Last fall, VistaTek (Stillwater, MN)—a custom manufacturer who provides moldmaking and injection moldmaking services in addition to secondary operations like decorating, packaging and assembly—made a strategic decision to sell the additive manufacturing (AM) portion of its business in order to focus in on its moldmaking and molding divisions. This move also allowed the company to purchase new equipment, add employees, and move into a larger facility.
VistaTek is a second-generation, family-owned company that is run by three siblings: Dan Mishek (Co-owner, Managing Director), Jennifer Sutherland (Co-owner, Director of Finance) and Allen Mishek (Co-owner, Sales/Marketing). It was Dan who approached Jennifer and Allen with a proposal to sell the AM portion of the division. “I laid out the pros and cons to them,” he recalls. “We were growing in all three divisions, but I saw faster growth and more opportunity in tool building and injection molding. We believed continuing to grow the AM division would be more of a distraction for our other divisions. We had to narrow down our expertise.”
Still, the decision was a difficult one, since AM was the foundation of the business when it was started back in 1996. “To give that up was difficult,” Dan acknowledges. “The technology had become more mainstream and remains quite sexy. But, we all knew it made sense. Looking back, it has been very rewarding.”
The trio approached companies that they believed would be a good fit with their business. “We had three companies in mind,” Dan says. “They all had interest.” Since VistaTek planned on continuing to call on its former AM customers for the other two portions of its business, VistaTek needed a company that would treat its customers with respect and share the same level of customer service that had already been established. “We were also looking for a home for our employees—someone local that could take on our six employees from this division,” he says. “Included in the negotiations was a signing bonus to retain that division’s employees.” Ramsey, MN-based In’Tech Industries, Inc. acquired VistaTek’s AM business, and Dan happily reports all six employees moved with the AM portion of the business.
The money from the sale of the AM portion of VistaTek’s business allowed the company to add equipment—and employees. “We have added two injection molding presses, CNC mills and an EDM,” Dan notes. VistaTek has also added four employees and are looking bring on three to five more by advertising online and in local newspapers as well as using headhunters.
Additionally, the company was able to purchase a 56,000 square foot facility—nearly triple the size of its previous facility—to house this new equipment. Not only will this allow the company to practice lean manufacturing principles like Kanban because it can inventory more parts in-house, it will also allow VistaTek to enter the liquid silicone molding (LSR) market. “We are adding an LSR machine and have actually built a special room in the new facility for this technology. We are hoping to have that operational by end of Q3.
Dan is excited about the opportunities that the sale of the AM business has afforded VistaTek, “I believe that people that are preparing for long-term success will win the battle,” he states.
“Companies are going away from true long-term planning. They feel that three years is an eternity. Those that plan to offset energy costs, shipping costs, educational gaps and strategize for 10, 20 and 30 years out will hold a dominant position in this market.”
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