Corp., but that firm's officials were going to close the Centralia plant. Diversified Plastics, headquartered in Nixa, Mo., is still in operation.
We had the opportunity to push the reset button and start from scratch, said Lance McCann, Alliance's operations manager, in an April 6 telephone interview. Starting over again gave us a fresh look. I think we're a lot better now than we were before.
The three men knew it was the risk of their lives.
Plant manager Barry Stevens had worked for Diversified for 14 years. Matt Old, the group's third member, is systems manager.
We just looked at it as something we felt like we had to do, Stevens said. At least for us three, we knew there wasn't going to be much out there.
They spent hours poring over numbers to make sure that this was a feasible product to undertake. The firm had three really strong customers, Stevens said.
In discussions with them, they didn't want to have to go through expense of moving tooling to move their product somewhere else. We knew if we could do those three, the rest would follow, he said.
The new team made quite a few changes and knew they had to run a certain number of parts per hour. The group also switched to two 10-hour shifts, from three eight-hour shifts, five days a week. In that way, they were able to cut a large portion from their utilities.
They also switched to one maintenance person for preventive maintenance and outsourced to two mechanical engineering companies in the community and an electronic computer programming company.
The ride wasn't without its challenges. Two other banks had turned them down before the Bank of Missouri approved their loan. They had also received help from the Missouri Department of Economic Development.
Now with about 30 employees, the men are looking toward the future.
Lost foam is alive and well but it's getting smaller, Stevens said. We can mold anything with [expanded polystyrene].
The three of us together work real well together and that's made the difference, Old said.
As for overall manufacturing and the current state of the U.S. economy, McCann said healing begins in local economies.
I think it takes everybody. We try to do our small part, he said.
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