Schaumburg, Ill.-based Innovative Components Inc. is taking some proactive steps to adopt technology, get new equipment and benefit students with special needs.
Innovative invested about $2 million in software and machinery at its two locations during 2016 and 2017 with more investment planned in 2018.
"We decided to pretty much replace the entire fleet over a 2½-year period to be competitive and have the most efficient technology," said President Mike O'Connor. "We have begun to build our own automation because the newer machines are suitable for automation."
Innovative and its division Componentes Innovadores Ltda. in Cartago, Costa Rica, sell knobs with more than 10,000 part numbers and a wide variety of designs including knurled, fluted, tapered, push-pull, press-on, snap-lock, self-tapering and press-fit styles.
Production includes plastic clamping knobs, wire rope lanyard assemblies, quick-release pins, swell latches and the proprietary Thread Detective-brand identifier. Gliding gauges on a wire lanyard allow a Thread Detective user to distinguish between similar inch and metric threads on nuts and bolts.
More than 90 percent of the knob production involves overmolding a commodity thermoplastic or a soft-touch elastomer on a metal insert.
"We are diversified with about 1,200 customers per year and less than 8 percent for any single customer," O'Connor said. As a benefit of the diversity, "we don't have the amount of risk a custom molder has."
End markets include consumer products, office furniture, outdoor power equipment, retail hardware and agricultural implements.
The proprietary molder ships half of its output directly to original equipment manufacturers and the reminder through wholesale distributors such as W.W. Grainger Inc. and MSC Industrial Direct Co. Inc. and online mega-retailer Amazon.com Inc.
In 2008, Innovative acquired the assets of competitor US Knobs of Decatur, Ill., expanding Innovative's product line by 16 knob styles.
Since 2008, Innovative has more than doubled its sales, and O'Connor projects a 16 percent growth in sales for 2017 vs. last year.
The privately held business has annual sales in the range of $10 million to $15 million.
Innovative employs 50 in its 30,000-square-foot Schaumburg plant. The 15,000-square-foot Costa Rica facility has 70 employees including 12 certified mold makers.
Both facilities are certified under ISO 9001:2008.