Jun 18, 2014
by ROLAND WHITE CBN Feature Writer
Paul and Danielle Filipowicz started with humble beginnings making plastic space saving and organizational products for hospitals and labs part-time and are now an exciting new startup business in Central Oregon.
Paul already had a good job in hospitals and research labs when he started designing plastic and polycarbonate products that looked great, saved space and improved efficiency and production in those work environments. His products gained in popularity to such a large degree that in 2001 he started Poltex and began his part-time business sketching his designs and fabricating the products the old-fashioned way, by hand.
Starting in his garage in San Jose, California, he became tired of the long California working commute and moved to his wife Danielle’s family home in Tumalo just 18 months ago. Once in Central Oregon, they set up shop in the barn but in 16 months ran out of space. That’s when they started looking for a new manufacturing location. After assessing the higher rents in Bend he relocated his production center to Redmond.
Paul says, “The building rent was cheaper than Bend. Living in Tumalo, the commute to Redmond is not that much farther than to Bend so we chose Redmond. Being that we sell nationally, we are not completely bound by location, location, location. Also, as we got to know Redmond during the shop space search, we began to like it more and more.”
Business has blossomed for Paul in those 10 years as he built up a product line that included hundreds of standard and custom products. “ Over the 10 years I built up my product line to include about 75 standard products and over 400 custom projects. We offer standard products for lab and hospital as well as custom fabrication.”
Business is building at an even faster rate presently with Poltex growing at 100 percent per year, and the future is looking even brighter as he is negotiating with some large retail distributors. Paul explains, “We are in the process of implementing a distribution agreement for our laboratory line of products with Fisher Healthcare. Also, we are expecting imminent approval on a GSA Contract with the VA and several offers are being negotiated for distribution of other products.”
From the beginning Paul crafted each piece by hand with traditional fabrication methods. “With acrylic (PlexiGlass), I used basic carpentry tools: table saw, inverted router table with flush trim bit, drill press, band saw. Early on I bought a heat bending table which uses a strip heater to heat up the plastic to bend it. The basic process was: sketch out on paper. Cut templates on a table saw/router/drill. I would then cut oversize blanks and double stick tape them to the templates I made. Using the inverted router, I would cut out the individual pieces. Then, using acrylic cement, a free flowing solvent glue, I would assemble the products. Very archaic methods, but I got pretty good and started to produce some nice quality products.”
Over the years he has learned how to improve his workflow. He now implements today’s computer technology and modern milling tools into his production for maximum results. From CAD design to final fabricating of the plastic and polycarbonate parts he then assembles products to his exacting standards. He has implemented the use of a CNC Router which is a computer controlled cutting machine to meet his production goals.
Paul comments, “We cut 99 percent of our parts with the CNC Router. The CNC Router is the cornerstone of our operations now. To contrast our old fabrication method, pencil sketch, template, double stick, rout trim, glue…with our new method…CAD Design, file import to CAM program, CNC Router, assembly…we are much more efficient, accurate and productive. I will still use the old method here and there. Also, we have a manual Bridgeport Mill that is more suitable for certain operations, so I’ll use that here and there as the project requires.”
With the current buzz on 3D printers one might think it would be a technology direction Poltex would pursue but that production method falls short. Paul explains, “We do not do any 3D printing. Our process incorporates 2D parts glued/bent into 3D products. Our CAD design software virtually mimics our CNC Router to assembly process, 2D part, assemble into a 3D product. I use the CNC to cut one part up to one thousand times so it lends itself well to prototyping as well as production. When we prototype, we use our nesting software to program one-off parts into production runs. Once the parts are cut we do an assembly and have the prototype. From what I know and hear about 3D printing, our process seems much faster for the type of products we are making.”
Staying current with the technology makes perfect sense to Paul so that he can optimize his present and future production needs and he considers his process for his products as state-of-the-art. “For the type of products that we are building, I think CNC technology—router and laser-- is considered state-of-the-art. Also, I think our process --CAD to CAM to CNC—is also state-of-the-art as we are able to design a product and see the virtual 3D assembly on our computer screen to assess viability and functionality before producing the actual product. As there is a great deal of hands on fabrication with acrylic and polycarbonate, I’m not sure how much more automation we can incorporate. Our technology has in a way peaked at this time as my plans for future growth will be basically stamping out our current operations: more CNC Routers and fabrication space. That said, I’m always looking for better ways to do things so time will tell.”
Paul is quick to explain that although the business is his brainchild he couldn’t do it without his wife and partner Danielle. He says, “Danielle is the second half of Poltex, and responsible for accountspayable/receivable, organizing and documenting systems and protocols. We want to build a scalable, consistent and efficient business and provide quality assurance. Danielle is the final link to see and approve the products for shipment. Although the business is my brainchild and my design and fabrication are creating the commodity, she is an important half of the business in keeping an overall flow to the operations marketing and quality control.”
Looking forward with the increased business is the prospect of adding employees and tooling up for increased production, Paul explains, “Given the large swirl of impending business, we should be growing pretty rapidly. Given the huge opportunities coming our way, we plan on hiring employees and stamping out our production process to handle the increased volume of sales…right now we are in the process of lining up and vetting interested employees: designers, fabricators and shop helpers. In the coming months, as our sales volume grows, we’ll definitely start to bring on members to the team.”
Poltex is proud to make all products in house with the stamp of Made in the USA and doesn’t have any plans to outsource. “All of our production is done in house. Due to the price points of our products and the amount of skilled fabrication that goes into every product, there isn’t much room for outsourcing. Also, I’d imagine it would be tough to control quality with an outsourced product.”
In light of producing all products in house, expanding globally will take some time, “We’ll expand globally a little at a time in the future. We have shipped internationally (Canada, Mexico, England) to some small extent, however, international shipping on an individual order basis is extremely cost prohibitive. We turn away a lot of customers from around the world once we run shipping quotes for them….In the future, there may be opportunity through Fisher Healthcare and their distribution network for global distribution.”
The Filipowiczs are excited about their new location and to be involved in the Redmond business community. Paul adds, “Being isolated in the barn, our connection to customers was truly through our website to the rest of the country, but not Central Oregon. Once moving into our shop space, we soon began to see the thriving business community around us. I’m enjoying the support and sense of community with other business owners and industry people. When someone says, ’Hey, you should meet so and so. I’ll introduce you,’ they mean it and they follow through with the introduction. For example, as I meet one person through another person, we tend to have associates in common. Everyone seems really eager to help each other so networking is fun and effortless.”
Poltex • Hospital & Lab Organization Products
Location: 217 Pumice Ave., Redmond, OR 97756, 541-636-080, www.poltex.com
CEO/Owner: Paul and Danielle Filipowicz
No. Employees: 4
Year Established: 2001
Product/Service: Hospital and lab organization products
Hot News: Since moving into their new location in 2014 Poltex is on track to triple sales numbers compared to 2013. New distribution agreement with Fisher Healthcare for laboratory line of products. Added to amazon.com, contributing to increased sales of all products and added web exposure.
Outlook for Growth: Veterans Administration GSA Schedule (pre-negotiated preferred pricing agreement for the government with inclusion in GSA Advantage, the governments version of amazon.com.