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Plastics Business 2020 Issue 3

Strategies for Today’s Plastics Processors

Finding the Fit in Additive Manufacturing COVID-19 Challenges Program Launch Process Training Matrix Becomes Employee Roadmap Looking Ahead to the Benchmarking Conference

Official Publication of Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors

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2020 Issue 3



view from 30



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MAPP Benchmarking and Best Practices Conference Online event scheduled for October 19 through 23 training Training Matrix: The Roadmap for Employee Advancement by Liz Stevens, contributing writer, Plastics Business benchmarking The Impact of COVID-19 on Plastics and Parallel Industries by the Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors production Program Launch Best Practices in a Pandemic-Pressed World by Cynthia Kustush, contributing writer, Plastics Business view from 30 Revamping Healthcare at Vital Plastics by Lara Copeland, contributing writer, Plastics Business outlook Additive Manufacturing’s Vision for Molders A conversation with Bob Gafvert, production partnership sales manager, Carbon

Read the latest articles from Plastics Business or download a digital edition at plasticsbusinessmag.com. Cover photo courtesy of Carbon

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Q&A Applying Industry 4.0 in Plastics Processing A Q&A with Steve Bieszcat, CMO of DELMIAworks


economic corner Economic Smooth Sailing or Headed for the Rocks? by Chris Kuehl, managing director, Armada Corporate Intelligence


management What Manufacturers Should Know About Prescription Drug Use by Liz Stevens, contributing writer, Plastics Business


booklist Are You Listening? by Dianna Brodine, managing editor, Plastics Business

association................................. 19


development Training is Essential by Michelle Parr Paulson, director of marketing communications, Paulson Training Programs




news.......................................... 32 supplier directory...................... 50

Plastics Business

Strategies for Today’s Plastics Processors

Published by:

Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors, Inc. (MAPP) 7321 Shadeland Station Way, Suite 285 Indianapolis, IN 46256 phone 317.913.2440 • fax 317.913.2445 www.mappinc.com MAPP Board of Directors President Tim Capps, Par 4 Plastics Inc. Treasurer Samir Patel, Midwest Molding Inc. Secretary and Counsel Alan Rothenbuecher, Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP

MAPP Board Members Steve Bieszczat, IQMS Jim Bott, INCOE Brendan Cahill, PTG Silicones Craig Carrel, Team 1 Plastics, Inc. Rich Dorans, PTA Plastics Jim Eberle, MXL Industries Glen Fish, Revere Plastics Systems LLC Norm Forest, Dymotek Molding Technologies Chris Gedwed, Cosmetic Specialties International Jim Kepler, Intertech Plastics Tom Nagler, Natech Plastics, Inc. Derrill Rice, Plastic Components, Inc. Missy Rogers, Noble Plastics, Inc. Tom Tredway, Erie Molded Plastics, Inc. Adam Wachter, Engineered Profiles LLC Scott Walton, Harbour Results Tom Wood, E-S Plastic Products

Peterson Publications, Inc. 2150 SW Westport Dr., Suite 101 Topeka, KS 66614 phone 785.271.5801 www.plasticsbusinessmag.com

Editor in Chief Jeff Peterson

Advertising/Sales Janet Dunnichay

Managing Editor Dianna Brodine

Contributing Editors Nancy Cates Liz Stevens

Art Director Becky Arensdorf Graphic Designer Kelly Adams

Circulation Manager Brenda Schell

Online Director Mikell Burr

www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 5


Dialing for Dollars


wonder how many reading this industry letter have ever had to make a living by making cold calls or going door to door to make a sale? I remember early on, when starting the MAPP organization, I would block time on my calendar each week to make sales calls. I usually picked Wednesday and would reserve the entire day for dialing the phone. Some of you reading this memo may have been on the receiving end of one of my sales calls many moons ago. Although I never viewed myself as a good salesperson, I knew that the only way to keep MAPP open and to earn a paycheck to feed my young family was to grow the membership base. However, it was very seldom – in fact, probably closer to never – that the person who answered the phone would respond to my outreach with, “Troy, I am so glad you called today because I was wanting to buy a membership and join an organization that I’ve never heard of…” In mid-July, I spoke briefly about my days of “dialing for dollars” to sell annual memberships while participating in MAPP’s Sales Process Forum event, which was delivered virtually to nearly 100 organizations located across the country. As I spoke to all of the Zoom faces on my computer, I said, “The thing that I remember vividly today was how difficult it was to come in every Wednesday morning, shut my door, get out my prospect list, pick up the phone and make the first sales call. It was as if the task of making the call – or the phone itself – weighed 200 pounds.” However, by day’s end, the phone was as light as a feather. In fact, the more sales calls I made, the easier it became and the better I performed. The reason I told this story to the nearly 140 sales professionals online for the event was because in the early 2000s, the director of sales for a MAPP member company had advised me to read a book entitled “Go For The No.” The message in this book shifted my paradigm on making sales calls and eradicated my dread of Wednesday mornings. The concept: Every “No” you receive from a prospect simply means you are getting closer to a “Yes” and landing new business (a game of numbers, if you will). That’s right – one little tidbit of knowledge and logic completely changed my attitude, which significantly impacted my sales success. During July’s two-day Sales Process Forum, attendees spent time sharing little tidbits of information just like I received nearly two decades ago. Those involved shared best practices on finding email addresses of buyers and engineers, tactics about how to grow leads from company websites, strategies when

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attending tradeshows, the psychology and ups and downs of sales, and open discussions about the methods they were using to compete for and land new business in the COVID-19 era.

One little tidbit of knowledge and logic completely changed my attitude, which significantly impacted my sales success. The makeup of those attending this event was expansive, encompassing people brand new to sales along with those with decades of experience. At the event’s end, each attendee shared his or her own laundry list of takeaways and action items to improve the sales process. However, one thing in common to nearly everyone was that they either learned or relearned that failing in this arena and being a “failure” are two very different things. This is not only a valuable lesson, but also was nearly equivalent to my own personal takeaway in “going for the no” some 20 years ago: It provided energy, restored confidence and hopefully has helped these attendees press on in their sales endeavors. With this unbelievable momentum gathered from the Sales Process Forum, leaders and managers in the plastics industry now have their calendars locked for the next game-changing event: MAPP’s Benchmarking and Best Practices Conference. During this event, taking place during the week of October 19, industry leaders will assemble, share, benchmark, interact and find that one thing that will make them better, give them confidence, provide energy and, most of all, challenge and change a paradigm that makes their 200-pound task as light as a feather.

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OCTOBER 19-23, 2020 • MAPPINC.COM/CONFERENCE The goal of the Virtual Benchmarking and Best Practices Conference is to help plastics companies improve their operations and tactics in order to impact bottom-line profits. The conference is anchored with best practices and leading benchmark presentations derived from the industry’s best-known sources of statistical information. Known as the absolute best benchmarks in the industry, these presentations identify and correlate profitability to operational behaviors, market choices and more. This year’s theme – Opportunity is Knocking – is designed to inspire, motivate and educate processors on how to continuously improve every day. Becoming better is not something that just happens; good leaders continually strive to improve and will use the 2020 Virtual Benchmarking and Best Practices Conference as a tool to help them achieve their goals.


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SPEED NETWORKING – CONNECTIONS This conference session, also known as “speed dating with an industry peer,” will take place throughout the week of the virtual conference. During these sessions, attendees will have the opportunity to visit a “lounge” room of their choice to make connections and meet like-minded individuals who are all interested in expanding their knowledge base on a particular subject. For example, if you are interested in learning how other professionals use metrics to drive profits, then you might want to attend the “Factory Metrics and Score Cards” to share your ideas and discuss the ideas of others. The goal is to make connections and expand your resources. Some Topics Could Include: • Removing Cost from Business Operations • Factory Metrics and Score Cards • Strategic Planning – Creating and Implementing • Staying Motivated as a Leader • Lean Manufacturing • Incentive Programs • Marketing Practices that Work

• • • •

Sources for Finding Workers Visual Manufacturing and Work Instructions Tariffs – Today’s Impact Breaking the Health Insurance Mold – Lessons Learned from Self Funding • Redefining Your Marketing In Uncertain Times



The BC Labs will be back for the 2020 Conference! The BC Labs are a series of presentation sessions for each functional area below. Each BC Lab is designed to equip attendees with indispensable insights, advice and tools to achieve the mission-critical priorities of today and build the successful organizations of tomorrow.

MAPP MEMBERS: Member Pricing: grants access for the individual to the entire week of live programming and unlimited access to the event library

Below are the learning tracks for the Benchmarking and Best Practices Conference BC Labs: • Executive Stakeholders/Owners • Leadership • Senior Leaders (Presidents/VPs) • Human Resources/Safety • Sales & Marketing • Operations/Engineering • CFOs/Finance/IT

Company-Wide Pricing: grants access for every individual in the company to the entire week of live programming and unlimited access to the event library $1,796 — Company-wide pricing


$379 — Member pricing through August 19, 2020 $449 — Member pricing after August 19, 2020

NONMEMBERS: Processors Only Nonmember Pricing: grants access for the individual to the entire week of live programming and unlimited access to the event library $559 Industry Service Providers (or Sponsors) can reach Letha at 317-913-2440 or lkeslar@mappinc.com for more information about participating.





www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 9


Training Matrix: The Roadmap for Employee Advancement by Liz Stevens, contributing writer, Plastics Business


reating and conducting a training program is hard work, but it is worth the investment – because when employees gain knowledge, companies gain valuable expertise. However, creating a methodology that easily explains the program and the benefits it offers can be challenging. Makuta Technics and Engineered Profiles are two vastly different manufacturers that have created training programs for the benefit of their companies and for the benefit of their associates. We spoke with Stu Kaplan, president of Makuta, and with Adam Wachter and Paul Cunningham, CFO and training manager, respectively, at Engineered Profiles, to learn about the training programs at both companies.

Engineered Profiles: Organized training schedule eases employee advancement

Engineered Profiles, LLC, Columbus, Ohio, has been providing leading-edge plastic extrusion solutions to a wide array of industries for over 70 years. The company runs on a 24/7 schedule with about 250 full-time employees. It has 45 main extrusion lines, three production buildings and one fabrication cell. With twin and single screw extruders, Engineered Profiles works with PVC, PE and PVC wood composite, PP, PE, ABS, PS, PC and Nylon. In 2015, Paul Cunningham was plant manager at Engineered Profiles, having worked his way up over the years from his start as an operator. Training there had been going on for decades in a very casual manner, with only sporadic attempts to create a more cohesive approach. “There wasn’t really anything formal,” explained Cunningham. “Our means of training people was to give them some paperwork when they were hired, have them work with different operators every day and tell them that when they felt ready they could take a test to see if they could become an operator.” That approach wasn’t as effective as needed. “We were having a lot of trouble keeping operators,” said Cunningham, “so we felt that formalizing a plan – a career path – would help us get and keep people. In 2015, we formalized a program, and I took the training manager role.” CFO Adam Wachter explained that creating the training program and resulting training matrix for Engineered Profiles employees

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was tied to providing employees clear expectations as it related to pay increases and a career path. “Our entry level operator pay is $13,” he said, “and our aim was to get people to a higher wage more quickly. Our goal within six months was to get them to $15 an hour.” Cunningham explained further: “We wanted to accelerate that path because, in the past, there were operators who had not advanced for a couple of years, and they felt stagnant,” he said. “They didn’t have a clear understanding of how to move up.” With the new training matrix, employees would know from the start where they could advance, and how to get there. In designing training to facilitate employee advancement, Cunningham first focused on extrusion operators. He recruited the plant’s experienced operators, and together they hashed out a training path. “We wanted to standardize the information that everybody was hearing,” he said. Previously, employees were being taught different things, depending upon which person was teaching them. After creating the entry-level path, the group then detailed the knowledge requirements for an extrusion operator to advance to senior operator, and so on, so employees knew what it took to obtain positions in the top bracket. Cunningham and Wachter described only two significant challenges that they faced in implementing and rolling out their program – working with reluctant veteran employees and sorting out how to schedule classes in a 24/7 work environment. Cunningham explained that some employees had been with the company for 10, 15 and even 20 years. The company’s desire for consistent training meant that even veteran operators needed to go through entry level operator training along with the less seasoned employees and the new hires. When veteran employees initially expressed reluctance, Cunningham understood.

The training from Engineered Profiles provides clear expectations as it relates to pay increases and a career path.

“I told our experienced operators that they had probably forgotten more about plastic than I will ever be able to teach them,” he explained. “But once I explained to people what we were trying to accomplish – that when new people came in, we would all know how they were taught – it made sense to them.” Wachter pointed out that the veterans were given a lot of leeway to take classes. “We gave everyone a year or two to get back to their level on the training matrix,” he said. “In the first year, it was voluntary – we told them classes were available and they could attend if they wanted.” In the second year of the training program, veteran employees were urged to take the classes and complete the tasks required for anyone who had advanced to their pay grade. “We pushed a little,” Cunningham admitted. “I had to poke and prod a few people, but overall it was a pretty easy transition.” Then there was the issue of scheduling for classroom training. “When we originally started, we were going to take a couple of operators off the floor during their shifts and have them come in and do the classes,” said Cunningham. “We realized pretty fast that wasn’t going to work.” The company’s solution was to present courses on the employees’ days off, and to pay them overtime to take the daytime classes. The 24/7 operating schedule presented the next hurdle, said Cunningham, “because then we had people say, ‘Well, I’m on night shift. Why are you making me come to a class on days?’ ” Once again, the training program was adapted. “Now I do some classes in the evening to try to help with that,” he explained.

The company’s willingness to fine-tune the training to accommodate employees sent a signal to all of its workforce. “We’ve adapted to what we feel has helped the team, to make the training as convenient as we possibly can for them,” Cunningham said. “And, that has been well received because they know that we are willing to do what we need to do to help them.” At Engineered Profiles, training now is an organized process that includes classroom time with Cunningham teaching the operators, some computer-based classes delivered via the Cornerstone LMS and hands-on training. “I think the absolute best change to the program that we’ve made over time is the way we do hands-on training now,” said Cunningham. “When we first rolled it out, I would have new associates for a week in training.” New hires then would return to their regular shift, and a shift-mate would do hands-on training to reinforce what Cunningham had taught in the classroom. “We were having a lot of disconnect with that,” he said, “whether it be line needs, coverage, not having enough people or having to move people around. It was inconsistent.” The company decided to choose one hands-on training person. Now, when Cunningham finishes the entry-level training class, Greg Marcum, the company’s hands-on trainer, spends two to three weeks with the newly trained operators. He walks them through the processes of their jobs, including how to set up a line, start up a line, run a line and tear it down. That is repeated every day, giving the new employees solid practice in the processes that they need to know to do their jobs. “That,” said page 12 u

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TRAINING t page 11 Cunningham, “has been the biggest positive for us through all of the training, because I think it helps them feel confident and ready to do the job when they go out on the floor.”

Makuta: Pay-for-knowledge system rewards ambition

Makuta Technics, Inc., is located in Shelbyville, Indiana, southeast of Indianapolis. Founded by Stu Kaplan in 1996, Makuta specializes in micro injection molding and micro mold tooling, producing millions of zero-defect micro plastics parts each month for customers in the medical, pharmaceutical, micro fluidics, and electronics and office automation industries. Makuta runs lean, with a workforce of 10 employees and conducts 24/7 “lights-out” manufacturing. Stu Kaplan has had a training philosophy and methodology in place nearly from the start. A fourth-generation manufacturer, Kaplan explained that during his years in manufacturing, including “driving a forklift in a metal stamping factory when I was 8 years old,” “working on the west side of Chicago in union shops,” running a factory on the west side of Chicago (where he learned what not to do), working in Japan and marrying a woman whose family has been in manufacturing for four generations in Japan, he came across plenty of variety in training methods.

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Since Makuta is a highly specialized plastics operation, Kaplan is quite selective about new hires, and oftentimes finds that prospective employees with plastics manufacturing experience do not fit well with Makuta’s unique specifications. “What we do, technically, is so different than what other people do,” explained Kaplan. “We have four-cavity molds that we carry around in our hands, as opposed to using a crane or a forklift to move them. So, handling components of our molds – they are like pieces of jewelry to us.” Once he has found a new employee who clicks with the Makuta mindset and culture, Kaplan knows that training will need to be very specific and won’t be found in a pre-planned plastics educational system. When he started his own business, Kaplan implemented a payfor-knowledge system to encourage employees to take control of their own advancement. The premise is simple: After agreeing upon a starting wage, new employees are told that to increase their salaries, they have to get more knowledge – whether internally through the pay-for-knowledge program or by going to school. “The program is based on the knowledge that our people have,” Kaplan explained. “It requires increasing your knowledge over the entire time you are with Makuta.” This system involves every aspect of the company, from shipping to molding parts to facilities maintenance to purchasing and accounting. After a period of time, usually 90 days after hiring, new employees take a test – an applied, written and oral exam – certifying that they are knowledgeable about their primary position. “At that time,” explained Kaplan, “they are free to say, ‘Okay, I’d like to make more money in another area. And, I’d like to learn something else.’ So, they may go to one of the certified people in molding and ask that person to teach them a skill set, such as single-shot or double-shot molding.” The training – a mix of mentor-protégé discussions, videos and online classes – usually takes two to four months, and then the trainees take an applied, written and oral exam that demonstrates that they can operate the machines correctly, are knowledgeable about the materials used, know how to document the parts they are making, et cetera. “Once they pass those exams,” said Kaplan, “not only does the student get a bump in pay, but the professor who taught them gets a bump in pay. That’s the basics of it.” Kaplan’s training premise incentivizes workers to share knowledge and get smarter. The core of the knowledge sharing at Makuta is plant operation. “The courses we have developed cover everything needed to keep the place operating,” said Kaplan. “Because of the way we operate (lights out and with few employees), that cross-training is key to our business model.” Every year, Makuta employees must re-certify in their cross-training knowledge; that is, the positions other than their primary responsibility.

Part of helping employees get smarter also includes supporting employees with internships and outside learning opportunities. "We’ve had intern programs with high school students who worked part-time for us and now have been with us six or seven years, working their way up through the pay-for-knowledge system to responsible positions at a very young age,” said Kaplan. "We've also provided the work schedule flexibility and financial support to help employees with external programs such as off-site plastics processing courses, the two-year certificate program at local Ivy Tech Community College with credits that are transferrable to Indiana state colleges, and even accounting certificates and MBA programs at other universities. To be effective, our pay-for-knowledge system has to be dynamic.”

Deploying a win-win training matrix

Both Engineered Profiles and Makuta Technics use a training matrix – a grid used for tracking employees and their progression through a series of training courses. The matrix can be as simple as a printed, posted chart that is updated by adding notes or check marks. Or it might be a sophisticated Excel-based workbook or learning management system-based table that is updated online and then printed and posted on a regular basis. They key factor is that it is a persistent visual presentation that lets managers

After agreeing upon a starting wage, new employees are told that to increase their salaries, they have to get more knowledge... and employees see, at a glance, where everyone stands on their advancement paths. Training matrices help managers track employee training, make sure everyone gets trained consistently and on schedule, and identify progress or the lack thereof. Training matrices help employees by giving them a concrete, visible path for training and advancement, by showing opportunities to learn new skills and by highlighting the employees’ achievements. At Makuta, due to its small employee footprint, the company needs just one matrix to manage training and track employee page 14 u

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TRAINING t page 13 progress. “The management of it is really pretty simple,” said Kaplan. “There is a matrix that we keep that shows who is certified, who is re-certified. And, the information on that matrix is available to everybody.” At Engineered Profiles’ large facility, training matrices are used extensively. “A matrix is posted for each department in the plant,” Cunningham explained, “and it’s updated at least every two weeks.” At any time, employees can walk up to the matrix to see their progress along a path and what they need to get done to reach the next level. “One of our goals with the matrix was to take the subjectivity out of advancement,” Cunningham said. “If an employee completes all the things on the list that we say are necessary for each level, there’s no wondering if the employee can move up or not.” Cunningham was surprised at the reaction to the posted training matrices. “Some people are more driven than others,” he said. “Some people push really hard to get through as quickly as they can. Others are comfortable going at their own pace, but they know how to move from one level to the next.”

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As with the company’s training program, which initially focused on extrusion operators, Engineered Profiles also has expanded its use of training matrices. “Now the fabrication department has a matrix,” said Cunningham, “and the supply chain, too. The shipping group has a matrix. We have a matrix created for our tooling group, but we haven’t put the finishing touches on it.”

The glue that holds it all together

In talking with Stu Kaplan at Makuta and with Paul Cunningham and Adam Wachter at Engineered Profiles, the conversations kept circling back to a unifying element. Whether the subject was what to put in a training course, how to deliver the training or what technology to use to manage the program, the why, how, what and when were always dependent upon the attitude of who was involved. Kaplan repeated again and again that people are the glue that holds a company together, and that people are the movers who make a training program (and a company) succeed. In describing any aspect of operations or training at Makuta, Kaplan stressed that “people make this place run.” He credited his vice president, Tyler Adams, for expertly managing the training program and, in talking about the initial impetus for the company’s “pay-for-knowledge” program, he repeatedly noted that it was a group effort that was constantly evolving. At Makuta, accountability, ambition and “roll up your sleeves” commitment are not just boons found in the occasional new hire – they are the standard for employee attitude. “At Makuta,” said Kaplan, “there’s a goal for the individual employee and for the employees collectively: ‘to make our lives better.’ As they are making their lives better, mine gets better. So, that brings us right back to the basis for the pay-forknowledge plan.”

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At Engineered Profiles, Paul Cunningham cited the enthusiasm, engagement and contributions of the employees repeatedly as the most important factors in the success of his company’s training program. Adam Wachter wrapped up our interview about the company’s training program with some thoughtful observations. “I would say that one of the key pieces, I think, is Paul,” said Wachter. “Having someone in the role who really cares that the employees learn is important. Paul has a passion to make sure everyone is successful, and he’s involved in their whole first year by checking on them once they are out on the floor. “We could have a great PowerPoint presentation that we give to everyone, and it would certainly not be the same,” he continued. “I think what it takes to make a great training program is someone who is really passionate about both helping the company and helping our employees to be successful.” n

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The Impact of COVID-19 on Plastics and Parallel Industries by the Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors


he Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors (MAPP), in response to processing executives’ request for data to better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, began generating biweekly “pulse” reports in the early part of April 2020. These pulse reports cover a wide range of business information, including plant operating levels, supply chain disruptions, customer shutdowns, current and future staffing level expectations, revenue performance and more. “It’s obvious that the COVID-19 pandemic has crushed the US economy, and if one wants to better understand how the crisis has directly impacted the plastics manufacturing community, the damage can be found in the updated sales revenue forecast trend,” stated Troy Nix, MAPP executive director, in a recent interview. “It’s alarming to know that if 100 plastics manufacturing companies were polled today, 60 companies would be performing to 75% of their 2020 revenue plans, six organizations would at 50% of their annual forecast and one entity would be tracking below 50% of the annual plan. That means that only one third of the industry is operating as if this were a normal year!”

Chart 1

Product or industry mix has a great deal to do with where plastics processing businesses are performing on their actualto-plan revenue for 2020. Of the more than 200 company professionals completing MAPP’s most recent pulse survey, Chart 2 those primarily serving the medical marketplace were the most likely to have the most favorable outlook on revenue for this year. 51% of the medical processors are running at 95% or higher of their 2020 forecast; 47% are tracking at 75% of their forecast. However, it is important to understand that revenue projections from those processing executives serving the medical marketplace

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have been slowly degrading over the past several weeks. As an example, at the beginning of June, 66% of the manufacturing community primarily focused in medical products were tracking to their 2020 budgeted revenue; by the middle of June, only 51% were on track, representing a 15-point reduction.

Plastics manufacturing businesses primarily serving the automotive sector have been hit the hardest, as only 7% of company executives responding to the latest survey are tracking to their 2020 budgeted revenue. Nearly three-fourths of companies serving automotive are forecasting revenue through the end of 2020 at 75% of their original 2020 forecast, while a staggering 19% anticipate revenue through the end of 2020 to be at 50% or below what they forecasted for the year. It is to be noted that automotive suppliers’ customers remained shut down at higher levels and for longer periods as compared to any other industrial markets. As of the middle of June, nearly one quarter of the automotive suppliers completing MAPP’s pulse survey indicated that they were operating at the 25% to 50% level. To make matters worse, a total of 45% of leaders in the automotive sector anticipate minor to moderate supply chain disruptions over the next several months, which will continue to hamper operation efficiencies. When plastics processing executives look over the proverbial fence to see if the “grass is greener on the other side,” they will find that they are faring far better than both the rubber products manufacturing sector and the mold building segment. These

industries are projecting even worse revenue performance for this year, as can be viewed in Chart 1. As identified in MAPP’s 2020 State of the Plastics Industry Report, completed in January of this year, one of the major challenges of the US processing sector was the attraction and retention of the workforce. At the time of this article, companies were asked to report on both their near and future term staffing plans and how those plans might change over the next six to 12 months. One brighter spot in current industry conditions is that the large majority, or 86% of the more than 200 companies that replied, indicated that their workforce development strategies entailed maintaining current employment levels and hiring additional employees in the near future. A small fraction, or 14%, indicated they will have some permanent or semi-permanent staff reductions over the next year. As with the adjusted 2020 sales revenue forecasts, customer segment had an impact on the workforce development outlook of the executives responding to the survey. page 18 u

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BENCHMARKING t page 17 • Medical: 94% of companies primarily serving the medical industry indicated they will either maintain staff (49%) or add additional staff in the next six to 12 months (45%). • Automotive: More than any other industry, automotive was the most likely to be focused on maintaining staff levels or having some minor staff reductions. Nearly half (49%), are looking to maintain staff, and 16% are hoping to add staff in the next six to 12 months. However, the remaining 35% are reporting permanent or semi-permanent staff reductions for the near future. • Consumer Goods: 92% of executives supplying to the consumer goods marketplace reported a workforce development outlook similar to that of medically focused suppliers, as they are either looking to add staff (52%) or maintain staffing levels (40%) over the next six to 12 months. One question looming for all manufacturing executives: When will the crisis be in the rearview mirror? This is followed closely by, “When will things return to normal?” A good sign for the US economy is that the Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI), a quantitative measure of the prevailing direction of economic trends in manufacturing, jumped to 52.6 in June. This was a 9.5

point increase from the month of May, which greatly surpassed market expectations. Although the PMI has recorded an expansion number for the first time in many months, leaders in the plastics, rubber products and US mold building sectors have differing viewpoints about when business operations will return fully to normal. As many industry experts predicted delayed impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the US mold building industry, it appears as if the executives in the tooling building arena now agree: An astounding 47% have identified that they do not feel normalcy will occur in 2020. With stark contrast, business leaders representing both the plastics and rubber products sectors feel more optimistic about things returning to normal: 70% of plastics processors and 60% of rubber products leaders have either returned to normal or expect to be operating normally by year’s end. n To obtain the latest pulse survey results or other benchmarking information: www.mappinc.com

A PARTNER TO HELP YOU RECOVER FROM A CRISIS Implications to the global manufacturing industry are significant and stretch well beyond the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts expect the economic recovery to be slow and companies are going to be forced to make difficult decisions to survive. Harbour Results is leveraging its experience, insight and data to build strategic plans that help companies be better positioned for the near, mid and long term. • Business Assessments

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18 | plastics business • 2020 Issue 3

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association Sales Process Forum Engages 100 Member Companies Over 100 member companies from across the US gathered virtually July 15 and 16 for the 2020 Sales Process Forum. This annual event, now in its second year, is a unique experience designed by plastics industry sales professionals to benchmark and share best practices regarding their sales processes. Day one featured speakers and breakout sessions focused on Marketing Growth and Optimization. The second day focused on Maximizing the Sales Process. This virtual event included expert-led presentations from speakers such as Shelly Otenbaker of Waypoint Marketing and Laurie Harbour of Harbour Results, Inc., along with peer-led breakouts from team members of MAPPmember companies like Crescent Industries, EG Industries, Sussex IM and Viking Plastics. Additionally, attendees engaged in one-on-one and group exchanges, sales process benchmarking and specially designed networking opportunities. Watch the MAPP events calendar for more virtual events at mappinc.com/events. MAPP Welcomes New Members Alwin Manufacturing Co., Inc. – Green Bay, Wisconsin Classic Die – Grand Rapids, Michigan LMT-Mercer Group, Inc. – Lawrence Township, New Jersey Melet Plastics, Inc. – Fargo, North Dakota Paragon Plastics – Titusville, Florida Plastic Design & Manufacturing, Inc. – Manhattan, Montana ProjectXYZ, Inc. – Huntsville, Alabama SK Plastic Molding, Inc. – Monroe, Wisconsin

2020 Benchmarking and Best Practices Conference Goes Virtual The Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors (MAPP) announced that The Benchmarking and Best Practices Conference, originally slated for October 2020 in Indianapolis, will convert to a virtual event due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. The decision was made after extensive consideration and in consultation with the MAPP Board of Directors and conference team. “The Benchmarking Conference is the highlight of our year, and we know that it means as much to our attendees, sponsors, members and partners as it does to us,” said MAPP Board President Tim Capps, Par4 Plastics. “But after carefully monitoring the situation and conducting ongoing conversations with experts, it became clear that the only responsible option was to host a virtual event this year.” “Going virtual has opened up all kinds of opportunities that just wouldn’t have been possible with past models,” said Letha Keslar,

conference director. “The caliber of speakers and programming is incredible, and we expect our audience to triple due to the ease of not having to travel this year.” This year’s conference theme is Opportunity is Knocking, a theme that is critically relevant given the current state of the world. Conference organizers are addressing the questions that are top-of-mind right now: Where do we go from here? How do we keep innovation going and the ecosystem strong? Has this pandemic identified new needs? In place of the in-person event, the conference team plans for a virtual conference experience running the week of October 19 through 23. Additional details about the Benchmarking and Best Practices Conference, including programming, agenda and more, can be found at mappinc.com/ conference. MAPP Conducting Annual Wage and Salary The Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors (MAPP) conducted its annual Wage and Salary survey for 2020 in August. Now in its 18th year, this keystone study analyzes information on over 55 job titles specific to the plastics industry, as well as additional operational benchmarks. The report covers job titles in multiple areas of a plastics business including, but not limited to, administration, technical, operations and management. Participants in this survey included over 200 US plastics manufacturing companies who reported wage and salary information on employees in current job positions. MAPP’s Wage and Salary Report has evolved each year to encompass new job titles, as well as important industry and business trends within the plastics industry. This report remains one of the very few compensation reports dedicated exclusively to the plastics manufacturing industry. More information on this report and other benchmarking studies can be found at mappinc.com. EHS Summit Will Be Virtual in 2020 MAPP, ARPM and the AMBA announced that the 2020 Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Summit will take place virtually November 11 and 12. The EHS Summit is designed to share best leadership and safety practices with industry professionals hoping to achieve world-class safety within their companies. Attendees will focus on best practices in environment, health and safety, along with ways to become a better leader in safety. This summit promises to provide high-level safety professionals with implementable ideas to improve their operations and achieve world-class safety. The keynote speaker for the 2020 virtual event is Joe Tantarelli of Safestart. Tantarelli is an inspiring presenter who can relate “real life” to the training he provides. Look for more information and registration at mappinc.com/events. n

www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 19


Program Launch Best Practices in a Pandemic-Pressed World by Cynthia Kustush, contributing writer, Plastics Business


lastics processors are accustomed to pressures of new program launches and meeting customer expectations. Whether the program launch entails implementing production using new molds or transferred molds, there are processes to follow and deadlines to meet. But today, processors are approaching program launches a bit differently. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many of them to change the way they interact with customers and their teams and, in some cases, how they handle the molds as they move through the qualification process.

Communication more critical with coronavirus

In a white paper issued recently, Diversified Plastics, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota, relates ways to minimize risk and avoid pitfalls when taking on transfer tooling. The white paper opens by stating, “Every mold transfer is a challenge. Transferring tools from one plastic injection molding company to a new supplier, with uninterrupted production, requires up-front planning and effective communication for a successful outcome.” According to Annette Lund, vice president, “effective communications” has become even more important since COVID-19 came on the scene. Diversified Plastics is a full-service provider of prototyping, plastic injection molding, digital additive manufacturing, assembly and value-added services for a wide range of products for customers in industries like aerospace, water filtration, medical, avionics and lithium ion batteries. Working closely with the teams within those various industries is the key to a smooth launch. “Whether it is a tooling transfer or a new program launch, communication of expectations from both the customer company and the injection molder is absolutely critical,” she says. “Everyone involved – from engineering to purchasing to quality, production and tooling – needs to know the capabilities and requirements for a successful outcome. The onset of the coronavirus has made it necessary to alter the way we accomplish this.” As with most other companies, Lund says social distancing and the wearing of masks has become the norm throughout Diversified Plastics’ Minneapolis plant and at its sister company, Pacific Plastics Injection Molding in Vista, California. “Everyone wears masks when outside of their work area. Face-to-face meetings

20 | plastics business • 2020 Issue 3

Photo courtesy of PTA Plastics

are smaller and more spread out and, if possible, everyone tries to social distance when talking to someone,” she says. “We are even careful with treats during meetings because we do not want everyone’s hands choosing a doughnut from the same box. It is just a different mindset, which we expect to continue for quite some time.” Still, the work must continue, and Lund says that, despite social distancing, there are many questions that must be answered, and mysteries solved before a program can launch – especially where transfer tooling is concerned. Every transfer tool must be inspected, and that takes time. “Besides customer expectations, we need to learn a multitude of things about the mold including how the part is used, what the critical-to-function dimensions page 22 u

PRODUCTION t page 20 are, if any assembly is required, how many cycles has the mold run and what material it was manufactured with,” she said. “If it is old and has run millions of cycles, and particularly if it is made using a soft steel, it may be at the end of its life. Buyers often move tools because they are not getting the performance expected, but they may be unaware of or ignoring issues. CAD files and maintenance records are critical, if you can get them for a transfer tool. Again, communication is very important here.” Lund says that when the pandemic first hit, employees would investigate to learn who the last person was who touched the tooling or products shipped and whether they wore gloves when handling it. “We asked how long it took to transport the shipment before it reached our dock,” she says. “That way, we would know whether we had to quarantine the shipment.” She added that, in recent weeks, the hype about germs from the virus subsisting on surfaces for long periods of time has relaxed, so investigations like this have subsided for the time being.

Processes critical to quick launch

Similarly, custom injection molding company Intertech Plastics, Denver, Colorado, is meeting the challenges due to COVID-19 by implementing social distancing measures and adhering to homegrown protocols like its New Product Introduction (NPI) process. According to Jim Kepler, president, all program launches, regardless of deadline or urgency, go through the NPI process in order to satisfy customer expectations while also preventing costly rework or course corrections that happen when critical program details are missed. “Our NPI process is organized into ‘gates’ or chapters that require stakeholder input and approvals as we follow the methodical roadmap of a program launch,” Kepler says. “We use a RACI chart (RACI is an acronym for responsible, accountable, consulted and informed) at each gate approval to keep our team accountable to the decisions we make.” Like Diversified Plastics, Intertech puts a premium on communications with its customers. “Customer input is a large part of our success, and the NPI roadmap provides guidance for specifications and critical expectations throughout this process.”

Photo courtesy of PTA Plastics

personal protection equipment. An Intertech announcement says, “In less than five days, the Intertech team designed and built a mold and started molding the headband for face masks. The company now is producing thousands of face masks a day.” Asked how the urgency and amplified demand for the face masks affected Intertech’s normal program launch process, Kepler said the team learned that it was especially important to follow the NPI process “to the letter. Each step has a purpose and there are no shortcuts. It is our experience that a program launched quickly, but not accurately, can be costly for both parties. Secondly, having strong partnerships with our suppliers proved to be a game changer for us in expediting launches because when you have trust you can move with greater speed.” Internally, protecting the health and safety of its workers was a priority. “We needed to stabilize our production environment and eliminate disruption to our ‘employee ecosystem’,” Kepler said, adding that the company often relies on a small percentage of temporary labor to accommodate surges in production demand. This was the case with the face mask program. “Any exposure to COVID-19, by introducing new and unfamiliar employees to our controlled environment, was a risk we were unwilling to take, so we decided to freeze our hiring of temporary labor.”

Intertech specializes in highly engineered, tight-tolerance components and assemblies, serving the medical device, industrial and consumer markets. In addition to injection molding, the company offers product design and engineering, mold manufacturing, assembly and packaging, automation design and implementation, and part decorating services.

As production demands increased, Kepler says the hiring freeze became an obstacle Intertech needed to overcome. Our solution came back to the foundational value of trust, and we extended employment opportunities to the friends and family of our stable and trusted workforce.”

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Intertech partnered with Genesis Plastics Technologies of Greeley, Colorado, to manufacture face masks, helping eliminate the shortage of

Following the logic that “good people know good people,” the company communicated its “direct hire” needs to its existing employees and offered a referral bonus. “This was a tremendous

22 | plastics business • 2020 Issue 3

success,” Kepler says. “We were able to hire six of the eight employees in just one week.”

Collaboration, creativity and community

With 75% of its business concerned with medical devices, one of which was a ventilator, there was no doubt that PTA Plastics, Oxford, Connecticut, an employee-owned custom injection molder, would be deemed an essential business when the coronavirus hit. PTA President Rich Dorans said the ventilator project already was in progress, primarily for military use, but soon the company was asked to ramp up production from manufacturing about 5,000 units a year to 10,000 a month. “We had to prepare very, very quickly for that. The parts were originally being produced and assembled only at our Connecticut plant, but we moved quite a bit of production to Colorado,” he said. “Because of our ISO 13485 certification, starting production at the second facilitywas technically a project launch because we still must validate the manufacturing process.” With a lot of collaboration between the customer’s and PTA’s engineering departments – and by working closely with suppliers to install, validate and train on new equipment purchased for the increased production capacity – Dorans said PTA was able to launch the project in Colorado much more quickly. “In an ordinary launch, just managing validation documents and getting approvals can take up to three weeks, but because everyone shared the same goals, we were highly successful in launching quickly. It required a true partnership.” In addition to the ventilators, which were mandated under the Defense Production Act (DPA), PTA Plastics also is producing patient monitors (mainly pulsometers) and ramped up production from about 10,000 units per year to 30,000 units in three months. As with Intertech Plastics, the need for greatly increased production of products required greatly increased manpower. “HR had to step up every bit as much as the engineering, purchasing, maintenance and other departments,” Dorans said, adding that PTA had to get creative with how they attracted and recruited new employees. “We thought that with so many restaurants and retail establishments closing that we could quickly capture that employee base, but they were getting more and more money on unemployment, and many people did not want to work.” Enter Facebook.com. Dorans explained that PTA is predominantly a LinkedIn company, but it was suggested that Facebook might offer better luck with attracting more motivated prospects. “We targeted people like bartenders, salon workers and teachers who were looking for work,” he says. “We found that if it fit their schedule, they were willing to come in and be trained. It really helped to fill the gaps.”

PTA revised its assembly operations and rearranged its shop floor to allow at least six feet between line workers and installed conveyor systems to safely deliver parts from one station to the next vs. just handing them off. It can be tough training so many new employees, Dorans said, because it is imperative that quality standards are maintained for every project. In addition, to protect employees both old and new, precautions like social distancing, installing dividers between workstations and masks were provided. “We also use face masks on top of masks during training when people have to be in closer proximity of each other,” he said. Temperatures are checked every day and protocols change weekly, as Dorans and his management team monitor the latest safety recommendations issued by local and federal governments. For example, when social distancing was mandated in the workplace, PTA revised its assembly operations by rearranging its shop floor to allow at least six feet between line workers and installing conveyor systems to safely deliver parts from one station to the next vs. just handing them off. Asked whether any permanent changes have been made based on what had to happen to ramp up production so quickly, Dorans said PTA is taking that momentum and working to sustain and enhance it. In 2019, the company formed a PTA 2030 Team, the purpose of which is to create a vision and a purpose around what PTA Plastics and the world will look like in ten years. “We know that, no matter how things turned out or how fortunate we have been through this year, we can never be satisfied with the status quo.” Sustainability and being socially responsible by donating to local food banks and patronizing local restaurants and businesses are some of the changes that will become permanent ways to give back.

Virtually speaking

Since the onset of COVID-19, virtual meetings now are largely the norm, rather than gathering team members and customers in a conference room together. Diversified Plastics, PTA Plastics and Intertech Plastics are using mostly digital means of communication to share job data, program changes and updates. page 24 u

www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 23


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If on-site meetings are needed, the number of participants is very limited. For example, Diversified Plastics’ Lund said that if companies involved in a program launch even allow on-site visits, smaller teams are sent – usually only one or two people. “Some companies are not allowing their employees to pay visits. It is starting to loosen up, and we are doing temperature checks when customers visit, but we are not sure if it will continue to return to pre-pandemic standards.” Social distancing requirements limit the number of people that can meet in a conference room, so the company is complying by limiting the number of visitors at any given time. “Virtual meetings are more common because, in addition to restrictions, there also is the risk that someone could be asymptomatic,” she added. “As this continues, everyone is getting more comfortable with being on camera, so I would not be surprised if virtual meetings replace conference calls in the future.” At Intertech, all NPI process meetings are virtual now. “The changes in our work environment because of COVID-19 have elevated the importance of communication and connectivity,” Kepler stated. “The need for clear and powerful presentations that convey quoting data, design recommendations and so on has been very important. For example, calculations are now made visible to all participants to show how machine capacity was analyzed. We have also added templates to our NPI process to assist in communicating important information consistently.” In the long run, Kepler believes that Intertech’s efforts to stay connected using virtual meetings have improved the ability to make decisions quickly. “Virtual meetings often occur multiple times throughout the day, driving results faster and eliminating the constraints of physical meetings.” Dorans expresses the same view, saying that PTA’s Zoom meetings have made discussions and decision-making processes more efficient. “We required everyone to have their cameras on so we could see each other and have more effective interaction,” he explained. While virtual meetings with suppliers were few, customer meetings were held virtually in place of plant visits for mold qualifications. “We sent a lot of FedEx packages back and forth with parts in them. When they were received, we met on Zoom to discuss any modifications and so on.” Although manufacturing companies across the US – and across the world – still are learning to navigate the changes forced upon them by COVID-19, the ability to adjust quickly, fall back on existing procedures and communicate effectively are key strategies to ensure new product launches and transfer programs are executed efficiently. n

24 | plastics business • 2020 Issue 3

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The View from 30 Feet Business gurus often talk about the view from 30,000 feet – the big picture that provides a look at overall operations. Perhaps, however, the focus should be on the view from 30 feet – a close-up of specific processes and procedures that make an impact now.

Revamping Healthcare at Vital Plastics by Lara Copeland, contributing writer, Plastics Business


cross the business landscape, companies are employing creative strategies to draw in new talent while also trying to hold onto current employees. Attractive incentives – like flexible hours and good pay – are among some of the leading priorities potential employees are looking for; however, affordable and unique healthcare packages also are top contenders. Some large corporations, like Amazon, Apple and Facebook, have been offering on-site health clinics for a number of years, but this growing trend is making its way into smaller companies, too. Although the trend is growing now, offering on-site access to medical providers is nothing new. The concept goes Photo courtesy of Vital Plastics back more than 150 years, when railroad and mining companies dominated much of the workforce. Due businesses and a local school district – opened a shared, on-site to the high rate of injuries within these industries, utilizing a health clinic. company doctor simply made sense. As the next century rolled around, these company doctors became too costly, and their According to Vital Plastics President George Hauser, two popularity all but died during the Great Depression. But with main factors motivated the company to make this move. “We the manufacturing boom in the late 1930s, these dedicated looked at it as a differentiator,” he said. “At the time we started physicians were once again widespread, and they have gained participating in this conversation, attracting and engaging even more popularity with the rising cost of healthcare since the employees was quite difficult. So, we did something to be 2000s. The modern on-site health clinic not only treats injured different, look different and feel different – we wanted to be employees, it now also addresses overall health and wellness. appealing to people so they could see the value in our company.”

Motivation for change

In January 2019, Vital Plastics, located in an industrial park just east of the Twin Cities metro area in Minnesota, became selfinsured, offering healthcare, dental and short-term disability plans for its 112 part-time and 110 full-time employees and their families. Additionally, in July 2019, this custom injection molding and contract assembly company – along with two other

28 | plastics business • 2020 Issue 3

Company-sponsored healthcare offered another advantage. “The other thing we were striving to do is to control our healthcare costs,” Hauser added. “Every year we are faced with increases, and it just wasn’t sustainable anymore.” He commented that becoming self-insured and offering the on-site clinic were two ways Vital Plastics could get control of its healthcare costs and establish transparency. The company had spent money in the past

offering wellness services, like a mobile blood unit or offering a copay for health memberships, but Hauser found that those services weren’t getting much “lift,” as he put it. “We simply decided to redirect our dollars,” he explained. The clinic is staffed with a couple of medical assistants and a nurse practitioner. It operates 40 hours each week, but its schedule is staggered so that it can accommodate employees from various shifts. And, despite being shared among four entities and a large pool of insureds, people are seen very quickly. As for the self-insured healthcare plan, Hauser remarked that it is “virtually the same plan we had when we were insured through a regular carrier. The only difference now is we fund it ourselves and have a third-party administrator while also having an overline protection to help protect us from catastrophic issues.”

Comprehensive benefits

Initially, Vital Plastics offered the clinic to employees who were on the company’s health insurance plan. “Anybody who was covered under the plan – whether it was a single or family plan – could utilize our on-site health clinic,” Hauser said. But that all changed with the recent pandemic. “Once COVID-19 hit, we started offering the on-site clinic to all full-time employees – even those not on our health insurance plan.” Vital Plastics paid for these employees to go to the clinic, realizing that healthcare may be more cost-prohibitive at the time when family budgets were under stress. “We wanted to at least pay for them to get into our clinic,” he explained. “That way they could have some access to free healthcare during these trying times.”

saving over $300 a month on his other medications because they are provided free by the clinic.

Collaboration and compliance

Becoming self-insured and opening an on-site clinic still may be a rarity, but as healthcare costs go up, the concept continues to attract interest. For others looking to implement something similar, Hauser mentioned some facets that have worked well for Vital Plastics and what a company should think about when considering such a paradigm shift. “We collaborate well with the other companies in our group, and we have the ability to customize our specific plan to meet our own needs,” he said. “I don’t have to offer the exact same plan as the others in our group, but some items do need to be the same.” He continued, saying that while another company in the group offers to cover part-time employees, Vital Plastics only covers full-time employees. “We also can set different copay prices, for example.” Hauser also emphasized the importance of staying compliant with any health savings account (HSA) regulations. “With an page 30 u

Additionally, the on-site clinic had COVID tests available much before the rest of the country. “When we were formulating our plan for moving forward during the pandemic back in March, we wanted to respond appropriately, including following CDC guidelines,” Hauser noted. The clinic obtained a dozen or so tests, and Hauser said he was happy to have them, despite the limited supply. “It was good to know that we would be able to test somebody should they become symptomatic; it felt good to be prepared long before the general public.” The success stories surrounding Vital Plastics’ healthcare don’t begin or end with the pandemic; in fact, they reach into the employees’ families. For example, the spouse of an employee on the company’s health plan had been dealing with severe back issues that were determined to be spasms. Despite being unable to work due to his condition, he also was unable to get into his doctor for nearly a month. He decided to go to Vital Plastics’ onsite clinic, where the provider reviewed his circumstances and ended up prescribing a muscle relaxer. During his appointment, the provider also reviewed this patient’s list of medications. In the end, not only were his spasms calmed, but he also ended up

www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 29

VIEW FROM 30 t page 29 HSA, we can’t offer the clinic for free, so we ended up doing preventive care for free,” he explained. In this case, any diagnostic care is a $25 copay, but Vital Plastics contributes enough to the HSAs for these copays to be covered. He said there’s “room for maneuvering, but make sure you remain compliant,” while also noting that it is “important to research vendors and make sure you know who your administrator and your clinic provider is.” “Every single one of our plans is going well,” Hauser assured. “We are 17 months into the insurance plans and about 10 months into the clinic, and I can say that participation in each of these has increased over time.” Vital Plastics is not resting on its laurels though. Already this year, the company added an incentive to its health savings account. If an employee goes to the on-site clinic for a physical, which is free, Vital Plastics makes an additional contribution to their HSA. “This has been well taken advantage of and well received,” Hauser noted.

The clinic is staffed with a couple of medical assistants and a nurse practitioner. It operates 40 hours each week, but its schedule is staggered so that it can accommodate employees from various shifts. costs again for another year,” Hauser commented. Vital Plastics also strives to create more responsibility for the user. As for now, he is pleased with all aspects of the company’s healthcare offerings. “We are ahead of the game with all of our healthcare plans – we were last year, and we are again this year. That tells me that we’re doing it right.” n

As the company moves forward, controlling healthcare costs remains a top priority. “We did not increase health premiums in 2020, and if I stay on trajectory this year, I can hold healthcare

You take 3D printing seriously. So we take it personally. 30 | plastics business • 2020 Issue 3

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NEWS Conair Offers Kits to Connect Non-Computer Controlled Auxiliaries Auxiliary equipment supplier The Conair Group, Cranberry Twp., Pennsylvania, has introduced SmartServices™ sensor kits to connect operating, performance and alarm data from non-computer controlled auxiliary equipment to the SmartServices platform, Conair’s cloud-based Industry 4.0 solution for auxiliary equipment monitoring, management and analysis. The user-installed sensor kits are now available for use not only with Conair auxiliaries, but with a range of competitive auxiliary equipment including temperature control units (TCU), positive-displacement vacuum-conveying pumps, single- and dual-stage regenerative vacuum pumps, portable loading/conveying systems and desiccant dryers. These kits were created by Conair so auxiliary equipment that does not utilize computerized controls could be equipped with digital sensors and communications capabilities, and linked to the cloud-based SmartServices platform with the same ease as newer equipment. For more information, visit www.conairgroup.com.

WITTMANN BATTENFELD Ensures Remote Access Injection Molding WITTMANN BATTENFELD, headquartered in Vienna, Austria, a provider of robot automation and injection molding machine technology, has introduced a new generation of injection molding machines with B8 control and WITTMANN 4.0. These features ensure safe remote access with the help of an optimized firewall and extra safety features, thus offering a high level of cyber security against malware infestation and misuse through cyber attacks. The WITTMANN 4.0 option extends the UNILOG B8 machine control system by a separate production cell control system (the WITTMANN 4.0 Router), which performs communication tasks and protective functions. One of these functions is the external firewall, optimized for operation with injection molding machines. In this way, the WITTMANN 4.0 Router shields the machine’s control system from the outside world. For more information, visit www.wittmann-group.com.

32 | plastics business • 2020 Issue 3

Chase Plastics Increases Capacity Stocking distributor Chase Plastics, Clarkston, Michigan, has announced the completion of an expansion to its South Bend Central Distribution Center, originally built in 2016. The $4 million addition, which broke ground last year, increases the warehouse capacity by more than 60% with an added 80,000 sq. ft. to accommodate additional storage for more than nine million pounds of material, for a total capacity of 206,000 sq. ft. The updated facility improves processing throughput and efficiencies, and includes five additional loading docks, a new blender, equipment upgrades and expanded repacking capacity to enhance services such as custom blending, material repackaging and bulk-out capability. The strategic location of the warehouse allows for the latest cut-off times in the industry, which provides customers more flexibility. For more information, visit www.chaseplastics.com.

RJG Airs New How-to Video Series Training and consulting company RJG, Inc., Traverse City, Michigan, has announced a new series of injection molding tips, tricks and how-to videos available on YouTube. Led by industry experts, the videos address common issues and questions, such as: What actually causes flash? How do you size a nozzle tip? How do you achieve a fill only part? The RJG YouTube channel and the new series include these recent additions: “Injection Molding Fill Only Procedure,” “Understanding the Terminology of Different Molding Machines” and “What Actually Causes Flash in Injection Molded Parts?” To view the videos, visit www.youtube.com/myrjginc.

iD Additives Introduces Eco-Pro 360 XL Cart iD Additives, Inc., a LaGrange, Illinois supplier of foaming agents, purging compound and rust remover and preventives, introduces the Eco-Pro 360 XL Cart, a mobile, heavy-duty integrated pump/filter system for cleaning internal cooling passages in molds. It works with the company’s iD Eco-Pro 360 solution to provide fast, eco-friendly rust removal on injection molds, heat exchangers, blown film dies and more. The XL Cart more than doubles the output of the standard Eco-Pro cart. For more information, visit www.iDAdditives.com.

Progressive Offers Remote Validation Kit Progressive Components, Wauconda, Illinois, a developer and distributor of componentry and software for production tooling, has three new offerings. Progressive’s new Remote Validation Kit, a product enabling tooling engineers to validate their tools remotely, is a plug-andplay tool that provides real-time data by connecting to a CVe monitor on the mold. Then, information is accessible from across the plant or around the world. For more information, visit www.procomps.com.

M. Holland Enhances 3D Printing Offerings Thermoplastic resin distributor M. Holland Company, Northbrook, Illinois, has partnered with petrochemical company Braskem, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to exclusively distribute its new polypropylene filament for 3D printing applications. It features a proprietary formula allowing high stability, low warpage and consistent extrusion. Polypropylene has not typically been used in the prototyping or production of 3D printed parts due to high failure rates. Braskem’s unique polypropylene formula is highly stable with low warpage, excellent bed adhesion and consistent extrusion, making it ideal for prototyping. For more information, visit www.mholland.com and www.braskem.com/usa. n

A First Look at NPE2021 By Dianna Brodine, managing editor, Plastics Business While uncertainty swirls around the remaining in-person plastics industry tradeshows scheduled for 2020, NPE2021: The Plastics Show is an optimistic pinpoint on the calendar for next year. Scheduled for May 17 through 21 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, NPE2021 originally expected to draw more than 55,000 attendees and more than 2,000 exhibiting companies. Realistically, the event that is promoted as the largest plastics tradeshow in America won’t look exactly like it did in 2018, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable as a demonstration zone for the latest technologies in injection molding, additive manufacturing, assembly, decorating and more. In addition to in-booth demos and informational discussions, a hefty lineup of conference education and workshops is planned. These will address hot-button topics, such as sustainability and recyclability, 3D printing, and the manufacturing of bottles and containers – a segment of the plastics industry that is seeing increased demand during the coronavirus pandemic. The Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors again will host the MAPP Pavilion, an area of the tradeshow floor dedicated to plastics processing and supplier partners of the association. Exhibitors at this time include Foster; Colors For Plastics, Inc.; Stout; RTP Company; Mueller Prost; Vive Marketing; PolySource and Carbon. Many other MAPP partners and Plastics Business advertisers will be on site. Watch for more event coverage in the next two issues of the magazine. While no guarantees can be made, NPE2021 marks a hopeful return to large-scale industry gatherings. Plastics suppliers have been gearing up to launch new products and services in 2021 – and there will be attendees anxious for the advantage these can bring as the global recovery continues. More information: www.npe.org

www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 33


Additive Manufacturing’s Vision for Molders A conversation with Bob Gafvert, production partnership sales manager, Carbon


ob Gafvert shared his perspective on what it takes to build out an additive approach, the challenges to tackle and the opportunities to consider during a recent webinar for the Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors. After watching additive manufacturing evolve – from his first experience in 1996 with an early machine that built starch and plaster models of castings, to his work with Carbon’s liquid resin technology in today’s $20 billion annual additive manufacturing market – Gafvert is convinced that the technology will continue to grow and dramatically impact the global economy. He views additive manufacturing, for many injection molders, as an addon to the business model. “It’s going to complement the molding business,” he said. “It won’t replace it, it will complement it, especially at those lower volumes, similar to what EDM did for CNC thirty years ago. It didn’t replace the CNC, but it gave you more flexibility, more agility.”

to show that there’s opportunity in manufacturing? And that manufacturing is cool?”

As injection molders consider where additive manufacturing can add to their organizations, Gafvert believes industry members should dive into exploring why they want to join the additive culture, learning what additive technology options are available, and investigating how those various technologies can be implemented to expand their current book of business. This will be an iterative process, in which companies enlist management, sales and engineering to hash out the questions, identify possible answers and then circle back around with tentative choices to reevaluate the why, what and how.

To be a stronger competitor. “Maybe you’ve lost to a competitor,” Gafvert said, “because they have some form of additive.” He noted that a number of automotive companies are looking at trimming their supplier base. In choosing which companies to cut, they are asking questions, such as “What are you doing with continuous improvement and technology to support us longterm?” Gafvert noted that manufacturers’ answers regarding additive capacity might be deal-makers or deal-breakers. “Are they going to make their supplier decisions based on who does have additive or another advanced technology, or who doesn’t?”

Why do we want to do this?

What technology should we get?

To recapture lost business. Gafvert brought up the scenario in which a molder declines an order because the molder doesn’t have the particular press or piece of necessary secondary equipment to take a part to 100% completion. Additive might close the gap and turn around a lost sales opportunity.

“There are a lot of different technologies out there, and the choice really depends on what you are looking to do with it,” said Gafvert. “If you just want parts that look good, that you can use for prototyping and that aren’t functional, that’s going to steer you in one direction. If you are looking for something that has mechanical performance similar to injection molded parts, that’s going to steer you in a different direction.”

To attract and engage the next generation. Per Gafvert, some manufacturers ask “How do we engage that next generation of engineers in the workforce? How do we capture the attention of those middle schoolers and high schoolers

A manufacturer that needs to produce items composed of specific thermoplastics or having particular mechanical performance properties, for example, will find that these requirements narrow down the field of potential additive technologies.

To stand out. Gafvert stated that most molders seek to differentiate themselves from the competition. Some, he said, point to great on-time delivery, great quality and a fantastic engineering team. “But, aren’t those things just really expected?” Gafvert asked. “Isn’t that what is expected of a molder by their customer?” Offering a solid additive service might be an effective way to truly stand out.

34 | plastics business • 2020 Issue 3

Lattice pucks produced on a Carbon printer. Photo courtesy of Carbon.

The choice of what type of additive technology to implement is a key consideration, and it often depends upon why additive is being evaluated. Will the technology only be used internally, or will it be implemented for end-use production parts? The “why” may dictate (or narrow down) the “what.”

With those desires and necessities in mind, a manufacturer might then take a multi-pronged approach to evaluating the various technologies. Gafvert threw out some examples. “We want to look at this for internal, then prototyping. Or we want to give our salespeople samples that they can go out with and differentiate themselves. Or from the far other side, we need performance production parts.” Gafvert expanded on the idea of production use with several possible scenarios. “Hey, I’m looking to do production at scale; I not only need the form, I need the function.” “I want to go after a slice of business that, traditionally, I wouldn’t have even touched because the technology is different and it’s not on my production floor.” But he circled back to considering how the new technology will fit into an established company. “Can it complement not only my business but can it complement my margins? Is it another technology and another income stream that helps my business grow and differentiate?”

How do we make this fly?

Gafvert believes firmly in involving the sales team in the project of evaluating additive technologies, but notes that their enthusiasm must be tempered with practicality and the ability to deliver on quality. “Oftentimes, when we are looking at growing our business and bringing in the new technology,” said Gafvert, “sales has ideas. But how are they going to be successful with this? How are they going to sell it? What type of sales team do you have?” Salespeople are in a prime position to evaluate a potential additive technology, and to comment on their customer base and which customers are asking for such a technology. But there is more to it than that. “How do they fill that pipeline of prospects for something that you’ve never worked with before?” asked Gafvert. And it is important to factor how quickly the pipeline can be filled when looking to go beyond prototyping and into

high-volume production. Gafvert reinforced the notion that quality always is key – making sure that parts meet expectations. “You don’t want to produce hundreds to thousands of parts,” he said, “and not have them meet expectations.” For going deeper into conversation with salespeople, Gafvert suggested tapping the most trusted, effective and attuned sales staff for their insight. “Start talking to your salespeople,” he said. “What customers are going to want it? Medical. Okay, if we’re looking at medical, what medical companies have we never been able to get into? Maybe we are looking to shift our business to do more medical because that’s where the opportunities are now. Where do I find the new customers? What materials are going to work in medical?” “Same thing for automotive,” continued Gafvert. “Do we have to have ULV0? Do we have to pass all the automotive standards? Is it going to pass some of the UV standards that are necessary? Is it going to be able to handle leather? Is it going to be able to perform mechanically year after year?” Gafvert noted that additive opportunity exists within the consumer, electronic, healthcare, automotive, industrial and medical industries. Making additive fly also depends on making space for it and having the manpower to operate it. Gafvert threw out questions in this arena as food for thought. “Are we looking for prototypes or low-volume production? Who is going to run it? Some technologies, you can just throw in with Engineering and they are pretty simple to do. That’s not necessarily the case when you are getting into production. Where are we going to put it? What do we have to do to build out for it? Am I simply just plugging it in and putting it on my engineer’s desk, or am I turning this into a showcase showroom? Am I putting this on the shop floor?” page 37 u

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What to do with those initial why, what and how questions and answers

With some of the questions identified and some possible answers imagined, Gefvert suggests recruiting the team to join the journey toward additive manufacturing. At the entry-level end of the additive technology spectrum, Gafvert poses these types of questions: “If I have a simple printer on my desk, what does that allow me to do today?” “Can I use that for my automation team?” “Can I use that for my internal projects?” “Can I build fixtures with that?” “How can I make money with it outside of the efficiencies it gives me internally?” At the production end of the additive technology spectrum, Gafvert suggests asking questions like these: “Can I sell these parts?” “What do I need to sell them for?” “What are the expectations that I need to meet?” Every manufacturer’s exploration of additive manufacturing technologies is unique, and the time required for the journey will vary. “Probably the fastest that I have seen people bring this in, from an injection molding standpoint, from start to installation

is about two to three months,” he said. “I have been having conversations with people for much longer than that though, so typically it is nine months to a year.” Regardless of whether the goal is to implement additive technology for internal use only, or for prototyping, low-volume or high-volume production, Gafvert believes that the same basic questions apply. “Somebody needs to understand the applications, the opportunities, the mechanical properties and the barriers. And somebody needs to be able to sell those parts.” n On April 1 and 2, 2020, MAPP hosted its Virtual Learning Summit 2020. The Summit featured six webinar sessions, including “Additive Manufacturing: Vision for Molders” by Bob Gafvert. Gafvert is production partnership sales manager at Carbon, the Redwood City, California, digital manufacturing company that offers Digital Light Synthesis™. Prior to joining Carbon, Gafvert worked in manufacturing for 25 years. He began working with machine shops and job shops, then with moldmakers and, most recently, in leading sales and marketing for an injection molder. More information: www.carbon3d.com

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INDUSTRY 4.0 Automation

Big Data

Cloud computing



Data Management

Applying Industry 4.0 in Plastics Processing


ndustry 4.0 has moved far beyond its early status as a technological buzzword. The application of data-collecting, automated technologies is changing the traditional manufacturing plant by creating efficiencies, pointing out areas of improvement and integrating systems from the very beginning stages of product production to the final shipping process. Plastics Business spoke with Steve Bieszczat, CMO of DELMIAworks, to get his perspective on how plastics manufacturers can utilize Industry 4.0 to make their operations more effective, especially as we approach a critical recovery period after the COVID-19 slowdown. Q: Industry 4.0 is about the transformation of traditional manufacturing operations by implementing smart technologies. These new technologies are not confined to molding machines, but also being implemented in auxiliary equipment, cobots, robots and more. Why is it important that data is collected and utilized throughout an organization? Molding machines used to operate as standalone systems. Increasingly, they are part of automated, smart systems that track all stages of the process, from storing feed stock to preconditioning materials, production of the products, and handling and packaging finished goods. Because a failure or success at any singular point affects the entire system, it’s important to monitor the entire system. With Industry 4.0, IoT technologies provide the data required to catch problems as they are evolving and before they become issues. Additionally, the data offer critical insights into rates of

38 | plastics business • 2020 Issue 3

production, root cause failure analysis and other performance metrics to support plastics manufacturers’ decision-making. Q: Cost efficiencies are critical right now, as many in the manufacturing community struggle to recover from the shutdowns and slowdowns that resulted from COVID-19. How does Industry 4.0 contribute to a more cost-efficient organization? Cost efficiencies are really critical during this COVID-19 era – but even more important than the dollar costs are the time efficiencies. Manufacturers want to limit social exposure, so that employees don’t have to be on-site any more than necessary. That leads to questions like, “What’s the shortest possible time to get a machine to produce?” and “How can we accelerate delivery to minimize exposure?” With Industry 4.0 adoption, smart machines self-report, so fewer operators are needed. It also means that failures are caught immediately, enabling teams to correct the issues and get back into production sooner. In this way, plastics manufacturers can keep up and running as time-efficiently as possible with as few people as possible. Q: How many plastics processors are utilizing Industry 4.0 capabilities within their facilities – or using it efficiently? Are there stumbling points that are common? I haven’t seen any shop in the last three to four years that is not using some piece of Industry 4.0 technology, whether it’s the use of sensors or a smart system, but only about 30% to 40% are fully automated. There are three reasons for this.

1. First, the benefits of Industry 4.0-enabled automation are highest for repetitive production. By contrast, small, highly customized production runs require a level of flexibility that is sometimes still better supported by employees rather than automated machines. 2. Second, inertia – some manufacturers are more comfortable with the devil they know and hesitate to adopt new technologies. 3. Finally, there’s cost. There’s a big financial investment in buying new smart machines or doing a smart retrofit of existing equipment, and that investment usually is made over a long period of time. Q: What recommendations do you have for manufacturers looking to expand their Industry 4.0 capabilities? Are there logical steps to take right now for greater success over the next six to nine months of recovery? Manufacturers should start with an assessment of their job mix. There are three scenarios where this technology can help position plastics manufacturers for profitability and growth during the current market uncertainty and beyond.

spikes in demand, such as those we’ve been seeing in the medical and consumer goods markets. 2. Another factor is the need for monitoring and keeping exacting records in highly regulated industries. Here, the real-time monitoring and traceability enabled by Industry 4.0 systems significantly streamline reporting while ensuring accuracy. 3. A newer driver is energy demand, as more businesses and governments establish green consumption criteria. Newer, smart machines that produce significantly more parts per hour while using less energy can help manufacturers comply with sustainability requirements, and they often pay for themselves in three to four years. n Steve Bieszczat is chief marketing officer for DELMIAworks (Formerly IQMS), where he is responsible for all aspects of DELMIAworks brand management, demand generation and product marketing. Prior to DELMIAworks, Bieszczat held senior marketing roles at ERP companies IQMS, Epicor and Activant Solutions. Bieszczat

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Training is Essential by Michelle Parr Paulson, director of marketing communications, Paulson Training Programs


et’s face it: The impact of the global pandemic of the novel Coronavirus will be felt by all of us in ways yet to be fully understood. Businesses have taken huge hits, leading to painful layoffs and placing pressure on remaining employees to carry the load. It’s fair to say that training may be one of the last things on an employer’s mind in this time of survival. But here’s the thing: We will get back to business and companies will need employees – skilled employees – which already was an enormous challenge. It’s no mystery that a team that can accurately identify and solve problems is far more valuable than a staff with cobbled-together notions of how to do their jobs. Providing your entire team with consistent, measurable and actionable pathways to learning is practically guaranteed to pay you back over and over again, even during times like these – and quite possibly, even more so. You may be thinking, “But how can I devote time and resources to training at a time like this?” The better question is: How can you not? In fact, Paulson Training was deemed an essential business by the State of Connecticut, where the company is based, because training is recognized as essential in manufacturing. The upside to downtime is leveraging this slower period to position yourself for success. Investing in employee training is an investment in the long-term prosperity of your entire business. The following represent just a few of the limitless benefits of training and development in any organization. • Response to change: Knowledge is power. Training teaches employees how to think, no matter the changes or challenges. • Improved retention rates: Offering training and development opportunities can dramatically impact employee retention rates, immediately increasing their sense of being valued. • Promote from within: It’s always more cost effective to promote from within rather than taking on the expense of an external candidate search. • Outperform the competition: Research has proven that businesses that invest heavily in employee training are more successful and prosperous. • Job satisfaction: As an employer, it’s in the best interest of the company to provide employees with reasonable opportunities to enjoy their work and take pride in what they do. This translates to job ownership and increased productivity.

40 | plastics business • 2020 Issue 3

I like to think that history will refer to this period as the ‘Big Pause’ or the ‘Great Pause.’ We’ve made training a priority now so we’ll be one step ahead. – Ann Canfield, Stelray • Attract new talent: Businesses that invest heavily in the success of their employees attract new talent at the highest level. Effective training also reduces cycle times, scrap rate, mold damage, machine downtime and employee injuries, while at the same time increasing productivity and efficiencies. A supervisor or manager can attribute savings to any of these areas. In fact, a recent Paulson customer, Stelray Plastics of Ansonia, Connecticut, experiences these benefits on a regular basis, mostly because the company has made training an integral part of their operations. “Stelray is a custom injection molder, and we manufacture parts for the medical, dental, health and aerospace industries, among others,” said Ann Canfield, training manager for Stelray. “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been fully operational and extremely busy. We have our team on the plant floor with appropriate safety and distancing measures in place, and our administrative staff is working from home. More importantly, throughout this whole thing, we remain committed to training our team. We’re keeping everyone appropriately skilled.” She added, “We know the value of training. We see the confidence and independence it builds in our staff. Our production team’s initial machine start-up is much more efficient, scrap has decreased and overall efficiency has increased after personnel complete a training course, and Paulson plays a huge factor in that.” As for Stelray and training during the pandemic, Canfield said, “I like to think that history will refer to this period as the ‘Big Pause’ or the ‘Great Pause.’ We’ve made training a priority now so we’ll be one step ahead.” n Michelle Parr Paulson is the director of communications for Paulson Training Programs. More information: www.paulsontraining.com


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www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 41


Economic Smooth Sailing or Headed for the Rocks? by Chris Kuehl, managing director, Armada Corporate Intelligence


he business leaders of today resemble the captains of those old clipper ships. They know where they came from and they have an idea where they are going, but what happens in between is unknown and possibly disastrous. Thus far, the assumptions regarding the macroeconomy have ranged from glass half full to glass half empty, but all the while we have no knowledge of how big the glass is or what is in it. Is there anything to have confidence in as far as 2021 or the rest of 2020 is concerned? We would assert there are three very likely scenarios, all nearly the same in terms of probability. Bear in mind that all three of these are based on a whole series of assumptions – and also bear in mind that many of the assumptions that were made earlier in the year proved to be desperately inaccurate. Remember when we all thought the virus would peak in April and that every state would be seeing steep declines by the end of that month? Now that we are registering record numbers of infections, hospitalizations and fatalities, that assumption has been rejected. Remember when there was to be a lifting of the lockdown and a quick May rebound, leading to a recovery and a “V” shaped recovery by the third quarter? The lockdowns were only partially lifted and, since then, many have been reimposed. In fact, there is serious talk of another national shutdown – and one that would last even longer than the first one. There were assumptions about how many people were “furloughed” as opposed to having been actually fired. There were assumptions regarding what would take place in other nations as they contended with the viral threat. All of these assumptions fell short. As we review the scenarios now developing, it will be important to remain skeptical.

Scenario One: Continued decline.

This is the most miserable of the three, as it assumes that the virus is not brought under control, that treatment options do not improve and that a vaccine is not developed before sometime in 2021. This will lead most nations back to the lockdown strategy as the only response, and the economic collapse experienced in March will be repeated. The decline will be even more intense as businesses will have exhausted their reserves, consumers will have exhausted theirs and governments will have little ammunition left. This is the scenario that leads to a severe depression – but we hasten to point out that this outcome is anything but guaranteed, as it depends on both the progress of the virus and the willingness on the part of the government to shut the business community down. Three assumptions will drive this very negative scenario. 1. The first and most important is that the virus will not be

42 | plastics business • 2020 Issue 3

contained in any real sense. This means social distancing will not be maintained, mask wearing will be rejected by many people, testing will be inadequate, hospitals will be unable to keep pace and so on. With a more universal response to the threat, this assumption would be rendered inaccurate. 2. The second assumption is that dealing with the virus will mean some form of a renewed economic lockdown. This would be an immensely difficult decision given the damage already done to the global economy, and the probability of a lockdown in a political year is very low. 3. The third assumption is that solutions to either the viral outbreak or economic collapse will not be developed. That means that treatment options remain inadequate, and the vaccine still is many months away. It also means that governments cease efforts to insulate people and business from the impact, as there will no longer be the money to do so.

Scenario Two: The arrival of the swoosh.

This is the optimistic counterpoint to Scenario One. This assumes a substantial rebound by the end of 2020 and continued expansion into 2021. As is apparent as one looks over the latest numbers, there has been a lot of momentum developing in a variety of key sectors. Remember that the 2020 economy was growing at a respectable pace prior to the pandemic, and it has appeared that businesses and consumers are eager to get back in the groove. What has to happen for Scendario 2 to develop is either a retreat by the virus to levels seen as “under control” or a willingness to move ahead with ending the lockdown even as the virus remains a threat. The discovery of a treatment would be critical to moving ahead with removing the lockdown, but the vaccine will be required to end the threat. If the lockdown is not imposed again, there is a modified “V” recovery yet this year – the swoosh (as it will look similar to the Nike symbol). Again, there are three primary assumptions driving this scenario. 1. The first is that the virus is either contained or its impact is accepted to some degree. The reality is that the world will never be rid of the COVID-19 virus altogether. It will behave as all the other viruses have (SARS, MERS, Avian flu, Swine flu, Marburg, Ebola, Zika, West Nile and so on). It will remain in the global population and will take a human toll, but the numbers will be deemed “acceptable.” Either the number of people affected declines dramatically or the public tolerance for the death toll grows. 2. The second assumption is that restarting the economy takes center stage, and lockdowns continue to lift in order to get people back to work and business back to normal functioning.

3. This leads to assumption three – that policy makers will have public support to focus on the resumption of normal activity, even as the threat of the virus continues.

Scenario Three: Splitting the difference.

As always, there is the middle ground – the swoosh is coming but not as quickly as had been originally anticipated. Rather than seeing a recovery under way in Q3 or Q4, the rebound starts in earnest in 2021 and likely not until the second quarter. The assumptions at work here involve a partial reimposition of the lockdown, but one that leaves major sectors relatively untouched. This scenario relies more on what is happening in the rest of the world, although all three scenarios will be profoundly affected by the pace of recovery in Asia, Europe and elsewhere. There are reasons that middle ground scenarios often dominate. There will be limited appetite for either of the other positions – people will not want to see the virus become an even greater threat and will demand that authorities “do something.” On the other hand, that same public will reject the notion of crushing the economy again and plunging the nation into a depression that would destroy millions of lives. They will demand: “Do something else.” The result will be a bit of the worst of both worlds. The virus will continue to constitute a very real threat

and the economy will be weakened, but there will be some perception of progress. If there is no expanded lockdown to deal with the virus and no lockdown lifting to boost the economy, all the hope will be placed on the development of an effective treatment and the development of an effective vaccine. The assumption is that neither of these are available until some point in 2021 and perhaps not until 2022. This puts the business leader in the cabin of that ship. The course might be smooth all the way to the destination or there may be a hurricane developing dead ahead. It has been a long time since business in general has faced this much uncertainty. n Chris Kuehl is managing director of Armada Corporate Intelligence. Founded by Keith Prather and Chris Kuehl in January 2001, Armada began as a competitive intelligence firm, grounded in the discipline of gathering, analyzing and disseminating intelligence. Today, Armada executives function as trusted strategic advisers to business executives, merging fundamental roots in corporate intelligence gathering, economic forecasting and strategy development. Armada focuses on the market forces bearing down on organizations. More information: www.armada-intel.com

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What Manufacturers Should Know About Prescription Drug Use by Liz Stevens, contributing writer, Plastics Business


hile illegal drug use can cause havoc in the workplace, it often is prescription medication interactions that lead to accidents and injuries. Miranda Williams is a licensed pharmacist and the pharmacy program director for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. Her expertise as a pharmacist and her position with the Ohio BWC give her a vantage point to see medication use (and misuse) trends for a large population and allow her to help workers and employers by offering insight and advice. In a recent presentation, Williams discussed prescription and illicit drug use, based on her knowledge of medications and based on statistics on medication use by injured employees in the Ohio Workers’ Compensation system. This article recaps details that are applicable nationwide.

How common is prescription drug use?

For Ohio’s injured workers, Williams described the most prevalent medications being used. “First is opioids,” said Williams. “That’s not surprising because most of what we see are injuries and musculoskeletal injuries that are painful.” Second on the list are seizure medications, which often are prescribed for nerve pain. Next come antidepressants and antipsychotics. “I was surprised when I saw those,” Williams said, “but there are 9,000-some injured [Ohio] workers on antidepressants and over a thousand on antipsychotics.” Williams noted that there is a high prevalence of injured workers with major depression, PTSD or traumatic brain injuries that cause mental health problems. Also among the most-used medications are nonnarcotic analgesics, such as ibuprofen, aspirin and Tylenol. Williams noted that it is in employers’ best interest to know the common medications in use by workers – and by the population in general – in order to understand how these drugs, their side effects and their interactions may affect employees on the job. Among the general population, according to Williams, almost half of Americans take at least one prescription. A quarter of us take more than three medications, and one in five or six people between the ages of 45 and 65 take five or more medications. “As a pharmacist, I’ll tell you that once you get to over five drugs, it’s pretty difficult to avoid interactions and side effects,” she said. “They have an obvious benefit and are making people’s lives better, but we need to be aware that it can impact the ability to work safely.”

44 | plastics business • 2020 Issue 3

Side effects can impact worker safety

Williams related that, in America, the most frequently prescribed medications are narcotics (opioids), cholesterol-lowering agents and antidepressants. She described the risks from these drugs and other commonly used ones. For opioids, the side effects include “dizziness, drowsiness and sedation,” said Williams. “Down the road, they can lead to addiction, and that’s going to impair somebody’s ability to work safely.” For antidepressants – which are common and are not used only for depression – Williams described the risks as “dry eyes, blurred vision, impaired focus and concentration.” Also included is sleep disruption, “making it difficult for people to stay awake during the day, as well as making it difficult for them to sleep at night.” Williams noted that the side effects of antidepressants typically wear off within a few weeks, but that employers should beware that during the first weeks of use and while adjusting dosages, the side effects may impact workers’ ability to work safely. Williams moved on to over-the-counter allergy medications, including antihistamines like Zyrtec, Benadryl and Allegra, which are in common use when seasonal allergies crop

up. These drugs can cause dry eyes, blurred vision and drowsiness. Antibiotics and steroids have side effects too. These drugs typically are not used long-term but could cause problems for patients taking them for acute, short-term ailments. Antibiotics can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, while steroids can affect blood sugar. Williams related some real-world scenarios to describe the effect of these medications on worker safety.

Examples of drug interactions at work

“An employee came down with bronchitis,” Williams began. “She went to urgent care and was prescribed a course of the steroid prednisone. She’s also a Type 2 diabetic.” Williams explained the steroid’s effect on diabetics. “Steroids increase blood sugar in diabetics, and increased blood sugar can lead to dehydration, dizziness, fatigue and other symptoms that may impair work ability,” she said. “On top of that, steroids can make you feel pretty crappy and make you very irritable, which might affect work productivity as well.” Another example centered on a common situation: An employee strained his back, then got a prescription for Norco – a hydrocodone opioid – for the pain. “He can’t afford to call in sick,” said Williams, “and he’s afraid to tell his employer that he’s taking a pain medication because of the stigma that surrounds that. So, he takes the medication and goes to work.” Williams pointed out that this drug, like all opioids, affects the central nervous system. It can cause depression, impaired focus and concentration, and impaired judgment – side effects that can seriously affect someone’s ability to work safely. In a third example, Williams described the springtime scenario of an employee suffering from seasonal allergies. “Before coming to work,” said Williams, “he took his regular medications, including hydroxyzine, like Atarax and Vistaril. To combat his allergy symptoms, he also took a Zyrtec.” While this may seem

like a benign situation, Williams explained the actual effect. “Zyrtec interacts with hydroxyzine, causing increased sedation, blurry vision and dizziness.” Williams said that had the workers in these examples asked their doctors or pharmacists about drug interactions, they would have learned the possible impacts on themselves and their ability to function safely. But, as Williams said, “As a pharmacist, I’ll tell you I never get the question ‘How is this medication going to impact my ability to work?’” Williams suggested that employers create an awareness of this topic among their employees and encourage workers to ask their doctors and pharmacists about drug interactions and side effects. Following her discussion of the legitimate use of prescription drugs, Williams turned to substance misuse and its impact in the workplace.

