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Plastics Business Winter 2015

Strategies for Today’s Plastics Processors

Automotive Drives Plastics Innovation NPE2015 Preview Streamlining SMED Carts OďŹƒcial Publication of Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors


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Plastics Business

Strategies for Today’s Plastics Processors

Contents

profile

8

view from 30

outlook

34

43

features profile Automotive Insert Molding Drives Growth at Microplastics, Inc. ............8

departments

preview Make It Count at NPE2015................................................................................ 12

director’s letter...................6

industry MAPP Survey Reports on 2015 Business Forecast ................................ 16

association........................18

focus Change and Opportunity in 2015: Focus on Four Areas to Improve...... 24

MAPP article.....................20

view from 30 Philosophy of Facility Size Finding a Business Mentor Using Video Mail for Customer Connections........................................ 34

product.............................32 advertisers........................54

production Close the Loop: Taking Control of Water Efficiency.............................. 40 outlook Mobile Emissions and Fuel Economy Rev Up Lightweighting Initiatives......................................................... 43 solutions Designing the Perfect SMED Cart........................................................ 48

plasticsbusinessmag.com

Cover photo courtesy Ford Motor Company.

4 | plastics business • winter 2015


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director’s letter

The Seed of Progress Produces Fruit for All It is written in an ancient proverb that “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” In reflection of this proverb, a group of plastics manufacturing business leaders made the decision to plant a seed almost two decades ago with the hope that it would someday provide fruit to all who helped it grow. The seed of MAPP was planted on January 1, 1997, as the organization began accepting members into a new plastics industry trade association. Today, MAPP’s membership stretches from coast to coast, serving nearly 350 plastics manufacturing companies and related businesses. While developing the core values of MAPP, its founding fathers envisioned an organization that would someday become recognized as the association of choice for plastics processors and industry support organizations. They imagined an organization that would someday be able to boast of extreme membership camaraderie and member activism – for the processors, by the processors. Looking back over nearly two decades of evolution, the current executive leadership team feels that MAPP has progressed toward its unique vision of building an industry-based community. Interactions on MAPP’s website forum, designed to link those in need to those with solutions, number in the thousands as countless members have helped one another locate raw material, find repair parts for downed machines, understand the intricacies of shift schedules, identify solutions for improving production management, meet customer requirements for business continuation plans, locate needed suppliers and so much more. The community of members continues to open its doors to each other by offering plant tour events to promote continuous learning and continuous improvement. The motto of “seeing another’s process helps to improve your own” is one that is taken very seriously in the MAPP network as members who attend these tour events provide feedback on how to improve production operations and business models. These functions and interactions, as described above, have worked as catalysts in creating thousands of new business and personal relationships. These relationships are further strengthened at MAPP’s annual benchmarking conference, which occurs every year in October in Indianapolis, Indiana, where the community gathers to share ideas and experiences for the purpose of becoming better leaders, better managers and better overall business professionals. To further promote the vision of community, MAPP member executives have introduced a new form of benchmarking to enhance continuous improvement efforts. Beginning this year, MAPP will provide Innovation Competitions covering a wide range of business topics. In its first Innovation Competition, MAPP members will focus on reducing mold or die changeover time as members provide detailed information on their mold or die change carts (often known as SMED carts). Pictures and explanations of these carts currently are being sent to the MAPP headquarters and will be provided to the MAPP community so that all may benefit from and build on the innovations already available. The seed for MAPP, planted nearly two decades ago, has grown deep roots and now produces an array of fruits for its members. The energy of its members provides nourishment to this living entity and, as the community of MAPP grows and provides help to one another, MAPP produces exponentially larger fruit for all of its members.

Executive Director, MAPP

6 | plastics business • winter 2015

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 Teresa Schell, Vive LLC Vice President Ben Harp, Polymer Conversions, Inc. Secretary Alan Rothenbuecher, ICE Miller LLP Bill Bartlett, First American Plastics/Quad, Inc. Tom Boyd, Blow Molded Specialties Craig Carrel, Team 1 Plastics, Inc. Norm Forest, Dymotek Molding Technologies Kelly Goodsel, Viking Plastics Bob Holbrook, Viking Plastics Ed Holland, M. Holland Company James Krause, Microplastics, Inc. Bob MacIntosh, Nicolet Plastics, Inc. Glenn Nowak, IQMS Eric Paules, Crescent Industries Ryan Richey, Precision Plastics, Inc. Missy Rogers, Noble Plastics, Inc. Tom Treadway, Erie Molded Plastics, Inc.

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 www.plasticsbusinessmag.com Editor in Chief Jeff Peterson

Advertising/Sales Janet Dunnichay

Managing Editor Dianna Brodine

Contributing Editors Jen Clark Brittany Willes

Art Director Becky Arensdorf Graphic Designer Kelly Adams

Circulation Manager Brenda Schell


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profile

Automotive Insert Molding Drives Growth at Microplastics, Inc. Growing complexity in the automotive, medical and electronic component industries is challenging molders across the country. Microplastics, Inc., in St. Charles, Illinois, has embraced the electrification of those industries as an opportunity, driving its insert molding capabilities, engineering expertise and ability to quickly adapt into a company that twice has been recognized as a Top 500 Fastest Growing Private Company by Fortune magazine.

by Dianna Brodine

Complexity brings opportunity “Microplastics started in business with the mindset of being a leading global supplier of insert molded parts,” said Jim Krause, vice president of engineering. “For 25 years, we have stayed true to that niche.” Producing parts that predominantly are electromechanical in nature, Microplastics operates 21 presses with a 24/7 schedule over three shifts, using manufacturing cells ranging from completely manual to fully automated. The company ships more than 50 million parts annually, comprised of such products as control housings, sensors, switches, connectors, power lead frames and over-molded filter applications. Many of those parts are insert molded due to the electrification of the vehicle and consumer-driven complexity, said Brad Plane, vice president of administration. “Everything that used to be mechanical now is becoming electronic. As a result, there are more connectors and circuitry requiring distribution of electricity,” he said. “Every year, more sensors are going into vehicles. In addition, systems such as back-up cameras and remote starters used to be available only on high-end cars, but that’s no longer the case.” As this complexity increases, demand for insert molding expertise rises, and Microplastics has positioned itself well to take on added volumes through facility and equipment growth over its 26-year history. While the company remains true to insert molding as its primary focus, straight injection molding is made available for instances where a complimentary piece is needed as part of an assembly. In addition, 95 percent of the molded parts require some type of secondary operation, such as assembly and electrical testing. This is a departure from the company’s early days when many insert molded parts were processed, put in a box and shipped. Gradually, that evolved into secondary die blanking and electrical circuit testing.

8 | plastics business • winter 2015


Today, Microplastics offers high-speed stamping die presses for cutting and forming metal terminals, laser marking, camera inspection, automated dispensing of adhesives and potting compounds, ultrasonic welding of plastics and terminal stitching. While secondary operations often are driven by customers who require a full-service provider, Microplastics is careful not to stray far from its core competency, and the company has been cautious in evaluating which processes to add. “We do what we can to the extent it makes sense,” explained Plane, “but there have been times when secondary process opportunities did not fit into our business plan.” Krause added, “Those decisions revolve around volume, as well as other factors. For instance, what is the value add? Is it something within our capabilities? Do we have the current resources, and does it make sense from a financial standpoint?” An eye on the financial trends from 2007 through 2009 led to the company’s 24/7 operations when, while revenues overall were trending down, a small number of programs actually required more parts than originally scheduled. “Through the use of some creative automation and the switch to 24/7 operations, we were able to capitalize on sales opportunities that otherwise would not have been realized,” Krause explained. “Adding additional shifts allowed certain customers to purchase above system capacities and, while we certainly experienced the economic downturn, there were opportunities for us.” “It helped that many of the parts we made were going to Ford vehicles,” said Todd Stangle, sales manager. “Those programs didn’t have as much of a hit when much of the automotive industry was struggling. We also picked up one large account from one of our competitors who didn’t make it.”

Krause acknowledged, “We did plenty of things right and were fortunate in a few areas, too.” Because of the additional volumes on certain programs, Microplastics was able to retain most of its employees. “Many of the employees had been here since the 1990s, and they had a significant amount of vacation time built up,” explained Plane. “We didn’t have to lay those employees off; instead, they were allowed to take their vacation hours up to accrual so they were still getting paid close to, if not fully, 40 hours. Financially, we were taking a hit, but we held on to our base of employees, which was critical.” As sales began the return to pre-recession levels, Microplastics found itself accomplishing the growth with fewer resources than before through some of the new processes, as well as tooling and scheduling changes that were implemented. The move to 24/7 operations allowed employees to add extra hours on the weekends, a benefit that continues today. “We’re still at three shifts, and most of our employees are working six days a week,” said Plane. “We haven’t added a fourth shift because of the difficulty in finding high-quality technical staffing.” With a core group of employees who are well-trained and willing to fulfill the shift requirements, Microplastics has been able to absorb overtime costs and avoid the increased complexity that would occur if head count increased. Product development capabilities showcase strengths Microplastics boasts capabilities that typically aren’t expected from a $30 million company, such as the ability to manufacture solderless page 10 u

www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 9


profile t page 9 compliant and wire-bondable components. “Our advantage is in incorporating specific technology into the products we make,” said Krause. “Some of that technology is more common with our larger competitors, but our differentiation is faster response throughout product development and into the production cycle. We have tools that companies our size typically don’t have, like 3D printing, stamping and terminal stitching.” Because of the electrification of the vehicle, OEMs with familiarity of metal parts and assemblies now need to engineer a plastic component. Product development generally begins with a handful of phone calls and informal technical reviews. Once the customer has a preliminary concept for a part, Microplastics assigns an engineer. “We ask them to find out what the part needs to do, where there are areas with flexibility, what can be tweaked and what can’t be touched,” said Stangle. “Then, we work through that product design to fulfill the needs of the OEM.” This can include facilitating terminals or lead frames. “Almost everything we make has some sort of metal in it,” he continued. “We have to understand the plating requirements and whether there are zones that can’t be touched. We’re trying to design a part that is manufacturable and within cost budgets.” Those capabilities and Microplastics’ willingness to invest in them are attractive to OEMs. “Our customers want to push more of the engineering down to their suppliers,” Plane said, “and we’ve hired the people necessary to be able to give them that support. We’re more than part manufacturing, and that adds value to our relationships.” “There are a multitude of molders who perform insert molding as part of their offerings, but there are not as many who specialize solely in this area and live it day in and day out,” added Krause. “This results in our ability to tackle projects that tend to be more complex and sets us up to guide our customers around some of the pitfalls traditionally associated with insert molding.” 26 years of rapid growth In 1989, Mike Roberts and Jim Dilbeck founded Microplastics with the vision of providing higher level product design and insert molding solutions to customers. Roberts had the technical expertise, and Dilbeck had the sales background. They teamed up, driven by the potential of an untapped market for insert molded automotive parts and a desire to create a company that served its customers the right way. This fresh perspective brought in customers who were previously unfamiliar with the cost savings and weight reductions gained through insert molding. It is this same engineering emphasis that has driven Microplastics’ expansion from a two-press startup company to a twice-recognized Top 500 Fastest Growing

10 | plastics business • winter 2015

Front row, left to right: John Bleyaert, quality assurance manager; Patty Zeyen, controller; Andrew Schaus, general manager. Back row, left to right: Dave Carey, human resources manager; Jim Krause, vice president of engineering; Joe Heiser, materials manager; Todd Stangle, sales manager; Brad Plane, vice president of administration.

