Friday, January 13th, 2012

Outstanding Finalists for Plastics News’ Processor of the Year Award

The three injection molding companies vying to win the Plastics News’ Processor of the Year Award are each successful, creative, and high tech. They have well cultivated relationships with their clients, many of them long-term, and being exceptionally well managed, they excel at forward thinking. The judges face a formidable task.

The three finalists are: Bemis Manufacturing (Sheboygan Falls, WI), Rodon Group (Hatfield, PA), and Steinwall Inc. (Coon Rapids, MN). The winner of the award, which is exclusively sponsored by SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, will be announced on January 31 at a ceremony during the Plastics News Executive Forum in Tampa, FL.

Only one can win the award, but there are no losers in this trio.

A global leader in toilet seat production, Bemis serves various other sectors, such as medical.

Bemis Manufacturing began making wooden toy wagons in 1901 and switched to making wooden toilet seats during the Great Depression. Molding plastic toilet seats began about 50 years ago and today the company says it is the world’s leading maker of toilet seats, wood and plastic. Sales for 2011 were $340 million, and though toilet seat revenues were flat, there has been solid growth in the Bemis molding-based Advanced Technology Group.

The company is a long-term and highly active member of SPI, and CEO/owner Peter Bemis, who was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame during the NPE2006 Show, has served on SPI’s National and Midwest Regional boards of directors, and often as a roving ambassador for the plastics industry.

That award judges particularly noted the company’s environmental efforts. Coinjection molding can be used to put recycled material inside a part surfaced in another material. Bemis’ energy-related projects have saved 11.5 million kilowatt-hours since 2001 by replacing lighting, using an enclosed water system, collecting rainwater in a settling pond, and web monitoring and metering of energy consumption.

The company, which is debt-free, has about 140 injection molding machines, including a 6600-ton Milacron system, and articulated robots service most of them. Bemis also runs 20 extrusion lines. There are about 1800 Bemis employees working at the Wisconsin headquarters and plants in North Carolina, Mexico, England, Italy, and China.

Rodon’s automation and controls make it price-competitive with Chinese molders.

The best known part of the Rodon Group has to be its K’Nex line of interlocking construction toys, but the largest part is the custom injection molding

that Irv Glickman began in 1956. Irv’s son Joel came up with the K’Nex product in the early nineties, Joel’s son-in-law currently is the third-generation family CEO, and Rodon is now 106 injection machines and 19 moldmakers working in its in-house tool shop.

Besides the K’Nex toys that make up roughly a third of its production, Rodon’s molding machines serve clients in the consumer products, medical, pharmaceutical, construction, and display sectors. It also molds and sells several proprietary lines of standard plugs, fasteners, and caps.

The American flag is prominent on the Rodon website, followed by, “Your high volume, small plastic parts specialist…Cheaper than China!” It does that with a skilled workforce of 88 people, plus automation and controls that let one operator run 15 machines, and not taking on assembly. Over the last four years customers have accepted 99.8% of the parts shipped, and Rodon last year took back production of 120 million-plus parts from China.

 

Steinwall’s “Cocoon” white room holds 78ºF and 55% humidity year round, and dust is kept out.

Steinwall Inc. was acquired in 1985 from its founder Carl Steinwall by his daughter, Maureen Steinwall, the current CEO. Her innovations in computer-based training, video job instructions at the molding lines (currently migrating to iPads), and other methods to raise employee skill levels are so successful that you might miss how well Steinwall Inc. functions as a molder and as a business. The award judges noticed.

Company sales of $19.1 million for its fiscal 2011 are nearly three times the level of 2001. John Deere & Co. gave Steinwall a Supplier of the Year award for 2009 and will double its

volume of business with the company in 2012. Also in 2012, the company will move into a second building, making room for production systems from its new customer Bosch Security Systems, which is transferring its in-house molding operations, including 750 part numbers, to Steinwall Inc.

Following that transfer, Steinwall Inc. will be running 48 injection machines with clamp forces from 40 to 1750 tons. The company already had been investing in new molding technology, one example being its new electric 500-ton Toshiba EC machine with an MGS add-on second injection unity that makes a polycarbonate meter housing with brass inserts and an integral polyurethane gasket.

Along with making all that happen, Maureen Steinwall has been an SPI member since 1996, and an active participant in several parts of the association. Steinwall, who also was a finalist for the award last year, was nominated by SPI President & CEO Bill Carteaux. A strong supporter of the overall plastics industry, Steinwall will be an exhibitor at NPE2012 in Orlando, April 1-5. Stop by during the show.

Though all the finalists are family businesses, what matters to the award judges is that each of these three companies is an outstanding plastics processing business. Best wishes to them all.

For a detailed report on the three finalists by Bill Bregar of Plastics News click here.

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