The opioid crisis

Williams described the typical victim of an opioid overdose. “When I thought about somebody that overdoses on opioids,” said Williams, “I pictured somebody strung-out, laying in an alleyway, dirty, homeless – that’s all the stigma that surrounds this. I never thought of it as a man who wakes up in the morning, kisses his wife and kids goodbye, goes to work and then overdoses at work.” “But, that’s the reality of it,” said Williams, “Twenty-one million Americans are living with substance use disorder. And, three quarters of those people are employed.” Williams noted Bureau of Labor Statistics on the rapid rise in overdose deaths in the workplace: Overdose deaths from alcohol or nonmedical use of drugs increased by more than one-third every year between 2013 and 2016. page 46 u

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MANAGEMENT t page 45 Citing another eye-opener, Williams said that a National Safety Council survey of employers showed that 75% of them reported that their workplace had been impacted by opioids. Only 17%, however, feel extremely well-prepared to deal with the situation, and just half of the employers felt very confident that they have the needed resources to deal with opioid use and misuse in their worker populations. Williams pointed out that overdose deaths now account for more than 5% of occupational injury deaths. Putting deaths aside, substance abuse also causes workers to miss more days; those with substance use disorders miss an average of 15 days per year, compared to 10.5 days missed by the typical employee. And, those who abuse pain medication miss an average of 29 days per year.

Addressing the crisis

To help stop substance misuse, Williams cited several actions that employers can take, as recommended by the National Safety Council. Implementing company drug policies and drug-free workplace policies are one avenue. Drug testing is another option, and so is offering workplace training to identify the signs of substance misuse. Regardless of the method used, the preferred

end result is that anyone found to be misusing drugs would be referred for professional help with addressing the problem. Williams said that it can be a lifesaver to have some employees trained in the use of the overdose reversal drug Naloxone – also known as Evzio and Narcan – in case of overdose or an accidental exposure to an opioid like fentanyl. She also urged employers to get the free tool kit offered by the National Safety Council, which includes posters, pamphlets, fact sheets and more. Finally, Williams stressed that employee assistance programs are a valuable resource, not only for employees who are misusing or addicted to substances but also for employees whose family members are suffering from these problems. As Williams bluntly put it, “Don’t wait until somebody dies at work to address this.” Over-the-counter and prescription drug use is widespread in America, and the nation is in the midst of an opioid crisis. This makes it important for employers to understand the commonly used drugs, their side effects and interactions, and their effects on workplace safety. Business owners also can create a climate of trust on the job, encouraging workers to be more open about

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46 | plastics business • 2020 Issue 3

their use of legitimate drugs and to ask for help with substance abuse problems. n In July of 2019, MAPP co-hosted the 2019 Environmental, Health and Safety Summit in Columbus, Ohio. “Medication Interactions and Impact on the Workplace” was presented by Miranda Williams, PharmD, RPh, of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. The team at the Pharmacy Program researches, approves, manages and restricts the medications that are available for Ohio employees with workers’ compensation claims, with the goal of seeing workers return to the job.

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To learn more about drugs in the workplace, visit the National Safety Council’s website: https://www.nsc.org/work-safety/safety-topics/drugs-at-work For information about painkillers and opioids in the workplace, the National Safety Council offers two targeted web pages: • Opioid Use in the Workforce – https://www.nsc.org/work-safety/ safety-topics/drugs-at-work/substances • Painkillers Driving Addiction, Overdose – https://www.nsc.org/homesafety/safety-topics/opioids

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To learn more about cannabis in the workplace, visit the National Safety Council’s web page, Cannabis at Work: https://www.nsc.org/work-safety/ safety-topics/drugs-at-work/marijuana For help in creating workplace drug policies and drug-free workplace policies, for setting up workplace drug testing programs and for creating employee assistance programs, visit these National Safety Council and US Department of Health and Human Services websites: • For a free tool kit for implementing workplace opioid programs that includes sample workplace policies, fact sheets, presentations, five-minute safety talks, posters, white papers, reports, videos and more, visit the National Safety Council’s web page, Opioids At Work Employer Toolkit: https://safety.nsc.org/rxemployerkit • For more information on workplace drug testing, visit the US Department of Health and Human Services – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s website: https://www. samhsa.gov/workplace/resources/drug-testing

When the first shot matters. The 2020 Environmental Health & Safety Summit will be held virtually on November 11 and 12. For more information, visit www.mappinc.com/events.

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www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 47


Are You Listening? by Dianna Brodine, managing editor, Plastics Business


ost people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen R. Covey

I am definitely guilty of listening to respond. I do it in my personal life, when my teenaged daughters are talking constantly to catch me up on who is dating who, what happened at tennis practice or why I should let them paint their own bedrooms. I sometimes find myself tuning in just enough to catch the words that indicate I’m supposed to jump in and react to whatever story they’ve been telling. At work, I keep an ear on the conversations happening around me so I can give my opinion (whether asked for or not!), but it’s rarely with the intention of pure learning. I’m attempting to mend my ways, so this issue’s Booklist takes a look at the art of listening. Perhaps we could all practice by listening to the audiobook versions of these recommendations?

I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships Author: Michael S. Sorensen Released: June 19, 2017

In this three-hour, conversational read, you’ll discover the whats, whys and hows of one of the most valuable (yet surprisingly little-known) communication skills – validation. Whether you’re looking to improve your relationship with your spouse, navigate difficult conversations at work or connect on a deeper level with friends and family, this book delivers simple, practical, proven techniques for improving any relationship in your life. Mastery of this simple skill will enable you to: • Calm (and sometimes even eliminate) the concerns, fears and uncertainties of others • Quickly resolve, or even prevent, arguments • Help others become open to your point of view • Give advice and feedback that sticks • Provide support and encouragement to others, even when you don’t know how to “fix” the problem In short: This skill is powerful. Give the principles and practices in this book a chance and you’ll be amazed at the difference they can make.

You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters Author: Kate Murphy Released: Jan. 7, 2020

At work, we’re taught to lead the conversation. On social media, we shape our personal narratives. At parties, we talk over one another. So do our politicians.

48 | plastics business • 2020 Issue 3

We’re not listening. And no one is listening to us. Despite living in a world where technology allows constant digital communication and opportunities to connect, it seems no one is really listening or even knows how. And it’s making us lonelier, more isolated and less tolerant than ever before. A listener by trade, New York Times contributor Kate Murphy wanted to know how we got here. In this always illuminating and often humorous deep dive, Murphy explains why we’re not listening, what it’s doing to us and how we can reverse the trend. She makes accessible the psychology, neuroscience and sociology of listening while also introducing us to some of the best listeners out there (including a CIA agent, focus group moderator, bartender, radio producer and top furniture salesman). You’re Not Listening is equal parts cultural observation, scientific exploration and rousing call to action that’s full of practical advice.

The Lost Art of Good Conversation: A Mindful Way to Connect with Others and Enrich Everyday Life Author: Sakyong Mipham Released: Oct. 17, 2017

Cutting through all the white noise, chatter and superficiality our cellphones and social media cause, one of Tibet’s highest and most respected spiritual leaders offers simple and practical advice to help us increase our attention spans, become better listeners and strive to appreciate the people around us. In a world of iPhones and connectivity to social media and email, we are all in constant

connection with one another. Then why are so many people feeling burned out, distant from colleagues and abandoned by family and friends? In this new book from the bestselling author of Running with the Mind of Meditation, the Sakyong uses the basic principles of the Shambhala tradition – meditation and a sincere belief in the inherent wisdom, compassion and courage of all beings – to help readers to listen and speak more mindfully with loved ones, co-workers, strangers and even ourselves. Sakyong Mipham provides practical tips on how to be more present in your day-to-day life, helping us to communicate in ways that elevate the dignity of everyone involved. Great for families, employees and employers and everyone who spends too much time on Facebook, Instagram, and feels “disconnected” in our “connected” world, Good Conversation is a journey back to basics.

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating Author: Alan Alda Released: June 6, 2017

Alan Alda has been on a decades-long journey to discover new ways to help people communicate and relate to one another

more effectively. If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? is the warm, witty and informative chronicle of how Alda found inspiration in everything from cutting-edge science to classic acting methods. His search began when he was host of PBS’s Scientific American Frontiers, where he interviewed thousands of scientists and developed a knack for helping them communicate complex ideas in ways a wide audience could understand – and Alda wondered if those techniques held a clue to better communication for the rest of us. In his wry and wise voice, Alda reflects on moments of miscommunication in his own life, when an absence of understanding resulted in problems both big and small. He guides us through his discoveries, showing how communication can be improved through learning to relate to the other person: listening with our eyes, looking for clues in another’s face, using the power of a compelling story, avoiding jargon and reading another person so well that you become “in sync” with them. Alda describes ways we can build empathy, nurture our innate mind-reading abilities and improve the way we relate and talk with others in every aspect of our lives – with our friends, in business settings and beyond. n


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MAPPINC.COM/CONFERENCE www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 49

SUPPLIER DIRECTORY Employment Services AJ Augur Group, LLC www.ajaugur.com Page 24

Synventive Molding Solutions www.synventive.com Page 47


Operations Consulting


Harbour Results, Inc. www.harbourresults.com/plastics Page 18

Paulson Training Programs, Inc. www.paulsontraining.com/ contact-us Page 17

Equipment/ Auxiliary Suppliers

Federated Insurance www.federatedinsurance.com Page 46

Conair go.conairgroup.com/drying Back cover


IQMS www.iqms.com Page 3

Benesch www.beneschlaw.com Page 12

RJG, Inc. www.rjginc.com/registration Page 15

M&A Activity

SIGMASOFT Virtual Molding www.virtualmolding.us Page 13

Frigel www.frigel.com Page 14 Plastic Process Equipment, Inc. www.ppe.com Inside back cover Progressive Components https://procomps.com Page 31 Wittmann Battenfeld www.wittmann-group.com Page 35

MBS Advisors www.mbsadvisors.com Page 45 Stout www.stout.com Page 41

MRO Supplies

Yushin America, Inc. www.yushinamerica.com Page 37

Grainger www.grainger.com Page 36



AMI www.ami.ltd/plastics-expousa-attend Page 25

A-1 Tool Corporation www.a1toolcorp.com Page 27

Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors (MAPP) www.mappinc.com/conference Page 49

B A Die Mold www.badiemold.com Page 26

Process Monitoring

Purging Compounds Purgex Purging Compounds www.purgexonline.com/ free-sample Inside front cover

Resins Amco Polymers www.amcopolymers.com Page 29 Chase Plastics www.chaseplastics.com Page 47 M. Holland www.mholland.com Page 30

2020 Issue 3

PolySource www.polysource.net Page 43

Foaming Agents

Carson Tool & Mold www.carsonmold.com Page 26

iD Additives www.idadditives.com Page 21

Concept Molds www.conceptmolds.com Page 27

Mueller Prost www.muellerprost.com Page 39

Hot Runners

Ivanhoe Tool & Die Company, Inc. www.ivanhoetool.com Page 27

Plante Moran www.plantemoran.com/napis Page 24

INCOE Corporation www.incoe.com Page 7

50 | plastics business • 2020 Issue 3

Plastics Business Strategies for Today’s Plastics Processors

Finding the Fit in Additive Manufacturing COVID-19 Challenges Program Launch Process Training Matrix Becomes Employee Roadmap Looking Ahead to the Benchmarking Conference

Tax & Advisory Official Publication of Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors

A guide to this issue’s Plastics Business advertisers.



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Plastics Business 2020 Issue 3