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November/December Feature

Donnelly Custom Molds its Own Success Story

Ranked #18 in PM&F’s Fast 30 Processors, Donnelly Custom Mfg. Co. sets its goals high and more often then not, achieves them. This 17-year-old, Alexandria, MN-based injection molding company is on a growth curve any company would be proud of, expecting sales for 2001 to top the $23 million mark.

Leadership at Donnelly is one of many reasons its success has taken place at such a rapid rate. Pictured above are (left to right) Jerry Bienias, vice president of finance and technical operations; Darla Brink, director of planning and customer logistics; Ron Kirscht, president; James McCarthy, vice president and director of engineering services; and Dave Lamb, director of manufacturing. For more pictures at Donnelly, click here.
By surrounding himself with hard working, ambitious employees, setting and attaining goals, the founder of Donnelly Custom Mfg., Stan Donnelly, built himself an injection molding company from scratch and has 17 years of success to show for it.

“We customize to the customer,” says President Ron Kirscht. “Whatever the customer wants we aspire to do it. We are a relationship-based operation offering a high level of customization for the customer. You have to be agile and flexible in this day and age.”

When Donnelly started the company in 1984, success didn’t come overnight.

“Donnelly was in an 18,000-square-foot building with four brand new JSW injection molding machines and 4 employees. The only problem was zero customers,” says Kirscht, who has been with the company since 1991. “An acquaintance had initially told Stan, ‘if you open up a custom injection molding company, we will give you our business.’ Well, that didn’t happen.”

A year and a half went by before Donnelly began to see a profit, something he has come to expect ever since growing the company into its current 100,000-square-foot building and 250 employees.

“We have seen all kinds of business weather, but Donnelly Custom Molding Co. (as it was known back then) has led a relatively charmed existence,” says Kirscht. “In 1989-90, a recession hit and the plastic industry really got rocked. However, this company grew, and it grew a lot, upwards of 20 percent.”

That has been the goal for Donnelly ever since: 20 percent growth specializing in short- to medium-run molding of close tolerance, high precision parts. They built their own niche and with its current customer base, many of whom are leaders in their respective industries, sales reached $23 million last year with hopes for another increase in 2002. Donnelly continues to focus on making its customer relations stronger all the while adjusting to the industry as it changes.

“We are extremely intimate with our customers and strive to understand their needs and challenges, always looking for alternative solutions that we can deliver to help turn today’s project into a major success of tomorrow,” says Kirscht. “We have had a lot of success in doing that, which doesn’t happen without capable and confident people from within.”
This 2000 Toshiba EC110 electric press is used as a general purpose press at Donnelly, molding a wide variety custom thermoplastic parts from over 600 different engineering resins. Specializing in providing close tolerance parts, Donnelly provides a wide array of decorating, assembly and other post molding value-added services. Typical production orders will vary from 200 to 300 parts all the way up to 1,000,000+.

Gas Assist the Way to Go

Donnelly is in the process of adding gas assist injection molding equipment. According to Dave Lamb, director of manufacturing, this is a direction where the industry is headed.

“We are convinced that we need to be in this business, especially for the molding of cosmetic parts. It allows you flexibility to break some of the rules of molding and still manage to come away with a good-looking part. It is definitely easier to design a cosmetic part (with support ribs) for gas assist than traditional injection molding.

“Gas assist allows to do things in plastic that you couldn’t do before. I think once we perfect our proficiency in this area we will be offering it to our customers who make cosmetic parts to provide them with a solution that they can leverage.”

Donnelly currently runs six new all-electric presses. “This is something we embarked on four years ago, replacing older machines with all-electrics,” says Lamb. “We looked at it as a better way of molding. We got the precision that we expected; they are quieter, use less electricity, and put out less heat. Environmentally, we got what we expected. The added bonus that we didn’t plan for is the reliability. They just don’t go down and when they do, it is more of a plug-and-play replacement.

