by Jim Boyle
E & O Tool & Plastics, an injection molding business with its home base in Elk River and a second shop in Monterrey, Mexico, recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.
The business has survived everything from exponential growth to the down-turned economy, both of which have presented their share of obstacles. The ownership and its employees continue to find success and seem to still be having fun doing it.
The anniversary celebration included a picnic and a dunk tank with company president, Tim Osterman, getting dunked numerous times.
“I think some enjoyed it too much,” Osterman says with a chuckle.
E & O Tool was founded in 1986 by Don Erdman and Jim Osterman, who represent the E and O, respectively.
The business started with a 10,000-square-foot facility, which included a tool shop that was started at Jim Osterman’s Zimmerman home.
It employed six guys in the beginning. At one point the Elk River business employed 175 people. Many of them are still with the business that was sold to new leadership in 2001.
The business is now led by President and CEO Tim Osterman (Jim’s son), Vice President Gary Pearson, and Chief Financial Officer Jay Caswell.
Tim was the plant manager at the time of Erdman’s and his father’s retirement. Pearson oversaw quality. Caswell brought a finance background to the table.
A lot has changed in the industry. Businesses have had to become more efficient and more automated while maintaining high quality and customer service.
“Client turnover is part of the business,” Osterman admits. “Working in a global market is far more difficult.”
The business is now much more automated, and it employs 120 people in Elk River and another 95 people in Monterrey.
The creation of molded components for water purification systems that are used in G.E., Amana, Maytag and Whirlpool refrigerators has been one of the business’ core functions. It has supplied multiple companies, and it now feeds 3M.
It also supplies parts for the automotive, healthcare, housing and electronics industries.
Elk River has 33 presses in its 75,000-square-foot facility that operates 24/7.
It has another 15 presses in Monterrey in a 21,000-square-foot facility that also operates 24/7.
E & O Tool has gone from sales of $10.5 million in 2001 to a manageable $21.5 million this past year. There was a time the business was growing too fast and it had to slow up or risk its good name in the injection molding industry.
Things are moving along nicely now.
The long-range plans call for moving its home base to a piece of land it owns by Faribault Foods and Metal Craft Machine and Engineering in Elk River. Tim Osterman says E & O Tool will make its last payment on its current facility in August of 2016.
“It will be nice to enjoy some fruits of ownership,” Tim Osterman said.
The future calls for more space, more jobs and, of course, more fun.
“We always kept it fun,” Jim Osterman said.