McLaren suggested that Miller meet mega-cell creator Len Graham, then business leader of the mega-cell. Flextronics International Ltd. subsidiary Lynx Medpak Inc. acquired the mold making unit from Berry Plastics Group Inc., effective Nov. 1.
Berry terminated Graham on Oct. 31, and he joined Matrix as chief operating officer on Nov. 3. Graham is facilitating Miller's efforts to rapidly make connections in the plastics industry, but he does not anticipate a chance to create another mega-cell.
Currently, Matrix employs 20-25 including contract workers, recorded sales of $1.5 million for the fiscal year ended Oct. 31 and has 26 “well-maintained” hydraulic presses of 75-700 tons in a brick 1950s-era 80,000-square-foot facility. Capacity utilization is about 20 percent now, but Miller said, “three years ago, it was operating at a better capacity.”
She has “torn down walls, painted and removed obsolete materials and machines” in moving ahead.
Miller is forming synergistic relationships in design, mold making and manufacturing to meet what she perceives as the interests of prospective customers for a full range of services.
In-house design engineers at the advanced design and manufacturing studio of M.C. Ginsberg Jewelers Inc. in Iowa City, Iowa, provide product development and prototyping services.
Potential mold making suppliers include Geoff Luther at A-1 Tool Corp. in Melrose Park, Ill.; Francine Petrucci at BA Die Mold Inc. in Aurora, Ill.; Dave Long at Pro Mold & Die in Roselle, Ill.; and Donna Purcell at Prestige Mold Inc. in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Miller is structuring a proprietary production-sharing deal with a McHenry County manufacturer.
With a friend's assistance, Miller transitioned the firm's data storage to Microsoft-hosted cloud computing services and discarded a mainframe from the 1980s.
Six new fast-processor computers from Hewlett-Packard Co. of Palo Alto, Calif., have replaced older desktops.
“In the past, most work at Matrix has been high touch beyond the molding phase,” she said, but that will change with the CEO's “obsession” to implement “leap-frog” technologies such as additive manufacturing and three-dimensional printing.
“I plan to have a 3-D printer in-house and share it with other businesses in McHenry County,” she said.
A system from E2 Software Oy of Espoo, Finland, will deal with quoting, cost accounting and tracking of raw materials and finished goods. Miller researched available software. Her inquiries yielded 38 quick responses and led to demonstrations of four systems and a final E2 presentation during which all employees participated.
The Chicago office of consultancy IMSM Inc. is helping move Matrix toward ISO certification.
While Matrix lacks a sales force, Miller uses a customer-relationship-management product from Salesforce Inc. of San Francisco en route to possibly adding sales talent.
Raymond C. Wenk Sr., a tool and die maker, saw an entrepreneurial opportunity and founded Matrix in 1976, initially making molds. He retired in 2012.
Wenk invented the plastic hose clamp, patented the automotive technology in the late 1970s and, as a molder, manufactured the glass-filled nylon parts for General Motors Corp. and others. That production continues.
Wenk included the Roman numeral “IV” in the company name to represent his capabilities in engineering, tooling, designing and manufacturing.
The business succeeded in making components for automotive, aerospace and consumer products, but Wenk sequentially experienced the downside of allowing a single customer to account for 80 percent of his business at any one time.
In the 1980s, it was the buyout of an automotive customer. In the 1990s, a consumer business went bankrupt. And in the 2000s, a maker of consumer coffee pots and blenders took the work to Mexico.
Volume at one point required Wenk to add capacity. He acquired an 80,000-square-foot building with a rail siding in Huntley, Ill., about 11 miles south of Woodstock. Currently, a tenant uses the space for assembly.
At its peak in 2000, Matrix recorded annual sales of about $14.5 million, but that slid to $8 million and then to $3.98 million for the fiscal year ended Oct. 31, 2013.
Wenk educated his daughter, Dianna, on the technical side of polymer materials, and she serves now as process engineer for Matrix. Dianna Wenk is Miller's mother.
Miller, who grew up in nearby Crystal Lake, was allowed as a fifth grader to fly unaccompanied to visit a friend in Switzerland, whetting her appetite for foreign travel.
At age 15, she designed Matrix's original website, now being replaced.
Her Spanish studies in school over many years come in handy in communicating with some Matrix production workers.
She graduated from the University of Iowa with bachelor degrees in marketing and journalism and was an intern in an entrepreneurship program. Currently, Miller is a member of the university's entrepreneurial alumni advisory board.
She graduated from University College London with a master's degree in legal and political theory. While in London, she was an intern with Parliament and the British Labour Party headquarters working on policy and task development and helping interested parties establish democracies, mostly in African countries.
Wanting to return to the U.S., Miller relocated to Honolulu as a political aide to Hawaii State Sen. Les S. Ihara Jr.
She joined Eli Lilly & Co. in Honolulu in September 2007 in neuroscience sales and became a certified Six Sigma Black Belt. Subsequently, she was with Lilly in market research in Indianapolis and was certified in the discipline during a program at the University of Georgia.
Miller marketed Lilly men's health technology globally and was involved in U.S. marketing of diabetes drugs for a Ridgefield, Conn.-based alliance of Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH. “I launched products and was a brand leader,” she said.
From June 2012 to July 2014, she held marketing positions with human enzyme research firm Halozyme Therapeutics Inc. in San Diego. At one stage, Miller was in charge of a Halozyme group developing the design of a diabetes device, selecting resins and colors and sourcing manufacturers. Also, she was involved with development of a Halozyme oncology device for dealing with tumors.
With intentions to continue climbing the plastics industry learning curve, Miller plans to attend the 2015 NPE show in Orlando, Fla., in March.
Mold making industry veteran Graham said of Miller and Matrix, “People this dynamic are hard to find. She is … so full of fire and presents herself extremely well in customer visits. We mean business, are competitive, don't have overhead and want some non-clean room medical work in here.”