By Sue Moore
“Their English is far better than my Japanese,” claimed Gary Hallam, general manager and CEO of Eimo Technologies, Inc., Vicksburg. He was referring to the owners of his injection molding company, headquartered in Kyoto, Japan.
Hallam, who grew up in Vicksburg, went to work for what was Triple S in 1984, after attending Michigan State University. He has seen the company change and adjust its product many times over the course of his 31 years with Triple S and its successors.
However, the name of the company hasn’t changed since 2001, when it was bought by Eimo Oy of Lahti, Finland, that produced cell phones for Nokia. Not long after, Foxconn, a Chinese electronics giant, purchased Eimo. It moved most operations to China–except for the Vicksburg plant, which had to scratch and claw to reinvent itself once again in 2005 and 2006, according to Hallam.
When serving in business development relations, Hallam was approached by Junya Suzuki, whose firm, Nissha, was a supplier of films to Eimo. Suzuki now is CEO of the large conglomerate. Foxconn was eager to sell Eimo. Nissha saw potential and purchased it in 2008.
Thus the long route to expansion, from the Triple S days when Dave Stewart, Phil Stewart, and Vic Siemers opened the doors in Phil Stewart’s garage. They were plastics injection molding people with a dream to grow an assortment of products that don’t exist today.
“We have a really good reputation in the industry as we never lost our customer service ethic that began under Triple S. We will jump through hoops, whatever it takes, with a ‘can-do’ attitude to get the job done,” Hallam said.
The Portage Road plant, just south of W Avenue in Vicksburg, is the main manufacturing operation, with 28 injection molding machines. In 1990, a fire virtually destroyed the original building. Fortunately, the company the year before had opened a second molding plant in Vicksburg’s Leja Industrial Park on W. Prairie Street, called ‘Victor Plastics’. In one year it was able to rebuild the Portage Road plant, planning for optimum production. The Tooling Technology Centre was added to the Portage Road site in 1993 (consolidating Satellite Mold and A-tech mold). It was enlarged in 2013 when a 16,000 foot warehouse addition was completed to house a state-of-the-art materials delivery system.
Meanwhile the plant in Leja Park was shuttered in 1997 and reopened in 2002. Then 2009 happened, Hallam said. “We experienced a 40-percent drop in orders and we were in survival mode. Upon reflection, that was our saving grace. The suppliers that weathered 2009 are way better off today, due to cost cutting, scrap waste reduction, and quality initiatives that put businesses like Eimo on a path to recovery.”
The latest expansion is a 60,000-square-foot building right next to the current plant on W. Prairie Street “Business has been steadily growing for the past five years. Now we need to expand and modernize once again,” said Hallam. The company plans to sell the 40,000-square-foot building in Leja Park once it moves into the new space. The expansion is being built by Frederick Construction, a Vicksburg company.
“Nissha trusts us to run the business in Vicksburg, with my immediate manager headquartered in Chicago at its North American office.” The parent company in Kyoto, Japan, reports close to $1 billion in revenue, with the Vicksburg plant providing a respectable $50 million in revenue last year. There are close to 300 employees in Vicksburg, with 15 jobs expected to be added on the completion of the new facility. Another 50 jobs may be added in the next three years, Hallam explained, if all goes according to plan. The company will operate 20 molding machines in the new building with the ability to accommodate up to 30 machines. Eimo is running three shifts five days a week.
The film used in production of its plastic products, was perfected by Nissha. It allows Eimo’s injection molding machines to create a niche in the decorative molding business, called “IMD,” for “in-mold-decorating.”
Fifty percent of Eimo’s production consists of plastic decorative parts for the automotive business. Products for home living industries such as Whirlpool amount to another 20 percent. Yet another 20 percent is spread throughout the medical field. Stryker was one of the company’s most important clients early on and has remained so, Hallam said.
“With all the sophisticated equipment and processes at our fingertips, at the end of the day, the business still boils down to people,” Hallam said in an article that appeared in Plastics Decorating Magazine last year.
“We like to think we are ‘molding people’s lives’ – those people include our customers, our team members, our community, our suppliers and our stockholders.” As an example of its commitment to community–and its efforts to promote awareness of careers in manufacturing–Eimo has donated a 20-ton all-electric molding machine to Vicksburg High School’s computerized manufacturing laboratory.
“The industries in which we work have incredibly high quality expectations, and we can’t meet those expectations without the attention and dedication of the people who work with us now and those who will work with us in the future,” Hallam was quoted as saying in the news article.