System Conversion

Donnelly’s Injection Molding Presses

Press Shot Size
1 Toshiba Electric 80 Ton 11.46 oz.
1 Arburg All Arounder 28 Ton 1.4 oz
1 Arburg All Arounder 85 Ton 3.2 oz
1 Toshiba 170 Ton 19.3 oz
1 JSW 75 Ton 5.1 oz
1 JSW 150 Ton 15.6 oz
1 Cincinnati Milacron 110 Ton 7 oz
1 Cincinnati Milacron 220 Ton 20 oz
1 Toshiba 60 Ton 2.3 oz
1 Toshiba 60 Ton 2.8 oz
2 Mitsubishi 270 Ton 21.2 oz
1 Van Dorn 80 Ton Rotary 4 oz
1 Toshiba Electric 110 Ton 4.2 oz
1 Toshiba 390 Ton 48 oz
1 JSW 100 Ton 7.7 oz
1 JSW 200 Ton 20.6 oz
1 Mitsubishi 610 Ton 101.9 oz
1 Mitsubishi 720 Ton 101.9 oz
1 Mitsubishi 500 Ton 52.2 oz
1 Mitsubishi 500 Ton 68.4 oz
1 Mitsubishi 320 Ton 28.6 oz
1 Mitsubishi 120 Ton 4.8 oz
2 RoboShot 55 Ton Electric 1.9 oz
2 RoboShot 165 Ton Electric 8.9 oz

“We just got through our first month after conducting a complete manufacturing system conversion to Enterprise IQ software from IQMS,” says Kirscht. “From a company standpoint, it has gone well. People are learning it and giving it a chance and we are happy with the way it has gone so far.”

In addition to planning and scheduling manufacturing activities, Donnelly has seen gains in administrative activities as well, according to Jerry Bienias, vice president of finance and technical operations.

“One of the big benefits is that we have all the presses hooked into the system so we can pull up any press and see how a job is running from any computer in the plant,” says Bienias. “We can see if it is running above standard, below standard, what the last 50 shots looked like, etc.”

With the old system, Donnelly employees entered all productivity figures and information manually at the end of every shift.

“That system served us well for eight years,” says Kirscht, “but we knew that for the future our old information system was lacking. We knew that it didn’t provide us with the level of connectivity and technology for a growing organization which had engineers in the field and operations in remote locations.

From a connectivity standpoint with customers, Donnelly wasn’t on a Windows-based operating system, and that was categorized as a significant inhibitor to growth.

“Now that we have that behind us it frees up finite resources for other business issues that we face,” says Kirscht.

ISO Process To Perfection

The idea of having a value-added ISO 9002 certification might seem like a headache to many companies, normally taking 18 months to complete.

Donnelly achieved certification in just eight months.

“We are practical people and knew we could do it in less time. Creativity and motivation led us to that point,” says Kirscht. “Our customers weren’t necessarily ISO certified, but the value to our customers comes from them knowing this helps us become better. Our costs (for defects) are down to less then 1 percent. Our customers need reliability. ISO Certification has been a profound value-adding event for our company. We gained far more then we invested. It was a tool that we needed to get ready for the demands of the marketplace today and in the future.”

No Limits

“We try not to limit ourselves and our abilities. We work with over 600 different materials and all types, grades and colors,” says Jim McCarthy, vice president and director of Engineering Services. “We mold everything from $44 per pound PEEK to $0.36 cent per pound HIPS (high impact polystyrene). When you have a diverse customer base and 2,000 active molds, you can’t limit yourself and excel. Our press sizes range from
Kirscht holds an ice machine evaporator plate, which Donnelly manufactures for making ice cubes. It is molded out of U/E 662-009 EVA from Quantum in a Mitsubishi MG80 500 ton press. The large tin coated copper inserts are loaded in the mold and are actually joined when the mold closes, creating the shut-offs.
a 28 ton Arburg All Around vertical press to a 720 ton Mitsubishi press. One of the original JSW presses from 1984 is still in operation.”

Donnelly, an engineering services company which provides custom thermoplastic injection molding, domestic and off-shore tooling, on-site engineering consultation, Pro Engineer CAD support and prototyping, has purchased quite a wide array of manufacturing equipment specifically for one project, which then led to future projects.

“We are right at about 2,000 molds; 40 percent were inherited from other molders and the other 60 percent have come from projects we managed. We manage all tool projects and serve as an integral part in the design phase.”

Training Grant Received from theGopher State

Donnelly, serves industrial and consumer OEMs in fluid handling, banking and business equipment, vending, ice delivery systems and automated control, medical, electronics, security and identification, home, school and office organization products, lawn and garden and paint spray systems. Donnelly recently received a $345,000 grant from the State of Minnesota for its employee training program. It was one of the largest grants awarded in the state.

“Spread out over a three-year period, it is a cost sharing program,” says Kirscht. “One of our growth inhibitors is recruiting, retention and retraining workers. We have always funded our training internally, but we realized that there are programs that other companies were getting to help leverage those training dollars.

“Developing and training our people to meet the challenges of tomorrow supports and confirms our growth strategy.”

For more pictures at Donnelly, click here.

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