Fort Wayne manufacturer buys new building to house swim spas
By Michelle L. Cramer
With the purchase of a 166,000-square-foot building and an estimated 80 jobs being added in the next year, 2018 has seen one of the largest growth spurts ever for Master Spas of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“We’ve been growing by double digits the last few years,” says Terry Valmassoi, president of Master Spas. “We anticipated good growth for 2017, but actually grew significantly more than we expected. We were running out of manufacturing space, definitely out of parking spaces for our employees. We were really tight on office space, and our warehouse is full.”
Master Spas exceeded the projected 14 to 16 percent growth for 2017 by “quite a bit,” Valmassoi says, and anticipates the numbers for 2018 will be similar. Growth has not only occurred for the company in the United States, but also in Europe and Canada. Executive staff recognized the need for expansion and started working to find more space in December of last year, because capping production was not an option.
In 1996, the company purchased a 100,000-square-foot building. The company’s offices were housed in two construction trailers that sat in the facility parking lot for the first year. In 1999, Master Spas purchased an adjacent 20,000-square-foot building for finished goods storage and shipping. Expansions were done on that second building both in 2000 and 2002, and in 2005, a 60,000-square-foot building was purchased across the street to house raw material storage and a dealer development center.
Another small expansion was completed in 2007 and then 2011 brought the introduction of the Master Spas cover factory and an additional 25,000-square-foot expansion. Most recently, Master Spas dove into the rotomold segment, which added 20,000 square feet in 2016 for both the factory and space for two additional vacuum-forming machines.
Rapid growth in a manufacturing company can lead to space issues very quickly. “That [2016 expansion] finished up all the land we had,” Valmassoi says. “It satisfied our needs at that point in time, but here we are in the same vision, growing so fast. This new factory space takes care of us for the long term.”
Patience to Find Solution
Valmassoi says he and his colleagues took their time searching for just the right space to step into this latest expansion, starting the process in early 2017. Up to that point, Master Spas had always grown within the same business development, but that didn’t look to be an option initially.
“There weren’t a lot of buildings available in the area, so we had to see how far away we would be willing to go,” Valmassoi says. “We looked at land options to build and some were within the area, but still a distance away. Nothing was an exciting option for us, so we kept our eyes open.” Things felt a little desperate at times, according to Valmassoi, as they worked to find the right space before it got too late to take proper care of the growth and demand.
Nearly a year after the search began, Master Spas staff heard that a company within the same business development, 30-year-old Fort Wayne Plastics, would consider relocating its machinery to one of its out-of-state plants and selling. Master Spas closed on the 166,000-square-foot building and additional land in June 2018.
“It is the perfect answer for us in the short term and long term,” Valmassoi says. “It adds 55 percent more space for us. It’s right next door and adjacent to one of our buildings. All four of our buildings are on one block and now we have 460,000 square feet of space. The constraints we’ve had are all going to be lifted. Sometimes it’s good to be patient — I think it was maybe God saying wait for the right thing.”
The New Space
By October, the first phase of construction on the new Master Spas building will be complete and the corporate offices for the Master Spas marketing, engineering and research and development departments will move to that location. The company has already added more programmers for the IT department and four manufacturing engineers this year. The new office space will result in the addition of a continuous improvement manager to help oversee Master Spas’ recently adopted lean manufacturing efforts.
The remaining space in the new building will be converted to a swim spa factory and warehouse. “We’ve continued to grow with swim spas and it’s such a [physically] big product that you get to a point where you reach maximum capacity on what you can put through the line,” Valmassoi says. “We hit that capacity last year and had to work six days a week [to catch up], which is tough on your employees. We did not want to continue to do that.”
The new factory will have all new equipment and staff is looking at ways to improve efficiency so it won’t be a struggle to keep up moving forward.
The new swim spa factory is set for completion at the end of January 2019. With it will come the addition of 80 to 100 jobs within the first year, Valmassoi says, the highest volume of those being manufacturing and maintenance positions, followed by management and supervisory positions.
The expansion makes it possible for Master Spas to grow its acrylic hot tub line in the main building by 25 percent and warehouse storage will no longer be an issue. And with the purchase of this new building comes additional land that can be used in the future for even more expansions when necessary.
“Bottom line — we don’t want to let our dealers down,” Valmassoi says. “We want our dealers to have all the opportunities to grow and not be concerned that we can’t keep up with demand.”
- 1996 Building 1 Purchased 100,000-sq.-ft. building
- 1999 Building 2 Purchased 20,000-sq.-ft. building for finished goods storage/shipping
- 2000 Building 2 (a) Expanded 20,000 sq. ft.
- 2002 Building 2 (b) Expanded 34,000 sq. ft.
- 2005 Building 3 Purchased 60,000-sq.-ft. building for material storage/dealer development center
- 2007 Building 1 (c) Expanded 6,000 sq. ft. for new vac-form machine
- 2011 Building 3 (d) Expanded 25,000 sq. ft. for cover manufacturing
- 2016 Building 3 (e) Expanded 22,000 sq. ft. for new rotomold factory
- 2016 Building 1 (f) Expanded 7,000 sq. ft. for addition of two vac-form machines
- 2018 Building 4 Purchased 166,000-sq.-ft. building for new swim spa factory plus marketing, engineering, R&D and corporate offices