Pipes made with recycled industrial plastic can be used in certain construction projects aiming to meet higher environmental standards such as those required by the U.S. Green Building Council for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
But whether the plastic is new or reused, it gets melted to temperatures as hot as 400 degrees. Once it’s liquid enough, a machine shoots it into a vacuum-sealed chamber, where it clings to the inner surface of a mold whose pieces meet and part in a rotation, allowing the machine to form a length of pipe as long as is needed.
However, Overmyer said the process of making quality drainage pipe is “more an art than a science.”
He explained that each batch of plastic requires subtle adjustments to the melting temperature and other aspects of the process.
“There will always be that inherent variability in the lots of material,” he continued. And that’s where the company’s employees are so critical. “Without the right people behind the technology, none of it really matters,” Overmyer said.
All told, the company employs 104 at its Francesville headquarters, its sales and manufacturing facility in St. Anne, Ill., and its newest manufacturing plant in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. Of those, 72 work in Francesville.
More than half of the company’s workforce has been with Fratco more than a decade, according to operations director Bill Champion. He called them a core group of dedicated employees.
One example of their dedication, he said, was in the aftermath of a 2011 storm that tore the roof off of one of the Francesville buildings, causing it to collapse.
“They heard about it and showed up,” said Champion. “They take ownership in what we do, in what we have here.”
Overmyer said that was key to Fratco’s recent success.
“Without the right people,” he explained, “the boss doesn’t go anywhere.”
Sarah Einselen is news editor at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5151. Follow her on Twitter@PharosSME.