Private Company by Fortune magazine. Through this growth, Microplastics developed international markets, with more than 60 percent of its sales now occurring outside US borders, including Canada, Mexico, China and France. Residing in a 50,000-square-foot building, plans for future building development are underway. The current facility sits on a seven-acre site, and there is room to add another 60,000 square feet; however, the option to establish another plant also has been discussed. “Nothing is concrete yet,” said Krause. “We’re continuing to grow, and more manufacturing space is needed. We’re trying to keep that growth at manageable levels, but looking down the road, we know we need to expand.” The original owners of Microplastics will have only a small role in that decision-making process. In 2007, the company became 100-percent employee owned. Roberts remains on the board of directors and is still active within the company, but Dilbeck has moved on. Now, the employees are the ones sharing in the benefits of the company’s growth through ownership. “Our employees are even more engaged in providing the best products and services to those who now are ‘their’ customers,” said Krause. “People care about how the company is performing.” Roberts’ goal in offering employee ownership was to provide retirement for the employees who helped him get to that point, according to Plane. With 138 permanent employees and another 47 from temporary staffing agencies, Microplastics’ encourages personal growth by reviewing training goals and personal educational desires during an annual review process.


Seminars and webinars are encouraged, and generous tuition reimbursement is provided to help employees meet their goals. On the job, focused one-on-one training also is provided for those learning new skills. Microplastics believes in promoting from within whenever possible so as to encourage employee growth and further strengthen Microplastics’ culture. Automotive programs drive future prospects The Microplastics philosophy of “Quality Always,” aided by the company’s status as an ISO9000- and TS16949-certified manufacturer, ensures that as a part proceeds from concept to production, quality is the prevailing principle behind every step, every concept and every decision. Integrating this philosophy into everyone’s thoughts and actions provides a cascading effect that extends all the way to the customer.

All of the automated manufacturing cells are equipped with inspection systems that range from vision inspection to mechanical systems for electrical testing. This attention to detail is critical as the company aims to ride the wave of growth that is ahead, especially in the automotive arena. During the past three years, Microplastics has grown at nearly 20 percent per year, and Krause sees an escalation of that growth in the future. “There is so much opportunity in this field right now as product engineers look for ways to reduce costs,” he said. “Insert molding has yet to be fully tapped as new engineered plastics arrive that provide more design flexibility, along with a strength, durability and cost effectiveness not available from metals. Our goal is to take advantage of that opportunity by promoting the engineering, quality and service we can provide.” n

“In the automotive industry,” Plane said, “one bad part is not acceptable. All employees are expected to uphold this standard of quality, and we’ve achieved a 5PPM (parts per million) defect rate in the last three years.” From employee orientation through the handbook and all on-the-floor training, quality and safety are the most highly stressed expectations.

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preview

Make It Count at NPE2015 Professionals from every spectrum of the plastics industry and its vertical markets will assemble in Orlando, Florida, on March 23-27 to discover the tools and access the emerging technologies that are shaping the future of plastics. The companies listed here are of particular interest to readers of Plastics Business. For more information, visit www.npe.org. Absolute Haitian Booth W3683 Displaying the Haitian Jupiter II servo-hydraulic two-platen machine. Also on display will be the new Zhafir Zeres, an all-electric molding machine with integrated hydraulics, the industry-leading Haitian Mars II servo-hydraulic machine and the high-speed Zhafir Venus II/p packaging machine. Amco Polymers S14119 Providing solutions to customer’s challenges for over 60 years. Amco offers an extensive line of commodity, engineering and manufactured resins. Part of the Ravago Group, Amco is one of the largest polymer distribution companies in the world. American Mold Builders Association Booth S10034 Distributing membership information, the AMBA Sourcebook of US mold builders and The American Mold Builder magazine. AMBA is the premier association for US mold manufacturers, providing benchmarking metrics, cost-saving programs, educational resources, peer exchange forums, plant tour workshops, conferences and more. ASACLEAN, Sun Plastech, Inc. Booth W663 Demonstrating color changeovers on an injection molding machine using ASACLEAN purging compound for thermoplastic injection molding machines and extruders. Asahi Kasei Plastics North America Booth S21027 Providing advanced engineered polymers specially formulated to solve the toughest engineering problems. With manufacturing facilities located across the globe, strict production guidelines guarantee material uniformity and specification compliance. Beaumont Technologies, Inc. Booth W2692 Introducing a new plastics engineering educational program, Therma-flo™ injection software and its new-web based 5Step™ software. Additionally Beaumont will be demonstrating its revolutionary MeltFlipper® technology. Chase Plastic Services, Inc. Booth S15055 Offering quality, cost-effective solutions designed to improve

12 | plastics business • winter 2015

a company’s bottom line. Solutions can be applied to new or existing applications. Cincinnati Process Technologies Booth S17103 Supplying parts and repair for virtually every make and model. Cincinnati Process Technologies is a leader in service for injection molding machines, able to completely retrofit control systems on presses from 88 to 8,800 tons. Conair Group Booth W2143 Unveiling several brand-new products, including a “next generation” material-handling proofing system that uses machine vision to help prevent material contamination due to operator error. The new ESE Series Central Chillers, Adiabatic Cooling Towers and MicroWheel™ Desiccant Dryers will also be displayed. Diversified Machine Systems (DMS) Booth S26125 Exhibiting a DMS 5-Axis CNC router, along with many of the new features available for advanced materials machining. Also presented will be updates that support emerging safety requirements, including air-pressurized bellows, tool changer doors, cool air guns and fully enclosed machining for safety and dust containment. Dynamic Conveyor Booth W231 Showcasing DynaCon® reconfigurable conveyor systems along with box filling, parts separators and conveyor accessories to increase the efficiency of the production process. Frigel North America, Inc. Booth W7991 Displaying the new 3PR Intelligent Control System. An interactive total plant cooling system, the 3PR provides processors with easier and more precise control over Frigel cooling systems. The new generation Ecodry unit and pumping stations with VFDs, TCUs and Microgel chillers also will be displayed. Gros Executive Recruiters Booth W100 Identifying the top talent in plastics and packaging, GER helps companies hire the best. GER is a guide through the employment jungle. page 14 u


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preview t page 12 IMS Injection Molding Supplies Booth W2293 Providing everything you need for the plastics processing industry, including mold components, processing supplies, equipment and technical services to keep your system up and running. INCOE Corporation Booth W4463 (Main) S19018 (Customer Appreciation Lounge) Highlighting melt management (Opti-Flo), VG with melt velocity control (Soft-Gate) and miniature VG (HEM). INCOE Corporation, a global manufacturer of hot runner systems, temperature controllers, auxiliaries and solutions, will display products representing nearly every market in its main booth. IQMS Booth W4489 Developing comprehensive, manufacturing-specific ERP software designed to run the shop floor, office and everything in between. IQMS can help improve productivity, efficiency and the bottom line. MAPP Booth S11041 Distributing membership information, Plastics Business magazine and more. The association of choice for plastics processors in the US, MAPP serves its members by offering cost reduction programs, benchmarking metrics, plant tour events and more. Molding Business Services Booth W4055 Providing M&A advisory and executive recruiting services for molders and plastics processors throughout North America. MBS has sold more than 60 small to mid-size processors and placed more than 50 people each year with molders all over North America. Novatec, Inc. Booth W3742 Introducing Prophecy Sensorlytics innovative sensor technology. Now used on NOVATEC drying, conveying and downstream extrusion system equipment, the new sensor technology will allow processors to predict when and where maintenance is required in order to avoid delays in production. Octex, LLC Booth S21054 Manufacturing precision injection molded components for the medical, electronic and consumer product industries. Paulson Training Programs, Inc. Booth W1183 Unveiling new products and services, including hands-on, inbooth demonstrations. Known for decades of plastics training excellence, Paulson Training’s tech team assists plastics professionals looking for skilled workers. Plastics Business Booth S10032 Distributing Plastics Business, a quarterly magazine reaching 12,500 plastics processing executives, including corporate management, plant managers and production managers involved with all types

14 | plastics business • winter 2015

of plastics processing through print, digital and mobile distribution. Each magazine contains information on operational challenges, industry benchmarks and production efficiencies. PolyOne Corp. Booth S35014 Providing specialized polymer materials, services and solutions. PolyOne is dedicated to serving customers in diverse industries around the globe by creating value through collaboration, innovation and an unwavering commitment to excellence. Progressive Components International Corp. Booth W4345 Unveiling an array of products, including new industry standards designed to speed mold building and reduce costs and downtime. Globally accessible and competitively priced, Progressive leads with innovation and service. RJG, Inc. Booth W1386 Displaying new products and services that improve part quality and reduce costs for injection molders through the use of incavity sensing technology, plant-tested processing strategies and RJG’s training program. rapid prototyping + manufacturing (rp+m) Booth S34007 Presenting the latest 3D printing applications and materials. A leader in the additive manufacturing industry, from R&D through production, rp+m is a one-stop shop in creating solutions. Routsis Training Booth W425 Promoting online, onsite, hands-on and public training courses. Routsis is a global training provider to the plastics industry with training systems that are the most affordable in the industry. Sepro America Booth W263 Demonstrating 20 robots, including an entirely new line. Highlighted are the 5X Line 5-axis Robots, 6X Visual 6-axis Robots, Success general-purpose servo-driven robots, 5DA dual-arm servo robots and S3 servo-driven sprue picker. SIGMA Plastic Services, Inc. Booth S32026 Exhibiting SIGMASOFT® Virtual Molding Technology. SIGMA’s software was created to evaluate and optimize processes and molds, increasing efficiency, productivity and part quality. Steinwall, Inc. Booth S34047 Promoting the toolroom for mold maintenance, EOA and fixtures. Steinwall also provides sonic welding, pad printing, assembly and distribution services.


