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'Mom-and-pop' Ossian business is fitting mold of success

Monday, October 15, 2012 - 12:01 am

It's been 35 years since John Roembke founded Roembke Mfg. & Design, a large manufacturer of flashless molds for the rubber industry, in Ossian. Molds can be used to make various products in the health care, medical and automotive industries, including baby-bottle nipples and seals for pacemakers.

“Flashless” is a term that means the rubber does not spill over like Play-Doh may ooze out when squeezed into a mold.

The company began as a “mom-and-pop shop” with a single 2,500-square-foot facility in Ossian. John Roembke started without a single customer or employee, yet the company has charted steady growth.

Despite wanting to keep the facility less than 10,000 square feet with no more than 10 workers, the Roembke family “grew that location through the years,” said Roembke's son, Greg Roembke, current president of the company.

With nine expansions, including an additional 36,000 square feet in 2000, the facility is now about 62,000 square feet.

While he said he didn't have exact numbers for how the economic downturns over the past few years affected the company, Greg Roembke said, “Everyone had a little bit of an impact … but the largest or most recent impact … to cause a slowdown is the 2.3 percent tax that Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) applied to companies that produce medical devices.” The tax goes into effect next year and will be on the sale of certain medical devices. However, companies are already making adjustments, such as delaying expansions, that are affecting the economy, he said.

There are currently 49 employees with room for more, Greg Roembke said. “The No. 1 thing that sets us apart is our people … There is a need for skilled people for this industry. It's a difficult thing for us to find.”

Throughout the history of the company, he estimates they have built 14,000 production molds. They have stayed competitive by working closely with customers and offering ideas for improvement, Greg Roembke said.

A media release said 98 percent of the molds are tested before shipping. Testing includes looking at temperature limits and cycle time for each mold, Greg Roembke said. Customers often come from around the world to be present for tests on the limits of their molds, whether for temperature or cycle time.

The future of Roembke Mfg. is full of technological innovation, as some projects may involve a five-year development. Greg Roembke said “this makes it very fun for the business we're in … every mold is unique.”