(March 13, 2006) — The latest Plastics News Processor of the Year, U.S. Farathane Corp., sets a good example for small and midsize companies.
Many U.S. custom injection molders want a piece of multishot action. The “add value” mantra echoes through trade magazines, conferences and boardrooms across the industry. Of course, it's tough to find the money to invest in machinery and skilled people.
For an inspiring way forward, check out this week's profile of USF.
An innovative automotive supplier, USF is led by a young and enthusiastic top executive, Andrew Greenlee. His management team has moved USF in the right direction, away from reliance on basic shoot-and-ship jobs and into the world of two-shot and other advanced technologies. The Sterling Heights, Mich.-based company also has expanded into extrusion.
We look for USF to continue to diversify its customer base as well, serving more Japanese and European transplants, through a new plant in Tennessee — USF's first outside of Michigan.
USF can design and mold parts that combine hard structural sections with flexible sealing fins and other soft sections, often from special thermoplastic elastomer formulations it helps develop. Two-shot molding cuts out assembly and makes a higher-quality finished part that won't come apart five years down the road, causing an annoying squeak in your SUV.
For USF, the second time in the running for the award was the charm. The company was a finalist last year but didn't win.
Twelve qualifying companies competed for this, our 10th Processor of the Year Award. Seven of the nominees are injection molders, three are extrusion companies, one does rotomolding and one — fellow finalist Fibergrate Composite Structures Inc. of Dallas — is in the composites industry.
PN senior reporter Bill Bregar visited all three finalists, interviewing top executives and touring facilities. They all have valuable stories to tell:
Fibergrate shows the value of U.S.-made craftsmanship at its factory in Stephenville, Texas. The company has built its own pultrusion machines and other equipment, and the veteran workforce is highly skilled. Especially impressive is the largest U.S. operation making molded grating — the cross-hatched worker platforms used in chemical plants, offshore oil rigs and other harsh, corrosive environments. Fibergrate faces pressure from grating imported from China but fights back with quality and consistency.
Innovative Injection Technologies Inc., known as i2Tech, is the old Mid-Central Plastics Inc. in West Des Moines, Iowa, that was sold to Morton Industrial Group. One of the best-known molders in Iowa has new energy under the ownership of Robert Janeczko and his son, Josh. The elder Janeczko was a Morton executive who moved over to run the Iowa plant and ended up buying it in 2003. Total openness is his management style — with customers and employees alike. Major customers such as Deere & Co. and Arctic Cat Inc. benefit from i2Tech's emphasis on technology, including gas-assisted molding, sequential valve gating and the Twin-Shot coinjection process. A return to family ownership appears to be just what the company needed.
Congratulations to all the finalist companies. They offer inspiration and best-practices experience from which many can learn.