Synventive Molding Solutions Booth W951 Featuring the latest hot runner systems, including breakthrough activeGateTM technologies which employ sensors to provide complete control of the melt and allow for superior surface finishes on molded parts. ToolingDocs Booth W4345 Showcasing the latest edition of MoldTrax Mold Management System. Additionally, an expanded offering of ToolingDocs’ unique certification training programs and new products will be introduced. Trademark Plastics, Inc. Booth S35157 Providing high-quality plastic injection mold design. Trademark offers precision moldmaking, close-tolerance injection molding and comprehensive inspection services for a complete custom manufacturing experience.

uses Ultra-X, a new proprietary technology specifically developed by Ultra Purge. Ultra Purge 5150 is 30 percent more efficient compared to existing Ultra Purge grades. Wittmann-Battenfield Booth 2743 Displaying six operating injection molding machine workcells with integrated robots, automation, material handling and auxiliary equipment. In addition, the company will display extrusion-related machinery and auxiliaries. Yushin America Booth W763 Offering automation technology, including standard robots and tooling, to custom automation for assembly, inspection and packaging. Yushin America is a subsidiary of Yushin Precision Equipment Ltd - Japan, one of the world’s largest suppliers of robots for injection molding. n

Ultra Purge – Molds Plus International USA, Inc. Booth W7591 Introducing a new and improved Ultra Purge grade, 5150. Ultra Purge 5150 is an HDPE-based hybrid purging compound that

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industry

MAPP Survey Reports on 2015 Business Forecast Nearly 85 percent of plastics processing executives are expecting their 2015 sales trends to increase during the next 12 months, according to the most recent survey on the state of the US polymer industry from Manufacturers Association of Plastics Processors (MAPP). “Business conditions in the plastics industry have not changed from a year ago, as the overall industry remains strong and optimistic,” stated Troy Nix, MAPP’s executive director.

consumer goods market and construction sector as areas that will provide support for their positive and aggressive sales forecasts. The data points compiled on the continuing fight to retain and regain business from overseas competitors were again the most dramatic of all findings in MAPP’s 2015 Business Forecast survey. Documented as the largest increase since MAPP began recording information on gains and losses of work to and from foreign businesses, 38 percent of this survey’s respondents indicated that they relocated work from overseas in 2014, which surpassed the data point of 34 percent reported a year ago. The survey also revealed that some American processors (eight percent in total) lost business to their overseas counterparts.

MAPP, now in its 15th year of conducting its state of the industry report, collected data for its most recent report from 170 senior-level business professionals representing a vast range in company sizes and processing disciplines. Fueling the optimism for a strong sales cycle during the next 12 months, plastics processing executives highlighted their expectations for what they anticipate to be the highest growth markets in 2015, led by the automotive industry. “The auto industry ended on a high note in December as the J.D. Power and LMC Automotive Report outlined continued sales growth for 2015,” Nix said. “The new automotive light vehicle sales forecasts are flirting with numbers around the 16.9M to 17.0M unit level, and many senior analysts are optimistic that lower gas prices and a growing job market in 2015 will entice consumers to hit the show rooms, buy new homes and purchase consumable goods.”

Plastics manufacturing business leaders like Mike Walter, the president of injection molder MET Plastics, use MAPP’s state of the industry report to provide a more realistic benchmark as to how he feels his own company stacks up to conditions in the general marketplace. “MAPP’s economic survey really is a compilation of ‘gut checks’ from the executives across the country who provide feedback,” Walter said. “Although we aren’t necessarily benchmarking exact economic indexes, the trends identified over the last 15 years have been solid predictors of how our industry will perform.”

% of Respondents

Along with these sentiments, business leaders responding to MAPP’s economic survey also highlighted the medical industry,

As US tooling manufacturers work to regain their foothold as the first source of supply, plastics processing executives continue to outsource molds to overseas locations. MAPP’s study Gained/Lost Business from/to Overseas Suppliers revealed that 63 percent of survey respondents purchase 40 molds from overseas suppliers, while four percent currently 30 are examining this as a future tactic. This represents a sixpercent increase from one year ago. 20 10 0

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Currently Investigating Tactic

16 | plastics business • winter 2015

Although the overall outlook for growth and sales expansion is very optimistic for 2015, plastics manufacturing executives face a wide variety of external and internal challenges. Remaining as the top issue facing the vast majority of all business leaders is the lack of availability of a skilled and able-bodied workforce. The absence of technically inclined people, combined with the difficulty in finding individuals who simply want to work, continues to challenge business executives and has been identified as a significant constraint to growth. To combat this universal problem, many management teams are working to improve the culture of their workplace by focusing on increasing employee engagement and overall morale. This strategy is being used to retain employees and attract top talent in the marketplace.


For the second consecutive year, sales revenue repeats as the second most pressing issue for American manufacturing executives. This finding has a bit of a twist. As many deal with the need for manufacturing diversity and the challenge in finding new revenue sources, managing and controlling rapid growth also has proven to be a noteworthy issue. About 45 percent of plastics processing leaders who identified “sales and growth” as an issue actually are more concerned with how they can handle the new opportunities they already have garnered. As a restatement from last year’s report, those caught in this uptick cycle are in need of increased production capacity, additional people, improved resource planning tools, more facility space and cash. Rounding out the top three of the most pressing challenges is the issue of pricing pressures and controlling costs. Louder in this report is a cry for help for relief from increasing buildup of costs, including health care rates and rising labor expenses, along with the essential need to invest dollars in business improvements. As a slight offset to the costs that are increasing, MAPP’s study did again reveal a more stabilized raw material marketplace, which hopefully will continue well into the year. n

About 45 percent of plastics processing leaders who identified “sales and growth” as an issue actually are more concerned with how they can handle the new opportunities they already have garnered.

MAPP’s full business forecast report contains information on 4th quarter performance and 2015 forecast data on employment levels, sales trends, procurement of production tooling, profitability trends and more. To obtain a copy of this report, visit the publications tab at www.mappinc.com.

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www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 17


association

MAPP to Debut Online Resin Price Benchmarking System MAPP is excited to announce the development of a robust online resin benchmarking system. The system, set to debut in late spring, will allow members to see up-to-date data on costs across a wide family of resins, allowing purchasing managers to make more informed decisions. While MAPP has conducted resin benchmarking surveys in the past, this system will create ongoing benchmarks and will be available year-round. “Resin costs make up a significant portion of a processor’s variable costs,” said MAPP President Mike Walter. “While this system will evolve over time, its development is an example of MAPP’s commitment to providing real, bottomline value to members by developing benefits that address their most important issues.” To participate in a focus group as MAPP works to improve the system, contact Managing Director Dustin McKissen via email at dmckissen@mappinc.com. MAPP Welcomes New Members Pereles Bros., Inc. Milwaukee, Wisconsin Boston Scientific Corp. Spencer, Indiana Woodland Plastics Corp. Addison, Illinois Jackson Manufacturing, Inc. Maquoketa, Iowa Vital Plastics, Inc. Baldwin, Wisconsin All Service Plastics Molding, Inc. Dayton, Ohio

MAPP Members Could Use Help Continuous exchange of information, ideas and resources between members is the purpose of MAPP’s blog exchange. Impressive dialogues between business leaders have been archived on hundreds of Internet pages for immediate recall by MAPP members. All MAPP member executives strongly are encouraged to visit MAPP’s blog exchange to post opinions, ideas, strategies and lessons learned to those asking for input and help. In just a few minutes, MAPP members can log in to their MAPP account, hover over the Members tab and click “Communicate with Members.” MAPP’s vision is to grow and strengthen relationships between members – any assistance that can be provided from one member to another is greatly appreciated.

MAPP Key Events Mar. 5 EHS Webinar: Developing Site-Specific Safety Plans

May 21 Intertech Plastics Plant Tour Event Denver, Colorado

Mar. 10 Team 1 Plant Tour Event – SOLD OUT Albion, Michigan

June 10-11 Environmental, Health and Safety Summit Columbus, Ohio

Mar. 23-27 NPE 2015 – MAPP Booth #S11041 Orlando, Florida

Oct. 22-23 Benchmarking and Best Practices Conference Indianapolis, Indiana

18 | plastics business • winter 2015


Spotlight on MAPP partner IQMS For more than 25 years, IQMS has been developing manufacturing-specific ERP and MES software. With roots in the plastics industry, IQMS knows your business. The top five reasons IQMS rises to the top of the ERP selection process for plastics-specific manufacturers are as follows: 1. Industry-Specific: IQMS offers tools and features that solve each processor’s unique challenges, including real-time production monitoring, multilevel BOMs, detailed finite scheduling, multi-tool and family tool functionality, regrind usage and consumption features, plus many more. 2. Multi-Process Manufacturing Execution: IQMS automates every step on the shop floor, from raw materials through fabrication, assembly and shipping for all manufacturing operations. 3. Comprehensive ERP: Financial management, MRP, order management, supply chain management, quality management and more are all in one system, with one central database. 4. Real-Time Data: With no batch transfers or endof-shift production reports to re-key, IQMS offers instantaneous collection of production data for real-time analysis and proactive decision making. 5. Complete Software Solution: Mobile apps, HR, CRM, eCommerce and BI dashboards keep each facility modern and competitive.

manage and maintain our systems until replacing it all with IQMS.” Intertech Plastics, MAPP member since 2012 “The wealth of data in IQMS is easy to locate, report and analyze. At a click of the mouse, we have real, concrete data that can drive almost every business and resource planning decision we have to make on a day-to-day basis. We also can run future utilization models and profitability reports, which allow us to have a confident plan for the future.” Plastic Components Inc., MAPP member since 2005 “IQMS is an excellent ERP system. I would recommend it to any customer who is looking for a solid ERP system.” Precision Custom Products, Inc., MAPP member since 2004 Interested in learning more about IQMS? Visit IQMS at NPE2015, Booth #W4489, or www.iqms.com.

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MAPP has considered IQMS a valuable partner for nearly a decade. Learn why more than one-third of all MAPP members have selected IQMS over another ERP solution, in their own words. “We have grown with IQMS since 2003. In that time, I firmly believe that our success is part and parcel due to the ease of use and vast capabilities that are built into the package. If you are looking for a piece of software that can help you run your business and streamline your processes, look no further than IQMS.” Custom Profile, MAPP member since 2003 “IQMS is an outstanding ERP system for plastics manufacturers. IQMS replaced multiple independent systems in our organization, including MRP, real time, reporting, asset management, preventative maintenance and more. With a limited IT staff, it was very difficult to

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www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 19


article

Association Development Provides Entrepreneurial Master Class by Dianna Brodine

Incorporated nearly 20 years ago, in 1996, the MAPP organization actually had its start two years earlier, growing from a simple seed as plastics processors in a region of Indiana invested in the theory that they would make greater strides working together to strengthen the industry, rather than trying to succeed individually.

attend or organize better events, if you want to increase the quality of talks, if you want people to learn, if you want to build a brand, then there’s one thing you must do: share the best work. – Jonathon Colman, content strategy team member for Facebook

What follows is both a history of the MAPP organization and a master’s level course in entrepreneurship, focus, business marketing and the power of building community.

