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Plastics Business

Strategies for Today’s Plastics Processors

Contents Winter 2012

trends

features

11

profile

14

tradeshow

26

outlook Plastics Industry Opportunities for 2012 ...............................................7 trends Additive Manufacturing Changes the Face of Molding.......................... 11 profile Shifting Philosophies, Increasing Satisfaction at Currier Plastics ............................................................................... 14

departments director’s letter ..................6

industry Legislative Outlook 2012: Plastics’ Progress will Prevail on Federal Issues .................................. 20

association .......................34

tradeshow NPE Breaking the Mold in Orlando...................................................... 26

advertisers .......................46

production The View from 30 Feet: Metro Plastics’ Incentive Plan for Key Employees ................................ 28 strategies Maintenance by Numbers ................................................................... 30 solutions Intellectual Property in Injection Molding Contract Terms and Conditions ........................................................... 40 marketing Three Responsibilities of Innovation.................................................... 43

4 | plastics business • winter 2012

product ............................38

MAPP Sets Agenda for 2012 ........................ 36 plasticsbusinessmag.com


director’s letter The Sound of Music as Individuals Harmonize It’s Sunday afternoon on a cold winter day on the campus of Indiana State University (for you basketball fans, I am referring to the college attended by the legendary Larry Bird). I sit in a crowded amphitheater with hundreds of visitors from states across the country, listening to a group of young, talented musicians who were brought together for a 48-hour period to make music. High school sophomores, juniors and seniors, the best and brightest musical talents of their schools, were handpicked to perform. Logging nearly twenty hours of practice from Friday night until Sunday’s afternoon concert, these musicians pulled off the unthinkable. As the curtains rose, the audience was treated to six incredible pieces of music lasting nearly 45 minutes and comprised of thousands of harmonized notes creating upbeat military marches, transitioning to eloquent ballads and ending with a perfect montage of the music from West Side Story. To an attendee not familiar with this routine, one might have guessed that the nearly 60 young adults in the spotlight had been together for 48 days, not just 48 hours. I could not help but think of the human dynamics that made this day possible. First and foremost, each high school musician decided to leave his or her comfort zone to engage in an environment that was extremely foreign, and to contribute to the best of his or her ability for the greater good of the ensemble. Each dedicated himself for a 48-hour period, helping one another through difficult chords, measure transitions and tempo changes – all resulting in a near perfect performance. Let’s not forget about the host school, which was willing to open its doors, provide volunteer instruction and create an environment for these talented individuals to explore the boundaries of their skills. Viewing this day in a business context, I quickly realized the similarities between MAPP and its members and the school and its visiting students. MAPP, acting as the “hosting entity,” creates the environment where plastics industry professionals from different backgrounds, different processes and different geographical areas unite to help one another. The music of this ensemble can be equated to the daily success stories where calls for help and requests for assistance are aggressively answered by MAPP Member professionals who have decided to leave their comfort zones to engage in an environment where the impact of their actions contribute to the greater good of the community. As the MAPP organization leaps into 2012, it is our goal to continue to harmonize the strengths of the MAPP community. It is our intention to increase the involvement of staff level professionals from every MAPP Member company, rallying thousands of executives into a dedicated effort to help those in need and provide assistance to those with challenges that exceed their own base of resources. As MAPP creates functional area networking groups for human resources, purchasing and operations professionals, it is our goal to do the unthinkable: to combine the skills, knowledge and experiences of diverse groups of people working to help one another in a harmonized effort impacting the greater good of our entire membership base. MAPP’s website will function as the conductor, each Member professional the musician and each success story the perfect song! In 2012, I urge all MAPP Member executives to commit to helping at least one MAPP Member in need.

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 Kelly Goodsel, Viking Plastics Tom Boyd, Blow Molded Specialties Dan Cunningham, Parish Manufacturing Tom Duffey, Plastics Components, Inc. Lindsey Hahn, Metro Plastics Technologies Matt Hlavin, Thogus Products Companies Laurie Harbour, Harbour Results, Inc. Ben Harp, Polymer Conversions, Inc. Bob Holbrook, Viking Plastics Tom Houdeshell, Atek Plastics Stu Kaplan, Makuta Technics John Passanisi, PRD, Inc. Jeff Randa, PolyOne Distribution Alan Rothenbuecher, ICE Miller LLP Scott Titzer, Infinity CleanRoom Solutions Mike Walter, MET Plastics, Inc. Rick Walters, DeKalb Molded Plastics Roger Williams, Royer Corp. Wendy Wloszek, Industrial Mold & Machine

Plastics Business

Strategies for Today’s Plastics Processors

Published by:

Peterson Publications, Inc. 2150 SW Westport Dr., Suite 101 Topeka, KS 66614 phone 785.271.5801 • fax 785.271.6404 www.plasticsbusinessmag.com Editor in Chief Jeff Peterson

Advertising/Sales Janet Dunnichay

Managing Editor Dianna Brodine

Contributing Editor Kym Conis Jen Clark

Art Director Eric Carter

Troy Nix

6 | plastics business • winter 2012

Additional Graphic Design Becky Arensdorf

Circulation Manager Brenda Schell


outlook

Plastics Industries Opportunities for 2012 by Laurie Harbour and Scott Walton, Harbour Results, Inc.

P

lastic processors live in an industry that changes day-byday or even minute-by-minute, so as December fades into the distance, many companies will look to the past and attempt to project into the future to see what is in store. Has the end of the economic turmoil been seen? • Has this been a temporary dip, or is another recession inevitable? • Which customers will decamp from Asia in the medium to short term? • If the Japanese earthquake and tsunami did not bring the world economy to its knees, will realignment of the euro or collapse of the common currency do it? • Will banks under pressure restrict access to credit as they did in 2008 and 2009?

Enumerating the Challenges

The economy still is not rotating, despite all the changes that occurred in 2011. Unemployment remains at record high levels and as much as the government tries to create jobs, it still is not happening at the pace politicians would like. The crisis in Europe and its impact on currency are having a substantial effect on the US economy. The world stock markets are on a significant roller coaster, and no one can predict when or if stabilization will occur.

unpredictable the economy becomes, polymers will continue to increasingly drive applications across multiple markets and industries. Even if fewer tablet computers and mobile phones are sold, they will still be made of plastic. Probably the most significant underlying factor affecting the United States manufacturing base today is the stalemate in the government and the effect on consumer spending. The government will not move until the elections in November are behind us. Meanwhile, as companies continue to improve productivity and increase volumes, they are making money. Companies are performing better, operating efficiently and doing more with the same number of people. These productivity improvements, combined with the uncertainty of the economy and the government stalemates, have driven companies to hoard cash and only hire the critical few. Banks are lending money, but not without a painstaking, drawn out process. All these variables put significant pressure on consumers to spend money to spur economic growth. According to economists, if consumers can drive spending the economy will begin to rotate. With all these challenges facing US companies in 2011, a bifurcation began to occur among plastics processors. The industry leaders are growing their revenue lines, financially

The effect of China and other low cost countries 2012 will bring another economic cycle, up and down, but plastics are on the US manufacturing base is changing yet now a fact of life. No matter how soft or unpredictable the economy again. In 2011, the Chinese government instituted becomes, polymers will continue to increasingly drive applications a mandatory 15-percent wage increase across across multiple markets and industries. the entire workforce. Additionally, the Chinese Government is anticipating more wage increases over the next five years as it works to grow the middle class and skill level within China. This will surely strong and operating at over 85-percent capacity utilization. change the calculation of outsourcing to low cost countries The laggards are struggling to maintain market share, operating and begin to level the playing field. Let’s not kid ourselves at less than 50-percent utilization and just plain scraping by. though – in 2012, China will continue to be a manufacturing The gap will continue to widen as the best companies become powerhouse even with these unprecedented increases in cost. more selective and continue to sell value rather than capacity. Chinese manufacturers are working on the right tactics to create sustained manufacturing excellence across multiple So what challenges are companies facing in 2012 and beyond? facets of their value proposition. • Which direction will petrochemical and polymer prices take Economics were, no doubt, overshadowing all else in 2011 and next year? left many muttering under their breath, “Been there, seen that, • What will an election year bring? done that.” 2012 will bring another economic cycle, up and down, but plastics are now a fact of life. No matter how soft or

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outlook t page 7 • Will the Middle East finally gain dominance of the market’s upstream end, or will the scepter pass to China? • If money is tight, will consumers continue buying new cars? Will they abandon plastic carrier bags if they have to pay for them? • Will the Chinese and Arabs begin making their own plastics machinery? In the next 12 months, beyond the underlying economic issues, plastics processors will face constant raw material fluctuations and supply uncertainty for the near term. Additionally, companies are looking at the next 12 months with a need to determine future sales demand. It has been erratic over the last 12 months, and uncertainty leaves companies wondering what to do about manufacturing forecasts. These uncertainties will force the best and brightest to continue doing more with the same to maintain a profitable competitive edge.

