Plastics News has named three winners of the first PN Excellence Awards DeKalb Molded Plastics Co., Pelican Products Inc. and Steinwall Inc.
DeKalb Molded Plastics, a structural foam molder in Butler, Ind., won in the category of customer relations.
Pelican Products, a Torrance, Calif.-based injection molder and rotational molder, picked up the award for industry/public service.
The award for employee relations went to Steinwall, a custom injection molder in Coon Rapids, Minn. Steinwall also was a finalist for the Processor of the Year Award.
Plastics News honored the three winners March 8 at its Executive Forum in Summerlin, Nev. The Processor of the Year winner also was named at the event: Plastikos Inc. of Erie, Pa. (See Page 1 story.)
Customer relations, employee relations and industry/public service are three of the seven criteria judges use to determine the overall Processor of the Year. The judges, who are Plastics News reporters and editors, separately evaluated outstanding work in those three areas from among the overall crop of companies nominated for the Processor of the Year Award.
The category winners:
Customers said DeKalb employees go to great lengths to satisfy their needs, quickly returning calls, meeting delivery deadlines and providing engineering expertise. Employee teams focus on process improvements and continuous improvement, resulting in several new customers.
An example came in mid-2009, when one customer needed parts fast, but the tool wasn't even finished. DeKalb engineers made sure the tool was production-ready once it arrived in Butler. Employees stepped up to work beyond their normal shifts and on weekends. As production continued, the customer added new products and processes.
Customers praise DeKalb as a competent molder that communicates well. DeKalb puts the customer first. Whenever there's an issue, they resolve it quickly. They inform the customer where they're at on all orders, said an official with one customer.
Founded in 1979, DeKalb does structural foam molding and offers assembly, painting, decorating, welding, bonding and electromagnetic shielding. President Rick Walters said DeKalb can mold parts and make finished products.
Markets include medical cabinetry, traffic safety, furniture, materials handling, municipal water filtration, recreational products and event flooring. Walters said the company is expanding into emerging opportunities for structural foam molded parts in large medical casings, casino gaming and bowling alley scoring machines, and wind- and solar-energy devices.
DeKalb hired Strategic Marketing Partners LLC of Milwaukee to develop a marketing program. Customer interviews were a key part of that effort. Customers gave DeKalb high marks for good communications, meeting demands, developing exclusive molder-supplier relationships, quality and customer service.
To their credit, DeKalb officials also asked customers to help improve areas of weakness. That opens up an ongoing dialog that can help both sides, DeKalb said.
Industry, public service
Pelican Products generously donates its products heavy-duty protective cases and flashlights as well as its people-power, to worthy causes. Add a big dollop of pure creativity and you have a role model for corporate community activism.
Pelican's virtually indestructible cases hold valuable equipment, everything from expensive cameras to equipment for the military, police and firefighters. Pelican became the largest manufacturer of both injection molded and rotational molded protective cases in 2009 when it bought rotomolder Hardigg Industries Inc. of South Deerfield, Mass.
Here are some examples of Pelican's good works from 2010:
* After an earthquake devastated Haiti, Pelican donated $100,000 worth of headlamps and flashlights to the relief effort. In the quake's aftermath, emergency triage shelters lacked lighting, so headlamps allowed doctors to treat patients in completely dark locations.
* Pelican donated cases to protect the photography, video and lighting gear of Malu Bezerra-Ermeti, who, along with her two children and two of their friends (known as the Amazon 5), collected and delivered donated children's clothing, and helped to provide English teaching services, to indigenous tribes in the Brazilian rain forest. The gear was used to document the trip.
* In the Pelican for Patriots program, the company offered a free protector case to men and women in the U.S. military who lost a limb while serving in Afghanistan or Iraq. This year, Pelican opened the program up to wounded soldiers in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
* On the environmental side, Pelican executives helped save 14 pelicans certainly an appropriate bird that were injured in Los Angeles storms. They worked with the International Bird Rescue and Research Center to set free the pelicans at White Point Nature Preserve in San Pedro, Calif.
* Pelican employees clean up sections of Torrance Beach, participate in the March of Dimes Walk and blood drives, and contribute to other local events.
* The company donated large transport cases to move books and recording equipment to military personnel far from home. Under the USO's United Through Reading program, service members read a book aloud while being videotaped. Their children receive the videotapes, which the USO said can make a powerful connection with the parent who is deployed overseas.
Company owner Maureen Steinwall is a recognized leader in employee training. She can cite statistics showing that human error is the leading cause of quality problems. Fortunately, it's also one of the most preventable. Unfortunately, few companies show a high level of commitment to training and motivating people.
The company's many innovations include Orient Me!, a series of computer-based lessons for new workers. After launching Orient Me! in the late 1980s, turnover declined and productivity rose.
Having videos at the press was another major big breakthrough. To help out operators, many companies have printed work-instruction boards placed at each machine. But nearly a decade ago, Steinwall started using video to describe things to watch out for, show pictures of good and bad parts and even the proper way to assemble a box and place the parts inside.
Steinwall is now replacing those looped videos with iPads and a presentation chock full of not only video, but also text, arrows pointing directly at problem areas, print drawings and other features.
All this adds up to a major investment of both time and money. For example, the company has dedicated one employee, skilled in communications media, to convert each video to an iPad PowerPoint presentation. Each one is different for every part Steinwall molds. Moving forward, every new part will need its own iPad production.
Today, you hear a lot of talk about employee empowerment, much of it lip service. But Maureen Steinwall has been helping employees reach their maximum potential for more than 25 years.