The initial success drew more companies, and the task force continued to grow. Mini conferences were held where speakers were brought in for keynote presentations. The final 30 minutes of these conferences were reserved for processors to stand up and ask for business advice from their fellow industry members.

Lesson: Problem-solving to create a product Communication is the foundation of collaborative work, which is how all important problems get solved. People working together. – Marc Andreeson, venture capitalist and co-founder of Netscape In the early 1990s, the state of Indiana recognized the importance of the plastics industry to its economic health, particularly in the region surrounding Indianapolis. The Indiana Business Modernization & Technology Corporation (BMT) was tasked with developing a strategy to make the plastics industry in the region more competitive, and Troy Nix was brought in to spearhead the initiative as a BMT employee. “The early goal was simply to bring people to the table,” Nix explained. “At the time, the concept was to form mini clusters around the region where companies could share common problems and work together to find solutions. That molecule of a thought is what MAPP germinated into – an association working with small and mid-size plastics companies to bring them together, open lines of communication and deal with work force issues.” The first plastics processor on board was Lindsey Hahn of Metro Plastics, Noblesville, Indiana. With a series of names provided by Hahn, Nix conducted his first meeting in a small hotel room with fewer than 10 processors in attendance. “I presented information on the plastics cluster in the region and talked about combining the synergies of those companies,” said Nix. “We came together for a second meeting, and our group grew.” The meetings went from six or eight attendees to 20… to 40… and, then to 60. Lesson: Community-building creates momentum Listen: if you want to build a community, if you want to

20 | plastics business • winter 2015

“I saw this organization as something that was needed from a day-to-day operational standpoint,” Hahn said. “The impetus was to find a way that individual companies could communicate together on problem-solving and best practices so we all weren’t out there reinventing the wheel when someone else already had found a solution.” “This cross talk is part of the DNA of the organization,” Nix explained, “but when people first started coming around the table, they were very guarded.” The processors in attendance felt a reluctance to “air the dirty laundry” that would expose the problems they were having in their operations, but the threat of low-cost production in China sent many of them searching for solutions to remain competitive. And, Hahn explained, once the conversations began, the reluctance lessened. “It’s like anything else,” he said. “As soon as you acknowledge a problem out loud, you find out that a lot of other people have the same issue. Molding issues, customer issues, supplier issues, processing issues – we all have the same problems. These conversations let us see that there weren’t any real secrets, and that allowed everyone to learn and improve.” Lesson: Business creation requires hustle The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer. – Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari, Chuck E. Cheese and BrainRush!


At this point, the organization essentially still was a task force, created by and under the control of BMT. Convinced that they were moving in the right direction, but concerned that the initiative itself could be disbanded due to factors outside of its control, a group of plastics business owners asked if it would be possible to form a separate entity. In the summer of 1996, Nix and a team of seven people met every two weeks to develop the blueprint that would become the Mid America Plastics Partners, Inc. (MAPP), which was incorporated in the state of Indiana in August of 1996. “Then, the group looked at me and said, ‘Go get us money’,” said Nix. “I put pen to paper, which resulted in an $185,000 grant from the state of Indiana from a strategic development fund. In addition to the grant, I started to hit up electric utility companies, telling them we had manufacturers that use a lot of electrons and they wanted to come together to buy. We ended up with $250,000 in a fundraising account before the organization was actually kicked off.” With funding in the bank, but no membership, another meeting was held in November of 1996. To generate member commitments, one hundred plastics professionals were asked to consider a charter membership, which would garner a five-year membership for the cost of four years. “Over the next year and a half, 25 companies paid $4,000 to become charter members for the promise of what we thought we could accomplish,” Nix said. The MAPP board of directors, which included Hahn as its first president, asked Nix to run the fledgling association.

board to keep the association leadership in place. “I proposed to take all the expenses on my shoulders and figure out how to make it work,” Nix said. “I would take all of the payroll and expenses, with the upside that I also would a large portion of the revenue.” The board voted to adopt the last solution. It’s an entrepreneurial approach to running the association that’s still ingrained today. “MAPP is not an 8-5 job, because the organization’s success is intimately tied to the success of the companies in its membership,” explained Nix. “There was a constant expectation that this association needed to live the same challenges that the industry was facing, so we could all come through it together.” In the years since the association was incorporated, the industry has been under intense pressure from the competition overseas, the mini-recession, the internet bubble and 9/11. The value of the lesson learned in those early days became apparent. It was the entrepreneurial nature of the board and its willingness – its eagerness – to gut it out and take risks that made the difference. “The grit, focus and vision kept us page 22 u

Lesson: Taking risks increases investment in the outcome All progress takes place outside the comfort zone. – Michael John Bobak, digital artist and singer/songwriter Starting a new business always is a lesson in risk-taking, and Nix was doing anything he could to make it go, while working five jobs to keep himself afloat. Still, the financials weren’t working out. “I hired two employees to try to get this new organization going,” said Nix. “We had $250,000 in the bank and a staff, but we also had to pay rent, insurance and benefits. In August of 1998, I knew our operating funds were going to run out in December. I was the highest paid employee, so I went to a board meeting and told them they needed to fire me.” Nix provided five alternatives to keep the association afloat, including the hiring of a management company, which would relieve the organization of the burden of Nix’s salary. The final alternative was the riskiest for Nix, but would allow the

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moving forward,” said Nix. Lesson: Meet the customer where he lives Get closer than ever to your customers. So close, in fact, that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves. – Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple The association invested in branding, bringing a website online while at the same time starting a magazine – Plastics Business. “From a leadership standpoint, it was obvious that MAPP could only grow if it became more than a central Indiana entity,” said Hahn, “and, we wanted it to grow because the more people were involved, the more knowledge we had and the more opportunities were available to leverage financial opportunities. The first thing we had to do was change the image, and that’s where the website and the magazine became absolutely necessary.” At the same time, MAPP changed its name, removing the “MidAmerica” label and evolving into the Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors. “Troy thought I was crazy with the magazine idea,” said Hahn,

22 | plastics business • winter 2015

“but it seemed like such an opportunity to reach people. With a website, you have to bring people to it, but a magazine goes to them. In the same way, the plant tours have expanded the visibility of MAPP nationwide. It’s resulted in members who see an organization meeting them wherever they live.” Lesson: Growth both adds and subtracts We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction. – Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft From a small hotel meeting room with fewer than 10 people to a conference space filled with more than 450 plastics processors at the 2014 MAPP Annual Benchmarking Conference in October, the association has grown significantly. “As we look forward,” Nix said, “Our idea of growth has to be different. Instead of simply getting bigger, we need to create deeper interactions with our members. The plastics industry isn’t done changing, and this association has to be ready for whatever challenges our membership is going to see.” n


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4 focus

Change and Opportunity in 2015: Focus on Four Areas to Improve

by Laurie Harbour, Harbour Results, Inc.

Laurie Harbour is president and CEO of Harbour Results, Inc. 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.

The 2015 calendar year certainly has started out with a bang for many processors. Business is up for most companies, the economy appears to be relatively stable, fuel prices have dropped tremendously and this is an NPE year. As processors gather in Orlando to see new technologies, talk to old friends and make new business connections, many are wondering how 2015 will play out. To understand the future, we have to look back at some of the changes over the last 10 years. In looking at materials, the changes have been substantial. Processors are working with new resins, and more change is coming as the materials companies create new and exciting products. The processes for many molders have changed dramatically, partially due to materials but primarily because the processors are striving to be more efficient and do more with the same. Companies are using various forms of automation like never before, with many implementing fully automated processes and others deploying creative types of semi-automation and hand automation to improve lowervolume processes. Product orders continue to change from customers, and the mix and complexity in all industries is growing substantially. Molding companies are dealing with more SKUs than ever before in their manufacturing processes. Finally, the labor market continues to be a major challenge, whether you are supporting medical in California, automotive in Michigan or agriculture in South Carolina. Finding new, young workers to learn the business has been tough, and companies have had to become very creative in their search and retention processes. Challenges for 2015: pricing, pressure, volume and more Although the Harbour Results team are not economists, it does not take a rocket scientist to see some of the critical factors that processors are faced with as they go into 2015. Although markets are growing and business is good through North America, there are signs to watch as future indicators. The US GDP is strong and generating a lot of growth. When compared to other countries, like Mexico, it is easy to see why the US is leading the recovery. The US GDP will generate in one year what it takes Mexico 10 years to generate in terms of GDP growth. That said, the US growth is not coming from manufacturing, unfortunately. In the fall of 2014, there were roughly 250,000 jobs created each month in the US, but only four percent of those jobs were in manufacturing. The rest were in financial services, medical, health care and retail. So, although manufacturing is up – particularly in automotive – it is flat in many other industries. Processors still are faced with huge challenges, including health care, the instability of the market, prices of material, value of their businesses, lack of labor and skilled trades

24 | plastics business • winter 2015


and differences in customer mix, depending on the markets they serve. We are seeing owners investing in more capital equipment as they look to meet the volumes of their customers and replace aging equipment. There is enough stability in the market that they are willing to take more risks, but there still is reason to be cautious as they enter 2015. Many are concerned with the upcoming 2016 elections and the related media that will occur this year around issues like the economy. The media and election campaigns will focus on how great the economy is, while over-emphasizing manufacturing growth. This may lead to false assumptions and bad decisions by some processors as they look to the future. Our data shows that companies are very busy and growing; however, that does not necessarily translate into making more profit for those businesses. Don’t allow the hype to provide a false sense of security. Another troubling set of data we are analyzing is the tremendous pressure on pricing at each of the companies with which we are working. Their customers are asking for more givebacks, and target prices are dropping. Material as a percentage of revenue trends up as much as four to six percent, driven by a drop in piece prices – but material costs are not, in many cases. When this is combined with the huge drop in fuel prices and demand being down in places like China, there is excess capacity without a realized resin price drop to date. Companies are losing margin with the price compression from the customer. Much of this will put new pressure on processors for 2015. No matter what industry the processor serves, there is a great deal of change taking place. Some industries, such as aerospace and automotive, have huge growth and backlog. The next three to four years in aerospace will bring a huge backlog of production as companies replace their old fleet and travel grows around the world. After that period of time, however, the backlog will drop like a rock, and those supporting aerospace will need to find new work. In automotive, volumes are growing every day and the demand is staggering. Suppliers are struggling to meet volumes and are adding bricks, mortar and new equipment to meet the demand. The number of vehicle launches is over 30 per year and resources are limited, causing major delays with each new program. The appliance industry is booming as well, with many new high-level models being introduced by companies like GE, Electrolux, Whirlpool and others. And, much of this manufacturing has been moved back to North America from other regions, so processors are seeing new work. The pending purchase of GE Appliance by Electrolux has, however, brought some uncertainty because of the differences in their sourcing approaches. The next year will bring some visibility to the future strategy for manufacturing by those companies.

