The medical molder took a shuttered, brownfield plant from an empty building to a full-production molding facility in just six months.
When Westfall Technik bought the former MGS Manufacturing Group facility near Chicago in Antioch, IL, last year, to better serve medical device OEMs in the midwest, the plant had been shuttered for more than a year. It needed a “total facelift,” said Chief Operating Officer Mark Gomulka at the time. It also needed to be up and running as fast as possible, and that responsibility rested on the shoulders of Roy Boyd, who was hired as general manager of the new plant. He got the job done in record time.
“We took a shuttered, brownfield plant from an empty building to a state-of-the-art, full production molding facility in just six months,” said Boyd. It helped that he had deep expertise in medical molding with various companies and, in fact, had worked in that very plant before it shut down. When it came time to source auxiliary and molding automation equipment, Boyd immediately went to Wittmann, who he had worked with before. He knew from experience it could accommodate the project’s need for speed and precision.
“I have worked with Wittmann robots and equipment for over 20 years in my career,” said Boyd in a prepared statement. “They were our preferred supplier for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was their service. They were with us from day one, helping us integrate their robots and auxiliaries into our molding machine cells.”
Availability was critical as supply chain struggled
In the new Chicago plant, Westfall is running 15 injection molding machines ranging from 55 to 280 tons. Three Class 8 cleanrooms with ISO 13485 certification house molding cells making medical diagnostic components and labware. Materials ranging from commodity polypropylene to engineering-grade resins are used.
Westfall uses several Wittmann sprue pickers at the plant, as well as more sophisticated Wittmann robots. In addition to needing consistency in picking parts out of the molds, Boyd cited Wittmann’s product availability as a crucial factor. “As we all know, sourcing machinery, equipment, and materials over the past two years has been difficult,” he said. “Ramping up during the global pandemic was a challenge. We needed to get everything quickly. Wittmann not only had the robots and auxiliaries that we needed, but they also were willing and able to send their technicians here to our plant to integrate their equipment and train our operators onsite.”
In addition to Wittmann robots, Westfall Technik is also using Wittmann temperature control units, dryers, granulators, gravimetric blenders and feeders, and material loaders.
The need to communicate
Westfall Technik has 19 locations worldwide and operates in excess of 450 injection molding machines. Consequently, standardizing machinery, molds, and business practices as much as possible is a priority for the company, as is integrating Industry 4.0 capabilities. “All of our machinery and equipment need to communicate,” said Boyd. In the Chicago plant, Wittmann auxiliaries including temperature control units and dryers are connected to non-Wittmann molding machines, providing real-time data that is easily accessible. “Wittman’s equipment is designed to work well and communicate with other brands of molding machines,” said Boyd, which was a huge advantage he added.
Westfall Technik is currently running 15 molding machines at the new Chicago plant, “but we have the capacity to run more than 30,” said Boyd. “Based on Westfall Technik’s aggressive growth strategy, I expect we will be adding new machinery and equipment here soon.” Those growth plans will include Wittmann robots and auxiliaries, added Boyd. As a matter of fact, he said, “we are already in the process of receiving five new robots with supporting auxiliary equipment.”