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What do you do if you just love to make things? Well, if you're Missy Rogers, you start a custom injection molding company! Educated as a mechanical engineer, Rogers grew up in Louisiana in the petrochemical industry and worked for a big oil company for a while. That's when she started learning about plastics. In 1999, Rogers read some data that showed Louisiana was number one in plastic pellet production and number 37 in plastic products manufacturing.

Clare Goldsberry

March 16, 2015

5 Min Read
Louisiana injection molder "makes it" in state with few converters

What do you do if you just love to make things? Well, if you're Missy Rogers, you start a custom injection molding company! Educated as a mechanical engineer, Rogers grew up in Louisiana in the petrochemical industry and worked for a big oil company for a while. That's when she started learning about plastics. In 1999, Rogers read some data that showed Louisiana was number one in plastic pellet production and number 37 in plastic products manufacturing.

"It just struck me at that time that it seems dumb that we locate all these ethylene plants here and make plastic pellets, put them on trains and trucks and ship them to Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and other places to be converted into plastic products," Rogers told PlasticsToday. "How are we not the number one converter of pellets?"

noble-plastics-400.jpgToday, Rogers is the president of Noble Plastics, which she established in 2000, and she is excited about the plastics industry and the opportunities that abound for making products in the USA. She noticed that many products and components were moving out of metals to plastics, and felt this would be a good niche for someone with a mechanical engineering degree. "I found a lot of things that should be made in plastic instead of metal," Rogers said.

Rogers' husband, also a mechanical engineer who worked for a large manufacturing firm, used to travel "all the way to Michigan to get plastic parts made," noted Rogers. "While we don't make cars in Louisiana, we make a lot of other types of parts, such as industrial machine parts," she added.

Rogers purchased a 40,000-square-foot building, bought machinery and "started doing things that people said we couldn't do," she said. Because of her engineering background, Rogers began doing a lot of R&D to uncover the possibilities of plastics in metal conversions. "We do much more R&D here at Noble Plastics than the typical custom molder. It's a significant part of our business."

Some of the big resin companies discovered her and began bringing her materials on which to experiment. "They'd bring me 100 pounds of various new materials that didn't have any commercial application as yet and tell me ‘see what you can do with this,'" she explained. "We're really a custom custom molding shop. Nothing we do here is easy--it's what we call ‘fearless manufacturing' or ‘manufacturing without a net.' There's no fear of failure when you're doing something no one else has done before or that others have failed at."

Louisiana is "an underserved region" of the country when it comes to custom injection molding suppliers, says Rogers. "We had people knocking on our door asking us to do this project or that, and we soon began expanding our capabilities to meet the demands of these customers."

One driver of Noble Plastics' business was the movement of the automotive industry into the southern states. "Since the automotive companies have come to the south, we've gotten much busier," Rogers commented. "We've gotten customers who had molds in many other states that were farther away from their facilities, and now they can bring them back home."

Rogers explained that Louisiana as a whole has been learning since the late 1980s that it couldn't rely on oil and gas as its only industry. "The state began an initiative to find out what else it could do to attract other, related industries," she said. "Manufacturing offers a very high performance level and good jobs, so the state created R&D tax programs as well as training programs. Both were a really good fit for us as we grew Noble Plastics. I'm an economic ambassador for the State Economic Development Department."

Rogers noted that the one good thing about founding and growing her business was that she didn't have to leave home to be in a business she loves. "We're really fortunate to have our business here," she said. "All the young professionals on our staff love working in this industry--injection molding is a clean, high-tech industry to work in."

Noble Plastics operates in a sealed, climate-controlled shop to keep the humidity levels down. The company was also the first shop in the region to get an IQMS RealTime management system throughout the facility, and RJG e-Dart systems. The company operates 12 presses (the 12th one--an Engel--was delivered on March 4, 2015), ranging from 35 to 750 tons, equipped with 14 robots. "Technology helps us have a better business," she commented. "Robots aren't taking jobs from people. They are here to do the mechanical, repetitive and difficult jobs to keep people safe."

Rogers stated that "the future for us will always be technology centered. We serve a very demanding market for a very demanding clientele. Since I didn't come from an injection molding background, we approached it from both an R&D and project management standpoint. We didn't see the hurdles as hurdles."

Rogers recently purchased a second building with 77,000 square feet that gives Noble Plastics the ability to grow the company's capabilities. Noble Plastics serves the precision machine components market, and also produces large, bulky structural products for the energy and defense industries, markets in which the size of the products doesn't make it a fit for the traditional custom molder, Rogers explained.

Noble Plastics employs 30 people and Rogers takes this responsibility seriously. "It makes me proud and pleased to be successful, but it also makes me careful in business decisions," she muses. "When you approach your business that way, your customers benefit and your employees benefit."

Rogers' business thrived throughout the recession but she acknowledges that not everyone was as lucky. "It resulted in a winnowing of the industry, but look at how much healthier it is now," she said. "That's how you succeed in a global economy. I think it will continue to strengthen and grow and we'll continue to replace metal with plastic, and more automation and technology will help us get better."

Her new-found career in the plastics converting industry has become her passion. "I'm so fortunate to have this career," Rogers said. "When I first told my family my plans, they told me I shouldn't be in manufacturing. But I'm a maker--it's who I am--I just wanted to make more pie. Now they understand--I don't have to worry about the pricing or the size of the slices--if I make good pie, people will buy more pie."

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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