Monday, December 1st, 2014

Wittmann Battenfeld Opens Doors to Educate Next Generation of Plastics Workers

At the heart of events like Manufacturing Day is the concept that if skilled trades are being taught in the nation’s classrooms less and less, then manufacturers themselves must pick up the slack. Opening the doors of their factories to welcome communities, educators and students allows them to educate potential future employees and demonstrate the true value of their work as well as the cutting-edge technology and processes that make manufacturing stick in the mind of the next generation of workers as a career of the future rather than a career of the past.

This year’s Manufacturing Day was a great success, and next year’s event will be too, but companies need not wait all the way until October to open their doors ever year. Welcoming the younger generation into your facilities is a good idea at any time throughout the year, and, when done diligently, can leave a lasting impact on communities, educators and the future employees of the company itself.

Wittman Battenfeld President David Preusse addresses attendees at the company's Open House and Future Careers Event.

Wittmann Battenfeld President David Preusse addresses attendees at the company’s Open House and Future Careers Event.

Wittmann Battenfeld, Inc. became the latest SPI member to do just that, opening the doors of their headquarters in Torrington, Connecticut. to the public earlier this month. Wittmann President David Preusse said that while they expected the event to draw between 60 and 80 attendees, it ended up drawing over 200. That’s because the Open House and Future Careers Event hosted at Wittmann was something of a master class on how companies can successfully plan and execute gatherings such as these at their own facilities. Welcoming in members of the community in a way that’s as beneficial to the company’s future as it is to the attendees doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen without employee wide commitment and planning. Wittmann Battenfeld’s event had all of these elements, and ended up being a rousing success because of it.

Attendees, who ranged from middle-school children up through college students, parents, professors and teachers, were all split into groups and each progressed around the factory, visiting nine different stations manned by a Wittmann employee. Guests heard from Preusse, about the background of the company, as well as some information about Wittmann Battenfeld’s products and plastics manufacturing process in general, and various other employees discussed their segments of the company, their careers and the opportunities that exist to work in robotics and plastics technology. They gave demonstrations of Wittman’s machinery in action, and some even let some of the younger attendees try out some parts of the plant’s robot controls.

The employees involved with the event were mostly on the technical side, but Preusse noted that they spoke frequently about the various career opportunities available strictly within Wittmann’s corporate structure. “There are 35 different jobs that people who work for our company have, including sales and accounting and all kinds of other jobs,” he said. “People went to the different stations and learned how we program our robots, micro-molding and material handling, and each person that they came to see introduced themselves and said a bit about their history with the company,” Preusse noted, adding that many Wittmann employees have started in one function and often moved around within the company, which only increased the opportunities available to potential future employees that were in the audience that day.

“You can move around in a company like ours, and they might not have known that,” Preusse said. “We were trying to give them a sense of something they weren’t aware of.”

Open House attendees at one of the nine different stations Wittman Battenfeld set up for them to visit.

Open House attendees at one of the nine different stations Wittmann Battenfeld set up for them to visit.

This is where a great deal of the value of events like Wittmann’s comes from; there are so many things that the younger generation doesn’t know about plastics and doesn’t know about careers in plastics and in manufacturing. Open houses invite them to learn something that they otherwise wouldn’t have about a field that’s growing, innovative and, frankly, pretty cool. The flyer Wittmann used to promote the event played up the last aspect, featuring a dynamic image of a Wittmann-branded robot inviting people to register and learn more about the robotics and automated aspects of the company’s facility. “It’s hard to say we’re having a career fair for material handling and auxiliary products in the plastics industry,” Preusse said, noting that most attendees wouldn’t be excited by technical jargon and industry-specific terms, which is why the flyer focused on robots and plastics instead.

There’s also a public service aspect inherent to events like these as well, Preusse noted. “Some high school are training and schooling [in fields like robotics and engineering] but some of the kids are going to college and finding it difficult to find jobs because they didn’t really get a chance to learn about the allure or the complexity of the plastics manufacturing industry,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that they’re just not really exposed to any of that.”

