The latest Plastics News Processor of the Year, Plastikos Inc., hails from Erie, Pa., a region known for its plastics expertise. The injection molder's strategy of making targeted changes to improve operations, but keeping intact its core strengths, sets a good example.
In fact, we consider all three finalists — Plastikos, Atek Plastics and Steinwall Inc. — to be role models, especially for small injection molding companies. All three had 2010 sales under $20 million. The only one with more than 100 employees is Steinwall (which employs 109, to be exact).
Each focuses on its strengths. After losing plenty of work to China, and enduring the Great Recession, the broad plastics molding industry now realizes that you can't be all things to all people. You have to be lean, work smart. When you're small, those lessons are simple facts of life.
Plastikos was an award finalist last year, and company officials improved their submission this year with even greater levels of quantification to explain their continuous improvement efforts.
Historically, Plastikos was totally focused on the connector market, a challenging, technical molding business that demands expertise in mold making and the molding of liquid crystal polymers. Now Plastikos is moving into medical molding. Medical requires a major commitment of people, technology, documentation skills and completely transparent accountability. Plastikos seems well-positioned to become a successful molder of small, precise medical parts.
The second-generation ownership is young and enthusiastic. In years to come, it will be interesting to watch them — Philip Katen, president and general manager; his brother, Ryan Katen, engineering manager; Robert Cooney, manufacturing manager; and treasurer Matthew Mead.
Plastikos was nominated for the award by 21 people, including customers, suppliers and community groups in the Erie area.
Senior reporter Bill Bregar, who coordinates the award process, visited the finalists. Videos about each finalist can be found on our website at plasticsnews.com/video.
The rapid growth of Atek Plastics of Kerrville, Texas, has mirrored its push into medical molding, which now accounts for about three-quarters of total sales. Back in 2001, when Tom Houdeshell became president, medical generated only 7 percent of sales. Then Houdeshell got to work, assembling a management team, working to improve manufacturing and generally making Atek Plastics into a professional, high-tech company.
Atek Plastics was nominated by Patricia Hirst of RJG Inc.
Steinwall Inc. is a solid company under the leadership of Maureen Steinwall, who has reached celebrity status in a plastics industry still dominated by men-owned molding companies. Maureen has put her own unique stamp on the company she bought from her father, Carl Steinwall, in 1985. A pioneer in employee training, the company in Coon Rapids, Minn., set up a computer-based orientation program for new hires, and put work instructions on video screens mounted right at the injection press.
Maureen Steinwall has served on the national board of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. since 1996, an impressive contribution. She nominated her company for the award.
Steinwall Inc. did win one of the new PN Excellence Awards, for employee relations.