We've had some tough decisions since Plastics News started its Processor of the Year Award in 1996, but the 2002 award takes the cake.
On a gray day in mid-January, we gathered in a room here in our Akron offices to decide the winner. We closed the door, sealing in editor Robert Grace; Don Loepp, the managing editor; and the award coordinators, Joseph Pryweller and myself.
Five hours and a few bathroom breaks later ... we were still going at it. Kind of like that black-and-white movie, 12 Angry Men. OK, we really weren't angry, but we did perspire a little. (We'll leave it up to the imagination who was Henry Fonda and who was Jack Klugman).
If you saw the Page 4 story this week, you already know what I'm leading up to. Plastics News, for the first time ever, has named co-winners of its Processor of the Year Award: Tech Group Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Precise Technology Inc. of North Versailles, Pa.
The award is based on the performance of each nominated company in seven criteria: financial performance, quality, customer relations, employee relations, environment, public service and technological innovation.
Usually, when you look at all those factors together, one winner clearly stands out. That wasn't the case this year. Precise and Tech Group came out tied.
Actually, it was hard even to narrow the list to those two companies. The other finalists, Fontana, Calif.-based Inland Technologies Inc. and Miniature Precision Components Inc. of Walworth, Wis., were worthy competitors.
After lengthy discussion, we decided that Tech Group and Precise would battle it out for the winner.
We tried several different ways of measuring them against each other, using a simple system of number grades. Each time, it ended up in a tie.
We did give it an honest effort. Overall, the Plastics News editorial judges, with help on the financial criteria from award co-sponsor Ernst & Young Corporate Finance Inc., spent a huge number of hours on the 2002 award. Near the end of that final, five-hour meeting, ``Henry Fonda'' pulled out a quarter and joked that we flip a coin and go home.
But we didn't want to do that. So we all agreed to name two co-Processors of the Year.
So what conclusions can you make about the plastics industry from the award?
The U.S. plastics processing industry is struggling right now, as companies lose work to China, and cutthroat customers slash suppliers and drive down prices.
Tech Group and Precise, certainly, are not immune to that threat, but both companies have done a great job at creating very long-term relationships with customers that walk the walk when it comes to commitment.
Bill Bregar is an Akron, Ohio-based senior reporter for Plastics News.