Companies are very busy and growing; however, that does not necessarily translate into making more profit for those businesses. Don’t allow the hype to provide a false sense of security. The biggest trends Harbour Results sees in all of its customers, whether plastic processors or mold builders, are the growth in complexity of part design, the move to more mass customization of product and the shift to more low-volume, high-mix production of parts. As new consumers enter the market and technology changes people’s daily interactions, processors are seeing and will page 26 u

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continue to see volumes changes; particularly, on those parts that the consumer interfaces with daily. These volumes are becoming very low while the number of SKUs being managed is growing as large OEMs try to give customers the features they want. Some of these changes are driven by regulations (as areas like automotive try to meet some of the CAFÉ standards), but for the most part, these are driven by consumers wanting their phones, small household appliances and cars customized to meet their styles and tastes. One of the hottest trends with consumer products is in color as people are demanding the latest and greatest “cool” color on their products. That color trend may only last a few months before consumers move on to another “cool” color. These changes from the customer are driving the need for new materials that process differently and have different properties. Additionally, processes in the plants have had to change as operations personnel jump new manufacturing hurdles while managing the number of SKUs and the complexity of parts. Another huge trend has been the need for more “Big Data,” and many companies don’t even know what this term really means. However, what we see is that companies need new and different data from their processes in order to run the manufacturing floor and still make money managing the variation. Improvements to make in 2015 The impact of all of these trends and market factors on processors is different depending on the industry focus, customer and type of product being produced. Many will manage these trends without skipping a beat, while others will struggle. No matter where a company falls on this continuum, there are several improvements that companies can make – and are making – to improve the things that they control. In the end, these items will allow processors to grow their profitability, invest in new capital and, in turn, grow their businesses and improve the outlook for the future. What are some of those very “actionable” things that processors can do to improve their businesses? Companies are returning their focus to lean manufacturing and basic engineering, which they may have lost sight of, to gain back some efficiency. But, the processors and mold builders that are making quantum strides to improve their businesses are focused on four key projects.

1

Strategic planning. Instead of having a vision as a leader, articulating that vision and calling it a longterm plan, the best companies have taken that vision and turned it into actionable one-year objectives. Those page 28 u


SISE full page

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focus t page 26 objectives then are cascaded throughout the organization to all levels of the company, with metrics that have been developed and are driving each person’s role and responsibility in meeting the longer-term vision. Too often, company leadership thinks a plan has been developed, yet wonder why the plan is not being met. Usually, it’s because the company has not cascaded the plan into what it means to each person in the company and what that person’s role will be to achieve success.

2

Market intelligence. Companies finally are realizing the need to gather market intelligence, not only on their type of process, but on each and every industry in which they produce product. The best companies have put people in place to gather market intelligence on their customers in terms of forecasts, new models, new processes and materials. They also gather data on industries such as automotive, aerospace, medical, etc. Even the smallest companies (under $10M) have put people in place at conferences and trade shows, talking to customers and tapping other sources to gather data that allows them to be more knowledgeable. That knowledge base allows them to focus on the third project – demand planning.

3

Demand planning. Demand planning has been the most challenging aspect for most of the businesses with which Harbour Results has worked. Companies tell us that they can’t get the information from their customers that is needed to provide an accurate forecast. Some of that is true because customers won’t provide it, but many times it is because companies don’t ask. The best companies are realizing even a little bit of demand planning is driving efficiency in their businesses tenfold. Today, Harbour Results estimates that less than half of the processors and mold builders we have interacted with are doing any form of demand planning, and it shows in their profit performance. Companies think that because they budget they are doing demand planning, but that’s not even close. Some industries, such as automotive and aerospace, allow for this to occur more easily because the third-party data is out there. However, in consumer products, the large customers tend to be clueless, and that falls heavily on the processors supporting them. Those companies that use market intelligence, talk to their customers, gather third-party data and use all means possible to do demand planning have shown that they can drive throughput by 20 to 30 percent, making profitability soar.

4

Systems efficiency. The last project that is getting a lot of focus and success from companies is a real look at manufacturing efficiency, but in a different way than previously accomplished. Companies need to view operations as an entire system, rather than simply

28 | plastics business • winter 2015

Those companies that use market intelligence, talk to their customers, gather third-party data and use all means possible to do demand planning have shown that they can drive throughput by 20 percent to 30 percent, making profitability soar.

improving the efficiency of one or more machines. Companies need to analyze the system from scheduling on, throughout each and every piece of equipment that supports making the product. Those that have done this are seeing the ability to manage the higher mix and lower volumes much more easily. Inventory can be managed better and turned over much faster, changeovers are improving and machine utilization is at an all-time high in those shops. Companies are beginning to manage multiple business models under the same facility and doing it very profitably. Some companies have done one or more of the four improvements outlined here, such as evaluating systems efficiency or strategic planning. But, those that have put all four of these projects together are running like a well-oiled machine while making a ton of money and operating with a true sense of calm. For many, 2015 will be a great year, and everyone has the opportunity to get there. There’s no need to over-complicate it; instead, focus on the right things and work ON the business. n


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Sun Plastech Adds High-Temperature Grades to ASACLEAN Line Sun Plastech Inc., Parsippany, NJ, has added two new high-temperature grades to its ASACLEAN product line – PX2 and PF. Improving on the PX grade, ASACLEAN PX2 is a glass-filled grade offering a service temperature range of 535°F to 790°F. It is ideal for purging super-engineering resins, such as PEEK, PPS, PEI and LCP, from thermoplastic injection molding machines and extruders. It was specifically designed to provide superior cleaning power while generating low levels of smoke and odor, which can be a common occurrence when purging high-temperature resins. For more information, visit www.asaclean.com.

Plasmatreat to Debut Surface Treatment Device Plasmatreat North America, Elgin, IL, will present a new surface treatment device, the RD2005U, at NPE2015. The new Openair® atmospheric plasma device was developed to treat the plastic substrates that are increasingly used in light-weighting projects, such as SMC, carbon fiber and glass fiber. It utilizes a “Certified Clean and Safe” process specifically designed to smoothly integrate with existing manufacturing systems. For more information, call 855.484.7828 or visit www.plasmatreat.com.

Frigel Unveils 3PR Intelligent Cooling System Frigel, East Dundee, IL, has introduced the new 3PR Intelligent Control System, which provides processors with easier and more precise control over their Frigel cooling systems. Featuring a unique 7" full-color touchscreen interface, 3PR allows processors to achieve better closed-loop process cooling system accuracy with more data points at their fingertips. As a next-generation controller, the system automatically adjusts integrated Frigel cooling systems to ensure optimum performance based on a wide range of system operating parameters. The controller provides users with extended functionality for monitoring and adjusting system parameters using real-time data to further enhance system performance. The controller’s onboard memory aids in troubleshooting and uptime by continuously storing key operating conditions, which can be downloaded for detailed analyses. For more information, visit www.frigel.com.

32 | plastics business • winter 2015


Routsis Develops Injection Molding App

PolyOne Unveils Color Collection

Routsis Training, Dracut, MA, has released a new app for Apple™ and Android™ devices. The Injection Molding Reference Guide contains essential processing information and reference materials, allowing for critical on-the-spot inquiries to be addressed, even on the production floor. The free reference guide ensures technicians have the information needed for establishing a scientific molding process and to troubleshoot effectively using a systematic scientific approach. Other useful reference materials include material properties, additives and preparation, frequently used calculations and basic mold and part design guidelines. The app also includes information regarding the RightStart™ and SmartTech™ training solutions offered by Routsis Training, as well as video previews from actual training courses. For more information, visit www.traininteractive.com/app.

PolyOne, Cleveland, OH, has launched a new collection of liquid colorants that can help brand managers and packaging designers creating personal care and cosmetic products packaged in PET. Inspired by its InVisiOSM Color Inspirations 2015 New Frontier palette, these colors mimic the darkness of deep space and interstellar hues. The collection conveys rich yet subtle tonal effects. The colors are available as ColorMatrix™ liquid colorants. For more information, visit www.colormatrix.com/planets.

Conair Offers Modular, Scalable Central Chillers

New Lynx DIN Rail Machine Modules

Promising more accurate temperature control and long-term reliability, new ESE Series EarthSmart™ central chillers from The Conair Group, Cranberry Township, PA, give plastics processors the flexibility to start with one chiller and expand to a plant-wide multiple chiller system operated by a single easy-to-use controller. ESE chillers are available with integrated pumps and fluid reservoirs or as a standalone chiller to supply a separate pump tank system. Systems can be water-cooled using tower water or can be installed in a remote-air-cooled condenser configuration. There are 12 sizes available. Each refrigeration circuit has two Copeland scroll compressors so the system can stay up and running even if one of the compressors should require maintenance. For more information, visit www.conairgroup.com.

RJG, Traverse City, MI, has released its new Lynx DIN Rail Modules. The new ID7-M-SEQ, OR2-M, IA1-M-V and OA1M-V modules feature new shielded metal enclosures and cables. These new features make installation and troubleshooting easier while increasing immunity to interference in electrically noisy environments. All this is accomplished while maintaining the convenient DIN Rail mounting and easy-to-read status LEDs. For more information, visit www.rjginc.com. n

www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 33


view from 30

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

Philosophy of Facility Size by Dianna Brodine

As the economy has rebounded and growing consumer confidence has translated into a willingness to spend money, many plastics molders have found themselves in a position where expansion was necessary to meet customer needs. However, according to Gerry Phillips, co-owner and vice president of PRISM Plastics, Inc., bigger isn’t always better. PRISM caps its facilities (three, so far) at 16 presses. When demand at one facility necessitates additional capacity, another machine isn’t an option… but another facility is. Despite a business philosophy that seems, at best, limiting and at most disastrous, PRISM has grown from $5 million in revenue in 2009 to more than $30 million in 2014. Phillips believes $100 million is achievable by 2020. Founded in 2000 by three former Huron Plastics executives, PRISM currently has three processing facilities, with locations in Chesterfield, Michigan; Port Huron, Michigan; and Harlingen, Texas. With a highly automated environment focused on lowtonnage, tight-tolerance, high-volume, difficult-to-mold parts for Tier 2 and Tier 3 customers, the company’s profit margin is driven by its ability to produce the greatest number of good parts per hour. Seventy employees running 24/7 in three facilities manufacture more than 500 million parts per year. These include components for seat belts, air bags, fuel and brake systems and steering mechanisms. Ninety-nine percent of the company’s parts are never touched by human hands. This highly automated environment demands strict process control and, Phillips said, controlling the facility size accomplishes that goal. “Our entire philosophy is built around controlled production,” he said. All of the company’s machines are identical, uniform and interchangeable across all facilities. PRISM utilizes only electric

34 | plastics business • winter 2015

At PRISM Plastics, all of the company’s machines are identical, uniform and interchangeable across all facilities.

