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Western Case grows with investments in infrastructure and equipment

Plastics News features Western Case in an article published on February 27, 2015
See the full article on Plastics News

By Roger Renstrom
CorrespondentPublished: February 27, 2015 5:56 pm ET
Updated: March 2, 2015 5:01 pm ET

Topics IndustrialBlow Molding

RIVERSIDE, CALIF. — Blow molder Western Case Inc. has invested significantly in infrastructure and equipment while relocating and raising the bar on its strictly U.S.-only operations.

Martin M. Smetter, now 73, founded the California-based maker of blow molded products, primarily carrying cases, in 1978. He sold the business in April 2012.

Management for the new private ownership quickly determined that Western Case was outgrowing its 20,000-square-foot Tustin facility and that growing production requirements demanded blow molding machines with larger shot sizes. Steve Santos is the general manager.

About 40 miles away, Western Case located a vacant 58,000-square-foot Riverside facility with 35-foot-high ceilings and excellent insulation attributes. The municipal utility’s discounts on electrical power rates were inviting: 40 percent lower for the first year and 20 percent lower for the second year.

Western Case leases the facility from Vogel Properties Inc. of Walnut, Calif. The landlord financially assisted the blow molder for the installation of a transformer to provide the site with an additional 4,000 amperes of power.

The additional capacity for operations led to higher sales targets for the range of stock, custom and semi-custom products, said Bruce Green, sales and marketing manager. The firm withholds sales data.

The new location became operational in September 2013 after carefully arranging a structured plant layout and efficiently organized product flow lines.

Needing more equipment, Western Case made purchases from financially distressed businesses auctioning assets in southern California and the Midwest.

The acquisitions included six blow molders each in service for 10 to 20 years, two 90,000-pound resin silos and a chiller. Two Sterlings have shot sizes of 30 and 20 pounds; two Hartigs with sizes of 15 and 10 pounds; an Impco with twin 12-pound shot capacities; and a Battenfeld with triple 6-pound shot sizes.

Western Case plans to outfit each of those machines with a weigh scale blender from Maguire Products Inc.

“We have one, and we will get six more,” Ken Trevino, director of technical services, said during a Feb. 9 plant tour. In addition, an extra concrete pad was poured for the eventual addition of a third resin silo.

The firm’s existing material handling equipment from Premier Pneumatics Inc. will get used on so-called “legacy” blow molding machines. Those include five Airform continuous extrusion machines and a Sterling with a 15-pound shot size.

Product lines include cases for medical and musical instruments, guns and tools.

Production contracts for protective cases, often with product-specific soft foam inserts, exist with original equipment manufacturers.

Other output involves automotive heating and air conditioning duct work, containers, tanks, watering cans, toys, sporting goods, wheels and stadium seats.

Customer-specific highway and traffic safety products include white and orange barricades on the 20-pound Sterling, orange lane delineators on the Battenfeld and orange demarcation drums on the 30-pound Sterling. A five-axis router trims the drums.

“All parts are made of either [high density polyethylene] or [low density polyethylene] and sometimes a combination of both,” said Tarek Badawi, business development manager.

Western Case employs 75 and operates on a five-day 24-hour schedule. A fulltime in-house designer and two contract designers focus on product development issues.

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