Custom injection molder/contract manufacturer VistaTek closed a deal on Feb. 22 to buy the two-building campus that formerly housed some of the UFE Inc. molding operations in Stillwater, MN. According to Dan Mishek, managing director for VistaTek, the site has been empty for three years and offers VistaTek an excellent opportunity to expand.
Currently, VistaTek occupies a 15,000-sq-ft building in Vadnais Heights, MN. The purchase of the UFE property will allow VistaTek to nearly triple its square footage to one that spans 56,000 sq ft, Mishek noted.
Terms of the sale were not released, however, the Stillwater City Council provided funding in the form of a $250,000 forgivable loan using tax-increment financing. To be eligible for the funding, VistaTek must employ at least 35 full-time workers at the end of each year for five years to qualify.
Mishek, who spoke with PlasticsToday at the Plastec West/MD&M show last month, said that the company needed more space to expand but couldn’t find anything near its current location in Vadnais Heights, which had been home to VistaTek since its founding in 1996 by Mishek’s parents, Jim and Lorinda MIshek. Dan MIshek’s sister, Jennifer Sutherland, and brother Allen Mishek, are also partners in the family-owned company.
Mishek said he heard about the availability of the old UFE campus, which has three buildings, in Stillwater. Two of the buildings were vacant so the company was able to purchase those for the expansion.
“If we had to build a facility like this today, it would cost $3.5 million or more,” commented Mishek to PlasticsToday. “Having been an injection molding facility for many years, the buildings are plumbed and wired for injection molding machines. We don’t even have to develop an equipment layout plan—it’s already laid out for us.”
The buildings will also allow VistaTek to improve its buying power for raw materials. Because of space constraints, the company has been buying material on a month-to-month basis. “We will soon be able to buy in larger volumes because we’ll have the space to warehouse it,” said Mishek. “With the added footprint we’ll also have the ability to inventory parts for customers in a Kanban method.”
Mishek said that since the buildings have been vacant for several years, they need some renovation work, so VistaTek will be painting walls and the floors, installing new and better lighting, and new energy-efficient climate control equipment. “We’re going to put about $300,000 into the building,” he added.
VistaTek will be adding new equipment as well as expanding its capabilities to accommodate more business. “This is a big opportunity for us to grow and expand,” stated Mishek. “We’ve been so space-constrained that we couldn’t buy any new equipment, but we’ve already purchased two new presses from Arburg, which is our new partner in supplying our molding equipment.”
Arburg will supply a new 50-ton all-electric injection molding press to replace an older hydraulic press. Additionally, VistaTek has also purchased a new Arburg LSR machine as the company takes on more LSR work. That will bring the total number of presses to six, ranging from 40-220 tons. “However, we just landed a large program which might mean we’ll need another 110-ton machine as well,” Mishek noted.
VistaTek also builds a large number of molds through its Rapid Tooling program, and to facilitate greater demand in both aluminum and P-20 tooling, the company has partnered with Minnesota-based Milltronics, one of only two U.S. CNC equipment builders. “We had four different types of mills before, but decided to pick a partner and stay with them,” Mishek explained. “We did a lot of trials and testing, and selected Milltronics primarily because of a new add-on to their machine called thermal mapping that gives better tolerancing and repeatability that we think makes Milltronics one of the best values on the market.”
Mishek explained that thermal mapping is done through sensors on the spindle that continually senses spindle growth as the spindle runs hot, and makes small adjustments to make sure everything stays in tolerance.
“We need to gain capacity for mold building, but also to meet faster delivery times that our customers are demanding,” said Mishek. “We’re looking at two-week lead times. All this new equipment will allow us to machine both aluminum and P-20 – we were doing only aluminum before with our Rapid Tooling program. We were just awarded an 11-tool package of eight-cavity molds.”
All the new equipment will be installed when the renovations are completed, and the move of the rest of the equipment from the Vadnais Heights facility will take place in July, when the company’s lease expires, so there won’t be any production down-time.
“This has been very exciting for us,” Mishek said. “The city of Stillwater has embraced us and it’s a big commitment for my family, and huge opportunity to grow the company for the future.”