K 2019 in Düsseldorf, Germany, this week and part of next week, offers a world of technology in materials, processing, engineering and more for hundreds of thousands of attendees from around the globe. It’s also a great opportunity for 15 Evco Plastics’ employees who will experience this amazing trade show: The DeForest, WI–based custom injection molding company is sending some of its new engineers and others, including a few team members from Mexico, to experience it firsthand.
Dale Evans, President and CEO of Evco, explained to PlasticsToday that the team members will be heading to Düsseldorf in shifts of about three days each. “With 17 buildings to cover, what can you do in three days?” asked Evans, who plans to spend much of his time in the injection molding and materials sections. “We try to really focus in on what new products are being designed and the technology behind them. My last day at the show will be split between the robotics and tooling buildings. We have a lot of engineers in robotics, so our automation group will be going, and some people from quality will be there, as well.”
At a K Show planning meeting, Evans said that the groups will cover the parts of the show in their particular job category to avoid duplication of efforts. He also advised them not to walk the show together. “If you go in a group, you have to wait on the others, and some people want to see particular technologies or machinery that is of interest to them. It’s an interesting show and will be a good experience for them,” he said.
Original plans had called for the company to look at new injection molding machines at K and purchase a few there. However, business growth and capacity demands pushed that idea forward sooner. “We just ordered 10 more machines in the 200- to 250-ton range for the U.S. plants for a big, new project, along with 15 new robots as we move toward ‘lights-out’ manufacturing,” said Evans. “We’ll start here in Wisconsin with that and end up with our Georgia facility adopting that program. Lights-out manufacturing from press to package is an exciting move for us.”
Currently, the company has 200 machines in production. One new 550-ton machine from Husky will be installed for packaging applications. Evans explained that there’s always a list of machines that need to be replaced with newer ones for greater efficiency and to meet the company’s “tremendous need” for capacity increase.
Evco Plastics has seen a 10% increase in sales so far in 2019 and looks to do the same in 2020, as the company pushes toward $200 million in sales. The company recently broke ground on a 31,035-square-foot addition to its Oshkosh, WI, facility to accommodate two new 2,500- and 3,500-ton Engel presses with robots that will be delivered during Q4 of this year and Q1 of 2020. The company is also looking at some additional expansion opportunities at the end of 2020. “We’re always purchasing machines to do two things—increase capacity and replace outdated equipment,” Evans said.
At Evco’s Mexico facilities, lean manufacturing is in full swing as those groups work toward Industry 4.0. “They’re better at lean in Mexico and we’re better at the technology,” Evans commented. “Mexico is organizing groups of people together to run a very lean operation and we’re learning a lot from our Mexican counterparts. They’ve consolidated production monitoring systems and ERP into one dashboard, providing their people with enhanced live production monitoring.”
Plans call for expanding medical molding in the three plants in Mexico. Evco recently purchased an additional 30,000 square feet of land next to the small machine facility, and future plans call for expanding medical molding.
In spite of Evco’s plans for lights-out manufacturing and the implementation of more robotics operations, Evans stressed that there’s always a need for good employees. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is at 2.2%, and finding people with ambition who want to learn and grow with the company is challenging, said Evans.
“If they come to work on time and work well with others, we’ll spend money on training and educating them,” Evans said, noting the company currently has about 30+ employees with associate degrees and some with bachelor’s and master’s degrees that the company helped fund. Evco asks the “soft” questions of applicants, such as what they want in life, their goals and ambitions. “We’ll pay for knowledge, for them to go to school. After all, someone has to tell the robots what to do and fix them. When you find good employees, treasure them!”
Evans said he’s seeing a lot of activity and new opportunities among Evco’s customers and that they are getting more positive in the markets the company serves. “We’re driven by customers and what they want,” he stated. “Now we’re adding capacity to accommodate their requirements, and preparing for more opportunities on the horizon. Part of our job is to create opportunities but then you have to pick the right ones. 2020 will be an interesting year.”