Toshiba molding machines, although the tonnage can range from 65 to 390 tons. Only Yushin robots are used on the production floor. All auxiliary equipment can be moved from one press to another. In addition, changes are not implemented in any facility – for instance, a change in the frequency of preventative maintenance for tooling – unless it make sense to implement the


change across all facilities. If a process is modified, every step is documented so it can be instituted in a uniform way across every plant. “When the complexity number goes up, processes are no longer in control. In turn, that reduces the number of good pieces per hour we can produce,” Phillips explained. “And, when it’s boiled down to how we make money, it all relates to the number of good pieces per hour.”

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PRISM Plastics currently is 100-percent automotive, but the company is making a concerted effort to move into medical molding, possibly by acquisition. Phillips also says the company is generating new opportunities every day simply by being the very best at what it does. “For the types of parts and products we make, we’ve really right-sized these plants,” he said. “Growing beyond 16 presses creates a less controllable environment, which means the teams spend more time putting out fires than anticipating and solving problems. We’ve made an effort to stay consistent, and we have a model that works. There’s no reason to limit ourselves when we look ahead to what is possible.”

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With revenue increasing more than $25 million in six years, PRISM’s facility size philosophy obviously is not limiting its growth. In fact, the company will be erecting another facility within the next 12-18 months, although its location has not yet been determined. Another benefit of the strict adherence to process control is apparent when it’s time to expand. “Because our facilities are uniform and interchangeable,” said Phillips, “from the time we decide to put up a plant to the time we’re in production is about six months.”

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Inc Exp e nt

“We don’t do a lot of different things,” said Phillips. “Instead, we do a few things very well. Our facilities are designed for flow and process control. We have no quality control department or quality inspectors, because we have a tightly controlled environment and everyone, from accounting and sales through to production, is responsible for the quality of their work. Processes are written and controlled so they can be repeated every time. If we add more than 16 presses, our ability to create a high number of good pieces each hour is affected.”

Practical Advice for the Plastics Industry

rer’s ctu ns fa ctio u

While PRISM’s mirror-image facilities might not be a surprise, its 16 press limit is more unusual. Each facility’s shop floor is staffed with three technicians per shift, plus a maintenance person and a shipping/receiving employee. Those five employees effectively can run 16 machines. Adding additional molding machines would have a domino effect, requiring additional technicians and support personnel. “We’ve studied the time effectiveness,” Phillips said, “and anything beyond 16 presses would affect the leanness of our operations.”

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Mike Devereux II, CPA, CMP Partner & Director of Plastics Industry Services mdevereux@muellerprost.com 314.862.2070

Connect with us! muellerprost.com

www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 35


view from 30 t page 35

Finding a Business Mentor by Jen Clark

Tom Tredway has grown up in his family’s business – a custom injection molding company in Erie, Pennsylvania – and one day will take the helm. To prepare himself, he enlisted the help of a business mentor. While the long-term goal is to be ready when he becomes the president of Erie Molded Plastics, a series of micro goals work not only to make him a more effective businessman but also be more relaxed away from the office. “I would have likely made some of these professional strides on my own, but not as quickly and not as effectively as I did by finding the right mentor.” Tredway’s father, Phil Tredway, founded Erie Molded Plastics in 1982. Tom Tredway worked on the shop floor through his high school and college summers. After college, he worked as a financial advisor in the DC-Baltimore area for about five years before moving back to Erie. He now is the vice president of sales and part owner of the family business. “There is a succession plan in place for me to one day own our company, and I want to put myself in the best possible position to succeed,” Tom

Tredway explained. “I saw where I wanted to be five years from now, and knew that I needed to develop additional skills if I wanted to succeed. I learn a lot from the people that I work with, but I thought that a mentor would help me develop more quickly. I wanted a formal relationship with someone outside of Erie Molded who would give me advice and hold me accountable.” In the summer of 2012, he began his search by listing the qualities he was looking for in a mentor and created an inventory of different professionals with whom he was familiar. He knew he wanted to work with someone with a manufacturing background, but the particular industry wasn’t a sticking point. After he narrowed the list to a few people, Tredway bounced those names off of a trusted advisor. When the list was whittled down to one, Tredway gave Mike Chesley, president of Eriebased Composiflex, Inc., a call. The two met and laid the groundwork for their mentoring relationship. “It was important to Mike that we (work) in a business setting,” he recalled. “He didn’t want to meet at a coffee shop or bar.” It was important for Tredway to pick a mentor that he did not want to disappoint. “I think that’s important when seeking a mentor – choose someone who you don’t want to let down, and if you do let him/her down then he/she will hold your feet to the fire,” he said. The pair communicates on a bimonthly basis and they try to meet face-to-face every six months. The update covers the predetermined “micro” goals, which range from finances to sales processes to personal goals. “Mike writes remarks and sends the document back to me,” Tredway said. “I then propose what I’ll be working on over the next two months. From there, the cycle repeats itself. Sometimes the goals are ideas that I’ve been working on, but need some extra motivation and perspective. Sometimes he makes recommendations based on his experiences.” So what has he learned? A lot – including how to cook. “The lessons that have stuck with me most are the processes that I’ve implemented into my weekly routine, including managing my direct reports, sales leads, etc.,” he said. “A lot of these disciplines were born from my relationship with Mike. One of the more fun things I’ve learned is how to cook. I’ve always wanted to be more handy in kitchen, so I shared that with him and we included cooking to my bimonthly goals.” page 38 u

36 | plastics business • winter 2015


view from 30 t page 36

Using Video Mail for Customer Connections by Brittany Willes

Nicolet Plastics, a Mountain, Wisconsin-based custom injector molder, is devoted to connecting with its customers in new and personal ways. According to Bob Gafvert, Nicolet’s business development manager, “At Nicolet, we’re charged with finding remarkable ways to get our message out and to show that we’re different. We want to show people we aren’t typical.” One way in which Nicolet sets itself apart from other molders is through the use of Eyejot, a video messaging system that allows Nicolet employees to combine the convenience of traditional email with the more personal elements of voice mail. “The marketplace has changed and technology has changed,” says Gafvert. “I noticed there were things our industry was doing that didn’t seem as effective when reaching out to new customers from a lead generation standpoint.” As Gafvert explains, “There’s been a gravitation to email because you can be more consistent and concise.” Unfortunately, greater consistency can mean sacrificing a more personal connection with customers.

Nicolet Plastics uses video messaging from Eyejot to combine the convenience of email with the personal elements of voice mail.

For Nicolet, the use of Eyejot video messaging allows employees to retain that sense of personal connection.

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Developed in 2007, Eyejot originally was designed to run on any Windows-based PC or Mac using modern Internet browsers, such as Safari or Firefox. Since then, Eyejot has evolved to include a mobile app which can be used through iPhones and other Apple products. Eyejot is currently working to develop an app for Android models as well. Nicolet’s sales team makes the most of video messaging; however, the company is striving to expand use of Eyejot. “One of the neat things we’ve started doing is with customer service,” says Gafvert. “They’ve just started using the Eyejot to reach out each week to all customers who’ve sent in an order and send a video message thanking them for their orders.”

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flexible. I can leave a customer meeting and send a quick video message right then and there. We’ve used it when we’ve flown to visit with customers. We’ll actually send one from the airport. It’s a proactive reminder that we’re there and engaged.” Along with being proactive, Eyejot also is extremely affordable at less than $100. Once purchased, video messages can be personalized with the company’s logo and colors and with brief information about the company itself or individual employees. The added benefit is that the communication method creates a more memorable impression by using video in place of the standard text email. According to Gafvert, Nicolet has found the use of Eyejot to be a “remarkable differentiator,” granting Nicolet a competitive edge. There have been challenges associated with Eyejot’s technology. Thus far, Nicolet has found one of the biggest to be with people’s personal comfort levels and willingness to put themselves on camera. In addition, some Internet browsers and large corporations block the use of video messaging. However, the benefits seem to far outweigh the negatives as Gafvert proclaims, “I’m not a tech guy by any means, but I can recognize

opportunities. It takes time to reach out to somebody across the country; it takes time to build the relationship. We’re finding it helps to bridge the gap. It’s a fun tool, and it’s inexpensive. With all the other things we do from a lead generation standpoint, it’s one of the easiest tools we have.” n Note from the editor: The View from 30 Feet has expanded to provide more actionable information to the readers of the magazine. With a goal to provide improvements in leadership, communication and operational efficiency, reader input is welcomed. Email dianna@petersonpublications.com.

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production

Close the Loop: Take Control of Water Efficiency An effective cooling process is vital to production, and nothing is more critical to this process than its efficient use of water. This means utilizing the best auxiliary products and systems available to most cost-effectively control water use, reuse and waste. Mastering this capability not only will boost profitability, but, ecologically speaking, it also can greatly reduce water and energy waste, minimizing the use of chemicals during the process.

by Al Fosco, Frigel North America Al Fosco is the global marketing manager for Frigel North America. Prior to joining Frigel in 2009, Fosco spent the 16 previous years with Conair’s Water Products Division, holding sales and engineering management positions, including vice president of sales and marketing and general manager of engineering. Prior to that, he spent 14 years in engineering and sales management at AEC. He has a master’s degree in Heat Transfer and Fluid Mechanics Engineering from the University of Illinois.

The closed-loop cooling process is gaining momentum throughout the industry because it works, providing effective water reduction solutions for plastics processors everywhere. This article reviews the benefits of closing the loop within a process cooling system and what to look for in a system. Closed-loop systems: a refresher A closed-loop process cooling system uses ambient air to cool process water. The technology is a proven water- and energy-saving alternative to traditional cooling towers, which many US companies use for process cooling. The operation of closed-loop systems is straightforward. The system features a central cooler that provides clean water at the right temperature to processes year-round. It uses heat exchangers and an internationally patented adiabatic chamber to cool water circulated to it from process machines. In the adiabatic chamber, a fine mist of water is pulsed into the incoming airstream during high ambient temperature conditions. The mist evaporates instantly, cooling the air before it impinges on the cooling coils that carry the process water. The process drops the temperature at or below the setpoint. Cooled water then is recirculated to a facility’s process machines. A microprocessor-based controller automatically maintains targeted cooling temperatures.

