Meet Duo Form Plastics - a Manufacture for the RV Industry and More
Mike Ganger: Duo Form was founded in 1968 here at Edwards Burg, Michigan. It’s always been in Edwards Burg. Over the last 50 plus years, Duo Form has grown into a large recreational vehicle supplier. Probably 90% of our customers are within a 50-mile radius. Being close to the RV capital of the world is a huge plus for us.
Shelly Ditmer: I’ve been here a little over 15 years, almost 16 years, became president right during the height– the start of COVID. So that was very challenging, you know, leading us through how do we manage. You know, that’s when we did our face shields, our retail barriers just to keep production flowing through here, and then almost immediately it was the RV industry came back with a boom that no one really foresaw it coming. So we quickly went from how do we make hundreds of thousands of face shields to how do we get all our employees to come back, how do we manage them, keep them safe within the facility, and keep up with this increase demand. So it’s been quite the challenge.
Mike: What do we source to the RV industry would be bath products–plastic bath products. Duo Form is a large custom thick sheet thermo former. That’s a big long word. What does that mean? Well, basically we’re taking a large sheet of plastic, heating it, and vacuum forming it over a mold.
Shelly: It is big sheets of plastics that we get, and I will say we’re very proud that 90% of our plastic is made from our own regrain scraps. Sustainability is very important to us that we collect everything we can and we grind up our scrap and send it back, but you just put the sheet in the machine, you heat it up to 300, 350 degrees and forms this really nice bubble, that we like to call it, and just kind of drooping, and then we push the tool through it and vacuums over the tool and all of a sudden you got a bathtub or a shower.
Mike: We produce about 3000 RV shower wall enclosures a week. In addition to that, we produce a lot of bathtubs, different types of shower pans all different shapes, sizes all for the recreational vehicle industry.
Shelly: Eighty-five percent of what we do is for the RV industry, the bath products being our number one, but we also do skylights,
we do some lav sinks, we do floor skis. There’s a lot of miscellaneous different parts that we can do, drawer inserts, you know, the little pieces that you don’t really see, access panels, but the bath products is the biggest for the RV industry. We also do really large front caps, and not many thermoforming companies can do that. We just have some very large machines that allow us to do very large pieces. So we can do all the way down from your little drawer insert, all the way up to a very large front cap into the fifth wheel.
Mike: It’s also been our goal to grow outside of that, to grow in different markets and industries and also with our aftermarket products that are closely related to the recreational vehicle industry.
Shelly: Well, after being a OEM for over 50 years, we started wondering, you know, why we never thought about going to the aftermarket. We get phone calls all the time asking us about how do we block heat in your skylights, how do we clean our showers. A lot of people wanting to upgrade the looks of their showers, but the size of them are so big and bulky to ship. So one of the mini products we came up with is our universal shower wall which comes in five pieces, but it ships flat and it comes in one size that you can just easily score and snap. So instead of, you know, a dealership having to carry 20 different shower walls, they can carry this one that will fit almost everything that’s out there in the market.
Mike: So most recently we’ve introduced three different sizes of skylight shades. Skylight shade simply fits over the existing skylight within the RV, used to blackout light and heat. We have also developed aftermarket floor skis. A floor ski is basically a barrier that goes between the slide-out in the RV frame, basically protects the rails.
Shelly: We’ve always have brainstorming sessions, trying to come up with new ideas or new equipment, and one that’s always been
kicked around and came from our VP of operations is this B&B a Bed & Breakfast where it has everything in there for your pet, the food, the water, the toys, and the bed, but it was just outside of the box for us, outside of the norm. When COVID came and we went into the face shields, you know, put those on Amazon, it opened our eyes on what we can do. You know, we came out with the face shield within 48 hours, and then that weekend we put it on Amazon and we’d get orders like every 15 seconds. And we’re having a mini panic attack, but we were like, “We can do this.” The office came in and, you know, we were making them.
We were assembling them. So when we got through that and we got back to production, we were like, “Okay, we know how to do this. We’re all capable of a–we’re going to do this dog bed.” So we put a good year into the design and development and we’re very proud of what it’s become. And since then we have the first one that we’ve just launched, we have another bigger one that we’re working on, and then we’re doing some sort of side projects. We have the ultimate storage tub that’s already out there. So we have a nice lid that will go on it that will have the dog dishes. We have a very simple dog screen protector. It’s actually the same material that we use for face shields. So you can easily cut it with your kitchen scissors, put some tape on it, put over your screen door. But it’s got some dog paws on it to give it a dress-up look, but it protects your screen doors. And then we’re still–every month we meet to get more ideas cause we’re all campers, we all have dogs, and it’s just something that we’re excited about.
Mike: Eighty-five percent of RVs on the road today, of which I think there’s around 9 million, typically have a Duo Form product in them. We are expanding. We’re trying to increase our capacity, keep up with the pace of the RV industry. So we’re up about 33% in our employee staff, which I’m hearing it’s been hard to do for a lot of other people within the RV industry. So we feel good about it. Real strong emphasis on company culture here, trying to make it a place where people want to work, and that allows us to grow. And we’re adding the 40,000 square feet. That lets us be a little more lean in our manufacturing, improve our efficiencies, and add on more equipment as we need to.
Mike: One of the things that Duo Form has developed over the last–you know, really this project started about 4 years ago. We got involved in taking a sheet of plastic and printing on it by utilizing a large industrial printer. What we’ve been doing mainly is making our RV shower walls are–that have different designs, different prints, different things on them. Makes it kind of unique. And I think over time people tried to differentiate between each other as manufacturers, and one area they did that was in the bathroom. Even though it’s a small space within the RV, they tried to introduce new sizes, new shapes, and new colors here recently.
Shelly: And one of the things that we’ve really tried to do is be inventive. We have a team. I would say most of us have been here 10 plus years. We’re all very excited about what we do. We have fun with what we do. You know, again, company culture is very important to me. So we try to make it where it’s fun to work. We keep coming up with new products. We get ideas off the floor. We include everybody on the team and what the final product is and what it looks like. So it helps us get through those cycles because we’re–we hope we’re a supplier that everyone wants to keep working with.