Timewell Drainage Products poised for growth
SIBLEY, Iowa — Encompassing a full city block on the outskirts of Sibley, Timewell Drainage Products is gearing up for what is anticipated to be yet another busy year in the production of agricultural drainage tile for commercial and farm operators.
A drive around the block shows stacks upon stacks of coiled perforated tile ready to go into the ground after the spring thaw.
Jennifer Raines began working for Timewell just a week after it opened in Sibley in May 2013. She began as a mixer, combining pelletized resin and colorant before it is melted down in the manufacturing process to form the tile. Today, she oversees production, transportation and customer service for the local company.
The Sibley facility is a branch manufacturing site for Timewell’s home base in Timewell, Ill. The company has additional manufacturing sites in Providence, Ky., and Golden, Ill., with distribution centers in Nashville, Tenn., and Centerville, Ill.
Timewell currently has three manufacturing lines in its 60,348-square-foot former conveyor facility, with plenty of space to add a fourth line later this year. The new line will be for the manufacture of dual-wall tile — a product Timewell manufactures at both its Illinois and Kentucky locations.
Raines said the Sibley plant produces perforated tile, knife tile and solid perforated tile in a variety of sizes. By far the greatest requests are for the 4-, 8-, 10- and 12-inch perforated single wall tile, which is used in farm fields across the Midwest.
The tile is manufactured from HDPE plastic resin pellets shipped in from different states, Raines said. The pellets arrive in Gaylord boxes, each filled box weighing approximately 1,500 pounds. Eventually, Timewell hopes to run a rail spur to its facility. At this time, the issue is before the city of Sibley.
The line would allow rail cars filled with resin pellets to unload into any of Timewell’s five silos.
“We were supposed to have the rail done by now, but we’ve had a couple of issues with that,” Raines said, adding that the company has had rail shipments arrive in nearby Ashton, Iowa, where workers are able to unload the pellets in bulk for transport to Sibley.
In addition to the use of pellets for manufacturing the tile, Raines said Timewell has the ability to grind up any substandard tile that comes off the manufacturing line and add it back into the formula so that no resin goes to waste.
“If we have imperfections in the pipe, we break the pipe back down in a grind process using our own, in-house resin material,” she added.
Dale Honken, quality assurance technician for Timewell, tests samples of all of the resin pellets that are shipped to the Sibley facility. He checks for melt index, density and polypropolene content in the resin, and then runs weight tests on the tile once it has been manufactured.
Eye on growth
Currently operating 24 hours a day, three days per week with two 12-hour shifts, Raines said production will ramp up to five days per week and three eight-hour shifts once inventory begins to get depleted. By late February, the facility sought four full-time employees to add to the handful of workers in production and supervisory roles.
“Right now is considered our down time,” Raines said, adding that production ramps up in mid-March to have supply on hand when the ground thaws.
The boom in tile installation is what led Timewell to open a manufacturing facility in northwest Iowa.
“This part of the country is known for farming, and it’s a big agricultural part of the world,” Raines said. “They felt like there would be a growing business here, and there is. We have a lot of customers, and we’ve produced a lot of pipe since we’ve been here.”
Each line of 4-inch perforated tile is equal to 3,250 feet, while 5-inch tile reaches 2,300 feet in length. Once the tile comes off the manufacturing line, it is spooled onto a maxi, or coiler.
In one 12-hour shift, crews can complete 19 maxis on the high-speed line, which amounts to 61,750 feet of tile. Multiply that by two for a 24-hour shift and the production on just the high-speed line is 123,500 feet of tile.
During the height of the shipping season, Raines said 10 to 13 semis haul tile from the Sibley plant to all destinations through many surrounding states.
“It’s a high-stress job when it’s like that,” she added.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.