Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

At NPE2015, Plastics Hall of Fame Program Honors Plastics Pioneers, Innovators, Educators and Leaders

At NPE2015: The International Plastics Showcase, SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association and the Plastics Academy will induct nine global manufacturing innovators, educators and plastics industry leaders into the Plastics Hall of Fame, awarding them the highest honor bestowed by the plastics industry.

The ceremony will take place on Sunday, March 22 at the Linda W. Chapin Theatre in the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando, Fla., one day before NPE2015 officially kicks off.

This year’s Hall of Fame honorees hail from across the globe, and are receiving the honor of induction for a diverse array of reasons, achievements and contributions to the plastics industry as a whole.

John Beaumont

John Beaumont

John Beaumont of Beaumont Technologies, Inc., for example, was one of three founding members of Penn State Erie’s Plastics Technology Program, and has helped shaped the future of hundreds of plastics professionals by working as a professor at the same school for 25 years

 

 

 

 

 

Terry Browitt

Terry Browitt

Terry Browitt, director and founder of Terinex International, Inc. has also continually supported the cause of plastics growth and education through the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE), formerly serving as the organization’s president and continuing to support it while founding and running Terinex.

 

 

 

 

William Carteaux

William Carteaux

2015 is also a year of milestones for the Plastics Hall of Fame. William Carteaux, president and CEO of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association will become the youngest-ever Plastics Hall of Fame inductee, for reinventing SPI by taking a business approach to association management and reenergizing SPI’s triennial trade show NPE, which will break all records for exhibition space this year.

 

 

 

Maureen Steinwall

Maureen Steinwall

Dr. Maureen Steinwall, president and owner of Steinwall, Inc. is only the second woman to ever be inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame, and received the honor for her outspoken advocacy for employee training and motivation, her leadership activity with SPI and her success in growing Steinwall, Inc. into a well-respected, profitable injection molding business.

 

 

 

 

Robert DeLong

Robert DeLong

All of this year’s nominees are known as innovators, and many of them have made contributions and inventions that are used throughout the plastics industry. Robert DeLong of Blasformen Consulting is a major pioneer in blow-molded dairy bottles like the kind that contain milk in supermarkets across the globe who also supervised the formulation of a best-in-class dairy blow-molding resin in the 1960s.

 

 

 

Eugen Hehl

Eugen Hehl

Eugen Hehl, co-founder of ARBURG GmbH & Co. KG helped grow his company from its humble roots in Germany’s Black Forest into a major international player in injection molding machinery, patented the “ALLROUNDER principle” for achieving up to 10 different working positions on a machine in 1960.

 

 

 

 

Edward Hunerberg

Edward Hunerberg

Edward Hunerberg of Uniloy Milacron is a leading expert in the plastics industry niche field of structural foam molding, known for his reputation for world-class customer service and an inventive streak that resulted in several notable improvements to structural foam molding machines industry-wide.

 

 

 

 

Manfred Lupke

Manfred Lupke

Manfred Lupke, president and CEO of Corma, Inc. and a leader in the field of creating equipment for manufacturing corrugated plastic pipe has registered 848 patents in countries around the world and led Corma to become an industry leader in the field of corrugated plastic pipe-making machinery.

 

 

 

 

Donald Norwood

Donald Norwood

Finally, Donald Norwood is the father of several industry-advancing technologies, most notably the loop reactor, used for ethylene and polypropylene polymerization, that he invented decades ago and has continued to develop and improve over the course of his career.

 

 

 

 

On March 22, all of these individuals will join their colleagues in the Plastics Hall of Fame, which resides at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, honored for their dedication and perseverance that have significantly contributed to the development and growth of the plastics industry. “We are thrilled to welcome this diverse group of industry innovators, from across the globe and across the global plastics supply chain, into the Plastics Hall of Fame,” said Don Loepp, a board member of the Plastics Academy and editor of Plastics News. “Each of them embodies the spirit of what the Plastics Hall of Fame was founded to recognize: leadership, creativity and above all commitment to the growth and development of the entire plastics industry.”

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Processor of the Year Award Validates the STIHL Approach to Automation, Employee Engagement

“For us, we can’t just hire people and put them in a job; we need to qualify them in order to do the job,” said Benjamin Hoffmann, manager of polymer technologies at STIHL Inc.