As beneficial and forward-thinking as it is for a company to host events like these in order to excite a new generation of plastics workers and advocates, in many ways it’s also a generous way to get people thinking about options that they didn’t know were available to them. “The idea was that we wanted to give back to the community,” Preusse said. “People of all ages have the chance to really get a great career out of plastics working for very successful companies with great benefits. We wanted to show them some pretty cool stuff that’s happening in the plastics industry, and host an event so that they could learn about a really cool factory right here in the countryside of Connecticut.”

Tips for Making Your Company’s Open House a Success

  • Divide and Conquer – Dividing things into different stations and functions will help keep the program itself lively and engaging. Getting your employees involved in the process will leave a bigger impact on attendees as they share their own stories and passion for their work.
  • Know Your Audience – It’s important to remember that industry terms that are common on the factory floor are largely unheard of beyond a facility’s walls. Using more relatable, understandable terms in any marketing materials and event announcements will appeal to more attendees. Also if you have a target age group in mind be sure to tailor the message in those materials to the attendees you’re hoping to welcome, like the way Wittmann’s promotional flyer focused on robots to draw in younger folks.
  • Have Additional Resources – Preusse noted that they interviewed some Wittmann employees about their plastics career histories and what they enjoyed most about working in the industry and for their company. These are posted on Wittmann’s website on the jobs page, so that attendees can read more of the stories from the employees they met as they toured the facility, increasing the event’s overall impact.

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

North America Expected to Drive Demand in 2015 in Latest Plastics Machinery Economic Forecast

Market demand overall for plastics machinery continued to grow in the third quarter of 2014, according to the latest report from SPI’s Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES). The figures dovetail nicely with data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) to suggest that purchasing in the U.S. is up and that the country will drive demand in the sector for the remainder of the year and into 2015.

“The market conditions that drive investment in new industrial equipment have prevailed throughout all of 2014, and I expect these conditions to persist in 2015. These are: low interest rates, and the need for increased productivity in order to meet rising aggregate demand,” according to Bill Wood, the plastics market economist who analyzes and reports on the plastics machinery market sector for the CES.

Shipments of primary plastics equipment (injection molding, extrusion and blow molding equipment) for reporting companies totaled $301.4 million in Q3. This is 6 percent higher than the revised shipments total of $284.3 million in Q2 of this year, and is down only 2 percent compared with the robust total from Q3 of 2013. For the year to date, the total value of primary equipment shipments is up 6 percent compared with last year.

Meanwhile, two of the BEA’s major data series measuring activity in the industrial machinery sector showed that business investment in industrial equipment escalated by 16 percent in the third quarter of 2014, compared to the same period last year, and that investment year-to-date is up by 13 percent. The Census Bureau has also reported that the total value of new orders of industrial machinery leapt by 47 percent in Q3 when compared with the same period from last year, and that year-to-date orders are up by 34 percent.

An increase in shipments among reporting companies and major jumps in U.S. purchasing suggests a healthy demand for plastics machinery in the region as it moves into the New Year. “From a global perspective, the North American region will be the strongest in terms of total economic activity in the coming months,” Wood said. “Strong demand in the U.S. will help to sustain the momentum in the global economy in 2015.”

CES also conducts a quarterly survey measuring supplier attitudes about current and future market conditions. Regarding the coming quarter, 95 percent of respondents expected conditions to stay the same or improve. That figure improved to 98 percent when the question was extended about the coming 12 months.

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Read the full report release on SPI’s home page here.

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

As Renewal Season Ramps Up, SPI Offers an Easy Answer to Heavy Healthcare Questions

By SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association

The leaves are turning and the climate is changing, the amount of time available for actual work is decreasing and the forecast seems to vary on a day-to-day basis, swinging from sunny skies and short sleeves to slickers or scarves at a moment’s notice.

That’s right: it’s renewal season!

