Fans of by-the-bootstraps success stories of small American injection molders should love the newest Plastics News Processor of the Year Award winner - Innovative Injection Technologies Inc., known as i2tech, in West Des Moines, Iowa.
The three finalists were i2tech, Donnelly Custom Manufacturing Co. of Alexandria, Minn., and Plastic Components Inc. of Germantown, Wis. All three Midwestern molders are excellent role models, led by broad-minded, enthusiastic owners and management.
The winner, i2tech, an award finalist for three straight years, stands out. The Processor of the Year is run by the father-son team of Robert and Josh Janeczko, two of the most progressive owners in plastics. Management shares detailed financial information with employees, to educate and motivate, then through profit sharing that pays out four times a year.
It was a difficult decision for the judges, who are Plastics News reporters and editors, but we felt i2tech was strongest in the seven criteria: financial performance, quality, customer relations, employee relations, environmental performance, industry and public service, and technological innovation.
In this issue, we profile i2tech in a Page 1 story by senior reporter Bill Bregar. Bregar, the award coordinator, traveled with PN copy editor Nick Gehring to visit the finalists. Gehring's videos are posted on our Web site, www.plasticsnews.com.
The Processor of the Year Award is now in its 12th year. This is a distinctly different year. Normally, the competition ends up pitting finalist companies of vastly different sizes, small players going against huge, multiplant processors. Not this time! All three finalists had 2007 sales under $30 million.
I2tech, Donnelly and PCI prove smaller manufacturers can have many advantages over big ones, but they have to keep a laserlike focus on what they do best. That's a heartening message in these tough times for U.S. plastics suppliers, as their customers move work overseas and demand price cuts, even as resin prices go up and the U.S. economy teeters on the edge of a recession.
Small companies with hands-on ownership and employees that are well-trained and motivated can move quickly. Without all the paperwork, they can pull the trigger and invest in new equipment. While big corporations hold seminars on how to ``embrace change,'' the small guys already did it.
The days of a molder being all things to all customers is over. All three finalists use caution when considering potential new business and vet each job and customer through a series of filters.
All three are run by charismatic leaders who have important opinions on the future of U.S. manufacturing. At i2tech, Robert Janeczko serves on the board of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Midwest region.
Ron Kirscht is a frequent speaker who relishes explaining Donnelly's unique expertise in the high-pressure world of short-run molding - work that's not going to China. Donnelly does 40-50 mold changes a day on its 32 injection presses.
PCI's Tom Duffey is also the current president of Mid-America Plastics Partners, an Indianapolis-based trade group. PCI runs a highly automated plant with 30 machines and just seven employees per shift. When some of PCI's local customers moved work outside of the United States, Duffey brought in a marketing manager.