40 | plastics business • winter 2015


Efficiency advantages of closing the loop The biggest and most obvious benefit of the closed loop? Resource efficiency – particularly in the form of water savings. A closed-loop system is an attractive alternative to cooling towers because it reuses water, often translating into water savings of up to 98 percent, which results in cost savings. A cooling tower, conversely, is an open-loop system that does not reuse water. The result is water waste in the form of evaporation. Cooling tower systems leave the water exposed to outside elements, requiring costly chemical treatment and disposal. Closed-loop systems, however, minimize these issues and all of the related maintenance costs. Adapting the system for climate Instead of the “one-temperature-fits-all” approach of a typical cooling tower/central chiller system, the closed-loop system can be configured to provide precise process water at each machine by pairing with machine-side chillers. This configuration not only improves part quality and cycle time, but also saves energy overall because the entire system can maintain a water temperature that’s higher than required at individual machines. This capability is just one way the closed-loop system is more flexible in terms of energy use than a traditional cooling system. In fact, the system’s central cooler offers four different stages with varying levels of energy use, depending on ambient conditions and setpoint requirements. • Dry cooling. In moderate temperatures, the central cooler continuously routes water returning from the process through heat exchangers. Exhaust fans at the top of the central cooler ensure a steady stream of incoming cool air and outgoing heated air. The heat exchangers and exhaust fans together are all that’s needed to cool process water. • Adiabatic cooling. This function only activates in hot weather as needed to meet cooling needs. • Increased adiabatic cooling. A patent-pending “adiabatic booster system” enables the unit to deliver even lower process cooling water temperatures in the hottest climates, still without the use of central chiller. • “Free cooling.” The system automatically shuts down any chillers and lets the central cooler provide all the cool process water needed via ambient air flow. Taken together, these capabilities mean that a closedloop adiabatic process cooling system can reduce energy consumption for process cooling by as much as 50 percent as compared to a conventional cooling tower/central chiller system.

Frigel’s Ecodry closed-loop process cooling systems feature modular central coolers that can be added in order to satisfy the need for more process cooling capacity associated with plant expansions.

System design 101 A range of factors influences the design of a closed-loop system and its performance. When planning, consider the following: • System sizing. It requires an analysis of the cooling load required as well as the process temperature to be maintained. A rule of thumb is for the system to provide 20 percent to 30 percent more capacity than needed. The calculation also should account for unclean cooling water because it can limit system performance. • Plant location. System performance is dependent on ambient conditions. All things being equal, a system in New Orleans typically will call for more cooling capacity than a system in Chicago. • Future plans. Whether a plant expansion is imminent or a remote possibility, the system design should support the potential need for more cooling capacity down the road. • Available footprint. Even though it can be located on the roof or the side of the facility, consider available space for the system. Also account for acceptable noise levels and other details, such as requirements for UL-listed electrical panels. Equipment considerations As the popularity of closed-loop systems grows, so does the number of equipment choices. A checklist of key considerations should include the following: Modularity of auxiliary components. Some systems require more time to expand due to the need to connect manifolds, reservoirs and piping in the field, whereas a self-contained modular system expedites installation. Also eliminated with a modular “package” is page 42 u

www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 41


production t page 41 the need to drain water from the system. The net result is less worry about plant downtime during an upgrade or expansion. Cooling in unique conditions. Systems differ in how they cool process water in the hottest climates when high ambient temperatures routinely prevent water from reaching 90-95 degrees F (32-35 C), or in situations when the application requires water temperature in the 85 degrees F range (30 degrees C). Some systems spray extra water directly on the heat exchanger, which can lead to exchanger pitting and premature maintenance. Conversely, a system that temporarily floods heat exchanger surfaces and also drains (and reuses) the excess water reduces the potential for pitting for system longevity. Friendliness of programmable controls. The microprocessor-based control should be intuitive since it controls all functions. They also make it easier to optimize system performance and plan for routine maintenance. Check to see if the supplier provides remote Internet monitoring services if a higher level of support is the goal. Use of protective materials. The materials used to construct system components vary by supplier. The shell of a central cooler, for example, might be built with galvanized steel, which

Amco Polymers

Functionality in tight spaces. A system might need to fit in a tight space, which is fine as long as airflow is unrestricted. Ensure the system is available with space-saving options such as roof panels that allow multiple central cooling units to be positioned more closely together. Another example is extended legs that support the cooler to provide ample airflow in smaller confines, sometimes even side-by-side. Putting the needs of the operation first Closed-loop cooling is a great way for plastics processors to enhance processes and achieve cost and resource efficiency. Selecting the right closed-loop process cooling system for a new or existing facility requires careful planning, expert advice and support. Partner with a proven supplier that not only has experience with cooling technologies, but also understands both the manufacturing processes involved and the overall goals of the operation. n

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42 | plastics business • winter 2015

AMCEL® Acetal Copolymer (POM) CELCON® Acetal Copolymer (POM) CELANEX® Thermoplastic Polyester (PBT) CELSTRAN® LFRT FORTRON® Polyphenylene Sulfide HOSTAFORM® Acetal IMPET® Thermoplastic Polyester (PET) RITEFLEX® Copolyester Elastomer (COPE) THERMX® Polycyclohexylenedimethylene Terephthalate (PCT) VANDAR® Thermoplastic Polyester Alloys VECTRA® Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) ZENITE® Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP)

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outlook

Mobile Emissions and Fuel Economy Rev Up Lightweighting Initiatives In August 2012, the federal government adopted the second of two rules dramatically increasing the fuel economy and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks. These two rules, in place for nearly five years as of the time of this writing, dramatically affect the production of vehicles in the US. The world is shifting into high gear on fuel economy. The US and Canada became the first countries to set fuel economy standards towards 2025, and Mexico set its first standards. There were updated, tightened and extended light-duty fuel economy standards in the EU, China and Japan. In addition, standards were developed – though not yet implemented – in India, while discussions on standards are underway in some Southeast Asian and Latin American countries. Mauritius developed and implemented what appears to be the first fuel economy/CO2- based feebate system in the developing world, and Chile introduced its first ever fuel economy labeling policy. Passenger vehicles’ fuel economy standards to see 90-percent increase over 15 years The first rule, adopted in April 2010, raises the average fuel economy of new passenger vehicles to 34.1 miles per gallon (mpg) for model year 2016, a nearly 15 percent increase from 2011. The second rule, finalized in August 2012, will raise average fuel economy to up to 54.5 mpg for model year 2025, for a combined increase of more than 90 percent over 2011 levels. Fuel economy could reach 54.5 mpg if the automotive industry chooses to meet the greenhouse gas target only through fuel economy improvements. The standards were adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), with the cooperation of major automakers and the state of California. Together, the standards represent the largest step taken by the federal government directed at climate change. Passenger vehicles were responsible for 17 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions in 2011, and the August 2012 standards through 2025 will reduce the carbon intensity of these vehicles by 40 percent from 2012 to 2025. The rule for model years 2017 to 2025 is projected to cut annual US oil imports by an additional six percent by 2025 from what would happen otherwise, or 400,000 barrels per day. When combined with the rule for model years 2012 to 2016, US oil imports are expected to decline by over 2 million barrels per day by 2025, equivalent to one-half of the oil the US imports from OPEC countries each day, according to EPA. Most of the US transportation sector relies on oil as the single energy source, meaning any disruption can hurt the economy. A study by EPA and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory estimated that cutting demand for oil would produce an energy security benefit for the nation’s economy of $13.91 (in 2011 dollars) for each barrel saved. In total, the rule for model years 2017 to 2025 is expected to save approximately 4 billion barrels of oil over the life of vehicles sold during this period.

by Suzanne Cole, Miller Cole LLC Suzanne Cole is CEO of Miller Cole LLC, a management consulting firm in Washington, DC, specializing in legislative and regulatory affairs, advocacy and government funding for corporate technology R&D and manufacturing. She has counseled corporate, nonprofit and international clients on transportation, automotive safety, chemicals, energy, environmental and public policy matters, including state and federal regulatory and legislative issues. She chaired five consecutive Global Automotive Safety Conferences for the Society of Plastics Engineers and Society of Automotive Engineers, which brought together automotive OEM, supplier executives and engineers with the medical and regulatory communities. For more information, email suzannecole@miller-cole.com.

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outlook t page 43 EPA maintains that higher vehicle costs for fuel efficiency improvements will be far outweighed by fuel savings, with the average driver saving about $8,000 net over the lifetime of a model year 2025 car compared to a model year 2010 car. Standards established for mediumand heavy-duty vehicles Another rule adopted in August 2011 established the first-ever fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, which include tractor-trailers, large pickups and vans, delivery trucks, buses and garbage trucks. These standards are projected to save a combined $50 billion in fuel costs, 530 million barrels of oil and 270 million metric tons of carbon emissions over the lifetime of vehicles for model years 2014 to 2018. President Obama directed EPA and the Department of Transportation to propose new rules by March 2015, with final implementation a year later, for medium- and heavyduty vehicles for model years after 2018. According to Miller Cole’s analysis, new standards could improve the fuel economy of these vehicles by an additional 15 percent, reducing annual emissions by 50 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent in 2035. Transportation is second only to electricity generation as a source of US greenhouse gas emissions. Implications for the plastics industry on a global basis What has become clear is that through the competitiveness of the plastics and automotive industries, the rewards for bringing game-changing innovation into the marketplace continue to be significant and will escalate as advanced plastic composites – namely, carbon fiber composites – become cost competitive. Many regulations are effectuating change in the plastics industry, but not many provide the significant opportunities for product and market growth for lightweight-enabling plastics the way that the 2012 Federal Fuel Economy regulations are driving the automotive industry. Fuel economy and emissions reduction regulations are becoming more stringent world-wide, which represents a mega trend that also is excellent news for the plastics industry. Keeping in mind that the auto industry needs to achieve 54.5 mpg fleet average by 2025, this generally accepted industry statistic takes on significant relevance: It is understood that automakers are willing to pay about $5/kg to reduce 1kg in their cars. Now is the time for the plastics industry to step up to the plate with innovative materials, processes, efficient manufacturing

