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March 4, 2001

6 Min Read
Proof that small molders can be big on technology

Figure 1. The availability of added-value processes helped Triad secure full production of a plug-in night light once assembled in Mexico. Here circuit boards for the lights are programmed prior to assembly. 

Imagination, technology and teamwork. These are the words that make up the corporate slogan for Triad Plastic Technologies. Triad President Greg Latimer says that at the core of the company's success is the fact that it embraces this philosophy. "And, we're not afraid of creativity and technology," he adds. 

   The payoff for the Reno, NV custom molder and moldmaker is an ability to be more competitive. Latimer boasts that he's taking on a job that was headed to China. He also captured full production of a job—a unique, animated plug-in night light that was being assembled in Tijuana, Mexico—by coming up with a more cost-effective way to do the entire program (Figure 1).

   "We used to mold the parts and we were very happy to do that," says Latimer. "Now, we load the electronics, install the prongs, and assemble it."

Figure 2. CNC equipment, including machining centers and EDM equipment, are part of Triad's moldmaking division. The company has also invested in design and analysis software and SLA prototyping.

   Triad just completed a 100,000-unit pilot run of the night lights, and it is  currently gearing up to produce the packaging by purchasing thermoforming equipment to make the blister packs.

   Pat Keown, director of operations for Addvision (Scotts Valley, CA), which designs and markets the night light and a variety of other electro-luminescent animation systems, says that logistics was a critical factor. "It didn't make sense to have Triad mold the parts, ship those parts to Mexico for assembly, and then ship the completed product back to the U.S.," he explains.

   Keown was also impressed with Triad's commitment to help drive down the cost to manufacture. "Greg was able to meet our cost of doing business in Mexico," he explains. "He charges slightly more, but we save in shipping costs and have better yields because there's less damage in the shipping process."

   Still, it was a commitment to new technology that cinched the deal, according to Keown. "We're pleased with Greg's attitude toward business and the fact that he has internal moldmaking," he notes. "He also doesn't allow his equipment to get old beyond its usefulness."

Figure 3. Parts assembly like this has proved instrumental in Triad's success. Also included are sonic welding, pad printing, and hot stamping. Inmold decorating is being considered for future applications. 

Investing in Success
Triad is proof that a small molding company can reap substantial rewards by thinking big when it comes to technology. In fact, Latimer says, "The secret to our success is not being apathetic toward new technology." For example, the company purchased an IQMS production management system when Triad had only two presses. The IQMS folks questioned whether or not Latimer really wanted a system at that stage, but he assured them that he wanted to implement cutting-edge technology right from the start. Technology would be Triad's competitive edge.

   Latimer started Triad in 1988, a year after selling another business he'd owned for several years molding artificial fingernails. That gave Latimer, a moldmaker by trade, experience molding—producing packaging—and in secondary operations. He was determined that Triad would be the most technically advanced moldmaking and molding company in the Nevada/Northern California region.

   Latimer first had a vision for the company, and then allowed customer requirements to lead him down the path toward making that vision a reality. "I knew what I wanted to be, but I didn't know the exact pieces of equipment I needed," he explains. "I would see the need for certain services or capabilities among my customers or a niche that would allow me to provide total fulfillment to my customer."

   Triad's moldmaking division includes four seats of CAD/CAM software, analysis software from Moldflow, a mold base cutting program from D-M-E to automate that process, and CNC equipment including machining centers and EDM equipment (Figure 2). Value-added services include fused deposition modeling (FDM) and SLA prototyping.

   Latimer says he broke in his new CAD/CAM system on a big project for a mold that made two large, mating parts that contained numerous ribs and 220 small holes. "We came in three weeks early on that job," he says proudly.

   Once he got the moldmaking systems down pat, he began work to create robust molding and manufacturing systems. To start, Latimer purchased auxiliary equipment that communicates with the presses. "When we began buying auxiliary equipment, none came with communication ports, but now they do," says Latimer. Triad currently operates six presses ranging from 55 to 300 tons, none more than three years old and all with optimum process controls.

   The company's secondary operations include sonic welding, pad printing, hot stamping, and assembly (Figure 3). Triad has also entered a joint venture with a major OEM to perform inmold decorating.

   Also, because of Latimer's commitment to technology, he doesn't mold low-end parts. "The problem with that type of job is that as soon as someone else offers to mold the part for one cent less, the job is gone like a memory," he explains.

Paying for Technology
Profitability has been key to Latimer's ability to invest in technology. He watches every job carefully to ensure that his company's profitability goals are being met. "Knowing where you stand allows you to understand what you can do in terms of investing in additional technology," he says.

   Almost every piece of equipment the company buys is paid for through an equipment fund that Latimar sets aside from the company's profits. If he does finance something, he pays it off quickly.

   Triad received its ISO 9002 certification in 1998, and in January 2000 moved into a 38,000-sq-ft custom-built facility Latimer purchased in a new industrial park. Although Reno, like most of Nevada, is known primarily for its gambling, Latimer says that the state has recognized the need to diversify by pulling in a manufacturing base. Most of Latimer's work comes from companies in the Reno area. "To attract manufacturing requires support industries such as ourselves," he says.

   Investment in value-added services and technology have certainly paid off for Triad, but Latimer makes decisions carefully when choosing technology. "We don't buy technology just to have new toys," he says. "The technology has to make sense for our operations, and if it does then we embrace it."

Contact information
Triad Plastic Technologies
Reno, NV
Greg Latimer
Phone: (775) 853-6653
Fax: (775) 853-6690
Web: www.triad-plastics.com

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