Three-Pronged Growth Strategy In U.S., China & Mexico

Evco Plastics, DeForest, Wis.

Diversified molder pursues growth on two continents in medical, packaging, and large parts.

The three years since our last editorial visit to EVCO Plastics (reported in Jan. ’14) have seen several capacity expansions and exploration of at least two new, cutting-edge technologies. A recent sit-down with Dale Evans, president of the 53-year-old, family-owned custom molder outlined how the company is pursuing growth on numerous fronts simultaneously.

The company has 1000 employees and 170 injection molding machines at nine plants in three locations in The U.S., Mexico, and China. It implemented $10 million in capital improvements in 2016 alone, including purchase of seven all-electric Toyo machines and a new Engel Machinery, Inc. vertical press. Evans described three current focuses for the company:

1. Medical devices: EVCO is planning to remodel and expand its MED facility at the company headquarters in DeForest, Wis. Those plans include tripling the size of the 30,000 ft2, Class 100,000 (ISO Class 8) clean room. EVCO is also considering adding a clean room at one of its three Mexican plants and recently added one (10,250 ft2, ISO Class 8, with nine presses) at its new, 70,000-ft2 Dongguan, China, plant, which has become more narrowly focused on medical work since moving from the former location in Shenzhen, China. 

2. Packaging: Evans said EVCO plans to double the number of machines (currently five Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. machines with stack molds) at the Advanced Molding Plant (AMP) in DeForest.

3. Large parts: While At the same time that EVCO is expanding in China for medical parts, Evans noted that investing in large-part molding is a defensive strategy against Chinese competition due to prohibitive shipping costs from overseas. Applications include parts for tractors, ATVs, jet skis, golf carts, and outboard motors. EVCO has big presses in Oshkosh, Wis., and in Calhoun, Ga., which has become the company’s “large-part leader,” recently expanded from 60,000 to 110,000 ft2 and housing six large machines. Recent purchases include two 3300-ton servohydraulic Ube Machinery Inc. machines and two all-electric, 1000-ton Toyo presses, the first of that size in the U.S., according to Evans.

As for implementing new technologies, EVCO has acquired in the last three years two 3D printers, which it uses to make CMM fixtures and robot grippers. It also has two R&D projects underway in 3D printed plastic molds.

EVCO also has installed two “collaborative” robots, or “cobots,” from Universal Robots, E. Setauket, N.Y. These are new class of robots equipped with onboard sensors that allow them to work safely alongside people without guarding. They are suitable for pick-and-place jobs like packing lefthand parts in one box and right-hand parts in another box.

“Robots never make a mistake,” said Evans. “And these robots cost $40,000 each, while it costs $150,000 a year to put a person next to a machine 24/7. Our new concept is for every operator to have a cobot buddy.” 

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