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A new millennium solidifies molder’s business through strategic growth

Introduction: This is part 3, the final segment of our series on the anatomy of a molder.

Clare Goldsberry

December 2, 2014

8 Min Read
A new millennium solidifies molder’s business through strategic growth

Introduction: This is part 3, the final segment of our series on the anatomy of a molder. I'm sure that by now many of you, our readers, will recognize yourselves in this brief history of Plastic Molding Manufacturing (PMM and ResTech Plastic Molding) as we bring this story into the new millennium.

The new millennium brought new challenges beginning with the mini-recession of 2001-2002. That slump in manufacturing provided a reality check for the injection molding industry. Manufacturing companies could not keep the pace they'd been moving at during the 1990s, and things were changing. Molders that had purchased molding equipment in anticipation of continued demand found themselves badly over-capacitated - some only utilizing 40-50% of their press capacity. It wasn't pretty.

George E. Danis, president of Plastic Molding Manufacturing (PMM), said the company continued with its business model. "Throughout the company's operations, its focus remained on creating value for its customers by utilizing newer technology, upgrading equipment, and providing quality excellence through continuous improvement of the products the company manufactured. Implementing the RJG system to monitor shot-to-shot processing also provided continuous improvement in the quality of the parts PMM produced, another competitive advantage that contributed to the company's growth."

But of course, the 2000s also brought the 'China Challenge' as more and more OEMs took molding to China where mold costs and labor were cheaper, because 'cheaper' was what mattered. However, neither George Danis nor Dick McKenney, partners in PMM, believed that China could out-perform their company when it came to creativity, innovation and employing technology. PMM had good technology and good people in place who had the experience and expertise to solve the most challenging molding issues.

McKenney noted how critical it was to have these experienced personnel on board whose past experience in plastics processing proved invaluable for the company's future. Many of the solutions that PMM found for molding problems were based on former experiences - sometimes with parts that were very different. "We used to run lipstick tubes - it was some overflow work from a plant that ran cosmetics packaging," McKenney explained. "These lipstick tubes had many tight tolerances but after about a week we got all 16 cavities running within the mold. It was a big learning curve and cosmetic products are very appearance-sensitive."

Plant.jpegSeveral years later, a customer came to them with tubular battery cell cases molded out of polysulfone. "They were troubled with making consistent wall thickness and I remembered how we produced the lipstick cases," McKenney said. "Danis challenged us - if we can produce lipstick cases why not battery cases? We completely changed the tooling for the battery cell cases by putting the core in the side action, which eliminated core shift. We controlled the flow by changing the mold temperatures on each side. Once we did that we produced a whole series of these battery cell cases."

Not long after their success with the tubular battery cases, the U.S. Navy procurement office called and said, "I've finally found you!" The vendor who was selling the battery cell cases wouldn't tell them who was making these good battery cases. "The Navy wanted their other vendor to use PMM as well because the cases were so good," said McKenney. "From then on whichever one of the two vendors won the Navy contract for the battery cell cases, we got the contract to mold them. That was interesting how working on lipstick cases led us to the solution to handling long cores and hold the wall tolerances."

Based on the experiences of their staff - particularly the engineering team - PMM is able to apply lessons and techniques learned in the past to new opportunities. The company also began performing design of experiments on new applications to push the envelope for solving problems or pushing the capabilities of the company's equipment and staff.

Technology & strategic growth

Other challenges arose during the first decade of the 2000s as well. George Danis, president of PMM, noted that while manufacturing in general and especially the plastic injection molding industry evolved in technology and materials, it has also become more complex. "A lot of the products have become miniaturized over the years and are more difficult to mold," Danis said. "But at the same time, it has given us more opportunities."

Part of PMM's plan during this decade was to grow strategically through acquisitions. In 2010, PMM acquired Res-Tech Corp., a custom injection molder located in Clinton and Leominster, MA,  that provided a wide range of additional services including finishing (EMI shielding, painting, texturing, pad printing) for a variety of markets including industrial, electronic, medical and consumer; and, additive manufacturing with SLA and SLS 3D printing. Plastic Molding Manufacturing then rebranded its company name to ResTech Plastic Molding, with those facilities and employees merged, and equipment consolidated into PMM's facility in Hudson.

