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July 12, 2000

10 Min Read
IMM's Plant Tour:  The house that ISO built

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Inland Technologies is as much an idea as it is a factory. Built from the ground up for ISO compliance, every procedure and system has been designed with the cooperation of everyone in the plant to reduce potential problems, thereby ensuring quality, customer service, and the best use energing technologies.

Back when most North American plant managers were just beginning to think about ISO certification, the media spotlight shone on Inland Technologies Inc. (ITI)—a custom molding/moldmaking startup already built from the ground up for compliance (see "A New Molder Went ISO From the Get-Go," August 1994 IMM, p. 8).

ITI received ISO 9001 certification only 10 months after opening its cleanroom airlocks for business. AT&T was its original auditor but later ITI went to the highly accredited BSI. Though it had no customer base established before it began, ITI now enjoys around 20 percent annual growth. Its new, all-electric machines have nearly doubled capacity since we last visited. And customers in demanding markets, especially medical, already are requesting that ITI officials consider building ITI number two. 

Glenn R. Crossno, ITI president, has 25-plus years in tooling. His colleague and co-owner, Gary J. Hengeveld, vp, has put just as many years into molding. Both also were directly involved in two other startups, and felt confident that they had learned enough from the field to know how to make their own startup successful, even without any customers. 

"It’s like that line from the Kevin Costner film, ‘Field of Dreams,’ that goes, ‘Build it, and they will come.’ Glenn and Gary’s idea was that if you do it right, there’s a market for it," explains Larry Espinosa, sales manager. "Their ISO-based business plan was followed to a T." Quality, customer service, advanced technology and knowing how to use it, and—perhaps most important of all—employee empowerment: These are the key ideas in the ITI business plan built into every square foot of its floor plan. 

Hengeveld and Crossno are so confident in the efficient performance and immaculate appearance of their operation that they welcome audits and visits—even unannounced. Your cleanroom cap and gown await you. Let’s take them up on their hospitality and tour. 

VITAL STATS

INLAND TECHNOLOGIES INC, FONTANA, CA

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Molding machines:

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Comfortable Customers
Espinosa escorts us through ITI’s small lobby, past a small display case of ITI’s small precision-molded parts, and into a small conference room down a small hallway to the left. ITI is designed for optimum production efficiency—period. Not a dime was wasted on a showy facade. 

Crossno and Hengeveld join Espinosa in the conference room to explain their key principles, first and foremost of which is quality. ITI’s original quality manager was hired before facility planning was complete. The quality policy he helped establish is strict enough to meet all customer requirements, but flexible enough to adjust to a customer’s changing requests. 

Self-auditing procedures are in place. Everyone at ITI knows what has to happen to keep everything running smoothly. There is no guesswork, no finger pointing, and few surprises. "Basically, our system is designed to reduce the causes of variables as much as possible in every area. And it is supported by documentation that demonstrates stability," Hengeveld explains. 

The idea of reducing the causes of problems also drives ITI’s customer service programs. ITI is a full-service supplier, providing design, engineering, tooling, prototyping, and production services. "We don’t even mind customers bringing their problem tools in to us. We guarantee samples in 72 hours from refurbished tools," Crossno states. But, both he and Hengeveld agree that simply having such policies in place is not enough. 

"We wanted to create a place customers really like to visit, to make them feel as comfortable in our environment as we are. This helps us form the kind of long-term relationships we want," says Espinosa. "Most of our growth comes from repeat business. That’s a testimonial as to whether or not our customers feel comfortable." 

It’s the People
Crossno and Hengeveld have no qualms about spending money to buy engineering and production systems best suited to helping ITI reduce problem causes. Whether it be PTC’s Pro-Manufacturing software, a new Mitsubishi wire EDM, or eight new all-electric JSW presses, ITI seeks to establish the same comfort level and loyalty with its suppliers that it does with its customers. ITI’s associates are taught how best to maximize the equipment systems in place. 

Crossno explains, "Both Gary and I came up through the ranks. We know how important it is for people to feel that they are a part of something. Our employee turnover is minimal, and we have programs in place to reinforce our empowerment programs, like quarterly profit sharing." 

Everyone is well trained and cross trained, and most wear many different hats. For example, Herschel W. Stanton Jr. is ITI’s controller and also the company’s computer Mr. Fix-it. All associates also are intimately involved with improving the company’s plans and procedures, as well as its profits. There are stand-up meetings every day, acquainting everyone with everything that is going on. Customers are invited to join them. ITI has no separate maintenance department. Everyone is responsible for maintenance. Hengeveld adds that associates are trained to work clean rather than clean up work areas, thereby reducing yet another cause of problems. 

