SLIGO, Ireland—GW Plastics Inc. has continually re-invested in its operations during the course of the last five years.
Add another investment to the list.
The firm recently disclosed a $6.8 million investment to increase product development, precision tooling, thermoplastic and liquid silicone injection molding at its site in Sligo. The project includes expanding molding operations into a 28,000-sq.-ft. site.
GW Plastics said the move is designed to meet growing demand for medical products in the region. It expanded into Ireland with the acquisition of Avenue Mould Solutions in 2017, giving it precision mold building capabilities in North America, Asia and Europe. The firm is headquartered in Bethel, Vt.
"Having the ability to produce high cavitation, flashless molds in-house is a key point of differentiation," Anthony Fleszar, GW's sales manager for North America, said of the firm's capabilities at the recent Medical Design & Manufacturing West show in Anaheim, Calif.
"There's not a lot of companies who can provide that service. We developed that out of our Vermont location, taking advantage of the infrastructure we have there from a tooling standpoint. Designs associated with LSR tooling is one of the most challenging aspects of doing it. We have the technology to be able to produce the molds, as well as work very aggressively to develop the intellectual property of how to design the molds."
Brenan Riehl, GW Plastics CEO and president, discussed GW's growth at MD&M West, highlighting the fact that the firm has invested $25 million for expansions and technology during the last five years. These projects include major expansions at its sites in Vermont, Arizona, Texas and China, plus the aforementioned acquisition of Avenue Mould.
During that span, GW Plastics has grown its footprint to a combined 500,000 square feet throughout its seven locations. The firm operates four facilities in the U.S. and one each in Mexico, China and Ireland. More than 80 percent of its business comes from the health care industry.
"The company has had a very successful growth trajectory primarily thanks to organic growth," Riehl said. "We have a very strategic growth strategy and continuity of ownership. We have invested aggressively back into the business and the marketplace is responding with respect to our relationships with our customers. We received the Vermont Growth Award last year and are one of the fastest growing companies in the state. As the (medical) industry has consolidated, we've had a very consistent presence in the industry to support our customers."
GW's primary business is thermoplastics, but 10 years ago it saw its customer base begin requesting silicone compounds. The firm established its GW Silicones subsidiary in 2008 and during the last decade has invested $10 million into the company that has generated substantial organic growth, Riehl said.
The firm hired silicone industry veterans Mark Hammond and Jeff Hazen to lead the division, and initially business came from existing GW Plastics customers. Eventually, GW Silicones moved into its own facility on GW's Royalton, Vt., campus and has doubled in sales during the last five years.
"Collaboration is key, especially on the silicone side," Fleszar said. "Prototyping is such an important part of the process, so having the ability to build prototypes in-house and work upfront with our customers in a collaborative fashion has been great for business."
Riehl said GW Plastics is in a strong position to stand out within medical device original equipment manufacturer's supply chain as it offers a variety of services beyond thermoplastic and silicone molding. It provides in-house tooling on a global scale, precision gearing, full contract assembly and medical device packaging, to name a few.
In 2018, GW Plastics expanded and upgraded its Royalton site with additive manufacturing technology to streamline tool design, reduce components and lead time needed to build a mold, and reduce the overall investment for customers.
"We've got a portfolio of high-technology niches," Riehl said. "We're also very much at the forefront of additive manufacturing now, particularly on the metals side. We're doing very sophisticated additive manufacturing for the construction of injection molds. There are very few people in the industry who have the technology in that space. We're specifically targeting conformal cooling as well as rapid prototyping in specific areas."
In addition to the investment in Ireland, GW Plastics said it is looking at further expansions in the U.S. and Mexico for its thermoplastic molding, silicone molding and contract manufacturing business.
The firm was awarded the 2018 Vermont Business Growth Award, which it said is presented annually by Vermont Business Magazine and KeyBank to the top Vermont businesses that have experienced the greatest growth during the past five years. GW said it has achieved 52.4 percent growth during that span.
"We have a long-term relationship with our customers," Riehl said. "If you look at the market leaders in the industry, we're doing business with the majority of the top 30 medical device OEMs and a majority of our relationships have been 10 years or more. We don't run from one side of the ship to another, we keep a steady hand on the tiller. That's consistent with our culture."