Rubber, plastics, polyurthanes growth all focuses for Molded Dimensions | Rubber News

2022-11-17 05:25:36 By : Mr. Mr. Zhou

PORT WASHINGTON, Wis.—Brian Sprinkman chose an inauspicious time to take the leadership reins at Molded Dimensions L.L.C., a rubber, plastics and polyurethane injection molder based in the heart of the Midwest.

To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, Sprinkman, who became CEO of the 130-person company in 2020, must have chosen the path not because it was easy, but because it was hard. Plastic Injection Molding Companies

Rubber, plastics, polyurthanes growth all focuses for Molded Dimensions | Rubber News

But his success has been the company's success, as both were forged during unprecedented supply line, labor market and raw material pricing challenges wrought by the pandemic.

In the past year alone, Molded Dimensions has made two key acquisitions, undergone a company rebrand and instituted a tectonic shift in company culture toward a more customer- and employee-centric organization.

"We say we service everything from medical to mining," Sprinkman told Rubber News. "This is important, this idea of complete diversification and never being dependent on one market."

For Molded Dimensions and its recent acquisitions—PCO Urethanes of Marshfield, Wis., and GlobalTech Plastics of Fife, Wash.—the company's reach has grown from the Midwest to the West Coast, and overseas to China, India, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The global reach gives Molded Dimensions customers everywhere a chance to have their rubber, plastics and urethane needs accessed through one company.

"Now we can provide a domestic and a foreign solution for our customers," Sprinkman said. "Sometimes it makes more sense to make something overseas and ship it to the West or East Coasts."

Molded Dimensions, which recently celebrated more than six decades in business, maintains a focus on highly engineered, mid-volume, hard-to-make parts with plastics, rubber and polyurethane materials.

"We have put rubber, plastics and polyurethanes under one roof," Sprinkman said. "We focus on a technical onboarding process (with customers)—we want to make their parts shine.

"We are not going to bang out a single O-ring over and over and over. We want something with geometry, something that solves a problem. That's what we bring to the table. And for current and future acquisitions, this is the criteria we will use."

At the beginning of 2022, Molded Dimensions was manufacturing rubber and low-volume urethane components out of two manufacturing plants totaling about 65,000 square feet in Port Washington.

A year later, and now owned by private equity firm ShoreView Industries L.L.C. of Minneapolis, the company is producing high-volume plastic and urethane parts (the patented Pentathane brand). The company has been named Wisconsin's Manufacturer of the Year, as well as a Fast Growing Firm by The Business Journal.

The company prides itself on injection, compression and transfer molding, and with the purchase of KM Tooling of Grafton, Wis., in 2014, the firm now makes its own molds, as well.

"This certainly gives us some flexibility, allowing us to get things done, in-house, a bit faster," Sprinkman said.

Molded Dimensions works mostly with OEM contracts, in the business-friendly 80-20 ratio, where 80 percent of business comes from "a handful of customers" and the last 20 percent comes from "many others."

"The tail is very long," Sprinkman said. "We work mostly with OEMs, which is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that we have a wide range of industries that we service. If there is economic uncertainty, like we've seen during the pandemic, not all of our markets will suffer.

"But it is also a challenge to cover so many industries."

The company works in elastomers such as EPDM, butyl, natural and isoprene rubbers, and fluoroelastomers (Viton), among many others, as well as in silicone molding and polyurethane molding.

"We have our own chemist, so there are a lot of formulations that we have developed for customers over the years," he said. "This is a difference maker between us and competitors. We definitely buy some bulk rubber that is ready to rock and roll, but we have smaller lines where we develop FDA-approved material.

"All of this falls in line with our focus, running mid-volume, hard-to-make parts. That's our focus. We are not trying to be something that we are not."

With its cast polyurethane, Molded Dimensions can make parts anywhere between one gram and 60 pounds, with a max platen size of 24 inches.

"Our domestic presses are sized up to 24-inches square, and our GlocalSource presses have capabilities up to 60-inches square," Sprinkman said. "Cast urethane parts can range from very small, precision, compression-molded items to anything that fits in our 10-foot-square walk-in ovens."

Common products include PU wheels and wipers, rubber hose and tubing, bellows, bladders, bumpers, plugs and sleeves, protective boots and caps, buttons, rollers, seals, wheels, grommets and wipers, among many other products.