Hengeveld recalls that ITI once was pursuing a major tooling program from a large potential customer pending a quality audit. The customer had questions regarding shipping logistics that Hengeveld was unable to answer. So, he pulled an assistant shipping/receiving clerk off the floor, one who had never been personally involved in an audit before, who was able to answer all the auditor’s questions extemporaneously, helping ITI win the job by keeping the customer comfortable. ITI’s motto reads, "It’s the people." 

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ITI has standardized on equipment in its Class 100,000 cleanroom. "Our associates don't have to relearn how to run different machines—and machine operation is much more reliable because you significantly reduce process variables caused by the environment," says a company source.

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Two custom-built Illinois Precision verticals were recently brought in for some demanding insert molding work. ITI must be doing it right—two more verticals are on the way.

This window facing ITI's molding cleanroom is in the production supervisor's office, right? Wrong. It's in the quality manager's office. ITI has moved quality inspection out to the shop floor, along with maintenance. The quality department oversees everything at ITI.



Quality Runs the Show
A tour of ITI’s shop floor begins with the floor itself. In an expansive area before the company’s 6000-sq-ft Class 100,000 molding cleanroom, adjacent to the cafeteria, the company logo is emblazoned on the floor. Espinosa tells us this interior decoration was a customer’s idea. Daily meetings often are held here. 

Along the wall outside the molding cleanroom are all the machine utilities, including a centralized material handling system custom-built by Pneumatic Conveying. Small stainless steel Pneu-Con hoppers on the presses have level sensors programmed to trigger feeding from external stations on demand. The company’s three granulators are from Conair. Its central chilling system, capable of controlling temperature to within ±1 deg F, is from Thermal Care, as are the mold temperature controllers in each cell. Each manufacturing cell is standardized with all the goodies—no missing pieces. 

We pass through the airlock into a room where the cleanroom caps and gowns hang, and are ushered into what at first appears to be a production manager’s office. After all, there is a window on the wall looking directly onto the molding cleanroom. But Roger C. Anderson, quality manager, introduces himself. It’s his room we’re in. At ITI, quality manages everything, including production. 

Anderson, a 20-year veteran, runs us through the bewildering array of ITI’s quality documents, which identify, in excruciating detail, every conceivable customer requirement and company procedure—from general information and data on each lot of raw material, to process and sampling plans, preventive maintenance, mold cleaning schedules, and barcode labeling specs. Copies of the appropriate documents are mailed to customers every time a change is made—they have to sign off on them, too. Suppliers are kept equally well informed of their products’ performance. 

"Once quality optimizes setup, the process is locked in. We monitor what we call the ‘14 golden parameters’ per press. Two of our auditors cover our 22 machines per shift. Each shift, they go down the line to determine what has happened, ensuring there is no variation," Anderson says. 

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ITI's efficient centralized materials handling system, custom-built by Pneu-Con, is outside the molding cleanroom, as are machine utilities. Self-contained stations, complete with Matsui dryers, are built on rollers, obviating the need for more complex, problem-causing system, and allowing for easier cleaning.

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ITI has its own systems to help generate up front everything that goes into making a tool.



Built-in Efficiencies
After suiting up and stepping into the cleanroom, we again see uniformity. ITI runs standardized manufacturing cells. The presses are mostly 85-ton JSWs served by pneumatic pickers from Paxon Automation. Standardization reduces the causes of many problems, including service and training. 

ITI’s newest machines are JSW all-electrics. Hengeveld says that eventually all of ITI’s machines will be servo molding machines. "Our JSW hydraulics are just as repeatable, but the electrics are more energy efficient, and they run quiet and clean," he explains. "Also, you don’t have to add more auxiliaries. Take cooling water, for instance—we have no need to upgrade cooling when we add all-electrics." 

Mold changes are assisted by an uncomplicated roller-mounted 1-ton crane. Production is monitored by an inexpensive system from Bear Technologies. "We could have bought something more sophisticated, but it gives us all the information we need," says Hengeveld. "We buy what works and use all it has to offer." 

The tooling and design engineering departments are the reasons why ITI sought ISO 9001 in the first place. ISO documentation and procedures keep track of every rev level on every tool and help ITI grant evergreen warranties, which guarantee every tool it engineers and builds for the life of the product. 

"We have developed our own systems to get a jump on producing the mold as quickly as possible," comments Thomas J. Diaz, engineering manager. "Using the data provided by the customer or in-house engineering, machining of electrodes and cavity steel can begin almost immediately, sometimes before the design is completed." 

Hengeveld, Crossno, and company intend to build on the programs put in place through their original business plan. They plan to work closely with suppliers to stay informed about new technologies, continue to train and empower all, and continually improve the effectiveness of their service to existing customers, while inviting new ones to tour, unannounced. And as has already been proven, they will come. 

Contact information
Inland Technologies Inc.
Fontana, CA
Larry Espinosa
Phone: (909) 428-6722
Fax: (909) 428-9352
Web: www.inlandtechnologies.com

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