Benjamin Hoffman, manager of polymer technologies, STIHL Inc. accepts the Processor of the Year award from Plastics News Senior Reporter Bill Bregar.

Benjamin Hoffman, manager of polymer technologies, STIHL Inc. accepts the Processor of the Year award from Plastics News Senior Reporter Bill Bregar.

Plastics News named STIHL Inc. their Processor of the Year at their Executive Forum in Lake Las Vegas earlier this month. For Benjamin Hoffmann, manager of polymer technologies at STIHL Inc., who accepted the award on his company’s behalf, the occasion was cause for gratitude, but also for gratification. “For us, we wanted to see how we benchmarked against others in the industry, and see if what we’re doing was the right thing, or if there were others we could learn from. That was really why we participated,” he said. “Receiving the award is confirmation that all we’ve been doing has been in the right direction, and so we’re going to continue doing what we’ve done so far.”

When asked what distinguished STIHL processing operations from other processing operations, Hoffmann’s first thought was that company’s commitment to automation. “When you look at the size and the level of automation I think that’s where we had a lot of things to show,” he said. “The scope of the automation we have, and also the pure size of our operation were some of the main differences. We have about 90 machines. Others typically only have between 20 and 30.”

STIHL committed to the concept of factory automation early, sometime in the 2000s according to Hoffmann, but the negative connotations that often go with the term “automation” don’t apply to STIHL. “We have embraced the automation concept in order to stay competitive. By the end of this year we’ll have about 151 robots, but one of the remarkable things is that no full time employee has ever been laid off due to automation,” Hoffmann said. “Through automation, we make our processes more efficient, and give people the opportunity to train to get into higher paid jobs, like programming robots or maintaining them. It’s a huge efficiency gain for us.”

“It’s a big advantage for us because among our employees there’s no hesitation when you put a new robot on the show floor,” he added, noting that some employees even make suggestions for what can be automated next. “A lot of employees will come up and say ‘I’m doing this repetitive task, can we automate this?,’” Hoffmann said.

STIHL_PlantPhoto2STIHL has also operated an apprenticeship program since 1984, long before the manufacturing skills gap threatened companies with staffing shortages. “At that point the skills gap wasn’t that predominant,” Hoffmann said, noting that today the STIHL apprenticeship program looks much different from how it looked 30 years ago. “We have varied class sizes and apprentice programs. It used to be more of the mechanical side, but the focus has really shifted over the last two or three years to mechatronics, so really what we need are people that understand the mechanics, but also the electronics,” he said. “For us, ultimately we don’t get the skilled people out on the job market or straight from college or high school. We can’t just hire people and put them in a job; we need to qualify them in order to do the job.”

SPI operates its own workforce management tools to members (see more here) but the STIHL philosophy regarding automation as a means to increase efficiency rather than reduce head count, and its approach to educating and building its own workforce, should serve as an example of the ideal way to run a modern manufacturing facility. They remain among the most innovative, automated companies in the industry, but they still recognize that their most valuable resource is their people. Prioritizing the things that STIHL prioritizes goes a long way toward supporting the plastics industry’s continued growth and development, with an eye toward who’ll be running facilities not today, or tomorrow, but years down the road.

STIHL_PlantPhoto

“The companies that comprise SPI’s membership are on the cutting edge of their industry and are consistently innovating—technologically, operationally, environmentally—in a way that’s a credit to plastics,” said William R. Carteaux, SPI president and CEO. “STIHL makes bold, innovative investments in their operational infrastructure, all while showing as much respect for their business as for their employees, and serves as a model of modern corporate stewardship and a long-term commitment to growth and productivity. Their win of this year’s Processor of the Year Award is richly deserved.”

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

How the President and Vice President Came to Visit SPI Member Techmer PM

Three carloads of Secret Service personnel arrived at SPI member Techmer PM’s plant on Jan. 3, and they didn’t leave for another six days. “They never left our plant until the president was gone,” said John Manuck, Techmer’s chairman and CEO.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden visited Techmer’s Clinton, Tenn. facility on Jan. 9, touring the plant as part of an effort to promote American manufacturing and spotlight the creation of the administration’s newest manufacturing innovation hub. While the visit only lasted about an hour, its origins for Techmer were years in the making.TechmerWebShelbyCobra

To paraphrase Hemingway, a visit from the president and vice president happens two ways: gradually, then suddenly. “The Department of Energy (DOE) is always looking for collaboration with private industry,” Manuck said. “About two years ago, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (a DOE facility) became familiar with our capabilities and asked us to join them in a project of theirs in developing a new process to produce carbon fiber.” After his company connected with Oak Ridge, which is a 30-minute drive away from Techmer’s Clinton facility, Manuck said his company began working with the lab enough to build a relationship.

