Konrady Plastics is gearing up to go after new business beyond sheet, rod and tube distribution by beefing up its precision part production capacity and technical capability.
The privately owned Portage, Ind.-based company has started construction on a $3 million, 25,000-square-foot expansion program that will double the manufacturing floor space, create a third more warehouse capacity, and add machinery and 14 employees over the next four years.
The plan is to manufacture more finished products to the specification of customers that currently handle it in-house themselves or turn to yet another company for the service.
“We're approaching our customers for opportunities to add value to the material we sell,” Chief Operating Officer John Dumelle explained in a telephone interview. “Rather than come and buy a piece of plastic sheet, rod or tube, we're looking at what that material is being used for and turning that material into parts. We're able to manufacture the finished product for the customer so he doesn't have to touch it anymore.”
Konrady Plastics has hundreds of customers in mostly the food packaging, agriculture and transportation end markets, Dumelle said, but also conveyors, pharmaceuticals, mining and water treatment. While the distribution of sheets, rods and tubes makes up a big portion of sales, company officials started asking customers what they do with the materials and if Konrady Plastics could be of help.
“Our customers are very interested in our ability to support their growth,” Dumelle said. “They want us to take them to the finished part and then as their business grows, they want to know that we will grow with them and that is how we have aligned ourselves.”
About $1.4 million of the new investment will go into new equipment and the rest into the addition onto the existing 25,000-square-foot facility. Construction is expected to be complete in January. Then, Konrady will reconfigure its 50,000 square feet of space for machining, inventory and offices.
“The new equipment will be a combination of upgrading existing equipment to more current technology and adding new technology to the company — and maybe even to the area,” Dumelle said. “We're going to have a new capability that may not be really available here in northwest Indiana. But to say what that is right now would be a little premature.”
Konrady has been making plastic parts for some customers already with the five lathes, seven computer numerically controlled mills, three routers and various saws in its machine shop but there's an increased focus on this side of the business now.
“We've put more emphasis on it than we have in the past,” Dumelle said. “We've always had the capability to do it but we're taking on new challenges and looking at things in a different way. It's kind of an evolution. Bernie [Konrady] founded the company 35 years ago to support the window and glass repair people. If they needed a sheet of acrylic or polycarbonate for glass repair he'd sell the sheet or cut it to size.”
Over time, Konrady added machinery and got into milling and turning and then maintenance repair and overhaul.
“People would come in with a broken part or an obsolete part for him to duplicate,” Dumelle said. “That's been part of the business and that will always be part of the business. But we've been more active in pursuing repeat work, providing complete products, and taking on more technical challenges.”
Konrady Plastics currently has 35 employees and will add 14 machinists, warehouse workers and administrative staff as part of its expansion plan, which has received tax abatements on the property expansion and any new equipment from Portage officials.