The annual Plastics News ranking of injection molders - which includes the number of molding employees at each company, each firm's molding salesand other information - can be useful in analyzing employee productivity in that segment of the industry. Using 1994 data from the ranking, Target Group examined the performance of more than 400 injection molders with annual sales between $1 million and $400 million that had 10-500 employees. For each group, worker productivity was calculated in terms of thousands of sales dollars per employee. Extremely high or low points were discarded as invalid because of probable error in reporting the number of employees.
The data were then grouped into sales volume ranges, e.g. $75 million to $85 million, $85 million to $100 million, etc., to allow analysis of the large number of data points.
The key finding, not surprisingly, is that productivity varies greatly throughout the industry. The most productive company generated $200,000 in sales per employee, while the one with the lowest productivity generated only $25,000.
The second major finding (also not unexpected) is that productivity improved significantly with the size of the company. The smallest molders generated an average $42,000 per employee, compared with an average of $180,000 for the largest. That doesn't mean all small companies suffer from low productivity; many are highly productive and outperform large firms. In fact, there is a wide variation in productivity even within any one group. For example, among companies with $4.5 million in sales, the lowest productivity was $60,000 per employee vs. $180,000 for the highest.
A similar economic analysis was done for the other plastics processing industries. An examination of Plastics News data for 158 blow molders, 500 film and sheet extruders, 300 pipe, profile and tubing extruders, and 75 thermoformers also shows productivity is greatest among larger companies.
For each of the processing methods, average productivity based on the size/productivity equation turns out to be best for film and sheet extruders, with pipe, profile and tubing extruders only somewhat lower.
The productivity of injection molders is the lowest, with blow molders enjoying only slighty higher productivity.
The most size-sensitive firms are those involved in extrusion. Film/sheet, pipe, profile and tubing extruders and blow molders had virtually identical increases in productivity with size.
The data can be used by companies to determine how well they are performing. A good number may be surprised at what they discover. Many others will realize they can make significant improvements in productivity per employee.
Lantos is president of Target Group Inc., a plastics consulting firm in Erdenheim, Pa.