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First time correct, Part 2: Machine, method, material, man

Part 1 of this two-part series introduced a fishbone diagram showing many of the parameters requiring control to successfully make injection molded parts. Part 2 offers more details on some of these, broken down again by the four main categories: machine, method, material, and man.

MACHINE

Molding machines
Platens. The condition of the platens and how they come together affects not only mold longevity, but also mold performance. Flat platens properly support the mold under clamp load and injection pressure. These can be checked with a large straight edge. Platens sag when worn and can move during clamp lockup, typically upwards. Check this with indicators on the mold and the indicator base on the frame or some other place that does not move or flex under tonnage. Using full clamp tonnage on a mold base that is too small can not only crush a parting line but also can allow the platens to wrap around the mold a little. When paying attention to minimum mold sizes, a rough rule of thumb is not to use full clamp pressure on mold bases covering less than half the distance between the tiebars. Clamping on molds that are too small can give you flash in a mold that might check out OK on the bench.

Reciprocating screws. Understanding how the screw design affects the resin being processed can help dramatically. As a rough rule of thumb, assuming a proper shot size, about 50% of the heat required to melt the resin comes from screw-generated shear. Nylons might get 80% of the heat from the screw. Semicrystalline resins require more energy to break down the crystal structures. Amorphous resins such as polycarbonates like long transition zones to avoid degradation. Barrier screws help separate the melted plastic from the unmelted plastic to prevent degrading and to concentrate the screw-generated shear energy on the unmelted pellets. You can have screws optimized within families of resins—for instance, different screws for HDPEs of different average molecular weights.

Custom molders have it hard in this regard because they need to process many different resins with typically a limited set of equipment. At a minimum, it would help to get a handle on the screw designs in your machines—usually the compression ratio, the percentage of the total length used by the feed, transition and metering zones, the metering zone depth, and the length-to-diameter (L/D) ratio. Many resin manufacturers will publish the best screw conditions for their resin. These guidelines are also available from some screw manufacturers.

As far as screw wear goes, a rough rule of thumb for new screws and barrels is that there should be 0.001 inch of clearance between the screw flights and barrel ID for every inch of screw diameter. Problems with worn screws or barrels include the melted resin slipping back over the screw flights for extra shearing and added recovery time to bring the screw back. Other things roughly being equal, slowly increasing screw recovery times on a job can indicate screw or barrel wear.

Barrels. If a barrel is having an ill effect on first-time-correct parts, it’s probably because it’s worn. Barrels don’t wear evenly, so don’t think that your barrel is OK just because you don’t have the equipment to measure along its entire length. Barrels wear for many reasons, and probably more often than we think due to temperature settings that are too low in one or more zones.

Nozzles.  Nozzles are sized 1/32 inch under the sprue O-dimension to prevent slight mismatch from keeping the cold sprue from coming out. Remember the nozzle size when reviewing shear rates in your melt delivery system and that the highest-shear point for nylon nozzle tips is inside. A 1/8-inch nylon nozzle that matches a 5/32-inch (0.156 inch) sprue O will actually have a 0.090-inch orifice inside. Take advantage of the different nozzle types and specify the nozzle used for each mold so this does not vary from run to run.

Tiebars (where applicable). The amount all the tiebars stretch during clamp lockup should be within about 10% of each other. Above that, you might run the risk of putting excess strain on the molding machine, damaging a mold, or just flashing in one area of the part.

Oil. Just like in your car, the condition of the oil can prevent your machine from working correctly. Unlike your car that costs $29.95 to completely start over with fresh oil and filter, some machines hold a lot of oil, and it is expensive and time consuming to change. Make sure you have a good filter and, if you don’t already, consider getting the oil tested [http://www.plasticstoday.com/imm/articles/how-stop-varnish-it-costs-you] to know when it’s time to change.

Valves (where applicable). Valves are less of a concern if the oil has been properly maintained and the correct oil used. But over time these can varnish up and the increased or variable response time can affect the processing.

Mold/water temperature controls (thermolators)
Simply put, they need to have enough power to supply enough water at the proper temperature. For most types of molding, each waterline should only pick up 3-5 deg F between the “in” and the “out.” If you have a number of mold water circuits hooked up to a common source, like a manifold, bear in mind that the water will follow the path of least resistance. If all your waterlines are pressure-balanced so that no lines are starving due to pressure loss, and you are still picking up too much heat, you might need more psi at the control to push more gpms of water.

Water circuit hookups. With all the issues noted under mold/water temperature controls, don’t leave the task of plumbing the mold to be reinvented every time. Pick a way to document how the water gets hooked up and make sure it is done the same way every time.

Molds
There are many variables here, but a list of highlights for things that can vary shot-to-shot or prevent you from molding good parts immediately includes:

Pressure-balanced water circuits. This was covered a little under “Mold temperature controls.” Most shops run a different mix of molds every day, which means the draw on the water supply varies every day. Some days the water pressure available at an individual mold might not be enough to feed all circuits properly, but you need to monitor this to find out. This is certainly one of many gremlins running around when the mold techs say, “I set it up exactly the same way as last time but the results are different.”

