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Business Observer Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 10 years ago

Westman's Watch

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A manufacturing novice grew up fast in 2010. More fast growth could be on the way.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

COVER UPDATE

The 20-year investment banker, by choice, traded a spreadsheet for a pair of factory safety goggles. He made the move with Sarasota-based Octex Corp., a custom mold injection firm with close to $10 million in annual revenues he bought in late 2009.


Westman learned a lot about the business and the industry in 2010. While doing that he also steered the company to one of its best years ever. It's growing in several ways, including employees, sales and space.


“We've had such phenomenal growth this year,” says Westman. “We are ahead of where I thought we'd be.”


Octex, which was founded in 1989, does mold injections for more than 70 clients spread through several industries, including home goods, medical supply and marine. Its products range from custom-made cups to surgical masks and floor panels to fuel funnels.


The growth and improvements under Westman's watch reached into just about every corner of the company. It includes:


• Equipment: The company bought three new Toyo mold injection machines, which weigh 300 tons apiece. The trio of machines cost between $800,000 and $900,000, says Westman. The expense was necessary to both keep up with the demand and keep up the company's equipment line, which now totals 18 machines.


• Space: The company, run out of a 20,000-square-foot factory in an industrial park near Interstate 75 and Fruitville Road, recently leased a 3,200-square-foot office it will use to fill orders. The space is less than half a mile away.


The company has done other work with its space. For example, Westman bought an elaborate warehouse storage system designed under first in, first-out principles. “People [used] to have move inventory constantly,” says Westman. “This has been a logistical lifesaver.”


The company is also turning a production room in the factory into a white room, to make it more ready for medical supply clients. It plans to change everything, down to the floors and ceilings. Says Westman: “It will look like a hospital operating room.”


• Employees: Octex was at 48 employees when Westman bought it in October 2009. By the end of 2010, the employee count was up to 60. Westman expects to hire at least a few more people in 2011.


Westman has made a few other changes that played a role in the company's success. One subtle move: He had a 55-inch TV placed on a wall above the entrance to the factory floor that displays real-time assembly line data.


In addition to internal growth, the Manufacturers Association of Florida recently recognized Octex when the organization named the company a finalist for its 2010 Manufacturer of the Year award.


Westman, a Sarasota native who moved back to the area with his family after they lived in Atlanta for two decades, is humbled by the fast success. That especially holds true for the technical aspects of what Octex does.


“I'm not by nature a technical guy,” says Westman. “I'm smarter now than I was at the beginning of the year, but I have more to go.”

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