Nanotechnology, bio-based materials and sustainability are the big trends that influence the way plastic products will be made, according to Nypro Inc.'s technology director Michael McGee.
Our job is to look at technologies three to five years out what are the trends that will change the business down the road or what will pull business away, McGee said during a March 15 presentation at massPlastics in Fitchburg.
McGee said seeking and spotting industry trends are very important aspects of how a $1.3 billion, employee stock ownership plan company like Nypro continues to expand.
The Clinton, Mass-based company employs 15,000 at 44 locations in 15 countries.
It is a matter of listening, and Nypro uses three different inputs. First, there's the voice of the customer. Second, there are the opinions of partners and suppliers. Lastly, Nypro uses the open-innovation process, which he describes as a conduit to the market.
I'd say the most successful and best [option] is an open-door model. What it brings is a global footprint and scale-ability, he said.
McGee said it is important to build a road map. He advises: Look at the business and keep a focus on innovation, help customers reach manufacturing requirements, transform the business to keep the customer with you and then disrupt the business. Find the technology that will replace what you are doing and know what the game-changers are.
Right now, McGee said, there are unmistakable trends companies need to understand.
First is the interest in nanotechnology: Bar none, every customer has some interest, he said.
How can nanotechnology be used cost-effectively? Nypro has answered that call by building a relationship with the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, which has an international reputation for its late-stage development of polyscience technology. It also enables Nypro to develop expertise and acquire the right skills.
The second strategic shift has been to bio-based materials something that has developed in the last 18-24 months. Right now, customers are looking, and while there still many hurdles, Nypro has shifted to more post-consumer and post-industrial materials.
Lastly, sustainability is the by-word. McGee said sustainability means a lot of things, but it is especially important now in packaging. Wanting to help the environment is doable, but sometimes it starts with small steps.
What we learned is that we do a lot of good things. A lot of times it is educating people about what you do, he said.
McGee said Nypro has done a lot for its employees, like giving them time to work at the Boys Club or installing a photovoltaic system at a plant to cut electric costs. They plan to issue a yearly sustainability report.
Nypro lists being an environmentally sound manufacturer as part of its mission statement.