``Balance'' is how to describe i2tech - a balanced strategy by the father-son Janeczko duo and a management team loaded with veterans, has kept Innovative Injection Technologies Inc. a strong player in a rough-and-tumble U.S. plastics industry.
The people who run i2tech work to satisfy five key audiences: customers, employees, owners, suppliers and the community. It starts at the top, with owners Robert Janeczko, 67, and his son Josh.
``We know running a good business requires those five key areas to all be addressed. And one is no more important than the other,'' said Josh Janeczko, 31.
His father said becoming unbalanced can make for a bumpy road. ``It has been our business experience that, if you take the five stakeholders that you work with, and they get out of balance - say, if you focus 100 percent on customers and let the employees go to heck, that'll come back to bite you. Of if you focus 100 percent on the employees and don't care about the customers. To be successful, you have to have a balance between these particular areas.''
That balance, so key to making Innovative Injection Technologies a successful molder, also netted it the Plastics News' Processor of the Year Award, after i2tech was a finalist for three straight years. The Janeczkos' company prevailed this year, when the judging process selected three small custom injection molders as finalists. Sales for i2tech were $27 million in 2007.
Other finalists this year are Donnelly Custom Manufacturing Co. of Alexandria, Minn., at $28.8 million and Plastic Components Inc. of Germantown, Wis., at $11.7 million.
Plastics News presented the award March 11 at its Executive Forum in Tampa, Fla.
In their five years of ownership, Robert and Josh Janeczko have fostered a company that shares a tremendous amount of information with its 140 employees. Profit sharing gets paid out four times a year - as progress is measured every month from metrics that include financial performance, delivery, safety and housekeeping - part of a new environmental push started by Josh.
Employees carry a wallet-sized scorecard showing monthly goals, projected through the entire year. Each month, top management officials hold meetings with all three shifts to talk about how the company is doing and answer questions.
It pays off: Since the Janeczkos bought the company in 2003, i2tech has paid out $1.3 million through the profit sharing, called the Variable Incentive Plan, or VIP. The 2007 payout, $306,000, was nearly 50 percent higher than the year before. New employees are vested right away.
``So why would you give $1.3 million to your employees? Because I'm sharing the gains with them. Like any time I make an investment, and I'm giving you cash, I need a return,'' Robert Janeczko said.
The payback: a string of 18 straight profitable quarters, again going back to the ownership change.
The Janeczkos bought the West Des Moines molding company in 2003 from Morton Industrial Group. It's the story of two insiders buying an orphan plastics plant from a corporate owner.
Morton in the late 1990s had purchased the business, Mid-Central Plastics Inc., an Iowa molder founded in 1960, well-known and owned by the Goreham family.
Robert Janeczko (who goes by Bob), was a Morton executive who once ran the Morton Metalcraft sheet-metal fabrication business with six plants and 1,000 employees. When Morton became public through a 1998 merger, executives came up with a strategy to diversify into plastics. That prompted an acquisition spree, as Morton bought Mid-Central and then picked up three Worthington Industries Inc. plastics plants.
Morton moved him over to run the Iowa plastics plant in 2001. He got to know the molding operation and its employees.
Meanwhile, Morton's plastics group didn't last. The dot-com boom hit and then collapsed.
``Three of our four plastic plants went bankrupt ... They sold off to Wilbert,'' the elder Janeczko recalled. Wilbert Inc. was building up its own plastics group, based around thermoforming and injection molding.
That left West Des Moines all alone.
``We had one plastics plant. This one,'' Janeczko said. His own job was gone, as Morton reduced overhead. ``Then we looked at this facility, Josh and I, and said, `Let's buy this facility.' Who's going to believe that you got six metal plants and one plastics plant, and that the plastics plant will ever get any nourishment?''
The Janeczkos clearly laid out their succession plan. Bob would retire in 2010 - now pushed back to 2012 - when Josh would take over.
``From the very day we walked into the building, we told all our employees, all our customers, all our suppliers that we are in a transition, and I'm not going to be around forever,'' he said.
Bob, company president and chief executive officer, owns 51 percent of i2tech; Josh, the general manager, owns 49 percent.
Bob's experience before Morton - 14 years in quality and supply management at the John Deere Davenport Works in Iowa, and 13 years a professor of industrial technology at Western Illinois University - gave him important communication skills and a strong link to Deere & Co., i2tech's largest customer. A big-picture thinker, he serves on the board of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Midwest region.
Josh, young and energetic, likes to work on manufacturing issues. During the past two years, he has rearranged the plant floor, moving the assembly area closer to the injection presses, relocating the toolroom, renovating the employee break room and adding a training room. The company also has greatly beefed up its material-handling system by adding a resin silo and a new central water chiller.
Josh earned a bachelor's degree in business management, with an emphasis on production, from the University of Northern Iowa in 1998, then joined Morton Metalcraft in Apex, N.C., as a manufacturing supervisor. He moved to the company's Morton, Ill., metals plant in that same position. During that time, he earned black-belt status and was picked to lead Morton's Six Sigma program.
A veteran management team, with an average of 25 years of experience, will help smooth the transition from father to son in four years. They include Wayne Drury, sales and engineering director, with 42 years of business experience; Dennis Padgett, operations director (31 years); Mike Jingst, production manager (20 years); John Gilligan, continuous improvement manager (33 years); human resources manager Lisa Buzzard (27 years); and Morgan Endecott, chief financial officer (19 years).
The judges - who are Plastics News reporters and editors - gave i2tech the strongest marks for financial performance, customer relations, employee relations and industry and public service. The company also scored well on the three other criteria of quality performance, environmental record and technological innovation - yardsticks for measuring a well-run company.
But the most impressive thing about i2tech is the way its management ties together these criteria and quantifies the data, to motivate employees, foster good relations with customers and suppliers, and steadily improve the business.
In a conference room, the walls are covered with eight charts that track monthly performance of 64 goals. Dubbed ``balanced scorecards,'' they cover all areas of the company. A simple color-coded method shows at a glance how i2tech stacks up.
The name of the executive responsible for each area is displayed prominently at the top of each chart. That drives teamwork and accountability.
``We hold our senior managers accountable for every single one. So there's ownership, right out of the box. Nothing falls through the cracks in this organization,'' Bob Janeczko said.
Scott McCoy, materials manager, said employees appreciate the rare level of openness. ``To a lot of people in management, information is power, and they keep it to themselves. I2tech is the exact opposite of that. It's constant communication,'' he said.