PLANT OF THE MONTH: Ridout Plastics

Approaching its 100th anniversary in 2014, San Diego’s Ridout Plastics has a proud past and an even more promising future. Guided by a five-word mission statement—“When others can’t, we can!”—the firm today serves clients ranging from individual homeowners to Fortune 500 companies. It makes and sells items ranging from simple cut-to-size plastic sheets to CNC-machined assembly parts intended for government projects. It even has a 2,500-square-foot showroom and retail store where hobbyists and home handymen rummage through scrap bins.

The secret to its success is a commitment to “doing great work with great people and great tools.” And Schelling equipment is a key element in that story.

Going back to the beginning in 1914, the Rench Co. (Ridout’s original name) confined itself to selling little cellulose plastic letters and numbers for shelf marking. By the mid-1940s, it had begun working with Plexiglas and was making a line of industrial plastics.

In 1955, Arthur Ridout bought the firm and changed the name to Ridout & Co. Ownership changed hands again in 1967, with Seymour Rabin taking the reins of what came to be known as Ridout Plastics. He added the retail segment, and by investing in advanced technology and automated machine processes, was able to expand the business significantly.

In 1974, Ridout Plastics expanded to a 16,000-square-foot facility, and in 1978 moved again into a 22,800-square-foot shop that is still its home today. It had eight employees in 1968, 65 in 2001, and now—running leaner—has 39. Elliott D. Rabin, Seymour’s son, and John P. Short, general manager, are at the helm.

Short says, “The heartbeat is our cutting room with two 10-foot Schelling saw centers, five CNC routers up to 8 x 8 foot in capacity, and numerous tools for drilling, bending, thermoforming, polishing, bonding, buffing, and other added value service centers. We have tuned this building for maximum efficiency. There is a synergy to our business from being in the same location so long; we’re servicing multiple generations of customers.”

Rabin adds, “If it was simple, everyone would be good at it. We believe in a deep vertical integration of machines, materials and people and we thrive on making it happen for our customers.”

The purchase of its first Schelling in 1998 was a “no brainer,” he explains. “I traveled to New Jersey on a red-eye to witness a customer’s machine in action. After viewing a five-minute cutting cycle I knew this would save us countless hours a week – and produce a cut edge that was fabrication ready.”

“Today,” says Short, “we have machine redundancy throughout the shop. If one machine is offline for service, there is still capacity to fulfill the backlog.”

According to Rabin, the purchase of the second Schelling FK6 was based on this belief in backup, as well as the company’s growth demands. “We never considered any other brand of saw,” he says. “In fact, we replaced two other aging panel saws, freeing up valuable floor space. The new FK6 is significantly faster and better than our older Schelling. The Austrians have applied their learning in the field to producing improved equipment. This is especially true of their plastics cutting models. We have the ability to modify many factors to cut different plastics up to five inches thick—accurately and with machine-shop edges.”

Rabin continues, “The new saw is now the main workhorse due to faster cycle times from changing the path of the saw blade. Everyone is cross-trained on all saw equipment, and there are both subtle and significant differences between the new and old saws.”

For example, he says, “We are using a different dust collection system on each unit. This is an overlooked area for first-timers, but it is important because a good system enhances the saw’s capability. The new saw collects regular chips well, but not fine sawdust from high-pressure laminates and fiberglass. The old saw has a system that collects fine dust well, so we split up the jobs based on material being cut.”

Rabin notes, “It’s a tight fit in the cutting room, and we have the saws side by side for easy forklift access. Our ability to deliver cut jobs quickly, both for customers and our internal fabrication centers, has been increased. There used to be a queue of orders that, by our choice, should only be cut on a Schelling. We based this decision on factors like height of the cutting stack, quality of the edge, the need for less manpower, and the cutting time of the order. Now a large order that spans several days doesn’t impact the daily orders.”

Use of the new Schelling even produced a bonus Rabin wasn’t expecting: “I was worried about electrical consumption when we added the new Schelling. We were relieved, and a bit surprised, when there was no bump in the electric bill after installation. I guess the old saws we replaced were real ‘hogs’ for electricity,” he opines.

Expressing its pride in the new Schelling saw—and betting that its presence will help attract clients—Ridout Plastics produced a highly professional video, “New Saw in Town,” that depicts the installation of the FK6. Accessible on YouTube, the fast-paced video runs just under three minutes and features both Rabin and Short explaining not only how the saw was put in place, but why Ridout deems it essential as it nears its second century of operation.

%d bloggers like this: