Plastics maker reaping economies of scale

On Dec. 30, Lee Orlic and his company, Double O Plastics Inc., moved into a new building more than seven times the size of its previous space.

It was a move decided about two years ago – before oil prices headed toward historic highs. As the owner of a custom injection-molding company, Orlic watches oil prices closely because most of his raw materials – the polycarbonates, nylons, styrenes and propylenes – are made from petroleum. At his factory in Kannapolis, 13 injection molding machines spit out plastic goods, such as electrical circuits, concrete connectors and items used in plumbing.

This year alone, he said, raw materials prices have risen 20 percent.

He's glad his company made the move despite growing uncertainty about the economy. He believes it has helped him cut costs.

For example, because of the larger space, he was able to buy a 10-ton crane to move product. He added robots. He employs 45 workers, a few more than he employed two years ago.

“Obviously, you get nervous as the economy turns down,” he said. “You just have to be careful. We spent enough on the plant to make it as efficient as we could.”

Orlic said the plastics industry is having a tough year. He believes business could be down an average 20 percent to 30 percent industrywide. Double O Plastics' business is down but not as much as the industry average, he said.

His industrial and commercial business is still relatively strong, he said. Residential business is down. He's glad he doesn't provide plastics for the automotive industry, which is suffering particularly hard.

“We've been very lucky with the mix we have,” he said. “And we are looking for business. We have the ability to expand.” Kerry Hall