In April of 2013, the company continued similar acquisitions and acquired Tech Atlantic in Berlin, CT, and in January 2014, the company acquired Northeast Mold & Plastics in Glastonbury, CT. In June of this year, the Glastonbury facility and employees merged, and equipment consolidated with Tech Atlantic forming Northeast Mold & Plastics, a Division of ResTech Plastic Molding.  

On November 1, 2014, Plastic Molding Manufacturing, the parent company of ResTech Plastic Molding announced the acquisition of True Precision Plastics, a custom injection molder located in Lancaster, PA, which manufactures for a variety of markets including communications, electronics, medical, transportation, industrial and automotive industries.

Danis added, "With this addition, The Plastic Molding Manufacturing family continues its expansion throughout the United States, with 83 machines from 33 to 500 tons, four two-shot machines, a class 100,000 Clean Room and over 250,000 sq-ft of manufacturing and warehouse facilities, allowing us to be closer and even more accessible to our customers and automation, as well as the efficiency benefits associated with a larger workforce and greater purchasing power."

Size matters

Danis noted that in "the old days" it was much easier to be a small shop and succeed. While he acknowledges there are still some of those left, if a molder isn't of a "particular size" they don't have the resources and financial strength to meet the increasing demands of today's global customers. "Ultimately however, all customers are local even if they are global," Danis said. "GE's facilities, even though they are located all over the country, they are still local. They want to have their engineering and manufacturing next door or be able to drive there in an hour. With these demands from the customer we're trying logistically to do that - be logistically near the customer."

To become even more cost competitive with low cost countries such as China, and to encourage OEMs to keep their manufacturing in the U.S., The Plastic Molding Manufacturing family of companies continues to work diligently across the manufacturing facility to reduce costs through automation. "Our objective is to reinforce our competitiveness and work with every aspect of our manufacturing to reduce costs, and improve quality and service to bring jobs back to America," Danis said emphatically. "Creating jobs through greater efficiencies, automation and training is critical not only to our success as a company but the success of manufacturing in the United State of America. However, we need the government to help manufacturing succeed."

Challenges of the 21st century manufacturer

Danis noted that the most important thing manufacturing can do is to educate the public and elected leaders that will support manufacturing. "Most of our elected officials don't understand how jobs are created," Danis stated. "They're always telling the public they want to create jobs but do nothing to actually support growth, whether by tax credits for creating jobs, reducing manufacturing tax rates, doing something to lower the costs of healthcare, and most importantly, job training for the unemployed. An example would be to set up a program using the community public school infrastructure and its facilities to train our unemployed labor force. We can't find qualified people or some of the eligible workforce don't want to work because the government pays them to stay home. Another area for improvement is to make it easier to start a business, not harder, and get rid of the red tape, the government needs to support manufacturers not put obstacles in our way. This is why manufacturing jobs have been going overseas and specifically, plastic injection molding manufacturing."

Danis is concerned about the health insurance dilemma. As of December 1, 2014, rates will increase by 49% in Pennsylvania, something he finds hard to swallow. "The worst of that is that the company contributes 75% of that," Danis said. "We're buying this company just as the insurance rates are going up and the employees will think that we are at fault. We're in a difficult situation and don't know exactly what we're going to do yet. The health insurance problem has put our economy in a tailspin. There's no way we can succeed as a nation if we don't get our economy in order. Our political leaders don't care - they talk about creating jobs but you don't do that by just saying it. We have to have the ability to compete and to bring jobs back to the U.S."

Still, Danis presses on with The Plastic Molding Manufacturing family of companies, and continues with the plans to grow the business even further. "We just acquired another company. I believe our mission is to build the economy for all, I also love building things," Danis commented. "I love to see our economy and our companies grow, and I love to help our people succeed. We're committed to their success; we have a great group of people in all our companies. We're very excited about our acquisition and our future in the plastics industry and revitalizing manufacturing in the U.S."

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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