Running a plastics processing business is complicated. It helps if you can have a clear corporate culture and some type of system to link together the company's operations.
This month, Best Practices takes you to Sussex, Wis., and custom injection and blow molder Sussex IM Inc. The company's markets include cosmetic packaging, health care products, consumer and industrial goods, agricultural-science, the building sector and sports products.
After double-digit growth over the last five years, Sussex IM has started a comprehensive, customer-centric focus it internally calls "Our SIM." The company is billing Our SIM as "Sussex IM 2.0," a way to integrate processes that ensures the retention of corporate culture and helps customers navigate today's supply chain challenges.
CEO Keith Everson said Our SIM as a top-to-bottom program for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer customers. It also helps attract good talent to the company.
"Our proactive, three-pronged approach is designed to meet future challenges and opportunities through simultaneous investment in brick-and-mortar expansion, intelligent corporate alliances and new internal processes," Everson said.
People are the key to the molder's success, he said.
"Accordingly, Our SIM leverages decades of institutional knowledge and know-how through an enhanced organizational structure, inter-team communication and shared accountability," Everson said.
All companies handle these types of issues. But it's a good idea to clearly state them and tie them all together.
In a news release, Sussex IM talks about three areas for Our SIM: Infrastructure, alliances and the company's internal structure.
For infrastructure, Sussex IM officials point to the new 87,000-square-foot advanced manufacturing facility and the company's dedication to scientific molding. The advanced manufacturing center is a few miles from the 135,000-square-foot headquarters plant. The new facility, which opened in spring 2017, is currently used as a distribution center for several high-volume customers, according to John Berg, Sussex IP's director of marketing.
Berg said the company is working with a few customers to use part of the building for dedicated manufacturing cells, adding that the building infrastructure is fully equipped for molding. These cells would integrate injection molding, blow molding, decoration, assembly, product validation and final packaging. The result will be better quality, faster time to market and cost reduction, company officials said.
Sussex IM has the flexibility to expand the plant and add clean room molding.
In the alliances area, Sussex IM last year created a strategic appliance with Malta-based plastics packaging molder Toly Products, covering brands in the beauty packaging sector. Toly has plants in Malta, China and South Korea and sales offices around the world. Sussex makes custom-molded packaging for the beauty, health care and consumer products markets.
Both companies are privately owned processors with a strong family spirit and similar core values.
"Toly's strong sales, marketing and product development capabilities will benefit Sussex IM in the beauty market, while our state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in the USA will enable better service and time to market for beauty brands in the Americas," Everson said.
The third leg of Sussex IM's Our SIM is a reimagined internal structure, driven by the company's rapid growth. Some customers are reluctant to hold inventory.
"Forecasting — in the face of fast-changing tariff scenarios, for example — has become a daunting task for them," said Kyle Kopp, vice president of manufacturing. "Our job is to anticipate and deliver nimble and intelligent solutions."
Sussex IM leadership focuses on internal communications between divisions and using resources efficiently.
"With five production areas in one facility, we needed to be strategic on how we cover these areas," Kopp said. "We also separated the technical and administrative work to allow our teams more time to focus on the areas where they provide the most value."
Megan Tzanoukakis, vice president of supply chain, said the enhanced communication between shifts and departments speeds decision-making, reduces overall variances and accelerates changeover. It also fosters a positive work environment. Sussex IM does cross-training and develops career paths for employees.
"The plan is to further develop management and problem-solving skills for current and future company leaders, women and men of all ages on the manufacturing floor," she said.