A recent study released by Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. the 2014 Benefits Strategy and Benchmarking Survey, found that U.S. employers’ biggest overall challenge is controlling benefit costs. Among employers surveyed, 63% reported that their benefit expenses account for 20% or more of their total compensation spend. The same study found that 98% of employers are committed to providing some form of employee healthcare benefits for the future. Subsidizing employee healthcare is a key element of any employer’s value proposition.

As such, employers considering their 2015 healthcare offerings are facing an environment with potentially higher costs and complex considerations when determining the right path forward. The manufacturing renaissance in America continues, but for companies to unleash their true growth potential they need to be able to spend less time tabulating the tangible and intangible pros, cons and costs of their employee benefit programs and more time innovating, exporting, investing and hiring.

Like any other sector the plastics industry has these same concerns about healthcare. Luckily, SPI listened and last April launched SPI HealthLink, a private exchange platform specific to SPI members. “The first step in the success of any healthcare plan is to recognize the issues that need to be addressed,” said SPI President and CEO William R. Carteaux. “Where SPI HealthLink stands out as such an attractive option for employers is in its ability to create a predictable solution that is both time and cost efficient.”SPI Health Link Logo2-4C

Private exchanges have emerged as an increasingly popular solution to the questions companies have about healthcare, with data collected by JD Power & Associates showing that 47 percent of businesses intend to adopt one. With SPI HealthLink you get more predictable costs, increased efficiency and streamlined administrative processes, and your employees get to pick benefits as unique as the plastic products and materials their companies manufacture, process, mold and recycle.

It’s easy to see how it becomes wasteful for a company to offer the same plan to a 65-year-old employee that it does to a 20-year-old employee. Operating from a defined contribution (DC) rather than defined benefit approach, SPI HealthLink abandons the one-size-fits-all model of traditional health plans that causes misaligned employee coverage.

With SPI HealthLink, employees choose the coverage that meets their individual needs across a wide range of insurance solutions. That means your employees are better protected and more invested in the benefit dollars your company spends on them.

SPI HealthLink allows employers to allocate fixed dollars to their employees so they can purchase the insurance they need, transforming the budgeting process into an array of concrete predictions instead of a parade of maybes. And all the while, as administered by international services firm Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., HealthLink can eliminate members’ administrative burden and help them get back to growing their business.

SPI members interested in learning more about HealthLink can click here, or call the SPI HealthLink hotline at (844)413-5871 to speak with a live representative from Gallagher. Whether you’re looking for new options or already have a plan in place, understanding the value of SPI HealthLink could be meaningful to helping your organization achieve greater organizational goals such as enhanced employee engagement and productivity.

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Letter from SPI President and CEO William R. Carteaux on Last Week’s Midterm Elections

William R. Carteaux, President and CEO, SPI

William R. Carteaux, President and CEO, SPI

If there’s one conclusion to be drawn from last week’s elections, it’s that voters repudiated the gridlock and brinksmanship that too often defines our nation’s policy making. And, now that the election is over, the complicated process of governing begins. President Obama, Congress, Governors and state legislators must find ways to move the country forward.

In spite of all the change in Washington and state capitals, though, one thing hasn’t changed at all: our success in achieving pro-plastics outcomes will depend on the participation and support of individuals like you.

In Washington, at least 12 new U.S.  Senators and 56 new House members will  be sworn in this January. That means     we’ll have lots of new lawmakers to educate about our industry, its economic importance and the issues that matter to companies throughout the value chain.

The national wave was also reflected in key state-level races where outcomes suggest an improving landscape for plastics, particularly in some state capitals that have historically been troublesome for the industry. Just as we do in Washington, SPI will press state legislators and regulators to incorporate our interests into their decision making.

More important than which party controls the White House or Congress or Governors’ mansions, are the voices of the industry’s citizen-advocates like you. Looking ahead from Tuesday’s elections, there’s an opportunity not just to head off the threats that face us, but to advance meaningful, positive, proactive policy initiatives for the benefit of our entire industry.

We need everyone on board, both in response to dangerous legislative or regulatory developments and in support of pro-plastics initiatives that reaffirm our role as a forward-looking industry with a solid record of bettering our communities and our country.

