Within a month of opening his business in Circle Pines in 1999, Brett Nelson had 25 people working for him. He now employs over 175 people and expects to peak around 300 employees with his latest expansion project.
Nelson has a degree in mechanical engineering and has been in the business since 1984. Fifteen years later, he was opening his own business.
“I worked at another injection molder in town as an engineer and thought I could do it in a better way,” Nelson said.
Advanced Molding Technologies designs, manufactures and distributes precision molded parts for customers in the consumer products and medical fields and it does assemble some medical devices.
Within the last two years, Nelson has overseen a 16,000 square-foot expansion at his original building to add four new molding machines and a packaging line and construction of a new 36,000 square-foot building just down the street in the same business park which will have a Class 7 cleanroom assembly, eight additional molding machines and more packaging and distribution space.
Once the building is open for business this winter, the total square footage for Advanced Molding Technologies will be 84,000 square feet.
“It’s rewarding,” Nelson said. “We treat all our people as part of a family and give them a safe and secure place to work. I’ve never let anyone go in a layoff in 14 years.”
Although sales did decline 5 to 10 percent during the recession, the company had not outgrown itself. There were about 100 employees a couple of years ago. The expansions came after the recession faded away and sales started growing by 40 to 50 percent, according to Nelson.
Within the last two years, Advanced Molding Technologies entered the medical devices business.
For example, it designed and assembled a blood plasma separator that is used in a centrifuge where the blood inside the device is subjected to pressures exceeding 450 PSI. There is a great need for strong, reliable bonding processes and effective leak-decay testing for verification to eliminate any possibility of blood leaking in the operating room.
Advanced Molding Technologies engineers were able to help their client get U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval ahead of schedule with minimal design changes.
Beyond the medical field, it has produced molds for “precision under the hood components” for vehicles, for PUR water filters, plumbing, and cell phones.
Advanced Molding Technologies is the only company in the world developing the moldings for Under Armour’s mouthguards.
It once did every single one of the molds for the original XBox that were shipped all over the world so that other manufacturers could consistently produce the gaming consoles. They shipped 10 to Hungary, 10 to Malaysia, 10 to Mexico and 10 to American companies.
“Now, the new Xbox (moldings) are all made in China. Hopefully that’s going to come back some day,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the threat is still there that Advanced Molding Technologies could lose work to China, but it has lessened in recent years.
One positive aspect of the medical device industry is the threat of work going overseas is much less and not all molding companies embrace the unique challenges of working in this field.
“The requirements are such that to get set up for it is a little more involved so it separates us from our competition,” Nelson said, “We have the right mindset for that. Not everybody does.”
The challenge now is finding good labor and engineers. He only wants to hire qualified people and sometimes they can be difficult to find. They have an internship program for engineering students to try to give these college students some experience in the field.
Nelson expects to have between 275 and 300 employees once the new building is complete and fully operational, but the timing depends on how quickly the work comes in and whether he can find the employees he needs.
Find more information about Advanced Molding Technologies at www.advancedmt.com.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]