That unmistakable smell of plastics, Doug Borgsdorf says, gave him butterflies on his first day on job in this industry so many years ago.
As the relatively new general manager of Woodruff Corp. in Richmond, Ind., he still gets that feeling when he gets to work.
“Plastics have a distinct smell when you are melting it or extruding it or anything like that. When I smell that, it's like that first day 15 years ago,” he said. “I still get that feeling anytime I walk in and smell plastics. I'm still just as excited.”
Borgsdorf has good reason to be excited these days as he is marshaling the corrugated plastic packaging maker through an expansion plan that's aimed at doubling sales in 18 months.
“It's a very aggressive growth program, which is going to require a very aggressive investment,” he said.
So the subsidiary of Primex Plastics Corp., also based in Richmond, is investing cash in both equipment and people to help make that happen.
Woodruff is taking more control of its destiny by adding new equipment that lessens its dependence on subcontractors.
The packaging maker has long relied on plastic corrugated sheeting made by Primex as one of its key raw materials to make its corrugated packaging.
And now, the company is investing about a half a million dollars in equipment and plant upgrades to allow its own workers to cut the foam inserts used in many of those containers to hold and protect parts.
“For us, it was managing the quality and the delivery time for our customers,” Borgsdorf said about bringing foam-cutting capabilities in-house. “We were dependent on other people's quality and we were dependent on their lead times.”
And that didn't always work out so well.
“We were having packaging sitting there waiting for foam, waiting for foam, waiting for foam. We just needed to be able to do it ourselves internally,” he said.
Not having absolute control of delivery time to its customers, the general manager said, could be difficult.
So instead of waiting for outside contractors to supply the foam to fit into the plastic corrugated containers Woodruff makes for its customers, the company now is tackling that part of the business as well.
Woodruff purchased a machine called a waterjet that can make precision cuts in foam to allow items such as automotive parts and medical equipment — for example — to travel safely in the corrugated containers to their destinations.
High pressure water, controlled by robotics, makes the cuts.
“It's amazing. You can cut the foam within millimeters. The specs are incredible,” Borgsdorf said.
But acquiring a waterjet is just one part of Woodruff's expansion plans, he said, as the company also has acquired four new sonic welders that will allow employees to increase daily production.
“I wasn't limited by the number of people I had,” Borgsdorf said. “I was limited by the equipment I had.”
Employees use these welders to construct the corrugated packaging.
“When it comes to actually putting the packaging together, it's all done by hand. It's pretty fun to walk in and see an operation where there are people lined up making a product that's made in the U.S.,” he said.
Woodruff, Borgsdorf said, expected to add seven new employees to its staff of 65 thanks to the new foam cutting capabilities.
The company also refurbished a 5,000-square-foot area of its facility to store and dry foam.