Focus on the Front End for 2012

2012 will be full of surprises as the next act from the financial and political power brokers unfolds. Saying farewell to 2011,

The 2011 survey recognized that the sales function often is assigned to multiple individuals or job positions. Respondents were encouraged to check all that applied.

there are some words of advice for 2012 – the most important being, “focus on the front end of the business”. Plastics processors should work more diligently than ever to understand where the market is headed and the demands customers will put on their businesses. The vast majority of companies assessed by Harbour Results already have been pushed and pulled into a world of mass

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outlook t page 8 customization. The high-volume, low-mix model is becoming less and less common, and the new normal is a low-volume, high-mix manufacturing environment that changes more rapidly than ever. Operational flexibility and agility are becoming club dues and those organizations that can meet the ever-changing market dynamics will get the gold. Building flexibility in this environment requires greater focus on understanding customer demand. Comparing internal historical data to customer projections and cross-referencing those numbers to an external market source will provide clearer visibility of demand. Processors can then apply this demand data across the entire business value chain, working to match their supply and demand at a 1:1 ratio. Wherever an out-of-balance condition is seen, it is time to stop to identify the over capacity or the bottlenecked condition, and then work to bring the demand and supply ratios back in balance. Moving through the business model in this fashion will quickly identify those areas requiring additional flexibility. Processors should avoid the temptation to go right to the manufacturing process to find improvement opportunity. Sizable outof-balance conditions often manifest in the transactional processes, such as quoting, costing, project management or engineering. And by all means, a focus should be placed on production tooling – this always is a land of opportunity. Beyond the next 12 months, companies are concerned about what will happen with globalization. Will the balance of manufacturing change as costs rise in low cost countries? If so, what will the impact be on US manufacturing? Another huge concern of plastics processors and all manufacturers is the lack of labor in both skilled and general manufacturing. There is a related concern with the lack of young talent entering the manufacturing field. So, while China grapples with unprecedented increases in labor costs, US manufacturers continue to struggle with the next generation of skilled workers.

Address These Opportunities

There are certainly challenges beyond the control of the plastics processor, but opportunities exist that are being missed – or ignored. During a recent survey of plastics companies, there were disturbing findings, including the following: • Data revealed that a majority of companies are not formally communicating with their customers (see graph on this page). As times have changed, processors have stopped sitting down with customers on a quarterly, or even annual, basis. These meetings are critical for companies to better understand future demand and areas of improvement.

10 | plastics business • winter 2012

A simple written customer survey is not good enough, especially since many customers do not complete these. • Additionally, data revealed that over 80 percent of companies surveyed have the owner or president leading the sales effort (see graph on page 8). Filling the role of president is a full time job in itself. Attempting to lead sales efforts will lead to neglect of one role or the other, to the detriment of the company. Owners need to invest in the right person to lead their sales efforts, while keeping their own eyes on the vision of their companies. • Another incredibly troubling finding was the lack of continuous improvement focus by most companies. This year, the data actually revealed a backwards trend in this area. As volumes have increased, companies are working less on continuous improvement. If the opportunity to drive efficiency improvement was not seized during the recession, the answer now is to throw labor at the increased volume to push output rather than throughput. In the survey, processors continued to state that operational improvements are one of their biggest challenges for the next 12 months, yet those same companies are not focused on continuous improvement. It is critical for companies to see continuous improvement not as an extra credit assignment, but rather as a part of doing business. These companies need to constantly challenge thinking and push for improvement. This can be done with more teamwork and involvement from the people on the floor, but this too was a backwards trend in the survey. As plastics processors look to the future, they should expect the uncertainty to continue as the US government and economy sort themselves out and the European Union woes continue. Sizable challenges and barriers will continue, and tomorrow’s leaders will need nerve, drive, knowledge and creativity to be effective. Companies need to focus on what they can control: continuous improvement, communication with customers, solid business plans and stronger employee involvement. Work on understanding customer demand, and position businesses to meet this demand with continued tenacity and determination. Driving flexibility in an environment is far easier with a greater understanding of future demand. Build an agile organization around this predicted demand pattern, and be prepared for anything. 2012 will surely deliver on a new series of challenges and opportunities. n Combining operational and financial advisory expertise with industry analysis and thought leadership, Harbour Results delivers results that impact the bottom line. The company specializes in manufacturing, production operations and asset intensive industries, as well as a number of manufacturing processes, including stamping, tooling, precision machining and plastics. For more information, visit www.harbourresults.com.


trends

Additive Manufacturing Changes the Face of Molding Additive manufacturing. Fused deposition modeling. Rapid prototyping. 3D printing. Whatever you call the process, additive manufacturing has undergone a perception change. While prototyping remains a key functionality served by additive manufacturing equipment, 3D printing is gaining acceptance as a method of short-run production.

Stratasys has noted the use of additive manufacturing for prototyping in almost every industry by design engineers who want to prove out the design before going to production. These industries include aerospace, automotive, defense, education, medical, consumer product industries and business and industrial machinery.

Plastics Business interviewed Joe Hiemenz, technical communications and public relations manager for Stratasys, Inc., and Patrick Gannon, engineering manager for rp+m, to discuss their perceptions of the ways additive manufacturing is changing the face of the injection molding industry. Stratasys is a producer of additive manufacturing equipment and inventor of fused deposition modeling, and rp+m uses the technology to create prototypes, while also exploring additional uses, including short-run production.

At rp+m, the company operates as a service bureau, supporting the production and engineering sides of sister company Thogus Products Company, an injection molder, with assembly fixtures, design builds and prototyping. rp+m also has customers for which it prototypes and produces short manufacturing runs.

How is additive manufacturing used today? Both Hiemenz and Gannon agree that additive manufacturing is used in two primary ways: rapid prototyping and direct digital manufacturing in low volume. “For prototyping,” Hiemenz explained, “there are two areas in which additive manufacturing is used: concept modeling and functional prototype testing. For direct digital manufacturing, there also are two areas: fabricating manufacturing tools (like jigs and fixtures) and for the low volume production of finished goods.”

“I wouldn’t say prototyping and manufacturing are an equal mix,” said Gannon. “Volume leans more to the prototype side, and it’s still the use people are most familiar with, but I’ve seen an uptick in quoting for manufacturing for final product.” Gannon stated that rp+m is making an effort to spread the word about its manufacturing capabilities, particularly for customers who need a smaller production run.

The legs of the table seen above were manufactured in the Fortus 900mc. page 12 u

www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 11


trends t page 11 What are the limits of additive manufacturing? While gaining in popularity due to its ability to manipulate materials in ways not possible with traditional injection molding, additive manufacturing isn’t the answer for every situation. As Gannon mentioned, the costs associated with additive manufacturing often eliminate certain types of production runs. “It’s tough, because you’re not going to compete on piece price with an injection molded part on larger runs,” Gannon explained. “There’s a moving line for where it makes more sense to do additive manufacturing or when injection molding is the best choice, and it often depends on the type of part and the type of resin needed.” Resin remains a severe limit for the additive manufacturing process. The equipment manufacturers often limit the types of resins approved for use, which subsequently limits the type of products that can be produced. “Thogus has 200 active materials for injection molding,” Gannon said. “At rp+m, we have ten active resins. We’re doing some research, along with our polymer representatives, to run different resins through the machines, and we’ve been somewhat successful, but we’ll never have the material range that is available in injection molding.”

How is additive manufacturing impacting plastics processing right now? Stratasys has seen an increase in the number of plastics processors adopting additive manufacturing, putting it to use in strategic ways. “Molders are using the equipment to make a model of the part during the quoting process,” Hiemenz stated. “They can deliver the model, along with the tooling and production quote, to the customer, and at the same time make recommendations for a design change if it could improve product performance or reduce the tooling or production cost.” Gannon seconded the value of having an actual model in hand when discussing production with customers. “You can always do something on the screen,” he said, “but for most people, holding it in their hand and pointing to things is how they actually get it.” Gannon went on to say that he has seen a number of processors starting to catch on to the possibilities of additive manufacturing. “They see that they can provide this value to their customers very easily, and in some cases, very cheaply,” explained Gannon. “That’s what happened to us. Our first machine was bought specifically for injection molding, so that we could print the customer’s part and send it back to them.” Then, Gannon said, innovation took over. “Once the equipment was in-house, and we had a bunch of engineers standing around it, there was

12 | plastics business • winter 2012

no more ‘water cooler’ conversation,” he laughed. “Now it’s 3D printer conversations! You put two engineers in a room with a 3D printer, and they’re going to think of 10 things to do with it.”

What trends have been identified by Stratasys? One of the trends Stratasys has seen is that molders aren’t limiting additive manufacturing to prototyping. “Of this group of users, some use it for 5S operations, creating tool boards that aid organization by having a designated home for each tool,” said Hiemenz. “Still another way we’re seeing molders using additive manufacturing is to build custom robotic end effectors to pick and place injection molded parts. When users get their hands on additive manufacturing equipment, innovation naturally occurs.” Hiemenz sees the pace of additive manufacturing adoption increasing in 2012. “When these manufacturers see how additive manufacturing can lead to more business or reduce costs, the purchase becomes easy to justify,” he explained. “The word is getting out and awareness is going up. It’s not just the forward-looking companies adopting additive manufacturing; more and more, it’s becoming a mainstream tool.”

