…To raise a child.

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Per Flem

Per Flem at Recto Molded Products

…To raise a child. But it takes good-old fashioned ingenuity and elbow grease to revive an injection molding business.

With so much uncertainty still surrounding our industry, processors of all types should dog-ear this month’s On-Site article (and cover story), written by Executive Editor Matt Naitove. It’s about a Cincinnati processor named Recto Molded Products, and how this 91-year-old company was brought back from the brink of extinction to a profitable $5 million to $6 million enterprise. It’s a story of how new ownership left no stone unturned as it completely revitalized its operation and upgraded its technology.

In this space, I regularly exhort readers to update their technology, to not be encumbered by the way they used to do things, and to probe new materials, new markets, new ways of doing business. I do recognize that times are still tough; readers frequently remind me that my suggestions would be fine and dandy if they only had the money to finance new investments.

But consider Recto’s case. Just seven years ago, it was dealing with every problem in the books: a leaky, undersized cooling tower decrepit beyond repair; city water too expensive to consider; outdated molding machines that were slow, imprecise, energy-hogging, and prone to breakdowns; low capacity utilization; high reject rates; and missed delivery dates. Could the picture be any bleaker? And somehow, without a large infusion of cash (most upgrades were paid for out of cash flow), new owner Per Flem managed to rescue Recto from the abyss, using a combination of resourcefulness, imagination, and engineering know-how.

The desire to save on energy costs was the driving force behind most of these improvements. Recto learned so much about energy efficiency and other affordable ways to enhance profitability and competitiveness that it started a new business to market those solutions to other molders in need. Flem also took the necessary but sometimes overlooked step of adding automation, often home-built.

I’ve stolen enough of Matt’s thunder, so please flip to p. 22 to learn more about the specific steps Per Flem took and the impressive results they generated. If you’re looking at ways to give your business a bump—and who isn’t?—maybe you can pick up a pointer or two from Recto’s trials and tribulations. At the very least, maybe you can start asking yourself questions about your operation. Here are some to get you started:

  • How much energy do your machines consume? In the long run, wouldn’t you be better with more efficient, newer machines? Wouldn’t these new machines pay for themselves in relatively short order from the money you’d save on energy, maintenance, faster cycles, fewer rejects?
  • Have you examined outside-the-box ideas to cut energy expenses? Check out the Processor Strategies article on p. 48: Royal is taking heat generated by its extruders and redirecting it to warm its plants. (Recto does that, too.)
  • Have you looked at your compressed-air expense—much of which is probably wasted? Do you know how to reign in that expense?
  • Have you looked closely into automation, or are you still of the mindset that such tools are “just for the Europeans”?

There is plenty of life left in the U.S. plastics processing sector. There is loads of resourcefulness and ingenuity out there. Let’s make sure we tap into it.