Enough steel (or aluminum, etc.) wrapped around the cavities and cores to prevent excessive bowing, particularly on deep-draw parts. Among other things, molds are pressure vessels that withstand tens of thousands of psi of plastic pressure. Put an indicator on the mold side and watch it during injection and packing to find out if your mold is flexing too much. Do this in different areas to map the flexing. More than 0.003-0.005 inch could be a problem.

Side-to-side shifting of molds during molding. The press platens hold the mold shut in the line of draw. What if the part has an imbalance of projected area side to side? There are at least two things to watch for here and it is easy to do with indicators measuring from one half to the other. One is mold shift on clamp lockup, which tells you how well your parting line is shutting off. The other is a shift during injection and packing, which tell you how well your mold is resisting molding pressure. Your mold might have one or both.

Resin dryers
Variations in resin dryness can cause a lot of headaches. A lot of newer dryers have features that help you dry resin properly, particularly when it comes to monitoring the supply and return air and reacting accordingly. One item to be wary of is the possibility that resin is not flowing through the hopper LIFO, or is “rat-holing,” where resin slips down a channel from the top of the hopper to the bottom. There are experiments you can run to check for this. Start with a layer of colored pellets placed on top of a full hopper, and then unload it at a rate intended to empty the hopper in 4 hours. This should get checked at least two ways—with the hopper being continuously replenished and running the hopper all the way out.

The airflow through the hopper should be checked for variations with the hopper empty and full. Another key area is matching dryer throughput with mold throughput. Don’t put a dryer on a mold that consumes resin faster than the dryer can dry it. Classify your dryers and put them on the BOM for each part/mold.

Moisture analyzers
These need to be calibrated, properly programmed, and used in an environment conducive to performing what is essentially a laboratory test.

Granulators
Reduce process variation through consistent particle size. One primary goal in any molding process is to get a consistent, homogenous melt to the mold. Big variation in particle size makes this much harder because they don’t melt the same. Set the proper knife gap. Use different knife angles for different plastics. Roughly speaking, use sharper, more acute angle grinds for more flexible resins to slice them and more wedge-like angles for shattering higher-impact plastics.

Hot runner manifolds
Pressure loss in any melt delivery system prevents you from tightly controlling your part. There are a couple ways to look at it. In general, no melt delivery system should have more than a 4000-psi pressure drop. Even on a press with a maximum of 17,000 psi available at the nozzle, that still leaves a lot for part control.

Another general guideline is to limit the pressure loss of your runner as a percentage of the total pressure loss. If it takes 4000 psi to get resin through your runner and you have a small part requiring only 1500 psi to fill, remember that the machine will have a harder time “seeing” the part as it pushes on the squishy rope of plastic in your melt delivery system. Cavity pressure sensors may help overcome this by telling the machine what to do based on what is happening in the mold.

Another common mistake is with wiring thermocouples, particularly when repairing them. A thermocouple works by having two dissimilar metals touching each other at the point of temperature sensing. If you splice in some other metal, you might get erroneous measurements.

METHOD

Moisture content
Methods for analyzing moisture should include handling the resin in sealed jars and making sure the program runs a proper time/temperature profile that drives off moisture and not other volatiles affecting the moisture calculation. Also, make sure your sample is cool enough prior to testing. Running the tests too warm, particularly an issue if the drying temperature is high, can skew the results. Not-to-exceed moisture limits are the primary checks. Running some resins with moisture too low can cause other issues. Nylon’s viscosity can increase significantly. PPA becomes more brittle. If not properly diagnosed, the “cures” to these issues can make matters worse.

Appearance criteria
Quality, by one definition, is “conformance to requirements.” Are the customer’s requirements clear and commonly understood? Are physical limit samples available that the customer approved? If you run cosmetic parts, you might decrease your scrap rate simply by working with your customer to get a common understanding of what is acceptable.

Measuring
Gauge repeatability and reproducibility. GR&R is a measurement systems analysis technique that tells you if the people and the gauges measuring your parts can do it reliably. Some parts have features that are difficult to measure. Some measuring tools are harder to use than others. And some less-experienced people don’t draw clear distinctions between a c-clamp and a micrometer. If you have high scrap rates due to dimensional issues, this is one area to check. Reduce the measuring variation.

Control plans. These are basically the guidelines for what to check on each part and how to check it. They might include verification of the resin, moisture content, what critical features to measure and how, cosmetics, and so on. Most molders use these. They can affect your ability to produce parts correctly the first time by serving as a checklist and a reminder for what goes into making any part correctly.

Material handling
Material cleanliness comes from a number of areas. Good habits include covering gaylords and bags. Using air blasts to clean hoppers, filters, feedthroats, machines, and so forth is a terrible practice. Remember, the purpose of the plant’s HVAC system is to circulate plant air. The dust kicked up using an air blast can carry farther than most people think. For resins that require drying, keeping the resin sealed from moisture not only saves energy required to redry, but also reduces the variation inherent in dealing with wet resin.