How will rp+m push the limits of additive manufacturing in 2012? rp+m has a full range of Stratasys 3D printing equipment, including two Fortus 400mcs, two Dimensions, a uPrint desktop 3D printer, a Fortus Finishing Touch Smoothing Station (to vapor-smooth and seal the parts) and a Fortus 900mc, which can make parts up to 3 feet by 2 feet by 3 feet. With this variety of additive manufacturing equipment and two engineers dedicated to the process, rp+m is stretching the limits of the technology. “We have a great process that makes strong parts, but one of the limitations is the durometer of the material,” Gannon said. “Some of the other presses can make soft parts, so we’re working on end of arm tools that have soft touch materials on the contact points. We’re trying to place in-mold labels with a 3D printed, soft touch part with a vacuum line in it.” rp+m also continues to build the resin variety available for its additive manufacturing equipment, which would expand the production possibilities. “Once you start thinking of new ways to use the equipment, you never have enough capacity,” Gannon explained. “Additive manufacturing gives us a limitless ability to design.” n For more information, www.stratasys.com.

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Š2011 Stratasys, Inc.


profile

Shifting Philosophies, Increasing Satisfaction at Currier Plastics

by Dianna Brodine

With a work history in the plastics molding industry, Raymond Currier combined technology, experience, dedicated personnel and relationships based on trust to open Currier Plastics in 1982. Service and quality were the hallmarks upon which the company was built, with the goal of increasing satisfaction for both customers and employees. These lofty goals have been achieved through significant investments in automation, a training program that aims to educate and retain employees for high-need jobs and a shift in the fundamental way the company viewed its capabilities. Currier Plastics is not afraid to reinvent itself, as long as the company’s customers and employees receive the benefit.

Changing the Focus – A Packaging Company Currier Plastics, located in Auburn, NY, produces a variety of products for the electronics, medical, hotel amenities, disposable wipes, telecommunications and other consumer products industries. Using injection molding, extrusion blow molding and injection stretch molding (both single step and two step), the company runs high-volume production on 24 injection molding machines ranging from 20-500 ton, 11 extrusion blow molding machines and four injection stretch molding machines. From 1982 to 1996, Currier was strictly an injection molder. In 1996, a decision was made to enter into extrusion blow molding to complement the injection molding business, but after many years of taking on a variety of work in blow molding at high utilization and minimal profit, Currier made the decision to reevaluate its

14 | plastics business • winter 2012

position. The evaluation showed that much of the blow molding work was accepted simply to keep the machines running at capacity, rather than tailored to the company’s strengths. “After some serious searching, we realized that we were really good at making injection molded components that worked with blow molded parts,” explained Molding Manager Steve Valentino. “We were continually complimented on bottles with caps or canisters with lids – and those were packages that we could provide at a competitive price.” With this realization, Currier Plastics evaluated its equipment capabilities and customer base to determine what fit the company’s core competencies of design, injection molding and blow molding. The switch to a focus on packaging proved a winner, and Currier Plastics reduced its sales while increasing profitability. Currier specializes in developing complete packages, including a disposable wipe cup canister that fits in an automobile cup holder. Currier designed the canister and lid, which the company then produces and shrink wraps before sending it to the customer for filling. Currier’s largest venture is in hotel amenities, supplying the three largest hotel amenities suppliers with a variety of extrusion blow, injection stretch bottles coupled with injection molded caps. As part of its packaging focus, Currier has developed sealing designs for sealing and lift-open. One design seals in five different areas from the cap to the bottle, with a focus on high-speed fill and capping to keep the product from spilling.


“We very quickly went from being a small company that could provide complete, functional packages to the ‘go to’ expert,” explained Valentino. “When customers no longer had to worry about packaging not performing to their expectations, we gained attention that we did not expect and took on some of the Goliaths in the industry.” With a significant market share of an industry that supplies travelers with necessities that are oftentimes thrown away, Currier has kept its eye on the trends in sustainability. “We are experiencing a variety of shifts in the industry, and one of those shifts is a push for sustainability in the areas of post-consumer regrind (PCR) usage, biodegradability, weight reduction, packaging reduction and overall carbon footprint.” Its hotel amenity customers have appreciated Currier’s experience in using post-consumer regrind (PCR) and the edge it gives them in a competitive travel market. “We are building our experience in biodegradable additives, and we are skilled at running 100-percent PCR,” said Valentino. “Our customers were looking for that next competitive edge, and we’re giving them the option to provide a product that can be recycled or will degrade in a landfill.” No molder can yet claim mastery of biodegradable resins due to the speed with which development is progressing, but Currier has formed relationships with resin companies that give Currier the opportunity to be the proving grounds for new bio-resin products. And while Currier has molded with a variety of bio-resins, including corn-based PLAs and a resin made from pineapple fibers, Valentino pointed out that resins are only one end of the sustainability spectrum. “We have presented options to our larger customers that have resulted in a $200,000 savings in corrugated and a $50,000 reduction in trucking costs. By light-weighting our products, reducing our packaging and putting more product on each truck, we are focusing on our carbon footprint and how we affect the environment.” page 16 u

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profile t page 15 Automation the Key to Packaging Efficiency Currier Plastics’ packaging focus has been aided with the implementation of automation, from product design to final inspection. Currier has invested in laser digitizers, allowing the company to reverse engineer and improve on current product designs. An SLA modeler is the next planned investment, with the goal of putting a model in the customer’s hand soon after a need has been described. On the injection molding side, Currier has added robots to aid in the machine closing of caps and the outside-the-mold closing automation. “We used to run small cavitation, and we would close the small cavitation by hand, which resulted in an increase in carpal tunnel so we built our own closing stations,

which satisfied the demand for 4 or 6 cavities,” said Valentino. However, demand escalated, with orders for cavitation reaching 48 and 64 cavities per mold. Currier responded by purchasing robots and end-of-arm tooling, and then the company tried to get ‘fancy’ by implementing in-mold closing. “That was really painful,” laughed Valentino. “There is action in the mold that closes the cap, which is very cool. Unfortunately, there was so much action in the mold that we saw an increase in maintenance issues and a decrease in cycle times.” Now Currier is experimenting with out-of-the-mold closing using vibratory bowls and experiencing a closing rate of 400 per minute. “By adding automation and not having to go into the mold with a robot,” he explained, “we’ve seen an increase in our ability to support customers.”

Laser digitzers allow Currier Plastics to reverse engineer and improve on current product design.

On the blow molding side, Currier has practically eliminated mold and drop technology; instead, Currier has implemented in-machine deflashing and injection stretch blow molding (ISBM) processes to reduce manual labor. “The newer blow molding machines hold the part captive after the molding process and then deflash the part automatically. The part is then taken to a conveyor, which indexes the part to a box. The automation allows our operators the time to supervise multiple pieces of equipment, with roughly 40-60 minutes of process time before an operator has to address that machine.” Currier went from one person per machine to one person supervising the operations of every four machines. On-floor quality assurance is key to the success of any significant automation implementation. At Currier, quality assurance personnel are educated and trained to look real-time at quality, with a 10-percent sampling of every product that comes off the floor. Automated technology plays a part in quality inspection as well, with torque testers, tensile testers and an all-automatic measuring machine that does visuals and touch probe testing for a 64-cavity mold in under five minutes.

16 | plastics business • winter 2012

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profile t page 16 Valentino enumerated the benefits of the automation: “We have increased our output without adding labor, reduced our accident rate and decreased repetitive motion concerns. Quality also has improved because our employees have more time to do the task right the first time.” Currier is currently restructuring internally to find space for two new machines that were delivered at the end of 2011. “We’ve been creative throughout the years in squeezing machines into little spots,” Valentino said, “but we’re finalizing plans for an expansion of 55,000-sq.-ft. in 2012. The additional space will allow us to grow at a 15-percent growth pattern over the next five to 10 years.”

Training the Pink Striped Unicorns The implementation of automated technology has not reduced Currier’s need to educate its employees, but rather created a need for a higher level of training. As a result, Currier has a variety of programs available, beginning with a technical training program that supports all

three disciplines: extrusion blow molding, injection molding and injection stretch blow molding. “The program is designed to take all interested employees into the Tier 1 phase, which teaches the basics of processes, material characteristics, and molding and manufacturing knowledge,” stated Valentino. Candidates that display further interest and score well on the tests are offered opportunities at Tier 2, which could lead them into positions as technicians. Tier 3 is a ‘masters’ program that develops technicians on an engineering level. This intense internal training program, developed by Currier personnel, has given Currier Plastics an advantage in a competitive job market. “As we were searching for blow molding technicians, we labeled them pink striped unicorns – it was that difficult to find an experienced technician,” Valentino explained. “We would hire qualified employees from out of state and then they would leave. At the same time, the internal talent wasn’t exposed to the kind of training that was needed to develop them to the next level.”

18 | plastics business • winter 2012


Right to left: Steve Valentino, molding manager, Dustin Dreese, blow molding process engineer, Sriraj Patel, injection molding process engineer and John Currier, president, illustrate the V² philosophy. From original drawings to blow molded bottles to injection molded caps to finished project, Currier Plastics helps its customers get to market better and faster.

Currier has seen employee retention rates increase in skilled positions, in addition to other benefits. “We have a much more knowledgeable and technical workforce, with better uptime and reduced downtime,” Valentino explained. “And I receive fewer phone calls at home!” The program has been so successful that, although initially developed strictly for blow molding, it has morphed to include injection molding and injection stretch molding as well.