Then, early in 2014, Oak Ridge approached Techmer about a 3D printing project. “The word kind of got around that there’s this company down the road and we’re really easy to work with,” he said. Techmer and Oak Ridge began working and the results were two 3D-printed cars: one that Manuck said “was more like a dune buggy” and contained some of Techmer’s materials, and another that was a replica Shelby Cobra made entirely from Techmer’s materials.

But the two vehicles weren’t the only fruit that the positive working relationship between Techmer and Oak Ridge would eventually come to bear. When the White House began to plan its trip to the Knoxville area shortly after the 3D printing project had been completed, they naturally reached out to Oak Ridge, whose directors suggested that the president include a visit to Techmer’s facility.

Tom Drye, managing director of Techmer’s Engineered Solutions subsidiary and the company’s main point of contact for Oak Ridge, eventually received a phone call from the White House on Dec. 23, 2014, when staff members called asking for photos of the facility. Manuck managed to get hold of his assistant, who swore herself to secrecy both for security reasons and because by that point, only two short weeks before the visit actually happened, it still was not a guarantee. The day after Christmas Techmer’s phones rang again, with officials saying that they wanted a smaller Secret Service team to visit their facility the next Friday, Jan. 2. “We were scheduled to be closed that day and we let them know that, but that was actually probably a good thing to keep this confidential,” Manuck said.

TechmerWebObamaEventually more Secret Service members arrived, and the security protocols began, a process Manuck described as a “learning experience.” “I guess since the assassination attempt on President Reagan, the Secret Service does not like the president getting in and out of a car in a public place,” he said. “They pull the car inside, so they wanted to come in the back of the plant and we had to move some storage racks, which we did.”

While securing Techmer’s facility, Manuck also happened upon a new application for some of the company’s materials. “Our Gaylord boxes are filled with plastic pellets, and the Secret Service guys saw them and said ‘a bullet couldn’t get through this,’” he said. “So they had us move the Gaylords, and wherever he (the President) was going to go, we had a path laid out, part of which was made by stacking Gaylords where we wouldn’t normally have them.”

The day of the actual visit there was a final security follow-up from 7am-9am (“Bomb sniffing dogs, the whole thing,” according to Manuck) and then eventually, upon the President’s arrival, Manuck led him on a tour and had a chance to talk with the President. “I had made notes, and some were what I’ll call ‘self-promotional’ notes,” he said. “I wanted to promote manufacturing in the United States. I wanted to promote private companies, and that how, as a private company, we’re nimble. Most of these I was able to talk to the president about. We had a real dialogue, and that was my intention.”

Certain questions Manuck was able to prepare for ahead of time. “He was going to pepper me with questions. He’s not going to try to trick you, but he’s going to want some real information,” Manuck said. “He asked me how I started the business and I had prepared for that mentally, so I told him that I started off as an engineer working for a big company and just decided that I could do it better.” The President eventually referenced this response in the remarks he gave at the end of his visit.

Additionally, Manuck did research beforehand to dig up some information about his company that he thought the president might find interesting. “I dug up our employment stats and from Dec. 2008 to Dec. 2014, our employment had grown 33%, but that included an acquisition. If you exclude that it was still up 20%.” The President asked what kind of hires Manuck had made, whether they were college grads, two-year college grads or other. “All of the above,” he said, delving further into details about his workforce and hiring philosophy. “Out of high school, they’re not ready. It’s not only the math and the writing, it’s the soft skills, which is what I’ve found to be the biggest problem,” Manuck added. The President agreed with him.TechmerWebObamaManuckBiden

It’s not every day that the president and vice president come to visit a factory, but Techmer clearly made the most of it, from their organizational flexibility and teamwork to Manuck’s preparation. “For us the obvious benefit is the positive publicity that we’ve gotten globally,” Manuck said. “People are still buzzing about it.” A great deal of time and work went in to the successful visit, obviously, but for Techmer and other manufacturers who open their doors for elected officials, and everyone else to see, the process of doing is its own benefit. “Some people have asked ‘was it worthwhile?’” Manuck said. “For us it’s a no brainer.”

