The latest Plastics News Processor of the Year is Dymotek Corp. — a custom injection molder that specializes in liquid silicone rubber, and two-component molding. LSR is certainly growing, but it's a niche market, and that's one of the main messages from this year's crop of finalists: Hone in on what you do best.
Dymotek, running two plants in Connecticut, has succeeded by embracing change: in difficult-to-mold LSR, in finding new customers that place a high value on innovation and not just the lowest-cost molder, and most importantly, in a dynamic employee involvement effort.
You can read all about Dymotek in the profile of the company that starts on Page 1 of this issue.
Dymotek won the Processor of the Year Award, but the three finalists also are good role models for the U.S. plastics industry: General Plastics Inc., Petoskey Plastics Inc. and Trilogy Plastics Inc. And they demonstrate the diversity of plastics. General Plastics is a thermoformer. Petoskey makes blown film and is a leader in running recycled plastics. Trilogy does rotational molding.
All four were strong contenders that made the cut to become finalists from 16 companies that sent in their submissions for the award — one of the highest participation rates ever.
The judges are Plastics News reporters and editors. Candidates for Processor of the Year are evaluated on seven criteria, as the process rewards companies that are well-rounded: financial performance, quality, customer relations, employee relations, environmental performance, industry/public service and technological innovation.
It was a tough decision. All the finalists, throughout the history of the award, have been strong in the employee relations area. And this year's finalists are no exception. Each one has developed its own unique methods of attracting and retaining hard workers and giving them the skills do the job.
Dymotek, General Plastics, Petoskey Plastics and Trilogy Plastics should serve as examples to the plastics industry in this most-important challenge of finding the future manufacturing workforce. A key is showing new employees that they can have a career at your company.
One reason Dymotek stands out is the use of roundtables to foster the next generation of leaders. CEO Norm Forest heads the leadership roundtable. Select employees also can participate in a multigenerational roundtable with other local companies in all types of businesses.
And every single employee at Dymotek needs to become proficient in LSR molding, and in molding LSR and thermoplastic into a single part. That's a major challenge. In many ways, liquid silicone rubber molding is still a pretty proprietary-minded sector that emerged out of the rubber industry and its history of customized compounds and formulations. "So there's no playbook," Forest said.
Dymotek, like most plastic processors, likes to promote from within. Of its current 108 full-time employees, nearly 25 percent started as direct labor but have since been promoted.
That shows how smaller family-owned companies — the hallmark of the plastics industry — often offer great opportunities for quick advancement for workers who are enthusiastic about learning new skills and willing to push themselves. The plastics industry needs to keep promoting that fact to the young people it so desperately wants to recruit.
Dymotek, based in Ellington, Conn., generated sales of $23.2 million in 2016. The company runs 27 injection molding machines, with clamping forces ranging from 35-440 tons. A 550-ton, two-shot Arburg is scheduled to arrive later this year.
The company began in 1990 when brothers Steve and Tom Trueb developed something they dubbed the Lav Guard, to cover pipes under sinks in public restrooms and protect people in wheelchairs from getting burned by the hot water pipes. Dymotek, in a highly automated work cell, still churns out Lav Guards for the customer the Trueb brothers sold the line to in 2004.
They hired Forest in 1997 to build up an injection molding plant, first with two presses to mold the Lav Guard. The company expanded to do custom molding, got into LSR and hasn't looked back.