Value Times Velocity Currier Plastics has responded to the fluctuations in the economy by increasing its effectiveness with automation and training, resulting in a more flexible workforce that can respond quickly to the change in orders. However, its philosophy shift may have been most important to its customers. In 2007, John Currier, the current CEO and president of Currier Plastics, coined a concept: V². Value times Velocity was based on the idea of truly reaching out to customers and understanding how to support them in a manner that would make them more competitive in their marketplaces. Understanding what Value meant to each customer, coupled with production Velocity, has created an environment that has been win/win for customers and Currier Plastics. Currier is dedicated to becoming the answer to its customers’ problems. By shifting its production philosophy to a focus on packaging, rather than labeling itself as a molder only, Currier Plastics truly has added value to its customer relationships. “We understand what causes customers’ line inefficiencies, product failures and overall frustrations,” said Valentino. “From a lack of customer service to just not being considered important by large suppliers or molders, we’ve invested our time into solving those problems with people and equipment that take away the ‘pain’ that can come from using multiple suppliers.” John Currier’s philosophy has led to a shift in the company’s focus, but he understands the true reason for its success. “Our competitive edge isn’t in what we don’t tell the world. It’s in what our employees do every day.” n

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industry

Legislative Outlook 2012:

Even in an Election Year, Plastics’ Progress Will Prevail on Federal Issues

By William R. Carteaux

While there are some legislative prognosticators who believe the plastics industry should patiently wait out 2012 due to next November’s presidential election, I respectfully disagree. Though our resilient industry fared significantly better than other US manufacturing sectors during the tough economic times of the past few years, we cannot afford to wait on the challenges that remain. I am hopeful that the presidential candidate who emerges victorious next year will have a sound plan for economic growth and the skills to break the gridlock on Capitol Hill. In the meantime, SPI’s advocacy team will continue to aggressively navigate several legislative avenues of importance to plastics processors. Here is an overview of what I believe are opportunities to advance positive policy initiatives for the benefit of our industry in 2012.

Risk-Based Chemical Regulation

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is currently being reviewed by Congress. Passed in 1976 (and not significantly amended since enactment), TSCA gives the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to review and regulate chemicals and ensure that products are safe for intended use. But after 35 years, confidence in EPA’s regulation of chemicals – stirred by activist claims rather than scientific fact – has eroded to the point where individual states have legislated their own chemicals management laws, and retailers have taken it upon themselves to ban products from their stores. SPI supports prudent modernization of TSCA to take into account 21st century advances in science. However, in the coming year we will work to defeat Senator Lautenberg’s (DNJ) proposed “Safe Chemicals Act of 2011” (S.847) because it ignores risk assessment and the significant socio-economic benefits of products made with chemicals, such as plastics. Plastics play an important role in a sustainable society, and overly rigid mandates would be detrimental. Specifically, Lautenberg’s proposed bill would • Expand the law to encompass plastics processors, pulling the entire plastics industry supply chain into a regulatory regime that has historically been applicable only to chemical substance manufacturers and importers. • Threaten companies’ intellectual property rights and confidential business information. • Provide no meaningful pre-emption from a patchwork of state laws.

20 | plastics business • winter 2012

We are cautiously hopeful that efforts to amend TSCA will be predicated upon a meaningful and open stakeholder consultation process.

Increased Congressional Oversight of Federal Agencies

Critical to our nation’s economic recovery is the ability of plastics industry companies to operate their businesses efficiently and free of unnecessary regulatory burdens. In 2012, we will continue to spur Congress to have an increased role in oversight of the federal agencies that deeply impact the plastics industry – particularly EPA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). EPA continues to expand its regulatory reach in areas such as chemicals management (under its existing TSCA authority), as well as manufacturing sector-wide issues such as regulation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The “Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011,” for example, would prevent the EPA from regulating GHG emissions from stationary sources under the Clean Air Act. Our organization will advocate for this legislation in order to lift burdensome regulations on plastics industry facilities, reduce their energy costs and bolster their competitiveness. We also will advocate for modifications to an OSHA-proposed rule entitled “Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements—NAICS Update and Reporting Revisions.” Proposed changes include requiring employers to report to OSHA, within eight hours, all work-related inpatient hospitalizations. In addition to concerns about the rule’s lack of clarity on classifications and interpretations,


SPI also believes that many companies will not have the ability to fully comply with the 8-hour requirement. I am hopeful that Congress will move on a handful of other “agency oversight” bills that we support (including “The EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011,” “The Regulatory Accountability Act” and “The Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2011”) in 2012. Currently pending in Congress, these three bills would provide our industry with regulatory relief and improve the rulemaking process in the future.

Tax Reform: Fair, Comprehensive and Growth-Friendly

Many on Capitol Hill continue to keep up the drumbeat for fundamental tax reform – an issue that I believe will play into the Presidential elections. Our organization will only support tax reform that promotes growth, is comprehensive rather than piecemeal and includes transition rules to give businesses sufficient time to plan and adjust.

page 22 u

Energy Policy: Development of New Resources and Fair Access

SPI has a unique voice in the national energy discussion because our industry relies on energy resources for both its raw materials and the power to create its products. Our advocacy team will be working hard in 2012 to caution Congress about the unintended consequences of arbitrary restrictions on access to natural resources or market-skewing subsidies that favor one technology over another. The plastics industry is particularly concerned with a House legislative proposal called the “New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act of 2011” (H.R. 1380/S. 1863). Also referred to as the “Nat Gas Act,” this bill would grant $5 billion in unfunded subsidies for the use of natural gas in vehicles and the attendant infrastructure through 2016. Skewing the marketplace for industrial natural gas users such as the plastics industry, the bill would cause natural gas demand to increase by seven percent. This would be a profound threat to our industry, which relies on natural gas to power our plants and create our product, and which depends on stable natural gas supply and pricing. We will certainly oppose the “Nat Gas Act” in 2012, as well as any similar subsidies that would artificially increase natural gas demand and suppress the market-driven emergence of other energy technologies.

www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 21


industry t page 21

SPI supports the “last-in/first-out” (LIFO) inventory accounting method. LIFO is used heavily by companies in the manufacturing sector to match their current sales revenues with current inventory replacement costs. By taking into account the cost of replacing inventory, LIFO results in a more accurate measure of the financial condition of a business and the amount of income that can be taxed. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration proposes to abolish LIFO – which would amount to a tax increase for our industry. We worked diligently to keep this measure out of debt limit extension legislation in 2011, but it will be back in 2012 as the White House will once again propose it to Congress in its 2013 budget recommendations. Because preservation of LIFO is critical to the plastics industry – to the tune of $72 billion saved over five years – we will be pressing for it in 2012. Since I became president of SPI in 2006, I have spoken and written about the need to preserve and extend the R&D credit. I should not have to do this annually. Originally enacted in 1981, the R&D tax credit has been extended 15 times. It continues to be critical to US plastics manufacturers because it helps boost industry investment in research done in the United States and is essential for sparking innovation of new products and competitiveness in world markets. The credit is a sure way to stimulate both growth and jobs. At the end of 2010, Congress extended the credit through 2011. The President’s mid-February Fiscal Year 2012 budget proposal to Congress calls for making the R&D tax credit permanent and expanding it by nearly 20 percent. In March 2011, Representative Kevin Brady (TX-8) introduced H.R. 942 which would extend the credit through December 31, 2012. A similar measure has recently been introduced by Senator Max Baucus (MT). We will continue our advocacy efforts aimed at making this tax credit permanent, and we are confident that Congress will once again extend the credit (though perhaps retroactively). The final tax proposal that we will oppose in 2012 is the Superfund tax – a monster we thought had died for good in the mid-90s. The Obama Administration hopes to reintroduce the Superfund tax. SPI opposes the reintroduction of Superfund taxes, elements of which include a per barrel tax on crude oil and petroleum products, as well as an excise tax on feedstock chemicals and a general corporate tax rate increase.

Growing Markets Overseas

Following up on a legislative victory we experienced in October, I am looking forward to implementation of Free Trade

22 | plastics business • winter 2012

Agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Panama and Colombia in 2012. We are constantly lobbying Congress to remove obstacles that prevent plastics industry export. By voting to pass these three trade agreements, Congress has helped to create jobs and provide new market opportunities for plastics industry manufacturers and suppliers. These FTAs will create billions of dollars in new exports within a few short years. The US Trade Representative’s office has estimated that together these three agreements will generate 250,000 jobs. South Korea is the 10th largest export market for US plastics. Since 2000, plastics exports to South Korea have increased by 44 percent. Colombia is the 16th largest export market for U.S. plastics. Since 2000, plastics exports to Colombia have increased by 163 percent. Although not presently a top market for the US plastics industry, Panama has shown tremendous growth potential as well. Since 2000, plastics exports to Panama have increased by 107 percent. In 2012, we will continue to support pro-growth measures that increase opportunities for US plastics manufacturers overseas. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, which involves 10 countries (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam), may be in play this year. In addition, a USEuropean Union FTA also is being explored in an effort to deepen bilateral trade, investment ties, economic growth and jobs. Europe is a key market for the US plastics industry, so the possible impacts of a US-EU FTA would be significant. For 2011, industry exports to the 27 member states of the EU total $6.2 billion and are up 9.2 percent over this time last year. As you see, federal legislative challenges to the plastics industry will not rest just because it is a presidential election year. Our advocacy team, therefore, will not rest either. Our advocacy efforts in 2012 (SPI’s 75th anniversary year!) will implement all of our organization’s resources – staff and member expertise, grass roots networks and coalitions – to successfully lobby on these critical issues. We will not wait to see how the elections pan out. n William (Bill) Carteaux is president and CEO of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association (www.plasticsindustry.org). Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2012, SPI’s member companies represent the entire plastics industry supply chain, including processors, machinery and equipment manufacturers and raw materials suppliers. Visit the SPI blog at www.inthehopper.org.


