Injection molder River Bend Industries LLC will expand manufacturing at its Victor, Iowa, facility, transferring machinery and workers from another Iowa plant that will be leased out.
River Bend will invest about $1 million in the Victor plant. The expanded plant will have a total of more than 55 processing machines: some vertical injection presses with clamping forces of 30-3,000 tons, and the rest blow molding machines.
About 70 employees will be added to the Victor workforce, many of whom will come from River Bend's plant in North Liberty, Iowa, according to the company. The North Liberty facility will be leased out.
Two new product lines are bolstering manufacturing at Fort Smith, Ark.-based River Bend.
In addition to Flo-Cell polypropylene drainage cells for Australia's Atlantis Water Management, River Bend also is molding PP 12- and 18-gallon sealed medical-waste containers for Hospitec Inc. of Fort Smith.
River Bend has benefited from original equipment manufacturers in the medical, water-management and appliance industries, General Manager Bill Collins said in an Oct. 12 telephone interview.
He said the company is working with University of Iowa researchers to sample at the request of several customers a bio-based wood-plastic composite and plans to commercialize it during the first quarter of 2011.
River Bend employs about 340. It runs 122 injection molding machines ranging from 30-3,000 tons of clamping force, and has 44,000 square feet of manufacturing space among the three plants.
The company formed in 2006 when President Ron Embree, a former president of Moll Industries Inc., and business partner Chuck Butler bought a former Moll plant in Fort Smith.
Sales basically remained flat from 2008-09 at about $52 million, Collins said, as the firm weathered the global economic downturn. The Atlantis contract, signed last spring, provided some relief.
We won the work, then the resin [prices] skyrocketed, so that hampered the ramp-up of [production], but as the resin's come back down over the last four months, we're in production, he said.
Flo-Cell panels are used in landscaping and are made from recycled PP. Atlantis sells them in 50 countries, putting the lie to the myth that something environmentally friendly is more expensive or less practical, Atlantis director Felipe Kovacic said in a recent news release from River Bend.
Hospitec recently relocated to the U.S. from Calgary, Alberta, and contracted with River Bend to mold Hospitec's line of Department of Transportation PG II-rated hazardous medical-waste containers.
We needed a manufacturing partner that could offer production, complete assembly, packaging, warehousing as well as distribution to our customers and we found that at River Bend, Julie Becker, Hospitec's vice president of sales, said in the release.
In the last year, River Bend has seen OEMs in the agricultural and appliance markets make strategic moves to supply U.S.-made products, Collins said.
River Bend has invested in new welding equipment for a contract with engine maker Cummins Inc., and may make additional machinery investments to meet the needs of other clients.
The company is especially happy with the outcome of its 2008 acquisition of Victor Plastics Inc. for about $17 million, Collins said. The acquisition brought in the two Iowa plants.
In 2009, River Bend installed automated process-monitoring systems in all three of its plants, recertified and achieved ISO 9001-2008 status,
We're well into the acquisition, and the Victor side of the business keeps rolling along, Collins said.
In addition to its core injection molding work, River Bend also offers blow molding, gas-assisted molding and two-shot capacity.