Federal, state and local elected officials, business leaders, customers, suppliers, company managers and staff are expected to attend an invitation-only grand reopening and reception at the newly expanded GI Plastek facility on Wickers Drive on Wednesday, Sept. 10.
The ceremony, to begin at 11 a.m. with a ribbon cutting, marks the official grand reopening of the $3.2 million manufacturing plant expansion project that grew the space on the 56,000-square-foot manufacturing floor to 91,000 square feet, allowing the addition of six more state-of-the-art medium and large injection molding presses as well as warehouse space, according to GI Plastek President Dan Mills. The new 30-foot-high warehouse area includes four new truck bays to the existing two bays. Overall, the U-shaped configuration of the plant was designed to optimize workflow and efficiency.
Mills said the plant redesign located four additional shipping docks at one end of the building where the raw materials are first received. Manufacturing, pressing, painting and other tasks take place in the middle portion of that U, with the finished product flowing to the shipping bays at the other end.
“Now, we’ve got a much more efficient flow,” said Mills. “We have a nice, lean efficient process, whereas before we were at different locations, we were so full and congested in the building, you’d pick up a box four times and move it around. Now we’ve streamlined. We’ve transitioned from three facilities into one,” he said.
GI Plastek Vice President of Sales and Business Development Rick Collopy said before the expansion, the plant had maxed out its space. The expansion accommodates the larger presses to allow the company to expand its product lines.
“We support customers in the medical equipment industry, the material handling industry, construction industry, recreational products, and then catch-all industries. There are all sorts of people in industry who use large molded parts on their equipment,” Collopy said.
During a tour on Friday, workers on the production floor and at the presses created a variety of products, and it is this diverse product line that helped the company weather the recession, said Mills.
At one large injection molding press, employee Brian Craigue of Brookfield checked a freshly pressed sump pump liner, one of an order for 1,200 pieces. Within the painting room, freshly painted red plastic grills for forklift equipment hung out to dry. At another end of the space, assembler Mark Goslin of New Durham made the heavy-duty aluminum and plastic covered paddles used for white water rafting.
Mills noted that GI Plastek makes 162 varieties of recreational kayak or canoe paddles. Another smaller press churned out plastic stadium seating, available in more than 20 colors plus custom colors to match schools and colleges. Mills said stadium seating sold well this year to schools and universities, with nearly 50,000 units sold. The new warehouse is spacious with 30-foot ceilings, high enough to fit a crane system for the larger injection molding presses — one of which with a $1 million price tag has already been installed and is turning out large sump pump covers.
Mills said GI Plastek employs a core group of 84 workers, and adds 22 temporary workers during its busy summer manufacturing season. Annual sales are $18 million, but officials anticipate the addition of the larger presses will eventually increase sales and expand its niche. Most of the company’s customers are located in the eastern United States.
The expansion added new offices, a reception area, a conference room, additional parking and a new front entrance. Renovation of a new employee break room on the mezzanine is underway, and some cosmetic work, like interior painting, is taking place in the week or so prior to the grand reopening. Additional offices will be added next year at the mezzanine level.
GI Plastek was started in Wolfeboro in 1982. Ownership of the company transferred a number of times until the private equity firm of Wincove Capital of New York purchased it in 2009. Members of the firm’s board of directors are expected to attend the ceremony. Speeches, light refreshments and tours will follow the ribbon cutting.