Family-owned custom molders can be a beleaguered bunch.
They frequently slip from the radar screens of large end users, who want Goliath-size suppliers. Today, it can be a contest among those molders with the fattest wallets and a desire to travel the world with their customers.
And by spreading themselves too thin, some midsize custom molders have landed in financial straits. If nothing else, finding a niche or an identity can be a continuing struggle.
Yet, that group is also the backbone of the plastics industry. So, it is heartening to award one of that clan of persevering processors the 2000 Plastics News Processor of the Year title.
This year's winner, custom injection molder Tessy Plastics Corp. of Elbridge, N.Y., certainly deserves notice. It has broken away from the pack on several counts.
One is through its strong sense of customer service. One customer, medical parts maker Welch Allyn Inc., allows Tessy to package and ship many products — some of which Tessy doesn't mold itself. And Xerox Corp. has helped Tessy set up a clean room at its plant to mold complex parts for ink jet printers.
But the core of Tessy's growth has been employee relations. Too many companies talk about the need for a strong work force to carry the company banner. But few take it to the extreme that Tessy does, espoused by President Henry Beck.
It runs the gamut, from operating some of the cleanest plants in the industry to motivating employees to stop smoking to offering a nature trail behind its upstate New York plant for walks.
All that might sound a bit too soft, too much like a segment for Dr. Laura. But it has translated into success at Tessy. The coda sounded by Henry Beck is that a happy employee makes a customer happier.
And we all know what a happy customer adds to the bottom line.
That allows Tessy to practice what it preaches: Molding the complex parts that few other custom molders dare to touch.
The next challenge for Tessy could be greater global expansion, a need touted by many of its customers. Tessy should be able to manage that. The company is getting close to the $100 million mark in sales.
Tessy has lived an American dream: German immigrant comes to this country, opens a molding shop that almost goes under in the early 1980s and then finds success by staying true to his vision.
The global part of that vision has begun. The company has opened its first two offshore plants this year, in Ireland and in China.
The Tessy story makes a good role model, and fine inspiration, for any medium-size molder scuffling to make good.
Some of those companies just might be a future Processor of the Year winner. Which proves, you don't have to be large in size to be mighty.