Kastalon Inc. is coming off another solid year with expectations of a repeat performance in 2013.
But that doesn't mean the Alsip, Ill.-headquartered designer and manufacturer of polyurethane goods is resting on its laurels.
R. Bruce DeMent, the firm's president and CEO, has been and is making improvements across the board at the firm. They primarily involve remaining lean, a program he's steadfastly embraced for more than a decade, while continuing to re-engineer the company's systems and processes to make the operation more efficient and responsive to its customers' needs.
"In the last two years, we have reinvented most of the way we do our manufacturing," he said.
He also is overseeing an internal reorganization to begin preparing the company for the time he retires. "I'm not sure when that will happen," said the executive, who is in his early 60s. "The reorganization is going extremely well. We're getting the right people in the right places."
Kastalon continues to emphasize train¬- ing for all employees, especially during soft times, because that improves the abilities of the work force, helps avoid layoffs and pays off in the long run, according to DeMent.
His goal is to ensure the company is successful for at least another 50 years, which would match the number of years the firm has been in business.
All of it is "a constant journey that never ends … but one that's worth the effort," he said.
Kastalon is celebrating its 50th anniversary with little fanfare, principally because DeMent never thought about it, and "it sort of snuck up on us. I guess we've been pretty busy," he said at the Polyurethane Manufacturers Association Annual Meeting, held in Las Vegas May 5-8.
The company does plan to host an open house, "a celebration for our 85 employees" at its 60,000-sq.-ft. plant in Alsip, a suburb south of Chicago, he said.
Aside for that, it's business as usual at the company. Kastalon makes a variety of polyurethane parts used in heavy equipment, weapons handling systems for the military, steel and metals, material handling and other applications.
The company designs, engineers and manufactures goods for anything requiring high-quality polyurethane parts, according to DeMent, who was named a PMA director at the meeting. "It's time to give back a little," he said.
While 2012 was a great year for Kas¬talon, he said, "it could have been fantastic. But some projects were put on hold by some customers … and they still haven't pulled the trigger on them. There's so much uncertainty in the economy, and regulations are excessive. That's holding everything back. Companies make business plans, but they're concerned about implementing them."
Forecast looks promising
Nonetheless, he anticipates some of those projects will get the go-ahead sometime in 2013, which will have a nice impact on the year.
Kastalon has some new urethane products in the pipeline that should help the company when they hit the market.
It's important that the company continues moving forward and not sit still, according to DeMent, who co-owns the company with his brother, Michael.
Today, Kastalon barely resembles the firm DeMent's father founded with two friends in 1963. While his friends invested in the business with Robert DeMent Sr., he did the work.
Typically, in its first year of operation the company faced numerous difficulties, not the least of which was the location of the business in a space the size of a one-car garage borrowed from one of the partners' fathers.
The firm was in the red after a year, and Robert DeMent's partners wanted out. He went deep into debt and borrowed from his family and others to meet the asking price. But he had faith in the company, said his son. And it paid off.
Kastalon cast its first custom urethane parts for U.S. Steel, a corporation that has remained with it through the years. It slowly grew, moved, expanded and moved to its present state-of-the-art facility in Alsip.
R. Bruce DeMent joined the company full time in 1974 after graduating from college, although he had worked part time at the business since he was 13.
For the next 16 years, he handled virtually every job at the plant and was well prepared when he began running the firm in 1990 and officially became president in 1994. Under his leadership, it has grown steadily since then.
DeMent is preparing for the day when he finally steps down, although he hopes that's far down the road. "We're looking at succession plans," he said. "We're getting prepared and studying all options."
His brother may retire in the near future, and if that should happen, it's likely he will purchase Mike DeMent's interest. Other members of the family at Kastalon are R. Bruce DeMent's son, Robert III, and a cousin.
"Succession is something you have to work on for many years if you want it to be successful and the company to continue operating successfully," DeMent said. "That's what we're doing and will continue to do."