Every December, Time magazine has its Man of the Year, and we have our Plastic Globe awards, given to dubious or otherwise unusual newsmakers from the past year.
NEVER WORK WITH CHILDREN OR ANIMALS AWARD: To Chrysler LLC, for the introduction of its 2009 Dodge Ram pickup. Chrysler took the Dodge Ram press conference outside and brought in a herd of cattle to roam a downtown Detroit street. The bulls, being bulls, seemed to find something more interesting to do than look at the trucks. Let's just say, some of the bulls thought the cameras were there for a Discovery Channel show on reproduction. As they moved into ... um, position, they drew the media's attention: first with a few snickers, then outright laughs. ``I promised you a press conference you'd remember,'' Chrysler President Jim Press said. After cowboys broke up the couples, the event turned back to the media: ``Can we talk about the trucks now?''
WHO'S YOUR DADDY AWARD: To Austria's Battenfeld Kunststoffmaschinen GmbH, which in a surprise deal was quietly sold to a London-based private equity firm just days before Christmas 2007. That triggered a bizarre series of events that ended up with Battenfeld filing for insolvency Jan. 3, the deal being canceled, Battenfeld getting a credit line from the government to continue paying its bills, and finally Wittmann KunststoffgerÃ¤te GmbH buying the company in April.
TURNING THE TABLES AWARD: To North American car buyers. We spoke with supplier analyst Jim Gillette of CSM Worldwide about what's been happening in the industry. ``The [car] buyers went on strike,'' he said.
HOW ABOUT ``TOOLMAKERS''? AWARD: Sometimes it's difficult for members of organizations to reach a consensus. Perhaps that was the case when this trade group was building its Web site, where its name appears three different ways: Canadian Association of Mold Makers, Canadian Association of Moldmakers and Canadian Association of Mouldmakers.
NOT EXACTLY THE AUTOBAHN AWARD: To Wilfried Lehr, head of Mann + Hummel's automotive original equipment manufacturer business, who explained why M+H needs a second plant in India to serve automakers in the north: ``The average speed for a truck traveling between Bangalore and Delhi is 11 kilometers per hour. This is not very good.''
BEST PRO-PLASTICS LITERARY REFERENCE AWARD: From Mike Lawrentz, an executive with the Textile Bag Packaging Association and president of Lawgix International in Ashland, Ohio: ``Our kids are being indoctrinated with the wrong message about plastic. There are kids' books showing polar bears drowning and plastic rings around ducks' necks. It's like [Frankenstein author] Mary Shelley put a coloring book together.''
MOST UNCOMMUNICATIVE COMMUNICATIONS PERSON AWARD: To the manager of corporate communications for a major big-box retailer, who in a belated e-mail response to a request for information, replied: ``I'm not sure if I responded to your message I don't have that info. Thanks!'' When asked if she could direct PN to whomever might have the answer, she said, ``We don't typically deal with trade publications. I don't have the answer and will not be able to provide it for you at this time. Thanks!'' We tracked down the answer from other sources, then let her know just in case the Wall Street Journal should ask.
ULTRA-DARWINISM AWARD: To supermarkets that stock their checkout lanes with perfumed plastic bags. The bags provide not just an opportunity to add eau de cologne to your bread and ground beef, but also discourage aftermarket use, resulting in a quick turnaround to either the community recycling bin or the closest outdoor trash can.
ORWELL LIVES AWARD: For its report on July 2008 auto sales, Ford Motor Co. had to tell the public that its sales had fallen 13 percent, year-over-year. No one likes bad news, though, so the headline read: ``Ford focus continues to surprise, outpace segment.'' By contrast, General Motors Corp., which saw sales drop 26.7 percent, went with a straightforward headline: ``GM reports 235,184 deliveries in July.''
APPLE PIE AWARD: From our Aug. 4 issue, in a story on Optiglass PC LLC, a company that is importing products from China. The president is quoted saying, ``The industry is changing, and Optiglass brings American value to the table.''
NEVER MIND AWARD: A public relations firm sent us a case history for Ames Corp.'s work on a gas mask, then they followed up to see if we were going to talk to the company. When our reporter followed up, he got this reply via e-mail:
``I hope you're doing well. I spoke to Ames yesterday, and, while they're excited about your interest, they feel that Plastics News is not the best fit for them. While Ames is rebranding itself as `the polymer solutions company,' the emphasis is on the `solutions,' and Ames will still focus solely on rubber products and solutions. I'm so sorry that this isn't a fit for Plastics News. I really appreciate your interest.''
MORE POWER AWARD: To Bob Boniface, director of design for the Chevrolet Volt and E-Flex Studio at GM. When Boniface was asked if the on-board engine that the Volt will use to power the electric motor for additional power could use an alternate fuel source, he replied:. ``It could be diesel, E85, gasoline, fuel cells or even a hamster on a treadmill.''
BRATWURST AND SUSHI CAN MIX AWARD: To two German-Japanese alliances that made machinery news in 2008 Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd. bought Demag Plastics Group, and KraussMafffei AG developed an all-electric injection press with Toshiba Machine Co. Ltd.
WHO'S REACHING OUT TO CAPTURE A MOMENT? EVERYONE KNOWS IT'S WINDY! AWARD: To financially strapped plastics machinery maker HPM, which is banking on the wind turbines industry to help it weather rough waters in its traditional business.
THEY STILL HAVE JOHNNY APPLESEED AWARD: To venerable Leominster, Mass., the birthplace of the U.S. plastics industry. First they lost the pink flamingo when Union Products Inc. closed down. Then this month, all the historical stuff at the National Plastics Center got boxed up and shipped to Syracuse University in New York. Hey, Union Products' flamingo assets were bought by HMC International LLC, a molder in Rome, N.Y., right near Syracuse. Is there a conspiracy? (By the way, Appleseed whose real name was John Chapman was born in Leominster, but went west to spread apple trees throughout the land).
HEY BUDDY, CAN YA SPARE A LOAN FOR AN INDUSTRY DOWN ON ITS LUCK? AWARD: To those plastics processors that actually want to expand by investing in new equipment, but have had problems getting financing, or face higher interest rates. Let's hope the credit crunch eases, and soon.
I CAN'T BE BOTHERED AWARD: To the injection molder who took the time to send multiple e-mails to our office requesting a Web site version of our ranking survey form, but when told it was unavailable, declined to update the company's data.
YOU THINK YOU HAD A BAD DAY? AWARD: To the security guard at M&F Plastics in Matsapha, Swaziland, who was kidnapped and stripped naked by armed bandits Dec. 14, according to a report in the Times of Swaziland. Then he was tied up, and the robbers used his uniform to sneak into the company's main office, rob the boss and steal his car.
THEY'RE NOT JUST MARINE DEBRIS AWARD: John Wolf wrote a column in the Munster, Ind., The Times newspaper in March about how camels in the Middle East are dying after ingesting plastic bags. The column states that ``plastic bags were responsible for over half of camel deaths'' in Dubai. He concluded by calling for the U.S. to ban plastic bags, asking, ``Why are we behind? Do we need a camel crisis?''
DANCING WITH THE INMATES AWARD: To an employee at a Las Cruces, N.M., plastics company who was arrested in February after allegedly stealing vinyl foam from the plant. Sheriff's investigators said he wanted to the foam for break dancing.
WORST HEADLINE AWARD: A news release from a Chillicothe, Ill.-based plumbing supply company, touting a new plastic product that ``helps ladies unclog their bathroom drains all by themselves.'' Oh, and the product is marketed as being green, because it's an alternative to dumping chemicals down the drain. The headline: ``Ladies Love `Green' Snake.''