Started by plastics legend Joseph Prischak and now run by his sons, Plastek Industries has grown to become the largest plastics company in the powerhouse plastics region surrounding Erie, Pa., and has operations and impact around the world.
Plastek employs about 800 in Erie at its molding and mold making operations. Worldwide, total employment is 1,700 at eight sites in four countries, including Mexico, Brazil and the England.
Worldwide sales were about $300 million in 2017. Company officials do not give out specific financial information, but they indicated sales have been increasing. Currency swings can impact total sales, they said.
Plastek is a major force in packaging, running more than 350 injection molding machines with clamping forces from 75-950 tons. Some 67 percent of its business is in the personal care market. Plastek molds millions of deodorant sticks, caps, lip balm tubes, cosmetic and other thin-wall parts on multicavity molds that the company builds itself. Multishot molds, stack molds and some turning-stack molds that do in-mold assembly, pump out the parts, many of which then go to Plastek's more than 35 automated assembly machines. Many parts are correctly oriented by the automated systems, which are designed in-house, and placed in a manner customers want for their filling lines.
That helped the company score in the technological innovation category.
The rest of the molding business is evenly split between food and beverage, medical and home care/industrial. Most of the customers are Fortune 500 companies, such as Procter & Gamble Co., Unilever, Revlon Inc. and Church & Dwight Co. Inc.
The judges gave high grades for the criteria of customer relations, employee relations, industry and public service, technology and quality.
It starts with a colorful history. Joe Prischak was a young toolmaker at Penn Erie who left after the company refused to give him a nickel an hour raise. He struck out on his own, starting Triangle Tool in 1956. (Plastek ended up buying Penn Erie in the early 1990s.)
Plastek Industries followed in 1971, to do molding and assembly. In 1999, the company built its first greenfield site, in Mansfield, England, and followed that up with another greenfield plant in Indaiatuba, Brazil, the following year. Another newly built plant in Venezuela opened in 2001, then ran into Hugo Chavez's socialist revolution; Plastek ended up closing and selling the plant.
To reduce transportation costs to customers, Plastek opened a plant in Hamlet, N.C., in 2010. The former Rexam packaging plant had closed.
The company opened plant in Quarétaro, Mexico, in 2015.
In mid-2017, Plastek bought the assets of a closed Coveris factory in Anderson, S.C., including about 40 injection molding machines, and moved some of them to other plants.
Joe Prischak retired in 2002, although he remains chairman. He turned day-to-day operations over to his sons. Dennis is president and CEO, Daniel is vice president of manufacturing for the United States, Douglas is vice president of global tooling and engineering and Donald is vice president of sales.
The brothers all grew up in the plant, got plastics degrees, and they all went through a mold-making apprenticeship. It shows that molds are Plastek's roots, and a very important part of the company. Douglas Prischak said the company builds its molds to run forever, and offers free mold maintenance on molds it designs, makes and runs. Plastek has always maintained a mold-making apprenticeship program.
Joe still comes in several days a week. He also thinks up new ideas, such as HaVACo Technologies Inc., founded in 2012, a business that makes plastic components for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
Companywide, Plastek molds more than 11 billion parts per year; more than 2 billion f assembly. In its submission, the company claims to have less than 100 defective parts per million. Each molding operation has its own dedicated tool shop, staffed on all three shifts.
Customers backed up the quality claims. Plastek's expertise in tooling is important, they said. "They're top-notch in mold building, one of the top mold builders in North America and also globally," said a buyer at one customer. The company is an expert on manufacturability, and always looking to reducing costs and streamline the process, he said.
Since starting "Injection Molding 101" in 2003, Plastek has hosted hundreds of customers at its Erie headquarters plant for courses that include hands-on work with molds and molding presses.
The molder won the Plastics Caps & Closures Innovation Award last year at a Plastics News conference, for a childproof closure for a container on Arm & Hammer laundry pods, from Church & Dwight. The lid also won an Innovation Award at the EastPack trade show.
Unilever recognized Plastek with a Partner to Win award for Value Creation. The consumer products giant has named Plastek a Partner to Win in 2011, 2013 and 2015, in several other categories.
Employees play a key role on the fast-paced production floor. Plastek takes good care of them. Each facility includes an exercise room, and a walking program awards trips as prizes. Employees can join a local fitness club for just $8 a month, with the rest paid by the company.
Started a dozen years ago, Plastek's wellness program is an outstanding feature. Free to all employees — even temporary workers and their families — Wellness Works gives people access to two full-time nurses who have onsite health clinics, and a doctor who comes in three days a week.
Employees also can earn lower health insurance rates if they participate in Wellness Works, including a physical, health screening, measurement of body mass index and the percentage of body fat and weight, an eye exam and participation in a wellness survey. They get more points for taking action to improve health, like quitting smoking and physical fitness.
A 95-person committee coordinates a safety program at work.
Plastek is a big supporter of education. Joe Prischak and his wife, Isabelle, set up a $2 million endowment to help all Plastek employees and their families pay for college in Erie and the North Carolina plant in Hamlet. Prischak also was one of the Erie-area plastics leaders that convinced Penn State Erie to create its plastics engineering technology program. That had paid back in spades, as many graduates stay in town and keep Erie a strong plastics manufacturing area. He decided to set up a similar program at Richmond Community College in Hamlet for its employees there. And he started one at the University of Bratislava, his family's home country.
Plastek supports the American Heart Association, March of Dimes and American Cancer Society. Joe Prischak also set up a foundation, called Africa 6000 International, to do something truly extraordinary: Build water wells and irrigation projects in Africa. He has visited Africa several times, and recalls being heartbroken over seeing children sick and dying because of waterborne illness.
Plastek was self-nominated by Matthew Jeglinski, sales manager.