Green estimated about 30 percent of US Merchants' business is plastics-related, including thermoforming operations that not only build tooling but also make packaging for products. The company strives to create an integrated approach to maintain quality control.
As a private company, US Merchants is loathe to give out too much information, but it now produces plastic totes from plants in Ontario, Calif.; Phoenix; Prince George, Va.; and Houston, where the new facility mentioned by Green also will be placed. The Phoenix site opened in the summer with an initial placement of 69 LS Mtron machines.
US Merchants expects to open a manufacturing site in the United Kingdom and another the Montreal area.
Green's allegiance to LS Mtron can be traced directly to Shingo Hirate, president of Hirate America Inc., a manufacturer's representative.
Hirate took the time to explain injection molding in detail at a 2014 trade show, a move that impressed Green. US Merchants ended up buying several machines from another company through Hirate in 2014 before moving to LS Mtron machines in 2018 at Hirate's recommendation.
"We knew very little, if anything, about injection molding," Green recalled. "The one thing about Shingo is he had no idea who he was talking to — a big company, a small company or no company."
Hirate said that is just what he does at every trade show with everyone he meets.
"You never know. Somebody who wants a startup, I would like to guide them on the journey and help them grow. And if they grow, I would join them on the ride as well. My philosophy has never changed, and I'm still riding the US Merchants ride right now," Hirate said.
Green pointed to Hirate's willing approach along with ongoing service provided by E-Solution Inc.'s Steve Gwon that not only helps establish manufacturing operations but also quickly responds when there is a problem with equipment, which Green said is not very often.
"They are reliable," he said of the injection molding machines. "You really don't have any issues with any downtime."
LS Mtron was founded as part of the South Korean conglomerate LG Corp., a multinational operation that has dozens of companies, including LG Chem, in a diverse set of industries. The injection molding machinery business began as a way to provide parts to other LG manufacturing companies and later branched out.
Peter Gardner is president of LS Mtron Injection Molding Machine USA, a branch of the business that provides Green with his machines. Gardner said the vast network of LG-related operations is a strength allowing his company to respond quickly to orders.
"We own a lot of the vertical supply chain. We were a spinoff of LG Electronics, which began building their own injection molding machines because they had a huge appetite for injection molding machines and their suppliers could not keep up," he explained.
"By owning a lot of that vertical supply chain, we are able to build a machine in 100 days or less," Gardner said.
US Merchants' Green said LS Mtron's personalized service sticks out to him. That includes the company's willingness to create a brand-new injection molding machine size.
LS Mtron, when the company first started supplying machines to US Merchants, had equipment with 1,200 tons or 1,400 tons of clamping force, a measurement of how much pressure is used to keep two halves of a mold together during the manufacturing process.
The company created an intermediate machine, with 1,300 tons of clamping force, when it became apparent that size was the sweet spot to manufacture US Merchants' most popular 27-gallon tote. The company still runs lots of machines with 1,200 and 1,400 tons of clamping force, and the new Phoenix site even has machinery with 2,000 tons of clamping force. The company's network of LS Mtron equipment also includes machines with less clamping force for smaller parts.
Being an injection molding machine maker that makes equipment for use by sister companies as well as the general market provides LS Mtron with an advantage, Gardner said. The experience and feedback his company gains from affiliated companies helps inform decision-making.
"The philosophy is a machine made for molders, by molders, people who actually do this on a day-by-day basis," he said, adding he does not "know of any other machine maker that uses their own machines."
US Merchants uses LS Mtron machines to make totes in 12-, 23- and 27-gallon sizes. The company will soon add 15-, 17- and 40-gallon totes to production.
"Normally, I wouldn't be doing anything for the public to read about my company. I'm very low-key. I mind my own business. I don't want anybody to know any information about my company," Green said, adding he is not one to embellish. "I'm a very critical person."
But for LS Mtron, he's making an exception.
"When you come into our injection molding area, you see their machines lined up almost as far as the eye can see," Green said. "I'm very proud of it."