(March 9, 2009) — The winner of Plastics News' Processor of the Year award for 2008 — Plastic Components Inc. of Germantown, Wis. — is a good role model in these troubled times.
But PCI has another message: For a plastics company, there's no magic wand to make everything right, not even in the best of times, thanks to global competition and pricing givebacks. Certainly not today, when the economy is spiraling downward.
We profile PCI in a Page 1 story this week. Our hope is that the firm, along with the other finalists, Freelin-Wade Co. and PolyPipe Inc., will stand as examples to the rest of the plastics industry.
We also have posted videos about each finalist on our Web site at www.plasticsnews.com/multimedia.
The Processor of the Year award measures firms on seven criteria, covering nearly every aspect of running a business.
Plastic Components has a motto: "Low cost at home" — home as in Wisconsin, not China. Customers told our judges that PCIs pricing is hard to beat. But competitive pricing is only part of the story. Owner Tom Duffey has a detail-oriented, hands-on management style. Duffey is a sharp guy with an MBA, but he eschewed Wall Street to start a plastics molding company, of all things.
PCI is a small company, with 50 employees and $12.3 million in 2008 sales. Yet it has invested in a strong marketing and business development effort that is highly creative, yet results-driven.
Another strength: a laser focus on fully automated molding, which reduces the percentage of labor in the finished parts.
Duffey is president of the Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors, an Indianapolis-based industry group. He recently joined the board of the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which helps the state's small and midsize manufacturers.
Five people nominated PCI for Processor of the Year: Daniele Fresca, marketing director for IQMS Inc.; Neil Gerrity, district manager of PolyOne Distribution; Mary Chandler, vice president of M&I Marshall & Ilsley Bank; Jesse Smith, a business development official with Mississippi Power Co.; and Katie Barrette, a shareholder of Kolb+Co.
Senior reporter Bill Bregar visited each of the finalists. Picking a winner was a hard decision for the judges, who are Plastics News reporters and editors. The two other finalists also are impressive companies:
* Freelin-Wade of McMinnville, Ore., is a major tubing extruder. The firm's strength comes from customer service — the company gladly does one-off prototypes — and a spirit of teamwork among its workers. Employees and executives really care about their community, because many of them, like Vice President and General Manager Sherl Hill, grew up there. Freelin-Wade was nominated by Ron Miller, the company's marketing manager.
* PolyPipe, based in Gainesville, Texas, is one of the largest extruders of smooth-wall polyethylene pressure pipe. The company is helping to push PE pipe into new markets like water by making major investments in large-diameter extrusion lines.
Chief Executive Officer Jim Moore and several other top executives have made big strides in getting employees involved in daily decision-making.
PolyPipe was nominated by Allison Crabtree, the pipe-maker's technical services and engineering manager.