Little Falls, Minn.
By Maria Surma Manka | John Linn
If you spend any time working or playing outside, you may have seen, used, or wished you had a product from RMI Outdoors. The Little Falls-based company manufactures and sells plastic outdoor products made with a process called rotomolding.
Rotomolding is a rotational molding process that uses large equipment to shape plastics into hollow pieces of nearly any size, shape or color. A heated, hollow mold is filled with material and slowly rotated on axis. As the material melts, it gravitates toward the tool by way of centrifugal force, rather than pressure, to fill the mold. Once cooled, the part is trimmed and ready to be sold.
Rotomolding companies are often privately owned operations that started in someone’s garage – or, in the case of RMI, in a pole barn. The company started out making polyethylene wheels for docks just as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources outlawed tires and wheels in the state’s lakes. That got RMI off to a strong start and kept it moving in the right direction. The company now makes proprietary products—from deer stands to feeders to utility sleds for ATVs to skis for pulling ice houses.
We talked to RMI Outdoors CEO Jon Jungers to get the spin on his company.
- Capital Investment The Initiative Foundation and other partners, including Community Development of Morrison County, provided financing to help procure a large rotomolding machine. The twin shuttle machine has two arms that shuttle back and forth in an oven, allowing RMI to mold much larger parts than before and make many smaller parts at once.
- Choice Location “We started out in Swanville and that’s a great community to be in,” said Jungers. “When we expanded to Little Falls, we found an empty building near highway 371 that’s fantastic for visibility. We’ve been able to get new customers just from people seeing us when they drive by.”
- Always Innovating RMI is working on the national launch of a garden product that is yet to be named, but will water plants from a tank that sits beneath the vegetation. RMI Outdoors is helping the customer bring the product from concept to reality.
- Flexible Design The rotomolding process offers more design flexibility than traditional injection molding, and creates a “double wall” construction in which foam fills in the space between the walls. The result is a part that has good structural integrity but is also light in weight.
- Creative Collaborations RMI works with customers to help bring their products to life. “Other companies will only make the parts, so it’s a big advantage for us to be able to take a product from concept all the way to manufacturing,” said Jungers.
- Growing Need RMI is aiming to reach sales of $5 million in the next three years – up from $2 million in 2015. Because of the new twin shuttle machine, the manufacturer is getting work with new customers and expanding orders with existing ones.
- Standing Room Only RMI is probably best known for its durable, plastic deer stands: The cylindrical-shaped Vantage Point and Site Line 360.
- Growing Workforce The company currently employs about 24 people, from high school students to college graduates. Thanks to its success, it expects to increase the number of shifts working out of its Little Falls plant.
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