New Albany, Ind. — PTG Silicones Inc. is a lean, mean, automated machine.
And that's just the way President Brendan Cahill likes it.
The firm, approaching its 10-year anniversary, remains small in size with just 12 employees. But that's because of a core philosophy to focus on highly automated processes to produce liquid silicone rubber parts.
“It drives consistency,” Cahill said. “When you look at a cycle time with automation and having a molding cell that's varying by plus or minus a hundredth of a second, when you have that kind of capability your stability is very good. You have very little variability in part quality.
“The challenge with a manual process is no matter how diligent people are, you're always going to have that variability in the cycle time. With automation and having that kind of a manufacturing style, you don't have that.”
The firm operates one facility spanning 5,100 square feet in New Albany. This includes about 3,000 square feet of manufacturing space with five LSR molding machines and 12 employees, a 1,000-square-foot Class 100,000 clean room, and 1,100 square feet of office space.
When Cahill formed the company in 2007, he made the switch from the plastics to rubber industry because he saw an opportunity to stand out in the market.
“There are so many good thermoplastic molders out there that I didn't feel we could differentiate ourselves in that market,” Cahill said. “When I looked at what we wanted to do, I wanted to be able to run high automation. I thought there would be a better opportunity to do that in liquid silicone rather than doing it in traditional thermoplastic molding.”
PTG operates primarily in the food packaging market, but also does work in the automotive, medical, dental, large appliance, consumer and personal care industries. While the firm would not disclose its sales, Cahill said it is focused solely on LSR. The only thermoplastic molding capability it provides is in conjunction with LSR, for instance bonding the silicone to another material.
Its products include sealing components for food packaging, automotive and medical, and flow control valves for dispensing of liquids in food packaging, among others.
A lot has changed in the 10 years since PTG's founding. The executive said the firm has evolved its ability to automate and really refined its lights-out manufacturing. It's also entered into secondary operations, such as slitting, in-process machining inspection and post-curing.
“We continue to develop techniques and methods for manufacturing and then we apply those to new projects,” Cahill said. “We want to take that knowledge and also apply it to things we've done in the past.”
Business is doing well. PTG remains in the same building as it was in 2007, but Cahill said the firm is running out of space and could see the facility expanding sometime in the near future.
“We need more manufacturing space for molding cells and new projects to make sure we bring everything back together,” Cahill said. “Making things more efficient and making sure things flow more smoothly.”
But what really sets PTG apart in the industry is its highly automated process. Cahill said it's been a learning process, one that's been refined over the years. He added that PTG has turned down business that would require it to run a program manually. “That's not us. We're not resourced for that,” he said.
“There's a way we have to design the molds and look at how the parts are designed as well,” Cahill said. “And the part has to be conducive to running like that. If a customer comes to us and we don't feel we can run it with automation the way that we want to, then we will decline it.”
Going into 2017, Cahill said PTG will continue to refine its manufacturing process with a goal to become more involved in upfront design and development than it is currently, and begin to develop some of its own valves for food packaging with an aim to increase efficiency for its customers.