Charles A. Sholtis, 55, serves as the hands-on CEO of Plastic Molding Technology Inc. adapting to changes and providing second-generation leadership to the custom injection molding business.
Sholtis grew up in Trumbull, Conn., with a brother, Todd, a manufacturers' representative living in Florida.
“When my father [Charles E. Sholtis] started the business in 1973 [in Bridgeport, Conn.], I was there pretty much from day one” when he was 13, he said. “I set up molds, ran presses, swept floors and helped out with anything that needed to be done in the factory.”
He holds a bachelor's degree in business management from Villanova University in Villanova, Pa., and a master's degree in management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at its Hartford, Conn., campus.
During service in the Navy, he was a communications/cryptographic materials officer-navigator. A comm officer is responsible for all of a ship's communication and codes for secure communications to the fleet. A navigator directs the safe route or course of a ship especially by using electronic instruments and charts.
In 1984, Sholtis deployed on a U.S. flagship destroyer in the Persian Gulf.
He joined the family business as sales and marketing manager in 1986. “My business school background and entrepreneurial drive initially led me to PMT,” he said. He gained experience in every aspect including sales and marketing, engineering and design, manufacturing operations and management.
While operating in Bridgeport, the business added a second site in nearby Stratford and then vacated both in 1989 for a new plant that was built in a Seymour, Conn., industrial park.
Sholtis held positions as sales and marketing director and vice president of operations en route to taking the reins as CEO in 1998. “My first goal as CEO was to implement lean manufacturing,” he said. “Central to that implementation was ensuring the business remained profitable and diversifying our customer base.”
By 2000, the Sholtis family recognized a critical need for the business to be closer to key customers — Tier 1 and Tier 2 automotive suppliers — operating maquiladora assembly plants.
Amid multiple challenges, PMT moved from Seymour to El Paso, Texas, during 2001-2004 establishing a new operation that now occupies 60,000 square feet and employs 90. Eight Connecticut employees accepted offers to relocate to Texas.
PMT is certified under the ISO 9001 and ISO/TS 16949 standards and annually produces more than 150 million precision-engineered, injection-molded plastic parts.
PMT operates 59 injection molding machines including 30 electrics. Clamping force range is 40-500 tons. PMT projects 2016 sales of about $16 million.
“We take pride in fostering a culture of continuous improvement, a foundational concept to PMT,” he said. “Within that culture, we foster the value of recognition. We are only as good as our team, and therefore we strive to maintain an environment that encourages skills development, innovative thinking and problem solving. We reward successes in these areas and encourage everyone to contribute as a member of the same team.”
Sholtis considers his father as his “true career-long mentor. He had vision and purpose (and was) always at the forefront. His engineering intuition, sound reputation and continuous pursuit of excellence made him an example not only in the industry but for small business as well. His focus and education to serving the customer was noteworthy.”
The father encouraged him “to pursue my business education, and because of this support, I became the first Sholtis in the family to receive an advanced degree,” he said. “This education laid the groundwork I would later need as the second-generation leader and owner of PMT.”
Charles E. Sholtis “mentored many other people in the field” and “successfully established apprenticeship and training programs in an industry that continually suffers from inadequate educational programs and opportunities,” his son said.
Retiring in 2013, “Charles E. celebrated a milestone birthday this year, turning 80 years old in September,” his son reports. “He is enjoying his retirement in the Tampa, Fla., area, where he and my mother, Pauline, live. She worked in the front office with my dad in the 1970s.”
As is his style, Sholtis adapts to conditions different from those his father encountered.
“Since the beginning, I've been hands-on in every aspect of the business — from leadership, to customer relations, to engineering, to manufacturing operations. My primary role is CEO — or more specifically EOM — entrepreneur, owner, manager,” he said.
“Leadership is very important to me, and I strive to take a well-rounded approach to this responsibility.
“Being a customer of PMT today means receiving top-of-the-line technical aptitude paired with streamlined and innovated processes. The founding mantra of ‘continuous improvement' still holds true for PMT today.
“What differentiates us today from other custom molders is providing more value-added service, such as 3-D printing, assembly and automation.”
Sholtis thinks about his legacy. “I hope to imprint on the company the value of tenacity and success in building upon the foundation as a second-generation business owner balancing multiple key roles—as a family member, entrepreneur and owner. My hope and dream is that as a leader, I've helped those around me grow and achieve their full potential, working at a job they love, while making things that keep our world in motion.
“It's also important to remain a piece of the fabric that makes up our community. We are positioned as a positive asset in our community — hiring people locally, donating to local charities and participating in community events, from industry summits to 10K races.
“Most importantly, I aim to draw attention to the fact that there needs to be a continued understanding of business as a calling. Business leaders must find a higher purpose and engage with their business ethically and morally.”
Sholtis credits “our many PMT team members” for the company's recognitions: the Frost & Sullivan-organized Manufacturing Leadership Council's 2014 Manufacturer of the Year for companies with sales of less than $1 billion, the council's Sustainability Leadership and Operational Leadership awards and Plastics News' 2013 Excellence Award for customer relations. In March, Sholtis received the Society of Plastics Engineers' 2015 Business Management Award.