Penn College, Business Partnership Create New Project
Thanks to some local partnering, a Milton company is now better positioned to compete in the national marketplace.
Through a partnership funded by the Northeast Tier Ben Franklin Technology Center, Clark Technology Systems Inc. and Pennsylvania College of Technology's Plastics Manufacturing Center have collaborated to create a new and unique industrial raft system.
As a result of the new design, CTS, which designs and manufactures a complete line of industrial raft products, predicts its raft sales will triple and its business, ideally, will grow from 10 employees to 16. The custom fabrication company, located in the Milton Industrial Park, already reports great interest in its new product, not available anywhere else.
For the Northeast Tier Ben Franklin Technology Center, all of the elements were in place to support this product development project.
When we consider funding an activity, we look at the project team, the market opportunities and the job impact. In this case, all things were in place for an exciting activity," says Larry A. Seibert, regional manager of the Northeast Tier Ben Franklin Technology Center. "This creates a win-win situation. The school benefits by giving faculty additional real-world experiences which they, in turn, can pass on to their students and the company benefits as the recipient of a new product. Hopefully this will be the start of an ongoing relationship between the Plastics Manufacturing Center and Clark Technology Systems and everyone will continue to benefit."
With the CTS project, the company was looking to reduce labor costs and, at the same time, design a more functional raft in terms of customer features. An additional challenge was to reduce overall raft weight without compromising load-carrying ability. The end-users for these products are municipalities and industries with waste water facilities. The rafts float mixer and pump equipment used to remove solids from ponds, lagoons and reservoirs.
"CTS is constantly looking for ways to expand this market and to be more cost-competitive with its raft products," states Faith Clark, company president.
To that end, more than a year ago, Clark approached the Plastics Manufacturing Center to see if the professionals there and the center's support staff of Penn College plastics and polymer technology faculty had any ideas that might help her company. Brainstorming sessions, computer design work, a tabletop prototype and a full-size prototype soon followed.
"This project fits beautifully into the mission of the Plastics Manufacturing Center, which is to assist businesses in developing new products and improving existing products and processes," says Dr. Stanley K. Baczek, director of the center, which is a joint effort of Penn College's Technology Transfer Center and the Northeast Tier Ben Franklin Technology Center.
The Plastics Manufacturing Center's proposed design demonstrates a modular plastic flotation device that does, indeed, lower raft weight and significantly alters construction methods, reducing the need for welding and large metal framing.
The new flotation device utilizes pontoons molded of low-density polyethylene and foam-filled with polyurethane. No longer are nuts and bolts needed to secure the pontoons to the steel structure. Instead, each is slid over a steel pipe, in a "suitcase-type" design. The foam filling provides a safeguard against puncture.
Clark says other advantages of the new flotation design include a handle that allows one person to carry the pontoon, reduced shipping costs as the rafts are stackable and easily assembled in the field, and increased flexibility in floating heavier equipment using a standard-steel structure. The pontoons also will be available in a variety of plastic materials.
"Since the pontoons are a unique design and only manufactured by CTS, the company is better positioned to compete against the competition in the marketplace," Clark notes.
In addition to Baczek, Penn College professionals lending their expertise included Timothy E. Weston, assistant professor and department head, plastics and polymer technology; Richard C. Mason, CAD technology specialist with the Technology Transfer Center; and John Marshalek, a machine shop instructor.
Clark notes that the manufacture and sale of her company's new raft system is an excellent example of utilizing local businesses to produce an end-product for resale. The plastic pontoon part of the new design is being manufactured at Unipar Inc., a rotational molder in Reedsville. The pontoons will then be foam-filled at Ralph S. Alberts Co. Inc. in Montoursville, a custom molder of foam products. The raft system will be marketed through ITT Flygt Corp., an internationally recognized expert in state-of-the-art fluid technology and producer of the original electric submersible pump, an item typically floated on industrial raft systems. The local ITT Flygt distributor is W.M. Wagner Sales Co. Inc., in Winfield.
CTS's first raft with the new design has been sold to an ITT Flygt distributor in Maryland for use in a quarry's wastewater lagoon. The raft is expected to be installed by the first week of October. This particular raft system will float a 650-pound pump and will be retrofitted in the future to support a 1,200-pound pump by simply adding more pontoons.
"With business and education working together, projects like this can impact the economy, both regionally and statewide," Clark comments. "If business had a better handle on the resources that are available right here in our region, like the Plastics Manufacturing Center and the local Ben Franklin Technology Center, they would not go elsewhere. We don't always look in our own back yard for resources, but, certainly, this project is an example of the immense potential waiting right here for us. We need to better utilize these resources and make their availability known to others."
A total of $20,511 was awarded for the CTS raft-development project by the Northeast Tier Ben Franklin Technology Center. With matching funds of company cash and in-kind contributions, as well as College in-kind contributions, the project totaled $86,564. Earlier in the development of the project, a smaller Ben Franklin Partnership technical-assistance grant was awarded for $3,937. Matching that amount with company and College in-kind contributions brought that initial total to $6,255.