Plastic Components Inc., a custom injection molder in Germantown, Wis., has won Plastics News' first-ever Sustained Excellence Award — designed to honor past Processor of the Year Award winners that have sustained their high level of performance.
PCI won the 2008 Processor of the Year Award. The company has kept moving forward in the six years since winning the Plastics News' top award.
Tessy Plastics Corp. was a finalist for the new award.
The newspaper asked candidates for the Sustained Excellence Award to detail three criteria: Show ongoing financial excellence, discuss one extraordinary new development since winning the Processor of the Year Award and name one key person who has remained at the company since then.
PCI, owned by President Tom Duffey, performed well in all three areas.
Annual plastics-related sales were about $10 million in 2008 when PCI became Processor of the Year. Sales have grown steadily since then — with the biggest jump in 2010, a 31 percent gain as PCI rebounded from the Great Recession. (The company has been consistently profitable, even during the recession.)
Sales for 2014 were $21.5 million, or more than double the sales of 2008.
What did Plastic Components executives list as the one major development since 2008? Cementing a relationship with Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., which offers a degree in Plastics Engineering Technology. PCI attended a job fair at Ferris State in 2010. The company started a summer internship program that allows students the chance to work in each department at the custom molder.
That effort paid off. PCI now employs three full-time engineers who are graduates of Ferris State. A fourth Ferris grad is scheduled to join the company in May.
Attracting young people to manufacturing is critically important as older skilled workers retire. PCI is a good role model in its outreach efforts.
Instead of naming just one key person, PCI highlighted three. Wendi Jay joined PCI in 1997 as an administrative assistant, and grew to become human resources manager. She established and has maintained the relationship with Ferris State. In recent years, Jay has assumed the full responsibility for the accounting and financial reporting of the business. If that isn't enough work, she also is responsible for PCI's strategic relationship with IQMS.
Gene Mussel joined PCI as a program launch coordinator in 2006, then advanced through several engineering and operational roles before becoming operations manager in 2012. He is responsible for PCI's main molding plant and a lights-out fully automated factory that opened in 2011. He worked with Ryan Duffey on the new plant.
Ryan Duffey, Tom's son, also started out as a program launch coordinator, beginning in 2006. He moved up — including handling the launch of the lights-out factory, and became vice president in 2012. That same year, PCI started an Engineering Resource Center to build prototype molds — a project spearheaded by Ryan Duffey.
He is responsible for all operational performance issues, profit and loss responsibilities, strategic planning and capital investment decisions. The investment adds up, since PCI has spent $7.2 million over the past seven years.
PCI split off its Engineering Resource Center as a standalone company, effective Dec. 31, and Ryan now is the owner and president of that company, which has been renamed Engineering Resource Center Inc. he remains vice president of PCI.
Another interesting point: Ryan Duffey and Gene Mussel have been best friends since they were 14 years old.
The finalist, Tessy Plastics, a custom molder based in Elbridge, N.Y., also has had an impressive record since winning Processor of the Year back in 2000. Tessy has become much more diverse. In 2000, Xerox Corp. accounted for half of Tessy's sales — then later than year Xerox exited the ink-jet printer business and sales plummeted. But Tessy officials already had been planning a diversification move, picking up work from Gillette Corp. and its Duracell unit.
In other moves, Tessy has made a major expansion into medical molding, adding factory space and clean rooms.
Tessy has steadily invested — making the plastics processor one of the bright spots in its upstate New York home region. For example, the company bought a vacant Syroco resin furniture factory, and acquired a former Honeywell building, converting it to a medical molding showpiece.
The moves have paid off in growth. Tessy Plastics generated sales of about $91 million when it won the Processor of the Year Award, and the company had about 156,000 square feet of manufacturing, office and warehousing space. Today? Sales are more than $250 million with 928,000 square feet of space.
Sales growth has averaged nearly 9 percent a year.
“We're no longer a custom injection molder. We're an engineering company that also happens to mold,” said Joe Raffa, vice president and general manager.
The company named founder Henry Beck as its one key person. Beck has left an “indelible fingerprint” on the operation, Raffa said, adding: “He is the fabric of what makes Tessy Plastics a great place to work.