By Jim Mackinnon
Beacon Journal business writer
Prospect Mold Inc. continues to invest in its future.
The Cuyahoga Falls-based custom mold, die and machined-parts maker has spent millions of dollars in recent years on new equipment and upgrades. That, in turn, has allowed the 120-employee company to diversify away from relying primarily on the automobile industry.
Its latest investment takes the 69-year-old business into Akron, where it has leased manufacturing space off Exeter Road next to Akron-Fulton International Airport — and also created its new Molding Technologies division.
Prospect Mold just completed installing a 204,000-pound Engel injection molding machine in a 24,000-square-foot space near the Akron Airdock. The $2.5 million investment in part will allow Prospect Mold to better test its complex tools prior to shipping. It also gives the company the capability to make molded products for customers.
“It will take a couple more months to get everything fine-tuned,” said Brandon Wenzlik, Prospect Mold president.
The new facility, which Prospect Mold calls Plant 3, took more than a year of planning to set up.
Plants 1 and 2, including the company headquarters, are on the Cuyahoga Falls-Akron city line, next to the Rubber City Harley-Davidson dealership. That site did not have the necessary room needed for the new division and machinery, Wenzlik said.
“We couldn’t find the floor space here,” he said.
The Akron plant lets Prospect Mold sample the new tools it has built for customers prior to shipment to make sure they do what they are supposed to do, Wenzlik said.
“The idea is to do our mold trials,” said Dave Glavic, project manager. “This will save us a lot of freight. Also travel time.”
There’s room for expansion at Plant 3 as well, Wenzlik said. Three people work full time at the injection molding site and as many as 10 more people might be working there by the end of the year, he said.
The new Molding Technologies division fits in with Prospect Mold’s business diversification strategy.
The company’s focus will remain on making tools that customers use to make parts, not making the parts themselves, Wenzlik said.
The company has diversified into aerospace and housewares.
“There’s always a little bit of ‘other’ mixed in there,” Wenzlik said. “We’re a large shop that can handle a lot of large tools.”
Defense contractor Northrop Grumman named Prospect Mold its 2010 Global Supplier of the Year. The company also makes and machines, among other things, carbon fiber composite body parts for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter.
“That’s a big part of our business now,” Wenzlik said.
Prospect Mold still sells largely to Tier 1 and some Tier 2 suppliers for car makers, including complex tools that make multi-color head- and tail-light fixtures for vehicles. Moving into aerospace helped the company survive the Great Recession as sales of new automobiles tumbled.
“When the recession hit, we were pretty concentrated in automotive,” Wenzlik said. “We made some very smart moves ... in terms of diversifying the business into aerospace. We had always done some aerospace work but never to a high degree.”
Prospect Mold’s owners and executive leadership decided to hire more sales staff and buy the necessary large, computerized milling equipment for the aerospace industry, he said. The company then brought in outside consultants to cross-train its engineering and management staff, he said. The company also put a lot of energy into its business management systems.
“We came out of it much stronger. We developed a really nice niche in the aerospace industry,” Wenzlik said. “We were left standing. A lot of our competitors ... tool and dye companies, didn’t make it out of the recession.”
Now, both the automobile and aerospace industries are performing well, he said. Because of the work and investments that Prospect Mold already had made, it could add customers that needed specialty tools, he said.
“We basically seized the moment,” Wenzlik said.
Prospect Mold has grown from about $17 million in revenue three years ago to about $38 million in revenue for fiscal 2013, Wenzlik said, calling it “pretty steady growth.”
The next piece of the puzzle for Prospect Mold was adding the Engel machinery at its Plant 3 facility to sample the tools and make sure they perform as intended before they are shipped off to an assembly facility, Wenzlik said.
“It’s a big burden off a customer’s back,” he said.
The new plant can be used to help customers whose own production facilities are constrained, he said.
“We can offer them some relief in terms of an outsource supplier,” Wenzlik said.
“We’re really not in this to ever compete with our customers. We purchased that machine and started this division strictly to offer our customers a service.”
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org.