Tips from the Presidential Visit to Techmer:

  • Make Connections: Had Techmer not made friends with a nearby government lab more than two years ago, and worked openly and productively with them in whatever way they could, the Presidential visit would never have happened.
  • Be Flexible: Techmer shut down its plant and rearranged its operational schedule in order to meet its visitors’ needs and make up for any downtime.
  • Be Prepared: It might seem obvious, but when you’re hosting an elected official or policymaker, don’t miss your opportunity to leave an impression.
  • Say Yes: Manuck said that the Secret Service repeatedly remarked on how accommodating his team was, which apparently isn’t always the case. “Whether it’s corporate red tape or whatever, companies will just say no to stuff,” Manuck said. “For us, the attitude of my people and I was that if the White House is coming here and they want something, we’re going to provide it.”

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.

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

War College in a Plastic World

By Kim Coghill, SPI Communications Director

While the concept of leading in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world has its roots in the U.S. military, the business community has borrowed the successful approach to strategic leadership and applied it to management training across industries.

“In reality, VUCA has never been more relevant, for the military and for business,” Gen. George W. Casey Jr. (Ret.), said in a Fortune magazine article that addresses parallels between his leadership challenges in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq, and the current business environment.

Recognizing the value of VUCA leadership training, organizers of the 2014 Equipment & Moldmakers Leadership Summit in October have scheduled a half-day Executive Workshop designed to apply VUCA principles to plastics manufacturing management. The program, “Leading in a VUCA World,” will be taught by international business experts from the world renowned Thunderbird School of Global Management.

“Regardless of an organization’s size and footprint, the workshop is designed to equip attendees with strategies to overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities presented in a global industry,” said Jackie Dalzell, SPI’s director of industry affairs and staff leader for the Equipment & Moldmakers Council.

Leadership thinkers have been turning to lessons learned from the military to create paradigms for surviving and thriving in a turbulent, “permanent whitewater” world where old styles of managing predictability were falling short, Thunderbird professors Paul Kinsinger and Karen Walch said in an article titled, “Living and Leading in a VUCA World.”

Kinsinger and Walch said research shows that the keys to leading in a VUCA world include possessing the knowledge, mindfulness and ability to:

  1. Create a vision and “make sense of the world.” Sense-making is perhaps more important now than at any time in modern history for many companies, as we are not too many years away from the time when the global economy will actually be truly “global,” encompassing every country and in which competitors will be emanating from everywhere.
  2. Understand one’s own and others’ values and intentions. This speaks to having a core ability to know what you want to be and where you want to go at all times, even while being open to multiple ways to get there.
  3. Seek clarity regarding yourself and seek sustainable relationships and solutions. Leading in turbulence demands the ability to utilize all facets of the human mind. Even the most impressive cognitive minds will fall short in the VUCA world — it will take equal parts cognitive, social, emotional, spiritual, and physical intelligence to prevail.
  4. Practice agility, adaptability and buoyancy. This means the responsive and resilient ability to balance adroitly and right yourself to ride out those turbulent forces that cannot be avoided, and to pivot quickly to seize advantage of those that can be harnessed.
  5. Develop and engage social networks. The ability to recognize that the days of the single “great leader” are gone. In the VUCA world, the best leaders are the ones who harness leadership from everyone.

The Executive Workshop scheduled for the Summit is based on strategies developed by the U.S. Army College at the end of the Cold War to address threats that created a VUCA world.  Attendees will learn fundamental principles of a VUCA “antidote” combined with specific strategies resulting from in-depth research on trends impacting the plastics industry. The SPI 2014 Equipment & Moldmakers Leadership Summit is scheduled Sunday, Oct. 26 through Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014, at Loew’s Ventana Canyon in Tucson, Ariz.

Other highlights of the Summit include a Brand Owner Panel discussing technology needs to support their product innovations, what equipment manufacturers and moldmakers need to know about new and reformulated materials, update on the U.S. manufacturing renaissance and re-shoring initiatives, and much more.  Register today by clicking here, seats are filling up fast!  We look forward to seeing you in Tucson.