Molded Dimensions can custom design their PUs and rubber vulcanizates with thermal or electrical properties, and offers analytics on abrasion resistance; adhesion; creep and stress relaxation; and resilience/rebound.

The company's main markets include transportation, marine (port systems) and medical, though Sprinkman noted this "is a tough question to answer" as the company serves so many different spaces.

"Marine has been strong," he said, "as has all outdoor-related activity, like camping, power sports and utility vehicles. We had a strong exit from the pandemic because of our diversification.

"From 2020 to 2022 we are up 40 percent."

And Molded Dimensions witnessed many of the same supply line challenges that its competitors, customers and upstream suppliers in the industry have seen.

"A lot of it was people struggling with the supply chain, getting through as best they could," Sprinkman said. "And for awhile, we were similar to everyone else. Oddly enough, about three to five months ago was the worst era of getting materials.

"It is frustrating because we had the orders, if we could just get the material. There is no worse feeling in the world than when you tell a customer parts will be delivered on 'x' date, and they get delayed. We were running hand-to-mouth—there was nothing that was sitting on shelves.

"We pride ourselves on customer service, and we are not a highly automated company, which is why the onboarding process is so important. We produce quality products, and on time. When that becomes problematic, it is a difficult pill for us to swallow as that is what we pride ourselves on."

One employee of Molded Dimensions Group has described Sprinkman as having the ability to "get all employees rowing in unison ... and in the same direction."

But the retainment of those employees has not been easy.

Sprinkman said that in August 2020, the company had about 80 employees.

"In the next 15 months, we hired 85 people," he said. "Not all of them made it, but the efforts we put forth to make that happen were incredible. We could see it coming—the pandemic was ending.

"And we are not wildly automated, so we rely on people, especially with the types of runs we focus on. Changeovers are frequent, so we try to provide career paths and feedback. We are very transparent with all of our financials and where we are headed."

In his two years with Molded Dimensions, Sprinkman has diverted marketing dollars into a program known as "Attract, Retain and Grow," an employee-centric program that demonstrates appreciation for employees when it is warranted.

When an employee demonstrates the core values of the company, a co-worker can nominate them to receive a prize at the end of the month, or end of the quarter.

"It was so difficult to hire at one time," Sprinkman said, "that we went to some pretty cool lengths to show appreciation to our employees. And I was so pleased with the participation. It was not unheard of to see 130 cards (out of 130 employees) of nominations to sift through at the end of the month."

Molded Dimensions also has instituted a bonus program during Sprinkman's tenure, where everyone can receive a paycheck from 1.5 weeks to three weeks of additional pay, if the bonus program criteria is met.

"We are in this thing together," Sprinkman said.

Molded Dimensions began as Robbins Plastics and Rubber Co. in 1954, a family-owned company that made O-rings, tubes and sheets.

The company was renamed Molded Dimensions Inc. in 1969, and in 1970 transitioned to 100-percent manufacturing.

In 1973, Molded Dimensions built a 17,000-sq.-ft. plant in Port Washington, and in 1995 expanded that site by about 12,000 square feet.

The company celebrated 50 years in business in 2004, and four years later built its second manufacturing site in Port Washington, this facility at 24,000 square feet.

In 2018, the company was acquired by ShoreView Partners.

And now with the addition of PCO Urethanes and GlobalTech Plastics, Molded Dimensions is once again bullish on the acquisition space.

"This is for two reasons," Sprinkman said. "First is that we feel strongly about our model, where we want to provide plastics, rubber and urethane under one roof. We also understand there are a number of molders in the country, and servicing the entire country from one location with smaller parts is challenging, to say the least, in terms of logistics—so that is not going to be a super-competitive thing for us.

"We can service about a third of the country as a plastics and rubber molder, and with the urethanes we can make that into a center of excellence. The idea is to expand to both coasts. As we expand in India, those are products that can land on the East Coast. And as we manufacture in Asia, those are rubber and plastics products that can land on the West Coast.

And that's the ultimate plan for Molded Dimensions—to have foreign distribution in parts of the U.S. with both rubber and plastics.

"We want to be cross-selling—there are applications in rubber for the GlobalTech Plastics customers," Sprinkman said. "Keep in mind there are a lot of rubber parts that have plastic components and vice versa. And this is what we would like to do on both the West and East Coasts."

Sprinkman noted that while Molded Dimensions "is always looking," there are no other acquisitions "that are imminent right now."

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Rubber, plastics, polyurthanes growth all focuses for Molded Dimensions | Rubber News

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