Elton Manufacturing: Business is booming for Milton, Ont. window frame molder
T he Dutch have long had a reputation as among the best practitioners -- if not the inventors -- of capitalism. It's certainly easy to make this argument based on the career of Tom Boer, founder of Mi...
The Dutch have long had a reputation as among the best practitioners — if not the inventors — of capitalism. It’s certainly easy to make this argument based on the career of Tom Boer, founder of Milton, Ont.-based Elton Manufacturing.
Founded by Boer in 1981, originally under the name Ontario Door Sales Ltd., Elton Manufacturing has grown to become a worldwide supplier of window frames and weather-stripping within the garage door industry, successful enough — even during the U. S. housing slump — to have recently expanded into a second facility in Milton at the end of last year.
Boer’s path to plastics processing was anything but direct. Born in Holland, he took an engineering degree before immigrating to Canada in 1974. “I settled in Milton, and tried my hand at farming,” Boer explained. “But after three years with virtually no rain, I packed it in.” Taking a job as a sales manager in a garage door factory, Boer worked his way up to the position of general manager. “I realized this was my niche, and after trying unsuccessfully to buy the business, I decided to start my own company,” he said.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Quality issues with suppliers led Boer to consider doing his own injection molding of window frames and extrusion of weather-stripping. “We finally started manufacturing our own products three years ago,” he said. “Currently, we have 14 injection molding machines and three extrusion lines.” Frames are injection molded using pre-coloured polypropylene or paintable styrene, Boer said, and have a unique wood grain texture.
Elton Manufacturing currently employs approximately 60 workers in its two facilities, and Boer plans to add an additional 25 people this fall. “I have a very young and energetic work staff,” he said. “Most of my key people are under 30, and they’re a real source of strength and a key to our success.”
The company — which has customers in Canada, the U. S., South America, Europe, and the Middle and Far East — also draws strength from its own location in Milton, Boer said. “The advantage of being situated in Milton is easy access to Highway 401, as well as being within half an hour of Toronto, Hamilton, and Kitchener-Waterloo,” he explained. “Milton is a fast growing community, and the basic economy is very sound.”
The company gives back to the community too, manufacturing utility bins from regrind that are sold to raise money for cancer research.
Even the downsides to operating in Milton have been turned into an advantage. “There is a tremendous competition for jobs in Milton, and the wages are very high as a result,” he explained. “If you’re manufacturing in a high wage area, the only way to survive is by offering a well-made, innovative product, because you can’t compete on price.”
STEADY GROWTH & LEARNING CURVES
Proof of the quality of Elton Manufacturing’s doorframes and weather-stripping is seen in the company’s steady economic growth. “We’ve had at least 10 per cent growth each year for the past 10 years,” Boer said. “In the past, we’ve had to move almost every year in order to expand.”
In 2005, the company purchased a tool and die company in Waterloo, a strategic move designed to establish control over its design and production processes by providing the capability to design to customers’ unique specifications. Boer also has his sights set on the possibility of opening a branch office in the U. S. within the next year, in either Nashville, Tenn., or Chicago.
“We’ve only been in plastics manufacturing for four years, and it’s a steep learning curve,” Boer said. “I’d like to think our creativity will keep us ahead of the competition.”
Elton Manufacturing (Milton, Ont.); www.eltonmanufacturing.com; 800-297-8299