It's a tough call, but Steinwall stands out

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Steinwall Inc., the latest Plastics News Processor of the Year, has earned a reputation as a progressive, people-oriented custom injection molder. You can learn the story in a Page 1 profile in this week’s issue.

Owner Maureen Steinwall is a big reason why. She bought the company from her father, Carl Steinwall, in 1985 and quickly put her unique stamp on it. Maureen’s business ethics and leadership at the molder in Coon Rapids, Minn. — and to the overall plastics industry, as longtime national board member of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. — place her in the upper echelon of plastics industry executives.

Steinwall was a finalist for the award last year. The company also won one of last year’s inaugural PN Excellence Awards, for employee relations. Steinwall was nominated by three people: Nicole Smith of IQMS Inc.; Bill Carteaux, president and CEO of SPI; and Scott Kushion of Asahi Kasei Plastics North America.

Finalist Bemis Manufacturing Co. is another molder with a strong leader: Peter Bemis, the CEO and owner of the Sheboygan Falls, Wis.-based company. A member of the Plastics Hall of Fame, Bemis is widely recognized as a pioneer in technological innovation, such as the use of six-axis articulating robots and of coinjection molding. He has become a legend for thinking big and never resting, always open to investing in new technology.

Bemis was nominated by Glenn Anderson, senior vice president of global and strategic accounts at Milacron LLC.

The third finalist, Rodon Group LLC, deserves to be more well-known in the industry. Lots of people have seen K’Nex snap-fit construction toys. Rodon molds them for its sister company. Less well-known in plastics circles is the story of Rodon as a 56-year-old, family-owned custom molder specializing in small precision parts.

Camera crews have filmed inside Rodon’s plant in Hatfield, Pa., near Philadelphia, for stories on the History Channel’s Modern Marvels show, and a PBS documentary. More people in plastics need to learn about this focused, highly automated plant where one operator runs 15 injection molding machines. Rodon was nominated by Doug Wachter, a partner with Premier Plastics Systems Inc.

We hope the Processor of the Year Award, now in its 16th year, serves as a role model for the entire industry. Senior reporter Bill Bregar, who coordinates the award process, visited all three finalists. Videos about each finalist can be found on our website at plasticsnews.com/video.

The seven categories of the award recognize companies that are well-balanced: financial performance, quality, customer relations, employee relations, environmental performance, industry/public service and technological innovation.

PN Excellence Awards recognize extraordinary companies in specific categories. Here are this year’s winners: Bemis for industry and public service; Mar-Bal Inc., a thermoset molder in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, for customer relations; and Atek Plastics, a medical molder in Kerrville, Texas, for employee relations. We profile these award winners on Page 9.

Manufacturing is finally getting some attention, as one growth area as the economy slowly heads out of recession. The three award finalists are examples of plastics processors leading the way — expanding, hiring, investing in equipment and automation.