ITWC grows upwards
Malcom, Iowa-based ITWC Inc. rarely stands still, physically expanding seven times since it was founded in 1988. That doesn't include capacity expansions or the addition of machinery, employees and technologies, all of which are a common occurrence at the company.
The reason is simple, ceo Walt Smith said: you can’t mark time, you’re either advancing or you’re retreating.
ITWC is always advancing, he said, as is Newton, Iowa-based Thombert Inc., an industrial forklift tyre manufacturer, where Smith also serves as ceo.
ITWC is doing it again.
The firm is adding two large reactors, he said at the PMA conference, 9-11 May in Las Vegas.
The company recently installed two 6000-gallon (22 700-litre) reactors at the Malcom facility, which will allow it to make tank-truck quantities in one batch, Smith said.
One problem: the reactors were taller than ITWC’s plant. Its solution: raise the roof. It added 10 ft (3 m) of roof height to accommodate the reactors.
With those moves, the company doubled the capacity of its most popular polyester prepolymer product line and created the opportunity to produce and ship full tank-truck quantities to customers.
The reactors are expected to increase the nameplate capacity for prepolymers by about 35 million pounds (16 kilotonnes) annually.
The additions give the company 20 reactors, Smith said, and allows it to dedicate smaller reactors to important smaller jobs for customers and maintain consistency.
All the expansions have been spurred by a sales growth rate of about 15 percent a year, according to Smith, who added that he believes sales will continue to rise at a record pace.
ITWC, which employs about 56, has completely bounced back from the recession of 2009, he said.
“March was the best March we’ve ever had and we’ve been setting sales records since then. That probably has to do with our customers’ approval of what we produce and our service. We’re as vertically integrated as any company, which is a big advantage … because it gives us great flexibility.” The company has strong sales in North America and has developed a base overseas, especially in Germany and Spain. But there are problems selling polymers and prepolymers to companies in foreign lands, he admitted.
“Some of the best things we make are tougher to ship,” Smith said. “And what we do best is offer superb service. But when you’re 17 hours away, it’s tough to be there when they need you.”