Blown film and recycling specialist Petoskey Plastics Inc. employs 420 at its headquarters and factory in Petoskey, Mich., a plant in Morristown, Tenn., and a recycling and blown film plant in Hartford City, Ind. The company also has a sales location serving the automotive sector in Birmingham, Mich., for its biggest market, custom covers to protect seats and steering wheels and sheets for masking during painting.
Other markets reflect the company's diversity: Grocery, medical, recycling, food, retail, packaging and construction.
What does Petoskey do in its total manufacturing space of 500,000 square feet? Make blown film on 26 film extrusion lines with a strong emphasis on closed-loop recycling. Each year the company processes more than 30 million pounds of plastics, including 20 million pounds collected from customers. Petoskey works with customers to bale used plastic film, such as stretch film, linear low density polyethylene and low density PE clear bags, colored bags and packaging. That all gets sent to Hartford City, where it gets recycled into what the company calls GreenPE.
GreenPE goes into blown film and bags with 70 percent recycled content sandwiched between two layers of virgin plastic. The Greencore product line includes can liners and recycling bags.
Since renovating a former garage door factory in Hartford City in 2007, Petoskey has steadily expanded and added jobs. The latest investment: an $8 million wash line.
Petoskey, owned by the Keiswetter family, has been growing rapidly. Sales were $67 million in 2009, and in 2017 reached a projected $140 million, up about 7.5 percent over 2016. Over the last six years, the company has averaged 8 percent annual sales growth, according to its submission.
Paul Keiswetter, the president and CEO, and his father, Duke Keiswetter, founded Petoskey Plastics in 1969. The company adopted "green" practices nine years later, beginning to recycle its scrap. The company pioneered closed-loop film recycling in 1992 in response to Michigan's returnable-bottle law, which was creating demand for bags to hold the recycled bottles and cans.
"As a supplier of this product, we knew that the product was being landfilled by the beverage companies," company officials wrote in the award submission. "We worked with our customers to bale the plastic, then we picked up the baled plastic, credited them for the plastic scrap and put the plastic scrap back into their products, thus creating our first closed-loop system."
Today, Paul's son, Jason Keiswetter, works with his father as executive vice president.
Environment performance is Petoskey's strongest category in the Processor of the Year hunt. But judges also have high marks for financial performance and the other five categories.
The criteria of quality and customer relations go hand in hand. Petoskey is set up to give an "in-touch approach" to customers. The company provided the judges with a very detailed report on quality, including a complete list of testing equipment in quality laboratories. Each quarter, a quality management system review meeting is held at every location, including people from support functions like R&D, human resources and sales.
Similarly, employees get involved with a preventive and corrective action process, or PCAR. That gives a way to consistently troubleshoot issues — and as a result, the number of average monthly customer concerns has come down.
Several customers have given quality supplier awards to Petoskey.
Another interesting practice is a new continuity plan, as Petoskey worked with a consultant to maintain consistent operations in case of emergency.
Petoskey claims 5,000 customers in 47 countries. That includes 30 Fortune 500 companies. Customers contacted by the Plastics News judges had good things to say.
A purchasing official from one customer said his company and Petoskey have a "great relationship." He said everyone is very accessible, all the way to top management. Petoskey also deals with any problems quickly.
Making blown film, and especially the recycled-content variety, requires ongoing major investments in machinery, a strong point for the technological innovation category.
Petoskey's 26 blown film lines have die sizes from 6-30 inches, allowing for lay-flat widths from 12 inches to 120 inches, as well as four custom converting lines and four draw-tape converting lines.
The company has launched a platform called Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) to link all production and facility support equipment to a single database for storage of process data. Managers get the data customizable dashboards to help them track and improve plant operations and track trends, making the far-flung film company more unified.
Petoskey presented a strong mix of both industry involvement and public service in their communities. Jason Keiswetter serves on the board of the Flexible Film and Bag division of the Plastics Industry Association. The plant manager is president of the Northwest Michigan Industrial Association. The company also is active in the Association of Plastic Recyclers.
The company stands out in community involvement. In 2017, the company made more than 100 charitable donations. Helping children is a central goal.
Petoskey opens its doors to third-graders in its hometown and, last fall, to the Michigan State Police. In September, the company hosted 19 forensic scientists to explain how bags are made and printed, important information because plastic bags often turn up at crime scenes.
The film company has solid employee relations, and it starts with a booklet called simply, "Hello & Welcome." The 21-page booklet tells everything about the company, including the history, community involvement and benefits. It lays out a career path to prospective employees.
A major focus is employee retention. Starting this fall, new hires get a "swag bag" full of gifts. A first impression survey is taken after the first day on the job. A check-in survey comes after 60 days of employment.
The company pays 100 percent of tuition and works with community colleges to develop specific classes.
An employee self-nominated Petoskey Plastics: marketing leader Pam Colby.