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tradeshow

NPE Breaking the Mold in Orlando After 30 years in Chicago, NPE 2012 truly is Breaking the Mold, with a tradeshow that promises to engage the plastics industry in an entirely new way. From April 1-5, the global plastics industry will descend upon the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando in numbers that already promise to exceed the 2009 NPE attendance totals. One million square feet of floor space will be filled with more than 2,000 exhibitors. Three educational programs will colocate, including SPI’s Business of Plastics Conference, SPE’s ANTEC 2012 and the Latin American Seminar in Spanish. For the first time, NPE will begin with an event-filled “Super Sunday” on April 1, consisting of technical sessions, panel discussions, networking events, an industry golf tournament and an evening Opening Gala.

In the case of NPE 2012, bigger is definitely better. Lou Zavala, national sales manager for Frigel North America, holds a unique perspective on the 2012 event. Not only will Zavala be in attendance as an exhibitor, but he also serves on NPE’s communications committee, staging the events, working with speakers and getting the word out about the changes that will be seen when attendees walk the tradeshow floor. Zavala is excited about this once-every-three-years opportunity to explore the latest in plastics technologies.

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26 | plastics business • winter 2012

“SPI has made a commitment to get the show back to an innovative and technically-oriented viewpoint,” Zavala explained. “We will have resin suppliers, recyclers, equipment manufacturers, decorators, tooling companies, design and engineering technology groups and even processors – every aspect of the plastics industry will be represented in Orlando. It’s a great way for companies, both processors and suppliers, to discuss what’s going on globally with the key components that make the business run.” From an exhibitor standpoint, Zavala finds even more to praise. “It’s an exciting layout!” he said. “There are areas for emerging technology, market technology, an on-floor technology theatre and more. The show floor is set up into specific areas that allow processors to get a full picture of what the trends are in each area that impacts their businesses.” “NPE 2012 is going to be a surprise for people,” Zavala concluded. “It will be impressive.” n


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production

The View from 30 Feet:

Metro Plastics’ Incentive Plan for Key Employees 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. Every business has three to five employees who are critical to its successful operation. Metro Plastics Technologies, Noblesville, IN, has incentivized its key people, providing the employees another reason to remain with the company for the long term, while also communicating the employees’ value in a tangible way. “We have the traditional 401k plan,” explained Lindsey Hahn, Metro Plastics remains the owner of the policy, but the key president and owner of Metro Plastics Technologies, “and we employee gains with each year of service, with a tax free have a profit sharing plan that is based on a percentage of our benefit that accumulates additional cash value each year. pre-tax profits and distributed proportionally to all employees After the employee has been in service with Metro Plastics for based on earnings. Those pieces are important; they attract a specified time period, the policy ownership is given to the good people.” But Hahn also felt that employees who made employee. long-term commitments to the business and were keepers of key pieces of knowledge deserved an additional incentive to “In a small company, there are certain employees that we can’t remain. Metro Plastics had previously utilized a weighted sys- afford to lose,” Hahn said. In Metro Plastics’ case, there are tem for its profit sharing plan, based on years of service, but three employees who are vested in the policy and have ownership of their own that method was disalpolicies. Metro lowed by the federal Plastics continues government. Hahn had There are typically three to four people in every operation to pay the premito find a new incentive who are critical to the culture and to the everyday success ums, but the emplan. of what the business is trying to achieve. It would be difficult ployees are free to replace them, and the transition period could have a to do as they wish “The most important permanent effect on the business. with the cash thing in your working value. Two more environment is culrecent employees ture,” Hahn said. “And there are typically three to four people in every operation who also are deemed key to the operation, but Metro controls the are critical to the culture and to the everyday success of what policy ownership. the business is trying to achieve. It would be difficult to replace them, and the transition period could have a permanent effect Hahn understands that a whole life policy for his key people is just one piece of the puzzle. “You can’t intimidate people to on the business.” stay, and you don’t want to them to stay just for the money,” Metro Plastics added an additional employment incentive for he said. “But this gives employees a personal value for their key members of its management staff by providing a whole life time served. It’s a clear indicator that you value what they are insurance policy, funded by Metro Plastics and owned by the contributing to your business.” n company until a specified future time period.

28 | plastics business • winter 2012


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strategies

Maintenance by Numbers by Steve Johnson, ToolingDocs

If only it were as simple as painting by numbers. A canvas holds numbers where someone has pre-determined what color should be applied in which space. The artist then is guided by colors matched to the numbers, painted and voila! A wonderful painting is created by even artistically challenged individuals. From a maintenance perspective, it only makes sense that a cycle count, press count, hours meter or parts produced number could be used to plan when specific preventative maintenance steps should be performed on a mold. When a mold reaches a magic number, it gets pulled, repair technicians follow the steps and, just like that, a wonderful PM is performed – even by mechanically challenged individuals.

It’s not quite that easy, however. How do artists determine which colors look best in a painting? It’s purely subjective. How does someone determine at what cycle count a mold should be serviced? Again, it’s purely subjective. The big question is, “How are cycle count numbers and servicing steps determined and validated?”

Whether cleaning a mold, replacing tooling or checking for excessive wear, an ideal frequency must be determined, or consequences will follow.

Why Plan for Maintenance? Hundreds, if not thousands, of molders around the globe all seem to agree on one thing about performing mold maintenance in a timely and correct fashion. The ‘one thing’ is that some kind of count is needed as a reference to calculate preventative maintenance frequencies. Whether cleaning a mold, replacing tooling or checking for excessive wear, an ideal frequency must be determined, or consequences will follow.

All we need to do, then, is get the numbers or counts and start pulling molds to implement these planned maintenance steps, right? Not exactly, but it’s a start.

Didn’t get the ejector plate guide pins greased in time? This leads to premature wear on the bushings and pins, which can cause mold lock-up issues or – even worse – could lead the core plate to drop, causing expensive core pins to wear more quickly or bind up in tight-fitting sleeves and bores.

Performing proactive maintenance on things mechanical at specified intervals is not a new idea. Entire fleets of jet aircraft are maintained based on hours in the air. Fork trucks get overhauled by the calendar, and even your car should get an oil change every 3,000 miles.

30 | plastics business • winter 2012

Vents fill up, causing burns and non-fill on parts. After the vents fill, a sticky and sometimes abrasive off-gas then is forced between other close-fitting tooling, causing more wear. Didn’t clean the water lines periodically? Over time, lime and


Table 1 Run Time

Maintenance Costs Per Run Time Hour Labor Hours

278 Days, 20 Hours, 40 Minutes

Table 2

Labor Cost

$8,525.00

Tooling Cost

Total Cost

$27,267.00

Cost Per Run Hour Total Cycles Run

$35,792.00

$5.35

1,835,027

Mold 5895 Stop Reason and Clean Level

Start Date Start Time Press 1/2/2005 10:00 02 1/23/2005 0:30 02 7/17/2005 13:00 02 10/7/2005 23:00 02 11/26/2005 12:00 02

Table 3 Mold 1TD-5895 1TD-5895 1TD-5895 1TD-5895 1TD-5895 1TD-5895 1TD-5895 1TD-5895 1TD-5895 1TD-5895

170.50

Description Ress-Tubefeed "A" Ress-Tubefeed "A" Ress-Tubefeed "A" Ress-Tubefeed "A" Ress-Tubefeed "A" Ress-Tubefeed "A" Ress-Tubefeed "A" Ress-Tubefeed "A" Ress-Tubefeed "A" Ress-Tubefeed "A"

Stop Date Stop Time Mold Stop Reason 1/16/2005 7:00 X-Flash Issues 6/3/2005 16:00 X-Broken Tooling 9/28/2005 7:00 X-Broken Tooling 11/15/2005 3:10 X-Cavitation 12/18/2005 22:00 Winter Shutdown

Cycle Count 144,783.00 746,967.00 586,383.00 194,084.00 162,810.00

1,835,027

5895 Defects for One Year Configuration Standard Standard Standard Standard Standard Standard Standard Standard Standard Standard

Defects Term Flash Threads at P/L Broken/Cracked Gate Insert Part Sticks on Core Horiz. Flash Open End Flash Body at P/L Worn Stripper Vents Burn on Part Flashed Mold Froze Off Worn Finger Hook

Defect Type Part Part Mold Part Part Mold Part Process Mold Mold

Total Defects

Cleaning Level General Clean Major Clean Major Clean Major Clean General Clean

Count 17 11 7 6 4 3 2 1 1 1

Cycles

53

Total Cycles Run 1,835,027 34,623 Defect Frequency Interval

rust build up and reduce cooling efficiency, which causes cycle times to slow. Rust and residue also can accumulate between plates and tooling, causing pitting and water leaks. All of this, along with inflated labor costs, exemplifies just a few reasons why frequency numbers and maintenance steps need to be qualified through an ongoing process of continuously comparing cycle runs to mold and part issues.

Determining the Magic Number The easiest thing is to start tracking cycle counts, run time hours or part piece counts (production). There is no shortage of ways or devices used for collecting these numbers. They can come from the press, a production monitoring system, process monitoring systems or any number of mechanical and electronic cycle counters. Once a method is chosen, it’s time to collect cycle count numbers from all active molds. Now what? If Step One is acquiring the ability to gather cycle counts, then Step Two must be finding a valuable use for those counts. Unfortunately, this is precisely where the “maintenance by numbers” plan begins to bog down. Why?

