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Rotational Molding

by Eric Peterson on June 19, 2019, 03:49 pm MDT

www.rotationalmoldinginc.com

Gardena, California

Founded: 1973

Privately owned

Employees: 100

Industry: Contract Manufacturing

Products: Plastic products

CEO Mario Poma and CFO Doug Russell have engineered a comeback at the longstanding rotomolding shop.

"Doug and I are brothers-in-law," says Poma. "Basically, our father-in-law [Sherman McKinniss] started Rotational Molding when he acquired an operation here in Gardena in the early '70s."

McKiniss "grew the company over the years to 10 divisions across the U.S." and sold the company. It went public in the 1990s, but the move was followed by a buyback. "When it went back private, the company started to sell off the divisions," says Poma. "Doug and I bought the Gardena branch in 2010." In the time since, annual sales have grown from $5.5 million to about $13 million.

Accounting for about 60 percent of sales, the custom side of the business handles manufacturing, but not tooling, and Rotational Molding also makes a proprietary catalog of bins, carts, tanks, and other products. The common thread? "It's always been focused on rotational molding," says Poma. "That's all we've ever done."

Production runs range from the hundreds to the thousands of units. "Rotomolding itself is best for larger products," says Poma, noting that about 80 percent of customers are within 250 miles. With large, low-volume products, "It's the best process when you're competing with injection molding, thermal molding, and roll molding."

The key to growth in the industry is winning products over from their status quo materials. "It's always product conversion. You're converting items that are metal, wood, or fiberglass into plastic," says Poma. "What's the next big product for rotomolding? . . . The key is figuring out where that next big product is coming from."

Kayaks, coolers, and dumpsters were recent conversions; Poma sees potential, in medical, food service, and water. Toys are another good fit. "A lot of them are rotomolded because they change every year," he adds. "It's a lot more economical to retool with rotomolding."

Because of size, there's a geographic limit on rotationally molded plastic products. "At this time, we are focused on California and the West Coast," says Poma. "We ship a little bit to Texas, Wyoming, and other states."

Rotational Molding also works in automotive, lawn and garden, furniture, and aerospace. "We do a lot of OEM type of work," says Poma.

Customers include Lakeshore Learning Materials, Zodiac Aerospace, BW Implement Co., MOC Products, and Bill Thomas and Associates. "SpaceX is probably the biggest name," says Poma.

Challenges: "Our major challenge is we don't have one part where we have huge orders," says Poma.

Workforce -- or lack thereof -- presents additional issues, he adds. "We're constantly battling to find enough labor. We are manufacturing. It's not a high-tech job. It's tough finding people who want to be in the industry."

A third challenge is "the cost of doing business in California," Poma notes. "It's agencies and regulations and the things that have been put on us over the years. . . . Workmans' comp and claims is a challenge, too. It doesn't always seem to be fair for employers."

Opportunities: New products, says Poma. "The growth is in product development. The proprietary product is where our main focus is going to be."

Hotels and hospitality is a big and growing market for the company. "It's huge in California, and Vegas is another big customer," says Poma.

Medical is another potential driver, he adds, highlighting new laundry cart and containers aimed at the hospital market.

Needs: Poma says space is a need. The company has room to expand on its five-acre property, but there's a chance the company could move to L.A.'s outskirts.

New equipment is another need, with new rotational molding capacity, CNC machines, and other gear for secondary processes on the wish list. Cobots (collaborative robots) are another possible investment. "They work side-by-side with your employees," says Poma.

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