Two plastics processing firms are among the winners of this year's Blue Chip Enterprise Initiative award, which recognizes small companies that have overcome adversity and emerged stronger as a result. Alga Plastics Inc. of Cranston, R.I., and Plastic Trim Inc. in Dayton, Ohio, each received the Bluc Chip award, sponsored by Conectiuct Mutual Life Insurance Co., the Chamber of Commerce and Nation's Business magazine.
Alga Plastics is a 33-year-old thermoformer that for years operated from a stagnant market niche in jewelry packaging. Employees own 49 percent of the business, with partners Gregory T. Parkos and Jaon Parkos sharing ownership of the other 51 percent.
Alga president Steve Taglianetti said the company operated in the status quo for many years, until Grogory Parkos decided to focus on a new market with more oppourtuities for growgh: the medical industry.
Taglianetti said that although the company was perceived as successful, everything was antiquated, from the equipment to the processes and systems. Employees had no desire to improve the product and no interset in ISO 900 certification. The first thing Taglianetti did was visit customers, both past and present.
"I found out that we didn't always make a good product," he said.
He met with Alga's employees to map out a plan to reach the goals Parkos wanted to establish.
Within 15 months, Alga has pruchased new equipment, installed one clean room area and ordered another,and added statistical precess contorl and Pro/Engineer 3D software. In March, the company received ISO 9001 certification.
Alga recently spent $600,000 on two new Armac direct-drive, servo-driven, computer numerically controlled thermoformers. The company now has seven thermoforming machines.
Medical packaging represents 60 percent of Alga's business, and the company has moved into another new market: anti-static packaging for the electronics industry. The firm also won back some former customers.
"We had to get much more efficient in our production and become more prefessional as a company in order to play in [the medical and electronics] market places," Taglianetti said.
"We're now dock-to-stock with many of our customers such as Glaxo, Becton-Dickenson and U.S. Surgical."
Plastic Trim Inc. found new life after its purchase in 1990 by Bill Mercurio. Before that, the company had been bought an sold several times, and no noe seemed interested in the plastics business.
After buying the company, Mercurio sold 49.9 percent of Plastic Trim to 34 employees. They developed a five-year plan, and saw sales grow from $26 million in 1990 to $58 million in 1994. He estimates sales this year of $65 million to $70 million.
"Up until mid-1992, our base business was actually in decline as fewer automobiles were being produced," said Mercurio. "Despite a shrinking market, we grew by 25 percent annually during that period."
Mercurio credits the employees of Plastic Trim for making that growth possible, along with the owners who were willing to take risks to capture long term gains.
"All we cared about was where we were going, not where we'd been," said Mercurio. "We put together a plan, than had the guts to stay with it for the long term. We didn't care about the short term."
In addition to custom profile extrusions, the company does injection molding and other secondary operations related to the automotive trim business.
Plastic Trim operates 16 extrusion lines in a 110,000-square-foot facility and employs about 200.
On April 11, Plastics Trim's managers sonld the company to JPE Inc., a publicly held automotive parts supplier based in Ann Arbor, Mich.