Issue Summer 13
As far as manufacturing materials go, it’s hard to beat the versatility of plastic. It can be flexible as paper, rigid as steel and machined into virtually any shape. Likewise, the ability of New Hampshire-based Eptam Plastics to fit into virtually any requirement its customers may have for precision-machined plastic components has made it tough to beat in the marketplace, President Jeff Hollinger explains. The company has come a long way since its inception in 1981, and that’s due to the fact that Eptam Plastics has demonstrated its ability to rise to any challenge time and time again.
The company was founded by Richard Dearborn in Gilford, N.H., with three employees. Hollinger was hired 21 years ago to help build up the company’s sales, and ever since then its growth has been consistent. “When I first started, we were in a 16,000-square-foot building,” he says. “We then built a second building that was 25,000 square feet and then in 2001, we moved to this facility that we’re currently in.”
Eptam Plastic’s 62,000-square-foot production facility in Northfield, N.H., features state-of-the-art equipment, and Hollinger says its technological edge is one of the primary reasons it has been able to build the customer base it has today. “Our customer base would be large OEMs,” Hollinger explains. “We pretty much sell only to OEMs. Quite often, they are the leaders in their industries.”
Among the industries served by Eptam Plastics are manufacturers in the semiconductor, military, aerospace, energy and medical sectors. Although these industries don’t have a lot in common at first glance, Hollinger says they all have the same demands when it comes to documentation, the use of high performance materials and demanding tolerances.
They all require those components to be manufactured to the highest possible standards, and very few manufacturers are equipped to meet those needs the way Eptam Plastics is.
“Typically, we supply the difficult parts that either other people don’t want to make or can’t make,” Hollinger says, adding that the company’s technological advantages are a big part of the reason for those capabilities. “We specialize in multi-axis machining; our sweet spot are parts that are more complex than your simple turned or a three-axis milled part.”
The company’s multi-axis CNC machining equipment is capable of 5-axis milling and turning on the same machine. This allows complex components to be machined without removing the part and moving it to a new machine, which not only reduces production time but also ensures that tighter positional tolerances can be held. The company says this equipment “further expands our ability to deliver complex machined geometries, all in a single setup.”
“We use technology to allow us to maintain a competitive advantage over either tolerances or pricing where in some cases you can do something all in one operation rather than in multiple setups,” Hollinger says. “So it’s better value for the customer.”
Along with the company’s capabilities in multi-axis machining, Eptam Plastics also boasts advanced capabilities in CNC milling, sawing, turning and routing. The company’s clean room also allows Eptam Plastics to provide custom assembly services to customers in the semiconductor and medical sectors.
The fact that few manufacturers are as willing to take on challenging components as Eptam Plastics means the competition isn’t the same as it is for others, Hollinger says. “As we’ve become more and more specialized, there’s less competition,” he says.
Beyond the company’s expertise in plastics, Hollinger adds, Eptam Plastics also provides added value through the level of cooperation it offers its customers. Eptam Plastics’ engineers work closely with customers to develop the perfect solution to their needs. “We do a lot of collaborative engineering and work with our customers,” he explains. “We look at offering more than just machining – we really look at helping our customers solve a problem.”
Hollinger says Eptam Plastics sees more growth in the future. The company’s philosophy of continuous improvement means it is always working on ways to incorporate lean principles and reduce costs, and it has a person on staff with a Six Sigma black belt, according to Hollinger.
Ensuring continuous quality is essential when dealing with the tight requirements of its customers. Hollinger says the company recently hired a new quality engineer to help with the documentation side of the business, and the company is in the process of going through AS 9100 certification for the aerospace industry. “We’re very, very optimistic about the future,” Hollinger explains.