SOUTH ELGIN, ILL. — Members of the third generation in place at Hoffer Plastics Corp. share the passions of their grandfather, Robert A. Hoffer Sr.: strong links to community and employees; and dedication to moving the industry ahead technologically, while honoring its past.
Take a look at a PN video feature of award-winner Hoffer Plastics.
"The reason why family's our first core value is because everybody in this building is our family. They're the pulse of this organization," said marketing director Charlotte Hoffer Canning, who nominated her company for the award. "We feel responsible for making sure that we do everything we can do to help them, too."
Bob Hoffer, a member of the Plastics Hall of Fame, died in 2007 at age 87, a man dubbed "the heart and soul of our industry," by Gordon Lankton, leader of Nypro Inc. They were good friends.
Hoffer's sons, Robert Jr. and William, ran the company. Robert Jr. has retired but is active on the board of directors, along with their sister, Mary Eagin.
The president, William Hoffer, works with his daughters Charlotte Canning and Gretchen Hoffer Farb, director of supply-chain management, and son Alex Hoffer, sales manager for packaging.
An accountant, Farb coordinates the Hoffer Foundation, created by her grandfather in 1966.
"The applications come streaming in all year long," she said.
The Hoffer Foundation has donated millions of dollars. Bill Hoffer said Hoffer Plastics was a small company when his dad started the foundation. He was active in Rotary Club and other civic groups. "He was one of the renowned fundraisers in this area. He loved to [raise funds]. So he got very involved in many, many projects around this area," Bill said.
Unparalleled community activism continues today at Hoffer Plastics. It's one reason Hoffer won Plastics News' Processor of the Year Award. A well-rounded, solid company, Hoffer scored high marks from the judges — Plastics News reporters and editors — on all seven criteria: financial performance, quality, customer relations, employee relations, environmental performance, industry and public service, and technological innovation.
Hoffer won the award over the two other finalists, Rodon Group LLC of Hatfield, Pa., and DeKalb Molded Plastics Co. of Butler, Ind.
Plastics News presented Hoffer Plastics with the Processor of the Year Award and honored all the finalists March 5 at its Executive Forum in Tampa. Fla. (The newspaper also recognized three winners of its PN Excellence Awards.)
Check out video of the award ceremony.
Bill Hoffer continues the heartfelt, humble approach to the business. He's an unassuming man who doesn't like to sit for hours at his desk.
"He knows everybody's names. He walks around: management by walking around. He is in that plant more than any president I know. And he's here, every weekend. He'll be here on Saturday walking around second shift. He'll be here on Sunday walking third shift," said Jack Shedd, vice president of business development.
Like father, like son.
Hoffer Plastics runs 110 injection presses, with clamping forces of 35-650 tons. More than 20 of RJG's eDart systems monitor production. All of the presses can divert bad parts, and many are set for cavity separation.
A walk through Hoffer Plastics' 360,000-square-foot plant today takes a visitor through a series of mini-plants. Several are set up to mold long-run, value-added parts like valves, spouts, closures and two-shot appliance knobs, molded-in on high-cavitation molds. In some areas, small parts rain down from presses, then get air-conveyed through tubes to an area set up for automatic, high-speed assembly, as bowl feeders bring the two components together. Often, each part zips past a camera inspection station.
Bob Hoffer applied a "focused factory" approach to custom molding. The idea is, as a company grows, to set up individual profit-center factories. In South Elgin, they are physically separated by walls and doors, as the company has expanded. Each has no more than around 12 injection presses. That lets individualized management keep a close watch.
All the individual factories share some companywide operations. They also share tool repair and maintenance, at a well-equipped, 27-person tool shop.
"We take care of molds like nobody's business," Shedd said.
One example is a 216-cavity mold running tiny aerosol valve stems. The mold is 42 years old; it turns out millions of parts a year.