The problem is not usually in collecting the numbers, but rather the problem lies in accurately determining what needs to be done and at what interval. Most times, the interval number is a best guess based on memory or past practices, simply because the molder lacks the proper documentation system to actually validate the number and use it proactively. Interval frequency numbers that are the result of a best guess also can inflate tooling usage by replacing perfectly good tooling too soon and not maximizing (expensive) tooling life. Conversely, if the tooling is replaced too late, the result can be poor production runs and premature mold failures. The bottom line is that without the ability to quickly and accurately relate a count number to all maintenance issues, the number in itself becomes just another piece of useless data.

Collecting the Right Data To determine the correct frequency with which to perform proactive maintenance, we need to first examine a mold’s Defect History (this example uses data collected over the course of one year) to see where the opportunity lies. page 32 u

www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 31


strategies t page 31 Type of Defects (Mold or Part) Suffered All molds have a weakness, or design feature, that drives a Cycle Stop interval number. This could be anything from internal tooling that can’t be lubricated properly unless the mold is completely disassembled to vent dumps that fill up to seals and o-rings that wear out. In some molds, tooling wear that causes part flash is the decider for when a mold should come out for cleaning and inspection. All issues (Defects) need specific names and a means to accurately count them so that we may target “priority” issues (those that cause us the most heartburn). Frequency Interval of the Defects Over Time Determine targets or problem tools by evaluating Unscheduled Mold Stop data (Visit www.plasticsbusinessmag.com to read Steve’s article on Unscheduled Mold Stop data.), along with a Defect Analysis report that compares cycles to issues. Contained on page 31 are a series of reports that allow the user to quickly zoom in on a target, starting with a high-volume mold.

The Right Reports Tell the Story Table 1 (see page 31) shows that Mold #5895 was seldom out of the press, and the cost to keep it running was $35,792 in tooling and labor. This is definitely a good target, but we need to know more. Table 2 (see page 31) shows the 5895 mold was pulled five times during the 1,835,027 cycles it ran for the year. Two were for “Broken Tooling” during exceptionally long runs, and two more were the result of flash issues and cavitation. Those instances of production downtime were unscheduled mold stops. This mold has problems. Drilling down, Table 3 (see page 31) shows the defects suffered by Mold #5895 for one full year. Basically, the mold ran 1,835,027 cycles and suffered 53 defects. We also know the mold was cleaned and repaired five times, so it suffered a DFI rate of 1 every 34,623 cycles, or about 10 defects per production run. Not good.

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The next step is to examine the known corrective action(s) for these issues, asking these questions: • Do all the repair techs fix these issues the same way? • Are work instructions (documentation) available to repair these issues?

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MZ099_AllElectrics_Ad_3-75x4-875.indd When dissecting these issues and others like them, repair techs also will ask these supporting questions during the troubleshooting phase:

1

1/19/12 3:18 PM

• Exactly what piece of tooling is breaking at what cycle? Does it have a root cause? • Was any flash noted on this specific defect in the last shot of the previous run? • At what cycle count was the suspect tooling last cleaned, and who cleaned it? • At what cycle count was the defect noted during the run? • Did anything change with the process during the run (press, resin, process parameters, etc.)? It’s clear that in order for molds to run optimally with minimum downtime and costs, comprehensive documentation that relates to cycles or some kind of “count” in several areas must play a role. With the right systems, processes and training in place, mold maintenance can be almost as simple as painting by numbers. n Steve Johnson is operations manager for ToolingDocs, a provider of mold maintenance training and consultation based in Ashland, OH. He also designed and developed MoldTrax™, a documentation software system for tracking mold performance and maintenance. To learn more, call 800.257.8369 or visit www.toolingdocs.com.

www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 33


association

MAPP Celebrates 15-Year Anniversaries of Long-Term Members Officially opened for business in April of 1997, MAPP now is entering its 15th year as the trade association of choice for plastics processing executives. Since the organization’s inception, nine plastics manufacturing companies have maintained their membership through thick and thin, and the Board of Directors would like to congratulate and thank these members for their unwavering support throughout the years.

Bo-Witt Products • Bullard Drug Plastics and Closures Hoosier Energy • Indiana Roto Molding Infinity Molding and Assembly Metro Plastics • NYX – Ft. Wayne • Tasus Corp. Troy Nix, MAPP’s executive director, commented, “It’s both humbling and exciting to understand that nine companies have purposefully made the decision to support MAPP and the ideals for which we stand for over a decade and a half. When you consider the historical events of the last fifteen years and their impact on business and worldwide economic conditions, including but not limited to the Dot-Com crash, China’s role in the marketplace, the September 11th attacks on our homeland, the Iraq Invasion, the financial market meltdown of 2008 and one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression, one could look back with hindsight and say that starting a brand new trade association might not have been the best idea. However, I feel the opposite is true, as MAPP has functioned as the impetus to grow the camaraderie and bonds between industry executives for the purpose of making the US plastics processing sector stronger and more sustainable.” Nix continued, “MAPP’s founding fathers had vision, perseverance and an unwavering determination to succeed despite all odds. To this very day, the organization has strictly adhered to its core mission, focused on delivering four major streams of value to its members, including the provision of 1) cost reduction opportunities, 2) benchmarking and continuous improvement initiatives, 3) professional networking and problem solving and 4) executive level education. Underlying all of this is the belief that individuals, if given the chance, will work to help their fellow peers and those in need of assistance.” In honor of MAPP’s 15 Anniversary, and to show our continued support of American Manufacturing, MAPP will provide “Made in the USA” American flags to its 15-year Members. As part of this celebration, each Member recipient is asked to provide a photo of its team with this ceremonial gift. th

34 | plastics business • winter 2012

MAPP Members Opening Doors for Other MAPP Members… Literally Recently, two MAPP Member companies opened their facilities to another MAPP Member who needed specific help in understanding a new molding process. Peter Blass and Siggi Witt from Deluxe Plastics (Clintonville, WI) toured iMark Molding (Woodville, WI) and Tailor Made Products (Elroy, WI). Executives at Deluxe Plastics have been investigating the two-shot molding process and wanted to see what other Members were doing. Using the MAPP Members Capabilities search function and the help of Troy Nix, Peter and Siggi reached out to John Porter and Mark Sturtevant from iMark Molding and Jamie Kuhn from Tailor Made Products, asking if they might be able to see a two-shot molding process in action. Without hesitation, both companies invited Peter and Siggi to their plants for a tour and discussion. Peter expressed, “Jamie at Tailor Made and Mark and John at iMark went well beyond anything we thought someone would do for us. Just to take the time out of their schedule and to share the information with us was extremely helpful and very much appreciated. Now it is our hope that we can return the favor to them or others in the MAPP organization.” Peter also shared that both companies toured were willing to look at drawings of a new product and make recommendations based on the two-shot molding process, and have their staff assist in the IT aspects of the operations. John Porter from iMark Molding commented, “Mark and I enjoyed meeting Peter and Siggi. We feel there are areas where they might be able to help us in the future.” Members connecting with Members is the essence of MAPP’s core mission. When processing executives take time to help one another, the entire MAPP organization truly benefits. The power of the network is unlike any other organization or association within the plastics industry. Jenny Taylor, MAPP’s business manager, explained, “MAPP has created several avenues for Members to connect. Primarily, our website forum is available 24/7 for Members to ask questions, post issues they are facing or share new ideas.” MAPP’s goal in 2012 is to encourage members to utilize the connecting resources available: website, webinars, plant tours, annual benchmarking conference, etc. If each member posted on the MAPP forum every week, imagine the quality of information available to all members!

MAPP to Exhibit at the National Plastics Expo MAPP, its staff and board members will take to the road and exhibit at NPE from April 2-5 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. We will share all the exciting things taking place, and preview new projects on the horizon. Come see us in Booth #65034.


MAPP Takes Website to Its Members No, the MAPP leadership team is not trying to create a stalker website… but aggressive actions have been taken to implement major modifications to the MAPP website based on feedback received from Members of the association.

