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March 1, 2010

Ellington Plastics Firm Molds Success By Reinventing Itself

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO A plastics molding machine stands ready for business at Dymotek's Ellington facility.

Three years ago, when local companies began to buckle under the strain of an economic downturn, Dymotek knew it faced significant hurdles if it was going to survive much less reach its goal of becoming a leader in the plastic molding industry.

Company executives took a hard look in the mirror and decided it was time to change what had been a successful business plan.

In January 2007, the Ellington firm derived more than 55 percent of its business from a single customer in the automotive industry. It was an account that put the company on pace to doubling its revenue within five years.

While the potential growth looked appealing, officials at Dymotek — shortened from Dynamic Molding Technologies — knew it was risky to tie up the lion’s share of its business in a single account.

“We knew that if the customer folded or walked away from us, we were in trouble,” said Norm Forest, executive vice president of operations.

Diversification, a new marketing strategy and a new work culture were needed. And the change of strategy may well have saved the company because in January 2008, that big customer decided to make its own parts, leaving Dymotek out in the cold.

Dymotek entered the injection molding business in 1992 when two brothers, Steven and Thomas Trueb, invented a proprietary ADA-compliant under-sink pipe-covering system.

The Ellington natives, who learned about machine dies while working in their father’s pattern-making shop, launched TRUEBRO, Inc. and grew the company from a two-machine shop to one with 10 machines.

Forest joined the company in 1997 and put his strong industry experience to work growing the TRUEBRO line and introducing the Dymotek division. But TRUEBRO Inc. ran into problems marketing its proprietary products to big-box chains. In 2005, the founders sold the line to a plumbing company and focused on the Dymotek business, according to Victor Morando, vice president of engineering services.

The custom injection molding company expanded its manufacturing facility by 20,000-square-feet, enhanced its automation capabilities and focused more on its already strong employee retention efforts and customer service philosophy.

But that was before the recession changed everything.

Today the company’s 34 full-time workers focus on molding products for the plumbing industry, new product launches — including its Roof Top Blox, adjustable piping support for roofing contractors — and customer satisfaction. Morando said the company plans to hire more workers this year, although he’s not sure how many will be added.

Dymotek has roughly 75 percent of its business tied up in long-term contracts, but with no single client providing more than 20 percent of the revenue.

The company has poured millions of dollars over the past few years into beefing up its automation technology, which allows the company to turn projects over faster and more efficiently.

The company ramped up its business by employing a dedicated sales force, according to Morando. Dymotek officials also developed a marketing plan to use as a guide for growth, something it had never relied on before.

“We are a small company with technical capabilities that are typically only found in much larger companies,” said Forest. “It allows for focused customer service and the benefit of a small company with the horsepower behind it of a much larger company.”

Forest says the company’s cutting-edge automation technology, smart workforce and collaborative culture give Dymotek a leg up over the competition because executives quickly can make decisions, implement customer requests and receive feedback from its employees.

But the new path hasn’t been without some potholes.

Dymotek nearly lost a good client in Emissive Energy Corp. six months ago when it lagged on returning calls and took longer than usual to turn projects around.

Jeff Rider, a supply chain manager at the New England, manufacturers of portable LED lighting, said Dymotek’s willingness to put customers first is what saved the business relationship and helps Dymotek succeed.

“I think there was a sense that I was an easy guy to work with and that if we needed information about something or a quick turn-around, it was okay to get back to us later rather than sooner,” Rider said.

He understood his own company’s deadlines but also sympathized with Forest and his obligations. “I talked to Norm and told him my concerns,” he said.

Forest didn’t waste any time addressing the complaints. “He put me first and understood completely what our company was asking for,” Rider recalled. “Dymotek went above and beyond to make sure we were happy...

“I’ve been involved in purchasing for several companies for the past 20 years and I’ve never met a more dedicated team of people,” said Rider. “No matter where I am or where I end up, I will always turn to Norm and his team at Dymotek if I have the opportunity.”

Dymotek, which relies on its workers to guide the company, also flipped its own organizational chart so that management and company support rested at the bottom, creating a fun and safe environment that supported and nurtured collaboration and input from all levels, regardless of titles and seniority.

“We strive to allow everyone the personal authority to do their best every day,” said Morando.

“This may sound like a great work environment, but it can also lead to high pressure. The tough spot is if someone fails in reaching a goal or meeting the requirements of a task, there is no place to hide,” said Morando.

“We can all have a tough day but how you deal with it makes the difference,” said Morando. “We slap each other on the back at the end of the day and simply look forward to tomorrow.”

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