As you probably know by now, in Phoenix we announced two co-winners of our Processor of the Year Award, Tech Group Inc. and Precise Technology Inc. This year, a backdrop to the award is the future of U.S. manufacturing as work moves to China.
One hallmark of NPE 2003 will be automation - everywhere you look, you'll see robots that can cut labor costs to the bone by doing assembly, inspection and more. China is forcing U.S. molders to move beyond simple sprue-picker robots.
As role models for the industry, Tech Group and Precise offer a few lessons. They like to do long runs of demanding parts, things that are consumed once, then need to be replenished constantly. Those runs allow the firms to automate the hell out of many jobs, even reaching the Holy Grail of manufacturing by creating hands-free cells that do assembly, inspection and packaging.
Of course, typical custom molders do shorter runs; there aren't many single-source contracts for baby-wipe boxes out there. And that leads to a central question of this year's NPE: As an average molder, how can you automate when you have to change jobs frequently? Hopefully in Chicago, new products will light the way forward.
Last year, we reported how Sol Moglen spearheaded construction of a memorial honoring Brooklyn firefighters who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Moglen owns NuPro Films Inc., a small plastic film distributor in Livingston, N.J.
On Dec. 15, the Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance was dedicated. About 500 family members attended, viewing the imposing granite wall that features laser-engraved portraits of the 115 firefighters from Brooklyn firehouses who perished. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Guliani spoke.
Plans call for adding 15 Brooklyn Heroes: eight firefighters and seven Port Authority police officers who were Brooklyn natives but worked in other parts of the city. Moglen said the total memorial will cost about $170,000. The project still is seeking contributions. Moglen can be reached at NuPro Films, at (973) 533-6800.
Hats off to Moglen. In the wake of our horror, the Brooklyn native created something beautiful.
Industry leaders were impressed last fall during the debut of the Plastics Hall of Fame gallery at the National Plastics Center & Museum in Leominster, Mass. Finally, the space does justice to the 125 inductees, with good lighting, interesting biographies and even sample parts depicting each member's work.
In October, several hundred people toured the brand-new gallery when they came to Leominster to celebrate the induction of five hall of famers honored posthumously. The entire event was first-class, from the very moving speeches by relatives to the black-tie dinner. Looks like NPCM is in good hands, under David Hahn, who took over as president a year ago.
Go see it!
Bill Bregar is a senior reporter for Plastics News.