One newly implemented benefit for those using the MAPP forum includes a post-thread communicator. This automated system sends an email notification to the original poster of the message when any replies are given to the request for help or information. As an example, a MAPP Member posting the need to find information on NAFTA Certificates of Origin would be sent automatic emails once other Members offered information under that specific post. This system will save the MAPP user time and energy, improving efficiency as new information will be delivered to their email inboxes. In addition, anyone adding to the posting thread also would be automatically notified of new information hitting the site under the thread of interest. Also new to MAPP’s website in 2012 is an automated outreach system that will deliver the latest MAPP forum postings to all registered Members of the website. This new system is designed to provide more visibility for those in need of assistance and has been designed to allow ALL MAPP Members to engage when the call for help is sounded. Since the strategy of MAPP is to maximize the input and participation from executives in all MAPP Member companies, the Board of Directors is excited about the potential impact of these new developments. In fact, Tom Duffey, owner of Plastic Components, Inc. in Germantown, WI and longtime Member of MAPP, indicated in a recent interview that “MAPP’s website and network of plastics professionals is by far the most dynamic and well-established network in manufacturing. I’ve used the MAPP website and network on numerous occasions to find resources and locate critically needed information, and in all cases, the responses I’ve received have been unbelievable!” page 36 u

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MAPP Sets Agenda for 2012

A Message from Board of Directors President Kelly Goodsel There are very few organizations that pay for themselves, but the MAPP organization pays for itself on an annual basis in three ways: From a purely bottom-line-focused standpoint, a one year payback or better on an investment is a great thing. The program benefits offered by the association sponsors provide the monetary return. Those are very transactional, concrete and easily identifiable as offering a solid return on the association fees. A return that requires a little more work, but has a significantly bigger payback opportunity, is the data sharing opportunities within the MAPP organization, As an example, if a processor takes the time to submit data into the resin survey program, and then reviews the information that has been compiled by the MAPP staff, the depth of that information will allow the

A Message from Executive Director Troy Nix This association has invested huge amounts of time and resources to become the most dynamic network in the entire plastics industry. We are poised to capitalize on that energy, and MAPP has set forth into the new year with three primary goals. Get more people involved. We can reach thousands of executives through their association with the MAPP organization. If each of those executives decided to reach out – lending a hand to an executive from another Member company to promote one unselfish interest – can you imagine the positive effect on the plastics industry as a whole? The power of MAPP lies in Members helping Members, in sharing best practices and past experiences to improve each Member company. If even 500 Member executives made the decision to share their experience in 2012, the impact would be beyond belief. Strengthen our position as an information hub. A key benefit to our Members is the information that we gather and share, on everything from engineering services to resin pricing to wage rates. In 2012, we will enter into a massive data collection mode, giving our Members benchmarking information on everything from MIS tactics (expenses, policies, manning, etc.)

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processor to be smarter about negotiations, purchasing and the questions being asked of the supply base. There are significant opportunities for financial return. This third type of payback is a little more fuzzy, but I admit that the more you get into the organization, the more you make connections that broaden your perspective and challenge your thoughts. I’m not really a ‘fuzzy payback’ guy, but in this case, it works. MAPP provides lightbulb moments that change the way you look at your business. That value comes from the interaction with other business owners; it comes from being able to pick up the phone and solve our problems together. As the association expands, more processors and suppliers to the industry are gathering together to share specific information about how we can all grow and succeed. As the president of the Board of Directors for MAPP, we want the wheel to get bigger and to continue to turn. The value, camaraderie and learning that we are achieving is amazing, and as more processors join the association, we gain new sources of knowledge. We have a tremendous platform on which to build, and we have great expectations of the year to come.

to resin pricing to operational trends. Our responsibility is to develop the sorts of information that will impact the majority of our Members, and that information isn’t always obvious. It’s important to also collect data about the daily procedures that aren’t as obvious, but just as critical. Continue to innovate in program development. MAPP will conduct a member satisfaction survey that specifically asks about needs, wants and desires so that our association can continue to innovate in terms of program and service development. What do the members really want? Do they want affinity programs? More activities? We will gather Member input to help us to orient our focus so we use our time and resources efficiently. The organization had a retention rate above 90 percent last year, and it will be our goal in 2012 to exceed this performance measurement. All business leaders look for a return on the dollars they spend in business support functions, and MAPP’s leadership team is aggressively focused on ensuring that the value received for affiliation in MAPP is equivalent to many times their dues investment. MAPP, founded under this ROI ideal, continues its success because of the active participation of its board of directors and remains “an organization for processors run by processors.” n


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Unique Offers Industrial Digital Inkjet Printing Unique Assembly & Decorating, Inc., Downers Grove, IL, has added industrial digital inkjet printing to its capabilities. This direct-to-substrate digital ink jet process features high-precision four-color process printing plus white for plastic, glass and metal substrates. Four-color process printing allows for virtually limitless color combinations on a product, and the white is bright enough to be used as a spot color or as a base to print on dark surfaces. This product decorating process eliminates labels (pressure sensitive or in-mold), films, printing plates, clichés or screens, which lowers setup cost. For more information, call 630.241.4300 or email info@uniquepadprinting.com.

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Milacron Introduces Maxima Servo Injection Molding Machine Milacron Plastics Technologies, Batavia, OH, has introduced the Maxima Servo injection molding machine, which reduces energy costs by using a permanent-magnet servo motor in place of standard induction motor or frequency drive. It also provides more consistent part quality than competing servo-driven hydraulics, thanks to a unique 2-platen clamping system that applies pressure directly to the center of the mold instead of at the corners. The Milacron Maxima Servo is available from 310 to 4400 tons and is available globally. The company also offers hybrid versions of these machines. For more information, visit www.milacron.com/plastics.

Routsis Training, Dracut, MA, has launched the RightStart process to help plastics companies kick-start their training programs. RightStart begins with an on-site visit to create a custom training plan specific to each customer and its employees. Routsis training specialists select from an array of online courses and advanced process simulators produced in collaboration with experts throughout the industry. The online training is accessible anytime, and can be integrated into a company’s existing computer system, enabling employees to begin learning and the company to start monitoring right away. For more information, call 978.958.0700 or visit www.trainontheweb.com.

RJG’s eDART Adds Touchscreen Interface RJG, Inc., Traverse City, MI, has added a touchscreen interface to its eDART process monitoring and control system. The system’s advantages include digital smart sensors, simplified graphical analysis, minimal set-up time, a dramatically reduced learning curve for employees and faster sample rates for real-time operation. The eDart can be set up as a single unit or through a network. For more information, call 231.947.3111 or visit www.rjg.com.

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Beta LaserMike Increases Measurement Rate of AccuScan System The AccuScan in-process diameter measurement gauge and Gage-Chek display system from Beta LaserMike, Dayton, OH, offer accurate and versatile diameter measurement for plastics production. The AccuScan system is an advanced laser gauge that provides non-contact measurement of diameter and ovality for increased manufacturing accuracy. The latest AS5000 Series offers more than twice the measurement rate at 2400 measurements per second, with unique facet calibration for high accuracy, single-scan measurement data. Gage-Chek is a flexible multi-point measurement display system for the Beta LaserMike AccuScan 5000 Series gauge that accepts up to eight discrete inputs. It includes an extensive array of options, features and accessories. For more information, call 800.886.9935 or visit www.betalasermike.com.

S5-15 Completes Sepro America’s Range of HighPerformance Robots Pittsburgh, PA-based Sepro America has designed the S515 to automate plastics injection-molding machines with 30 to 180 tons of clamp. It is the final model to be developed in Sepro’s 5th generation of high-performance robots for complex automation applications. The S5-35, designed for molding machines from 350 to 800 tons, and the S5-25, for molding machines from 120 to 450 tons, were introduced to North America in 2010. Each of the S5 Line robots was developed with longer strokes and larger payload capacities than units of comparable size in the previous Generation 4 range. A singlepiece rigid frame structure, combined with prismatic linear guide rails and powerful servomotors, provides an increased level of performance while maintaining the same level of speed on all axes. For more information, contact Jim Healy at 412.459.0450 or email jhealy@seproamerica.com. n

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solutions

Intellectual Property in Injection Molding Contract Terms and Conditions by Roger A. Gilcrest, Ice Miller, LLP The terms and conditions in most contracts deal with the standard nuts-and-bolts aspects of production, schedules, delivery and payment, as well as general warranties and representations. Intellectual property issues concerning the ownership, control, sharing and enforcement of patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets are rarely completely covered. In a business environment where interests may be shifting toward new markets with technologies and customers (and their competitors) unfamiliar to the injection molder, care should be taken to be sure that the company’s business interests are protected. Protection takes the form of the ability to produce a product and/or practice a technology, as well as gaining and holding valuable rights against competitors.

Forms of IP Protection Intellectual property (IP) law covers a relatively complex patchwork of largely invisible, intangible property rights that vary in what they cover, and how each may be created, owned, maintained (or lost), licensed and enforced. Utility patents may cover any useful machine, process, material composition or manufactured article, and US patent rights are owned initially by the inventor(s) until assigned. The same is true of design patents that cover the aesthetic appearance of any useful article. Trade secrets can protect any valuable information kept in confidence, whether or not of a technical nature, and may include everything from technical know-how, designs and data, to best practices, pricing, business plans and the identities of customers or suppliers. These rights have value simply by acquiring the information and keeping it secret. Copyrights protect works of original art or authorship from being copied, distributed or incorporated into a new version. These rights arise as soon as the work of art or authorship is put in some tangible form. Copyright registration, though not required to preserve the rights, gives many legal advantages and should be sought as soon as practicable.

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Trademarks are symbols of a company’s goodwill, whether words, symbols or other device such as color combinations. These rights start once, and to the extent, the mark is used. Federal and/or state trademark registrations enhance and extend these rights. These often interwoven rights sometimes can make a simple contract for manufacturing product into fertile ground for legal conflict.

The Nightmare Scenario Suppose an injection molder successfully responds to an RFP by a sensor company to produce components for a medical sensor to be sold by its customer, a downstream medical device company. The parts to be produced are for a medical sensing device that has a housing and specially arrayed vapor openings and associated controls. The housing is to be produced by a specialized molding process that allows portions of the housing walls to be molded to a specific attenuation to make it permeable to gas. The technique is to be disclosed to the successful bidder, and a proprietary patented resin is to be specified and is to be blended by the injection molder. The RFP also provides that a logo is to be embossed upon one of the housing parts: an archer with a drawn bow and arrow; a new logo designed by an independent artist for the sensor company. The new logo bears some resemblance to a depiction of the Sagittarius Centaur (the half man, half horse mythical creature), also drawing a bow and arrow, that is a registered trademark of the medical device company’s competitor. The manufacturer wins the contract, and the customer provides the injection molder with the necessary CAD files and confidential information needed to prepare the components. While working with the mold set, one of the injection molder’s engineers develop an improved method for extracting the attenuated-walled component from the mold, leading to 20 percent less waste.


