DES PLAINES, Ill.—Rahco Rubber Inc. started with less than five employees and seven presses in 5,000 square feet of space—an offshoot of what used to be the world's largest producer of phonograph needles.
Now the ISO 2015 certified manufacturer of molded rubber parts, components and seals is celebrating its 50th year in business alongside almost 100 team members in its current 65,000-sq.-ft. facility.
Headquartered in Des Plaines, the family-operated manufacturer now houses more than 60 injection, compression, transfer and vacuum presses as well as offices, laboratories, shipping and receiving all under one roof.
And at 50 years old, some upgrades have been in order.
Dennis Askew, business development manager at Rahco, said the company has experienced several facelifts within the last year, "some sexy, some not," including the replacement of the facility's roof for about $250,000, and a switch to LED lighting on the factory floor.
More exciting upgrades, however, include an investment in new equipment intended to save the company time and resources—on top of meeting customer needs.
And having been in business for as long as it has, Rahco has developed long-lasting partnerships, Askew said.
From a customer standpoint, this translates to specialty, dedicated equipment. And everything the company makes for its clients is custom, right down to the formulations of each product.
"We don't have an off-the-shelf O-ring that we sell," Askew said. "Everything we make is custom, every formulation is custom."
Rahco makes its rubber in-house "where it makes sense," but it also sources it from other ISO-certified suppliers, "so it's quality in, quality out," he said.
Within the facility is a milling department where the rubber compounding takes place. From there, the rubber goes to a lab to confirm "it's what it's supposed to be," then it goes to the factory floor for molding, said Sean Cunningham, engineering manager at Rahco.
Through this process, Rahco ensures its customers are getting the right mix for their products before the materials ever hit the factory floor.