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The Western Plastics Pioneers inducted Lance M. Neward as its 2013 hall of fame recipient at an Aug. 11 country club luncheon in Buena Park, Calif.
Neward family involvement in the industry provided him with his early technical knowledge that eventually led to the 1993-1994 international presidency of the Society of Plastics Engineers.
Neward shared his views in an email exchange with Plastics News.
"The future of our industry is very bright — from continuing development in new technologies like bio-based resins and nano-particle applications to new adaptations of, and innovations in, processing technologies and a greater awareness of both the upsides and downsides of plastic materials."
Neward characterized the conditions for traditional low-paying entry-level jobs as a "real dim spot in the industry."
Many processors delayed equipment purchases during the 2009 slowdown and limped along and bandaged existing equipment. The rebound prompted investment upgrades and automated equipment that needed fewer material handlers and molding machine operators.
Neward said the U.S. plastics industry can compete with any in the world in technology and work ethic but "can't compete in those low-paying positions," he noted. "But with the technology available to us, we don't have to."
Today's employees need strong technical skills. "If they — or, just as importantly, their employers — want those skills, they can, and are, getting them through organizations like SPE, SPI and industry providers," Neward said. "Our industry may not be as 'flashy' as some others, but it is more solid than many and still provides outstanding, and in some cases exciting, career opportunities."
As a child accompanying his parents on a plant visit, Neward saw "this huge noisy hot [injection molding] machine doing its thing. Very impressive for a 5-year-old."
Six years later for Revell model kits, Neward took polymer shots from soft cavity cores and assembled them to see if the parts fit. While not paid, he received numerous free model kits and came to consider himself in "hog heaven for an 11 year old."
His father, Ted Neward, left tool maker Caco Pacific Corp. to start his own mold making company in 1958 in the family garage in Claremont, Calif. Lance Neward cleaned machines, swept floors and polished mold and die cavities with a 280 stone and kerosene.
On breaks from studies at the University of California Berkeley, he helped the shop move to a new location and rebuilt four old repossessed Lewis molding machines that became the start of Neward Die and Manufacturing's molding operations.
The Vietnam War interrupted his education. He served as an air crewman and anti-submarine warfare instructor with a U.S. Navy patrol squadron.
After discharge from military service, Neward got married and attended California Polytechnic University in Pomona, Calif., graduating with honors and a bachelor of science degree in economics.
In 1973, he received a master of business administration degree at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y., through an innovative "classroom-on-wheels" program of Adelphi and the Long Island Railroad.
"One of the cars on the LIRR was converted into two classrooms," he said. "In the morning, a professor would get on in Huntington and teach us all the way into NYC; in the evening, a different professor would get on to teach going out to Huntington."
Students could take four classes a week and needed to go to the campus only to take final examinations. Typically, the instructors were adjunct faculty members working in their fields in New York.
Neward's further involvement in the plastics industry and his expertise led to a role heading up the southern California team that handled the SPE Antec event in Los Angeles in 1987. He went up through the SPE officer ladder and remains involved.
In 1994, he relocated to Salt Lake City as a sales representative for Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. He covered the territory from Denver to San Francisco and found that Salt Lake City "put me in a place where I could service the customers better rather than was I living in SoCal."
In January 1996, he established Achievement Resources-A Technical Consultancy to assist companies and agencies with plastic part design and production, plant layout, procedures and training.
Newell provided services to U.S. government units including the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Department of State. A Boeing Co. project involved moisture shields in the cargo areas of airliners. Work for Icon Health & Fitness Inc. of Logan, Utah, focused on plastic part design for treadmills and elliptical exercisers.
From 1999 through 2012, Neward was a manufacturers' representative in the intermountain region of Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and southern Idaho for clients of Seattle-based Turner Group Inc.
Neward obtained a private pilot's license in 1966 and subsequently achieved commercial, instrument, multiengine, flight instructor, ground instructor and airline transport pilot licenses. "I taught flying in my off-duty hours when I was in the Navy and made my living for a while teaching flying and flying charter," he said. From 1970 to 1981, he worked in non-pilot positions with Trans World Airlines.
Neward, 70, of Sandy, Utah, is chair of the SPE foundation and recently completed his second three-year term as councilor for the SPE product design and development division.