Orlando, Fla. — It may not be a Cozy Coupe, but LT Molding Solutions Inc., a division of Little Tikes, is poised to move forward with its production to rotationally mold and produce fuel tanks, snagging a key certification to boost its efforts.
The Hudson, Ohio-based company announced it has received certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to rotationally mold and produce gasoline fuel tanks.
The company announced its new EPA certification in advance of NPE2018.
According to LT Molding Solutions officials, in addition to the new capability resulting from the EPA certification, LT Molding continues to offer services from design, engineering, production and distribution. LT Molding Solutions is operated as a separate business from Little Tikes.
Tom Fish, senior director of new business development, said their rotational molding process creates a single layered tank that gets the nod from the EPA. It provides an option for companies that produce low-volume lawn equipment, such as commercial-grade zero-turn tractors.
A tank can be molded for diesel purposes with little to no certification required, but for gasoline tanks, that isn't the case. However, the tooling is cheaper than other processes, making it a good option for low-volume tank applications.
"This is an alternative for these companies to get fuel tanks," he said. "Rotomolding can make tanks that come in a variety of shapes, which other processes cannot make."
Complicated shapes can be created using the rotomolding process.
"We are molding a very traditional part out of HDPE," Fish said.
A chemical treatment changes the surface chemistry of the tank and creates a barrier that reduces evaporation through the plastic.
The company states that it has converted more than 120 million pounds of plastic into products over the last four decades. It also has more than 600,000 square feet of production space and another 650,000 square feet of warehouse space.
For the company, the next step is to get certification in California.
"We aren't concerned with passing it," Fish said. "We passed the EPA review with flying colors."
Over the last year, the company has been focusing on establishing a solid customer base, and Fish said the certification will boost those efforts.
The company is now looking to develop products that might be sold by another customer.
Rosanne Kubisty, who recently was hired as vice president of marketing and new business development, said the bankruptcy of Toys R Us looms over the industry.
As a result, the company is looking at opportunities in other end markets and possible options with other retailers. The custom work can help to even out the business.
"With the kind of business that Little Tikes is, we have more spring-type products than your average toy company," Kubisty said. "It is pretty evenly split, but now we want to focus on how we pick up what would have been Toys R Us business. We want to know what we have to do to meet the needs of other retailers."
Fish noted that companies are reluctant to leave a vendor, even for a lower price, unless they are frustrated. As a result, LT Molding Solutions is looking to help potential customers create new products.
The company now has the muscle of the Little Tikes sales force to help it move products.
"One of the highest priorities of the business is to make sure the Hudson Factory is loaded and running efficiently," Fish said. "It will help everything. When production is running efficiently and at lower cost, it benefits everybody."
Little Tikes has brought in employees on the injection and blow molding side, including filling some technical positions. Fish said the rotomolding employment has held steady.
Fish said the potential challenges the company could face, such as material prices and labor, impact everyone.
"When we are making a bid, other companies have to pay the same resin prices as we do, so it really isn't an issue," he said.
On the toy side, Fish noted that Little Tikes has seen some of its business return from China. Rotomolding production usually is close to the customer base, so reshoring isn't an issue.
Looking forward, Kubisty said the company will look for new business opportunities, which will be boosted by support from Issac Larian, CEO of MGA Entertainment, which owns Little Tikes.
"There is a pretty strong made-in-America movement that we hope to capitalize on," she said.