A major custom injection molder in northern Alabama has been expanding and upgrading its operation.
Innovative Plastics Inc. in Madison, Ala., has added floor space and new injection presses to meet increases in new business, said Innovative general manager Hosea Bartlett in a phone interview.
"We are continuing to invest in plant and technology to be the premier custom injection molding company in northern Alabama," explained Bartlett.
Innovative recently spent about $750,000 to install new Toyo and Sumitomo injection presses, Bartlett said. This is on top of some $1.8 million for a building expansion that included 14,000 square feet of high-bay manufacturing space and a 1,600-square-foot employee training area. The company estimates its recent investments boost its production capacity by 35 percent.
"We have steadily grown our business and our capabilities," Bartlett said.
The diverse molder is seeing growth in many of its markets, partly a result of reshoring manufacturing from Asia. Some companies have found the long delivery times from Asia cumbersome. Just as much of a problem, many Asian molders insist on shipping volumes that fill a seagoing container, which can be too large of an order for some clients.
Innovative's owner, T-H Marine Supplies Inc. of Huntsville, Ala., is also its biggest customer, although about 60 percent of Innovative's sales range across several markets, including office furniture, medical equipment, electronics, hunting and consumer goods. In total, the firm molds for about 50 customers in the Southeast United States. Bartlett said his firm has not been attracted to the auto sector with its wide swings in activity.
Bartlett said a prominent customer is office furniture major Steelcase Inc., which is headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich. Steelcase's biggest factory is in Athens, Ala., about 25 miles from Madison. Innovative's headquarters places it next door to Huntsville, Ala., which has a diverse manufacturing sector.
Innovative employs about 60, including staff in its in-house tool shop. The 20 injection presses in its 40,000-square-foot facility range from 85 to 825 tons. It has been ISO 9000 certified since 2001. It garnered the Alabama small manufacturer award in 2002 given by the Business Council of Alabama.
The company was founded in 1989 and 10 years later T-H Marine bought it to have its own injection molding operation. T-H Marine is one of the biggest producers of boating and fishing accessories in the United States, boasting that it supplies every boat manufacturer in the country as well as every major distributor and retailer for the outdoor products.
Bartlett said Innovative shrank considerably in the 2008-09 recession, about the time Bartlett joined the company. But it survived and diversified to grow to its current size. By the time Bartlett joined Innovative, its annual sales had slipped to $1.6 million. Lately it has been logging more than triple that revenue.
"The Huntsville area was missing a truly solid, mid-scale injection molding company for many years," stated T-H Marine CEO Jeff Huntley in a news release.
"We had to buy one and grow the business to provide the kind of volume for custom injection molded plastic products that we needed," Huntley said.