Protomold hopes to beat
U.S. results with new
plant in United Kingdom

The Protomold Co. Inc. has set a blistering growth pace in the United States: Sales should reach $18 million to $20 million this year, up from $10.7 million last year, says Brad Cleveland, president and CEO. The company started in 1999.

The company doesn’t export now, but that will change later this year when a new manufacturing and sales facility opens in the United Kingdom. It will serve the European Union, Cleveland says.

While international sales will be minimal in the first year, Cleveland expects fast take-off. “What Protomold has done in five years, I think the U.K. operation will do in three years,” he says.

“The demand for what we do is huge,” Cleveland says, noting that people who develop new products need to get to market faster and faster. “If you were in a hurry yesterday, today you’re in a big hurry.”

Protomold produces rapid-injection molded parts, especially for prototypes and low-volume runs, using an automated process that allows customers to get to market more quickly.

In the United States, expansion is also ongoing. The company has about 80 employees now and should have about 150 by the end of the year, mostly in light manufacturing.  Its manufacturing space will double this year, when another 30,000 square feet of leased space is added to its current 30,000-square-foot headquarters facility in Maple Plain.

Cleveland attributes the success to the original business model, developed by founder and Chief Technology Officer Larry Lukis, who wrote the software to automate what engineers do when making parts, thus dramatically cutting delivery time.  It takes four to 12 weeks to get injection molded parts made conventionally. “Our standard delivery is 10 to 15 business days, and if you pay a premium you can go to three days,” Cleveland says.

The firm employs eight full-time software developers, who continue to write code. “That will allow us to make more complicated parts, more and more quickly,” Cleveland says.

Another part of the original business model, a higher price for faster turnaround, sets the company apart. “Most job shops run at capacity,” Cleveland notes. Protomold always keeps capacity available to accommodate customers’ rush jobs.

Cleveland praises the management team, including Lukis and Vice President Mark Kubicek. “Between the three of us, we can keep a lot of plates spinning.”

Brad Cleveland, The Protomold Co. Inc.: 763.479.3680; bradc@protomold.com; www.protomold.com

Beth Ewen