44 | plastics business • winter 2015

Chart 1. Courtesy of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

and collaboration to capture the opportunity to maximize vehicle lightweighting opportunities, not only for US-produced vehicles, but for those manufactured across the globe. Chart 1 illustrates the global efficiency challenge. This means a serious “diet” plan is needed for vehicles with results that include lightweighting and improved dynamic performance, as well as more efficient propulsion. Clearly, Europe and the rest of the world are seeking to emulate standards for fuel efficiency and emissions reduction. Adding to the urgency, China recently announced it will move from phase 3 to phase 4 fuel economy in 2015, which will represent a 36-percent fleet-wide improvement in fuel economy. Manufacturing and material innovations speed improvements As more automakers turn to new material choices to reduce the weight of their vehicles and to maximize fuel efficiency, innovations in plastics are driving the development of new vehicles that will spur further growth. Despite vocal dissention about its cost, OEMs are in active pursuit of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). European automakers are leading the way, and some have introduced commercial vehicles with significant CFRP content, such as the BMW I-3 and I-7. Ford recently debuted a concept Ford GT carbon fiber-intensive sports car concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2015. With the continued support of the federal government through agencies like the Department of Energy (DOE), in concert with the American Chemistry Council (ACC), manufacturers will benefit from advancements to take cost out of manufacturing page 46 u


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outlook t page 44 and processing CFRP – mainly elimination of labor in concert with energy-efficient manufacturing. Other roadblocks remain that have had manufacturers turning away from CFRP, including lack of predictive engineering tools/data, multi-materials joining, non-destructive testing for manufacturing, failure detection for repair, recycling and high-speed automated processing/ manufacturing of CFRP components. Today, two-thirds of the weight of high-volume vehicles is steel; 10 years from now, it is projected that plastics will comprise up to 65 percent of the weight of vehicles. CFRP is currently 5-10 times more expensive than steel, but five times stronger and weighing 50 percent less. With costs expected to decline by 70 percent over the next 10-15 years, CFRP is a real contender in the global automotive industry for light-duty vehicles, as well as for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. More regulation discussions lie ahead By law, NHTSA and EPA only can regulate fuel economy for five years at a time. A technology review will take place in early

2017 to determine whether technology exists to enable vehicle manufacturers to meet the mandated goals set forth in the fuel economy regulations for 2021-2025. Miller Cole expects there will be significant lobbying taking place on several issues, including the zero emission and hybrid vehicle requirements set forth in the rules. Automakers likely will appeal to EPA/NHTSA, along with the California Air Resources Board (which considers the 2025 regulations to be a “done deal” and has set its sights on 2050). California’s goal is to transition California (and the US) to a very low carbon economy, with a goal of 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) on the road by 2025, which includes 1.5 million ZEVs on California roadways by 2025. ZEVs include hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), which include both pure battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). So, how many ZEV credits does the entire industry need? According to Miller Cole LLC’s analysis, the auto industry will

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need 900,000 ZEV credits by 2025. Given an average 100-mile range, 560,000 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are needed. Given 150-mile range, 420,000 BEVs will be needed. ZEV III, which mandates the percentage of zero emission vehicles a manufacturer has to make available for sale in California, is proving to be a big task for many automakers!

content (e.g. rice hulls), are green, sustainable and recyclable. Several vehicles today have eliminated flame retardants and PVC. Today, 17 percent of new vehicles have PVC-free interiors, and 60 percent are produced without BFRs in the interiors.

Additionally, EPA has been driving to eliminate specific chemicals used in the production of plastics for vehicle interiors to prevent off-gassing of interior components. Many synthetic materials and plastics are produced with chemical additives that are used to change the engineering performance of the plastics; thus, these plastics may contain plasticizers, stabilizers, flame retardants, antimicrobials and antioxidants. Due to these additives, many pollutants – including benzene, toluene and xylene – were found in levels exceeding indoor and outdoor air quality standards. According to EPA, the concentrations of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in vehicles contribute nearly 30 percent to total daily exposure.

Consumers still in the driver’s seat In EPA’s analysis of vehicle lightweighting potential for the 2012 rulemaking, EPA significantly underestimated potential improvements. Several models in production today, including light-duty trucks and passenger cars, have surpassed EPA lightweighting estimates. This is good news for the plastics industry overall as lightweighting is and will continue to be the enabler for OEMs to comply with strengthening global fuel economy and emissions regulations, enabling • fuel economy without loss of functionality, • engine downsizing, • improved performance and handling, • aerodynamics and • systems integration.

Many automakers have been eliminating specific chemicals from vehicles and are requesting plastics that have renewable

As the automotive industry continues to expand globally in concert with increasing global regulations, the pace of technology

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www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 47


solutions

Designing the Perfect SMED Cart

by Dianna Brodine

Having the right tools available during changeovers can significantly impact the time it takes to accomplish the task. Standardized SMED carts ensure the tools are at hand, reducing the back-and-forth that often occurs as technicians realize the equipment needed is next to another machine or missing altogether. Two injection molders provided insight into their SMED cart redesign processes and the improvements that have resulted. Thank you to Joe Fricke, process engineer at Nicolet Plastics, and Rob Elchynski, operations manager at Viking Plastics, for contributing information related to their own SMED cart redesigns. What concerns led to the remake of the SMED cart setups? Fricke: We had a business goal to improve our setup time, and remaking the SMED carts was one component of that. At the beginning, like a lot of molding shops, all of our techs had their own toolboxes. Once we started cross-training more people to perform changeovers, it became evident that it wouldn’t work to have 20 different tool boxes on the floor. We wanted to have enough standardized tools that no one had to go searching for tools or borrow tools from a different team in the middle of the setup. We started fresh, with the goal that our employees would never have to leave the changeover once it started, because anytime an employee has to walk away, it’s slowing down the process. Now, we do pre-staging where we bring everything we need over to the press, including the carts, mold, water lines, etc. Elchynski: Before we had the SMED carts, we had some employees with their own toolboxes that they would push around from one machine to another, and we also had a four-wheel cart with a toolbox on top of it. Not everybody had the tools they wanted or needed, and even when the toolboxes were properly stocked, the employees couldn’t always find what they were looking for. We wanted our employees to have the tools they needed right at hand. The best way to make that happen was to design carts that kept the tools visible.

Photos courtesy of Nicolet Plastics and Viking Plastics

What process was followed for the remake? Fricke: We felt it critical that the people doing the work be part of the team designing

48 | plastics business • winter 2015


the new carts. Initially, we had five people involved – me and two setup people from each shift. We did multiple spaghetti diagrams and time studies as part of the process. It was evident that each cart needed identical tools in identical locations and an abundance of extra supplies in each cart (including nozzle tips, hose clips, pipe tape, mold sprays, O-rings, etc.) At this time, we have three different machine types. Therefore, some special tools are needed. The team made an evaluation as to whether we could convert those special tools to a standard tool. If it couldn’t be converted, we purchased the tool to remain at that press so no one had to chase it. That eliminates the “scavenger hunt.” Elchynski: We worked with the setup guys who are responsible for pulling and setting the molds, as well as the supervisors on the shift. The first step was outlining the issues they were having with the tools and getting their input on how to solve those challenges. Around that same time, I saw a picture in a trade magazine with an A-frame shape. That seemed like a good way to keep everything visible, and that photo led to the design of our carts. Because of the input we received, modifications were made. For instance, on the back of our carts, there are

small containers to hold other components, such as water lines. We also added a bucket to empty water into – it’s a little thing, but it’s needed every time. The setup technicians did an initial layout and then, rather than shadowboarding the tools right away, they used it for a while. Once all of the setup guys were in agreement that they liked the layout, we shadowed it and put labels on everything. Is there an inventory process to ensure the carts remain standardized? Fricke: Every toolbox is shadowboarded, so it’s easy to see when tools are missing. I’m also in the process of creating a checklist with pictures of each tool, where it was purchased and the price. Then, if one is damaged or goes missing, we can replace it and I don’t have to spend time wondering where it was purchased. That also helps people understand how important it is to take care of the cart components, because repurchasing comes off our profit-sharing. Elchynski: All the setup technicians are responsible for the carts. It’s a self-policing system. Since the carts are shadowboarded, page 50 u

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solutions t page 49

MAPP Completes SMED Cart Contest While the contest is over, the opportunity to learn from the entrants has just begun. Too often, innovation is thought of as the invention of the next big app or a new category of mobile devices. However, MAPP knows that innovation often comes in “little” ways – small improvements suggested by employees who are in the trenches day in and day out or from owners who remember the moment when they scraped up enough money to buy the company’s first machine. To celebrate the ways companies truly get better, MAPP conducted its first annual Innovation and Benchmarking contest. Focusing on recognizing innovative practices and processes within member companies, this year’s Innovation and Benchmarking contest focused on the SMED cart. Photo entries were due February 1, 2015. To see the contest entrants and gather ideas for elevating the SMED carts in your own facility, go to www.mappinc.com.

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the technicians automatically know at shift change if something is missing. What has the result been of the SMED cart standardization? Fricke: The SMED carts have helped to significantly reduce changeover time and the associated stress of looking for tools. We haven’t convinced everyone to take their toolboxes home yet, but we’re getting closer. Having their own tools is a hard thing to let go of, but any new employees who have been trained over the past couple years haven’t even considered bringing in their own tools. We’ve also had more people interested in learning to perform changeovers, because providing these changeover carts means the cost for all of those tools isn’t coming out of their own pockets. Elchinski: We haven’t specifically tracked the data around the SMED cart changes because we believe if our employees are making improvements, we’re getting better. The minute you make employees justify the improvement by documenting data, they don’t want to do it anymore because you’re taking a process that was supposed to make their lives easier and complicating it. At the same time, we do track SMED time from our last good part to our first good part, and in the last 12 months, we’ve seen an improvement in that time by 60 percent. Now, it’s not all the cart, but it plays into it. What’s next? Fricke: We first developed our SMED carts in the first quarter of 2014, and we’re in the middle of another revision right now. I’m adding computers to the setup carts so that setups can be paperless. In addition, a checklist is being created of what tools are expected to be there, including photos. As we’re bringing new people on, we’re finding that not everyone knows what a tool is called, so shadowboarding with a label doesn’t always help. We’re creating a standard list with pictures to help with the training process. Elchynski: Oddly enough, we may, over time, eliminate or at least repurpose our SMED carts. We have a big focus on continuous improvement at Viking Plastics – it’s all we talk about. Now, as part of the continuous improvement thought process, the technicians are telling us the carts are great, but it would be nice if the tools they needed were at every machine. We don’t know if that can work or not, but evaluating that is the next step for us. We’ll identify two or three machines and talk through what would be needed. There would be a significant initial investment on our part if we had to buy 35 ratchets for 35 machines, but that initial investment may make sense if it saves enough time in setups and changeovers. Again, that may not make sense in the end, but the nice thing is that the guys are seeing new ways to continue improving. n


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Get the edge now! To find out more about how MAPP helps plastics processors just like you, visit www.mappinc.com. 54 | plastics business • winter 2015


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Plastics Business - Winter 2015  

Plastics Business - Winter 2015