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Mold maker Roembke reveals recipe for success

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Roembke Manufacturing Ossian, Ind.
Tooling produced by Roembke Manufacturing & Design Inc. goes into machinery made by a variety of press makers, such as Engel.

OSSIAN, Ind.—Double-digit sales growth is the norm at Roembke Manufacturing & Design Inc., and the mold maker is determined to continue that trend by sticking to its proven game plan.

The strategy? Invest in the business, hire good people, utilize the advantages it has over its competitors and, most importantly, listen to its customers.

Located in Ossian, south of Fort Wayne, Ind., Roembke Mfg. spent more than $1 million last year on equipment to enhance or expand its capabilities, according to President Greg Roembke.

That included adding another Yasda mill for precision, high-speed hard milling to two existing machines at the site; replacing a graphite machine with a Roku high-speed mill to do all of its electro machining; and acquiring a Mitsubishi EDM to boost the firm's capacity.

Overall the machinery purchases increased the mold maker's capacity and/or capabilities, Roembke and Global Sales Manager Troy Smith said.

Reasons for growth

Roembke Ossian, Ind.
This an example of parts made from Roembke molds. The Ossian, Ind.-based firm has spent more than $1 million in the last year to help expand its capabilities. Automotive used to account for a majority of its business, but medical and health care, including tooling for liquid silicone rubber, now represent about 60 percent of revenue.

They needed the equipment because business has been good, Roembke said, and for several reasons.

“One of our big advantages compared with our competition is our physical size and capabilities,” the company president said. The firm's growth forced it to extend its delivery periods slightly, he said, but feedback from customers indicate Roembke Mfg. “still is better by several weeks from a delivery standpoint than any of our competition, that we are aware of.”

The location in Ossian also is a big plus for the business in North America versus its biggest competitors, which are based overseas. “There's a high expense for our customers here if they do decide to have tooling built overseas,” Roembke said, “and longer delivery since it has to come over the water.” Additional costs of travel and time add up, too, he said.

Smith said Roembke Mfg. is centrally located at the Ossian Industrial Park, just two hours from Indianapolis, and three hours from Detroit or Chicago.

John Roembke started the business in 1977 at a 2,500-sq.-ft. site outside of Ossian. Last year the transition to Greg Roembke's ownership was completed, when the son became majority shareholder.

Greg Roembke said he doesn't know of a better state in which to conduct business than Indiana.

“Not only from a business friendly state, but the ethics of our employees and the ability to find new employees when we need them,” he said. “Everybody has the challenge of finding new employees in this industry, but the advantage we have is the culture of people raised here, raised to work extremely hard.”

He said Roembke Mfg.'s employees are very loyal. “Our average years of service here is around 18 years, and I think our average age is still in the 40s. So not only do we have a work force that is extremely experienced, we also have a younger, in comparison, work force.”

That's a real plus for his company, Roembke said, because many mold makers are staffed by people with 20 or more years of experience, and “over the next five years or so they are going to have a lot of them retiring.”

Roembke said Indiana offers a strong pool of young people, in high school and college, who are willing and interested in his company's type of business. Roembke Mfg. has increased its staff by about 15 percent in the past few years, to 48 employees.

“We may not have the sunshine of California or the pork of Austria, but we have everything else,” Roembke said.

Being good listeners

Everything for its customers means a willingness to listen and understand their needs and what they want, Roembke said. An example of that is the company's increase in turnkey projects, one of its growth imperatives.

Smith said because most press manufacturers are located overseas, they can achieve a shortening of delivery time by shipping presses to Roembke's operation in Ossian. There Roembke, automation and press companies work together to develop the cell to the customer's liking.

“That has gone very well for us and also has been a big selling point, as we have six customer presses in our facility right now,” Smith said.

Most of the company's clients operate in North America, Smith said, but it does have overseas business, too, mostly in China and the Asia-Pacific region.

Roembke said there's a big difference between saying “ "Yeah, we'll do that,' and then actually being able to do it.” He said customers like having a tool maker in the states that is willing to accomplish a turnkey project and has the ability to do so in terms of manpower, application engineers and the physical space.

The company president said the firm's plant, which totals 65,000 square feet, was built with growth in mind and can handle current and future business.

“We rearranged our equipment a year or two ago, to allow more space to do turnkey,” he said. “We have physically doubled the space available inside our building to accept these type of turnkeys.”

Roembke said that as new technology is adopted the firm can operate more efficiently, and there isn't the need for more floor space. The plant could boost its staff by another 25 percent and still be fine from a physical standpoint.

Diversifying the portfolio

Roembke Ossian, Ind.
Tooling produced by Roembke Manufacturing & Design Inc. goes into machinery made by a variety of press makers, such as Milacron.

From a market viewpoint, Roembke Mfg.'s decision back in the late 1990s to diversify has paid off.

“Back in the 1990s, probably 75 percent or more of our business was automotive. Our goal was to make sure we had a good balance, percentage-wise, between automotive and medical.”

The company didn't reduce its investment in the automotive segment but diversified its portfolio. It developed new technologies and got more heavily into medical, such as liquid silicone molding, and consumer segments, as well as tooling that ultimately turns out military goods.

“Today I'd say our portfolio is nicely spread, maybe even more heavily in medical,” Roembke said. The medical and health care segments together represent about 60 percent of the firm's business, and the remaining 40 percent consumer and automotive.

“We certainly don't turn away business,” Roembke said about automotive, which has been a strong area in the past year. In fact, he said, all the company's business segments showed growth last year.

The executives hope to encourage a continuation of that steady climb by setting up two different two-shot molding cells for demonstration at the National Plastics Exhibition in Orlando, Fla., March 23-26.