Unknown to – or unforeseen by – the injection molder: 1. The sensor has been copied by the customer, who in turn sells it in competition with its own competitor that owns trade secrets relating to the molding process that were given to the customer by a competitor’s former employee.

3. The medical device company’s competitor also sells an array of medical devices and supplies that are used in the same clinical setting as the manufactured medical device, in association with the Sagittarius Centaur logo, a federally registered trademark. 4. The artist was never paid for designing the archer artwork. She demands that the customer not use her copyrighted artwork, the same artwork that is now embossed on 4,000 sensor housings. 5. The customer claims ownership in the invention made by the injection molder’s engineers because it paid for the work. Under this nightmare scenario, the injection molder might face legal action by the competitor for trade secret misappropriation, the chemical company for patent infringement, the medical device company’s competitor for trademark infringement and the artist for copyright infringement. From a defensive standpoint, terms and conditions should address situations that might place the injection molder in the legal cross-hairs of intellectual property infringement, typically by providing representations, warranties and agreements relating to the defense and settlement of legal challenges. The injection molder also may wish to check its own insurance policy for coverage and limits for these types of injuries and claims. In this scenario, it turns out that the injection molder’s own engineer may have created a patentable invention and/or valuable confidential information, which should be claimed and secured for the injection molder’s benefit. There often are misunderstandings regarding the ownership of intellectual property rights, and contract terms also should allocate ownership of rights that may arise as work proceeds. While typically one party may be in a position simply to demand ownership (and the other party is willing to comply in the interest of preserving the business relationship), it is best to spell out ownership in the contract to be sure the rights to exploit inventions and confidential information page 42 u

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solutions t page 41 are preserved. Intellectual property rights also can protect business from competitors. In this case, if the injection molder was to own the patent on the improved method for extracting the attenuated-walled component, it could prevent competitors from using the invention, including competitors that might compete for the on-going business of the original customer, such as the medical device company in this scenario. That is, having a patent could help lock in the ongoing contract(s) with the original customer for which the invention was made. Contract terms should therefore provide for obligations of assignment and cooperation, as well as reciprocal confidentiality provisions, to protect know-how that may remain confidential. It also is beneficial to secure obligations of future cooperation to mature patent and copyright rights through the required filings. Responses to proposals and negotiations, especially between previously unfamiliar parties, should go hand-in-hand with diligent investigation of the nature of the technology to be applied, its source and the third parties involved or that might become involved. In some manufacturing scenarios, it may be advisable to provide contractual obligations that parties keep each other apprised under confidence of ongoing development efforts, so that

they might cooperate to secure, apportion and license intellectual property rights to plan for their future exploitation. Understanding the nature of all forms of intellectual property – what they protect and how they are created and secured – allows a company to provide contractual terms and conditions to prevent accidental or intentional loss of rights, avoidance and/or defense of infringement of third parties’ rights (and pursuit infringement by third parties), as well as to preserve the relationship between the parties before unanticipated developments forestall development of profitable ventures. Early due diligence, alertness to possible scenarios where important intellectual property may be created or infringed and timely involvement of counsel are keys to the development of both standard terms and conditions, as well as more detailed contractual language tailored to specific situations of greater complexity that arise or are anticipated. Where these important rights are concerned, an ounce of prevention is easily worth a pound of cure. n For more information, visit www.icemiller.com.

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42 | plastics business • winter 2012


marketing

Three Responsibilities of Innovation

By AJ Sweatt

Once you teach a bear to dance, you’d better be prepared to dance until the bear’s ready to stop. – Unknown There’s a lot of talk lately about innovation and its likely role in the revitalization of US manufacturing. This past June, President Obama announced the formation of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership – a collection of representatives from academia and the public and private sectors tasked with making recommendations to the President on how to best rebuild the US manufacturing engine. Beyond the AMP, the true importance of US manufacturing has jumped back into our collective consciousness over the last two years. We’ve seen what we’ve given away and what that loss is costing us. But despite the plethora of positive columns, articles and studies – as well as the emergence of the reshoring trend – restarting and sustaining our innovation engine throughout our supply and demand chains brings with it great responsibilities. Bill, a close personal and professional friend of mine, runs a small, technically advanced aerospace machining business. His company is a family-owned business that obsesses over quality and service. Like many of its successful counterparts, that obsession drives it to constantly evaluate emerging technological advances in capital equipment and ancillary capabilities that bring top-line value to its customers. To put it bluntly, Bill knows his stuff. Late in 2011, Bill began looking to upgrade the shop’s CNC milling and machining capabilities. Among the short list of candidates he’d created from his research was a company he’d worked with in the past. As we discussed the experiences and challenges he was facing during this phase, he shared an important observation: the former vendor – a high-functioning technology builder of the upper strata – seemed to have lost something important.

The vendor’s service had eroded. To the point, according to Bill, that it nearly negated the value of the quality a premium price brought. “What it seems like the company had done is focus more and more on the ‘lights-out, knock-your-socks-off’ innovation and state-of-the-art technology, and let its service degrade to pay for that innovation," Bill said. "The company doesn’t seem to see beyond the initial sale, and seems to have forgotten that dependability is just as important to my business – and my customers’ businesses.” This isn’t uncommon, and that’s certainly so in manufacturing. But the innovator that had puzzled Bill so – a foreign capital equipment manufacturer known for its cutting-edge products – offers a perfect example of the responsibilities we all have to our customers when we adopt a posture of innovation. Here are three responsibilities that our businesses and our country must understand before we pursue advancing our technology and innovation superiority: • Service: Innovative, cutting-edge technology requires strong support to be applied effectively. Innovation inherently requires more service, since it often presents processes or results that haven’t been seen before. For better or worse, there are fewer familiar standards in highly advanced manufacturing innovation, particularly when it breaks. We must be ready for these inevitabilities, nationally and corporately. • Training: Service takes people. But innovation in high-tech sectors is rarely plug-and-play for end users. In innovation, training is two-fold – training our own people for service and operation, and doing the same for the customer. For many manufacturers, customer training or support is seen as highmargin revenue stream. But what happens when those costs page 44 u

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marketing t page 43 or substandard training drive customers to a competitor? Will those margins be worth it then? From the smallest shops to our national commitment, education and training are paramount to a successful innovation strategy. • Supply Chain: Any business strategy – and especially the support of innovative technology – demands dependable parts and materials supply. Whether it’s consumables that support the technology or parts and service in support of emergency demand maintenance events, inventories are extremely critical around innovation. In consumer products, innovation often focuses on usability and simplicity – think phones, tablets and such – making extraordinary tasks extraordinarily easy. But in the industries where high-tolerance, discrete parts are designed and manufactured, high levels of competence and expertise will always be required to meet need. There’s just too much at stake. And know this – innovation is expensive. It requires resolve and an understanding that you’d better dance until the bear – your customer – says the song is over. We must all include commitments to service, training and supply chain health to ensure the innovations our products bring to markets are valued, bought and trusted. And any committee, group or special commission had better understand that. We need a strong industrial base to support, feed and protect innovation. That doesn’t just happen. Otherwise, that bear will bite us – by exposing us to substantial competitive threats. It might not happen in the near term or at the point of sale, but by eroding confidence and loyalty down the road. n AJ Sweatt is a marketing communications strategist and consultant who works with numerous industrial businesses and supply chains – groups, associations, OEMs, suppliers, distributors and SMBs. Sweatt also is an editor and writer with over 20 years of experience in technical, business and industrial publications, and an experienced public speaker, primarily serving technical and industrial environments. He is the principal of AJ Sweatt Logic & Communications, and can be reached via email at aj@ajsweatt.com.

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Your strength is molding parts. Ours is building your high-quality molds and saving you money, time and headaches. Let us take care of all your tooling needs, and add money to your bottom line. Tooling costs are about 10% of the value of your molded parts. That means for every $5M of parts molded, you spend about $500k on tooling. If that sounds familiar, a quick call to us right now can be worth about $250k! Don’t lose another molding contract because of tooling. Partner with Jade to build your molds, and get the advantage you need to win. Call us today for free 3D part design at no cost or obligation.

Email: sales@jadegroupintl.com Call: 715-281-9060 www.jadegroupintl.com

*Because Jade molds are about half the price of what you can normally expect to pay, it’s like getting half a mold for free. Jade molds are quoted and sold complete.


BLEND IT

COOL IT

CONVEY IT

FEED IT GRIND IT

DRY IT EXTRUDE IT

STORE IT

Whatever your process demands, Conair has a solution you can depend on. Engineered to perform. Built for reliability. Backed by the best parts and service support in the industry. Share in our knowledge and experience. Call 800-654-6661 .

200 West Kensinger Drive l Cranberry Township, PA 16066 l 724.584.5500 l www.conairgroup.com

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Plastics Business - Winter 2012  

Plastics Business - Winter 2012