That’s why I’m asking you to take a minute to fill out this brief survey to help us communicate our industry’s size and impact to elected officials, regulators and other key policy makers.

We appreciate your time as we proudly advocate for an ever-brighter future for us all.

Sincerely,

William R. Carteaux
President & CEO
SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association

Friday, November 7th, 2014

NYC Should Abandon Regressive Bag Tax, Join SPI, APBA to Fight Litter

Given the sky-high cost of living in New York, among the highest in the country, the average consumer doesn’t have a lot of money to spare. This is particularly true in the outer boroughs, which are home to some of the poorest congressional districts in the country. So it’s disappointing that the Big Apple is the latest metropolis to contemplate misguided legislation to tax plastic grocery bags in an attempt to address litter.

Recycled plastic bags imagePlastic bag taxes are inherently regressive, doing the most damage to the people who can least afford it. Supporters often cry that these taxes are minimal and the average citizen buying groceries should be able to afford them, but in a city where 1 in 5 people lives below the poverty line, that’s naïve, insensitive and presumptuous; these taxes can be crippling for those at the bottom of the economic spectrum, who simply are doing their best to put food on the table for their families.

Moreover, New York City (NYC) has a higher percentage of non-car owning citizens than any other city in America, making plastic bags a logical and convenient choice for the city’s many residents, who get by riding buses, taking trains and walking. The plastic bag’s popularity with urban dwellers stretches back to its origins in the mid-1960s, when suburban dwellers preferred paper bags that could stand up in the trunks of their cars. Urbanites opted for plastic bags instead, since they have handles, are lighter, can hold 1000 times their weight and are reused. New Yorkers should be allowed to continue to enjoy these benefits without having to pay for the privilege.

The market economics of NYC’s grocery stores also are uniquely suited to include plastic bags, as the city isn’t dotted with big chain establishments but with tiny, owner-operated bodegas, delis, multipurpose shops and other small businesses. A bag tax could squeeze local store owners as much as it squeezes average New Yorkers.

The fact is that supporters of the NYC bag tax are misguided in their attempts to control litter. The issue here is not material; it is behavioral. Plastic bags can and should be recycled. It’s been nearly two decades since we, as a country, had an honest conversation about litter or took the time to educate and empower the next generations of schoolchildren about how to properly dispose of and recycle everything that can be recycled.spi_logo_300x151

SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association and the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA) share NYC’s concern about litter, and we are ready to have a conversation about how we can eliminate it and close the loop on plastic materials. Recycled materials of all types are valuable to innovators and businessmen and good for businesses, communities and the environment. We oppose bag taxes, which are a regressive, counterproductive and intellectually lazy response to a community and environmental issue that cries out for bold action and long-term commitment.apba logo_2012

We must educate and empower our young people to make a difference. That’s why SPI recently teamed up with JASON Learning, a nonprofit organization managed by the Sea Research Foundation, in partnership with the National Geographic Society, to launch the “Think Outside the Bag!” plastic film and bag recycling contest. By asking students to come up with creative campaigns to increase awareness about recycling flexible plastic films (i.e. dry cleaner bags), product wrapping and traditional plastic grocery bags, the contest aims to make today’s youth tomorrow’s plastic recycling and anti-litter advocates. The APBA also supports A Bag’s Life, a program that helps kids and their communities learn more about recycling plastic bags while giving them the tools they need to host their own recycling events across the country.

Rather than cynically working to reduce consumer access to materials that are convenient and environmentally friendly but arbitrarily declared undesirable, we’re working to build a lasting solution to the problem of litter by helping change consumer behavior now and in the future. The plastics industry, led by SPI and the APBA, is moving the needle on recycling and reducing litter, and we won’t stop until every plastic bag is reused or recovered and every piece of litter eliminated. Instead of merely trying to tax its way out of this problem, NYC can be the leader it always has been and join us in challenging its residents to help put an end to litter once and for all.