Industry 4.0 takes hold in Shelbyville

Stu Kaplan knows manufacturing. His current company, Makuta Technics, is the 4th generation of manufacturing companies from his family. The Kaplans launched their first company in Chicago in the early 1900s, with Stu working on the plant floor at eight years old, “it was before OSHA,” he admits with a smile. “We were doing metal stamping for automotive and electronics companies, like TVs,” says Kaplan.

As Kaplan grew up, his family looked to expand their business which brought them to Columbus, Ind. They also became involved in a global manufacturing trade organization which introduced him to his future wife, a Japanese woman named Masako, who also comes from a manufacturing family of watch makers.

In 2006, Stu moved from Columbus and opened a new plant to pursue a new type of manufacturing – making teeny-tiny parts that are found in everything. Shelbyville, Ind. recruited the company to set up shop there by sending a group from the city to attract the business, including the Mayor, Superintendent and others.

“Shelby County rolled out the red carpet to recruit us and it absolutely made an impact on our decision to build our facilities in Shelbyville,” says Stu.

The current plant was custom designed and built– just off Interstate 74 in Shelbyville – with a capacity for growth. It was also built to be an early adopter of Industry 4.0 – and support manufacturing that runs 24/7 with the power of automation making it possible to run without anyone in the facility at night.

“We share everything with customers from start to finish and engineers help with that from the start of the process,” says Stu. “This collaboration helps us build our business and supports our ability to automate because we have developed custom processes.”

Stu’s team uses their high-tech facility to “micro mold,” a term for the small-scale injection molding that they do in Shelbyville. The tiny parts they are manufacturing are found in nearly every product you can think of – from medical devices to electronic equipment. About 60 to 70 percent of their business is in medical devices. For example, they develop a small plastic part that is needed for syringes used in chemotherapy drugs.

Makuta Technics is growing with substantial organic business and the development and expansion of existing business. Plus, the company is helped by their specialization – they are one of only three companies in the U.S. that do this type of small scale work.

“We don’t have any sales representatives,” says Stu. “I’m the business development team and we are serving clients across the U.S., Europe and China from our Indiana plant.”

Makuta is part of the Sansyu Group of micro molders, the oldest and largest micro molder and mold making company in the world. The group has facilities in Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines.

Makuta is invested in their U.S. workforce and Stu spends a substantial amount of time forming relationships with Shelby County schools to help build interest in the industry and identify employees.

“We created an internal education system where employees can only get a raise if they participate in learning opportunities,” says Stu. “Our seasoned employees provide the training and both trainee and trainer get a pay increase with any additional skills gained.”

Makuta also goes to all high schools in the county to provide information about their work and they sponsor robotics clubs for elementary schools.

The current Makuta team includes multiple employees from the area high schools and he has one full-time employee who is working full-time and attending school full-time at Ivy Tech – Daniel Peterson, Makuta’s Maintenance Technician.