Most industrial customers tend to look for many of the same qualities in a supplier. They want a partner that can meet high standards for quality, adhere to strict design specifications, provide value and offer cost advantages. Indiana Rotomolding Inc. has found that not only does the process of rotational molding meet these requirements, but also has organized its operations to ensure customers’ needs are met with the highest-possible value.
Based in South Bend, Ind., Indiana Rotomolding has three facilities in its home state – those three are known as Elkhart Plastics – as well as Littleton Plastics in Littleton, Colo., and Portland Plastics in Ridgefield, Wash.
“We perform custom rotomolding, and because our products tend to be large, transportation can be a problem so we deal with customers who are within a couple hundred miles of any of our locations,” President and CEO Jack Welter says.
Elkhart Plastics was the original business in the Indiana Rotomolding family, founded in 1988. Welter has been with the operation since 1990, and although the company has been acquired and sold by other entities during his tenure, Welter bought it back in 2011, fully understanding the value of the business.
“Our sales and engineering teams look for things that are not currently rotomolded and then use our rotomolding processes to see if we can make the items more economically or a better fit for their end use,” he explains.
“Pontoon boats are a good example,” he adds. “Fifteen years ago, all of the furniture on those boats was made with treated plywood. Now most of that furniture has plastic rotomolded bases, which is lighter and doesn’t cost as much, but is extremely durable.”
The marine sector is a big market for Indiana Rotomolding, while it also provides plastic water tanks and holding tanks for recreational vehicles, DEF tanks for heavy equipment and industrial use, and parts for the agriculture market.
“We go to our customers, look at their needs and show how we can do it better while meeting or exceeding their requirements,” Welter says. “All of our sales, engineering and manufacturing is done in-house, so we can take each project from inception to a completed product.”
Indiana Rotomolding’s multiple operations allow it to serve customers quickly and cost-effectively, and three of its plants have ISO certification, which ensures its focus on quality remains consistent. The company’s in-house capabilities include engineering, CAD and tool manufacturing, and its state-of-the-art machinery and flexible capacity add further value. Its in-house engineering staff creates solutions to meet customers’ requirements, while its tooling staff creates custom molds. The company has the capability of providing fabricated aluminum and steel molds, cast aluminum and machined molds, including specialty finishes such as Teflon coating and engravings. On average, Indiana Rotomolding can design a mold in one week and build a new mold within two to six weeks.
“Rotomolding is not a highly technical process – the technical aspect is the design of the part,” Welter explains. “We just started working with post-industrial scrap. We can take heavy-gauge film and convert it to our products. Using scrap film to process and reintroduce it to our manufacturing operations really hasn’t been done before.”
He stresses, however, that none of Indiana Rotomolding’s capabilities matter if the company does not continue to build on its quality reputation. This is why it was so important for the company to achieve its ISO certification, he notes, but its staff also plays a critical role in the company’s output.
“Our process relies heavily on the machine operators and their use of good manufacturing processes to produce a good part,” Welter says. “We continually stress and promote the importance of a quality product and maintaining a quality culture. Quality is a daily, ongoing focus at all of our facilities.
“We are so confident in our quality, in fact, that we don’t send our people to outside training – all of our training is done in-house,” he adds. “It’s sometimes a challenge to find and maintain our manufacturing personnel, but we focus on getting good people, putting them in the right spots and letting them do their job.”
Indiana Rotomolding was affected by the slow economy – especially in 2008 and 2009, Welter says – but he sees many opportunities ahead for the company. He notes that smaller shops are having a hard time as the industry matures and there is more consolidation, but Indiana Rotomolding’s size protects it from that, and he would like to further expand into new markets either through acquisition or by opening additional facilities.
“Our geographic footprint really helps us – most companies in our industry are small, single-site operations,” Welter explains. “We have the staff in-house to meet the needs of Fortune 500 companies.”
With the opportunities he sees for Indiana Rotomolding, Welter expects it to be a $100 million operation within three to four years.
“Our management team has the desire, so I know that’s a goal we can achieve,” Welter says.