Johann Hofschuster got into the mold making business back in 1979 with help from friends in Rochester, N.Y., who supplied the local Magnavox and General Electric manufacturing sites.
Then, the friends sent some automotive work to Hofshuster, who operated Atlas Mold Inc. out of a rented facility in Arden, N.C., with two employees.
"We stayed busy and we grew rather rapidly," Hofshuster said in a phone interview. "Within two years we were up to 20 employees and had started building our own 10,000-square-foot building. It was fantastic."
Forty years later, the business, now called Atlas Precision Inc. offers custom injection molding, too, and has 120 employees, including 20 mold designers and makers, at a 67,000-square-foot facility. The company offers material blending of up to six additives, polymers and regrinds; visual inspection stations for quality control; automated robotics for consistent processes and competitive pricing; and assembly and packaging.
Atlas Precision saw sales of about $15 million last year, Hofshuster said, with the bulk of jobs coming from automotive customers. They go to the mold maker and contract manufacturer for engineered plastic components like connectors, air bags, wire harnesses, covers and storage devices.
The company also produces parts for safety devices, such as breathing equipment for firefighters, and health care products and packaging for Johnson & Johnson and St. Jude. Hofshuster said he sees opportunity in these markets and explained why Atlas, a company whose strength has been automotive connectors, is ready to seize it.
"We do a lot of high-volume jobs with high-cavitation molds, fast cycles and high precision," Hofshuster said. "Everything we do involves high precision."
Atlas also has invested in production capabilities, added sales staff and launched marketing campaigns to pursue customers in the health care and medical markets.
The company recently added a new wire-cut electrical discharge machining center for tool builds. Atlas has been adding about three electric injection presses per year for the last five years, Hofshuster said, and currently has 38 presses ranging in size from 20-310 tons of clamping force.
A clean room is being considered next.
"We have we structured our company for growth. We're pushing to grow 10 percent annually. That's our goal," Hofshuster said, adding that he thinks $35 million in sales in five to six years is within reach.
Two important facets of the business have remained in place for 40 years, according to Hofshuster.
"We've had loyal employment and steady growth," he said. "That's been a highlight of all of our years in business. We've had our ups and downs, but in the last seven to eight years we've grown consistently 5-10 percent."
Atlas Precision will celebrate its 40th anniversary in April with a cookout for employees and customers.