Processing
Residence time. Many resin manufacturers publish maximum residence times for their resins sensitive to heat history. Remember that this is very much a function of melt temperatures. Most resins will degrade much faster at the high end of the melt temperature range than at the low end. Residence time can be shortened by delaying the extruder/start of screw-back until necessary. If you need to process on the high end of the melt temperature and your residence time is long, it is worth having clear procedures for every startup. These might need to go beyond how many parts you throw away before boxing parts again by including the size of the purge puddle.

Heater band profiles. For better melt consistency, these can be adjusted as a function of shot size and resin type. Keep the front zone at the target melt temperature and move the middle and rear zones up to improve the melt consistency and minimize screw and barrel wear. Also, make sure the heater bands are kicking in and not overriding. If they are overriding, that could mean that all the heat is coming from shearing, and that might not be good for your resin.

Robust process. If your mold can’t run parts in the manufacturer’s suggested processing window, take the time to figure out why not. Run a design of experiments (DOE) to figure out the critical parameters on your part and put control limits on those. Use statistics to figure out if gate seal is required and remember it is a function of time as well as pressure.

MATERIAL

Regrind
Regrind control has a lot of opportunities to reduce scrap. It is difficult to control what generation of regrind ends up in any part, which is how the commonly used 25% maximum figure came to be. Statistically, first- and second-generation regrind is the highest content percentage and should not have seen enough history to significantly compromise the properties. When you calculate out the content percentage of the nth generation regrind, it should be insignificant enough that even if it is degraded, it will not cause ill effects. Typically, 50% and 100% regrind are reserved for parts and/or resins where the product performance is well within the nominal resin’s capabilities. Adding regrind in a homogeneous mixture is required and is another good opportunity for gravimetric blending.

Lot-to-lot variation
Cavity-pressure sensing can overcome a number of these issues. If you use part weight to determine quality, be sure to understand the variations in specific gravity, particularly for filled resins. Remember, there are tolerances on filler content and if the specific gravity of the filler is significantly different from the base resin, your part weight will naturally vary accordingly.

MAN

The effects people have on the process are many and varied and this area has been the subject of any number of books both in our industry and certainly across any industry, particularly when you move from “what” to “why” things get done, or don’t. For the most part, if proper procedures are being established and followed, things will go better. The Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle, when used, will move you away from variation that leads to scrap.

One interesting area where perceptions are unique to individuals is color acuity—i.e., the individual’s ability to tell if a molded part is the same color as a master sample. People perceive color differently and that ability changes over time.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, hopefully we have provided some ideas on how to improve operations and better serve customers.

Author Mike Miller is director of engineering at contract molder New Berlin Plastics (New Berlin, WI).

First-time-correct injection molded parts, Part 1

Reducing scrap is the low-hanging fruit in strengthening your bottom line, so make the parts right the first time.

How many companies have slowly gone out of business because of poor margins? How many companies are in business but holding on by single-digit margins? The difference between being in business and being out of business can be surprisingly small. In these lean times, a lot us are looking at ways to drop money to our bottom lines. Reducing our scrap—or the overall cost of quality, if our accounting is advanced—is an easy way to make up at least some of the difference.

There is a fairly big difference between scrap percentage and the cost of quality. This subject has been covered in different ways through the years. Philip Crosby used “the price of nonconformance” and Joseph Juran used “the cost of poor quality,” just to name a couple. The term “cost of quality” refers to the costs associated with providing poor-quality product or service. Your scrap percentage is typically the amount of bad parts out of the total amount produced. Your cost of quality, however, is the amount of money and time you spend achieving your yield. You can think of it in terms of value-added vs. nonvalue-added activities. To illustrate this: If you have inspectors running around ensuring your scrap rate is zero, your cost of quality can be extremely high.

Once we get through that line of thinking, we quickly gravitate to prevention methods vs. detection methods. But in order to be effective, the prevention needs to be as close to the source as possible, particularly from a time perspective. “First time correct” is often used as the goal. But how do we get there? The old saw “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” holds true here. Many new technologies and tools have come out through the years that have allowed us increased insight into the molding process. A lot of these are like the “check engine” light on your car’s dashboard—they might not tell you exactly what is wrong, but at least a clear signal is being sent that something is wrong. Many variables are easy to measure; we just need to take the time to do it.

On the opposite page is a fishbone (or Ishikawa) diagram for a number of variables that contribute to the outcome of a molded part over a short time period. It breaks down the causes of an effect into four areas: machine, method, material, and man. The list, of course, would be much longer if we considered longer-term affects. If you are able to measure or control these, your pathway to lowering your cost of quality should be much clearer. It will also help to assign someone to be accountable for these so your fate is not left to chance. With a little patience, some careful studies, and a team effort, any molder can dramatically improve its level of control over its process and watch the scrap decrease.

Not everything in the diagram will apply to all shops, and it is quite likely there are elements missing, but it can be used to set up a framework to organize your project and then break it down into bite-sized pieces.

Author Mike Miller is director of engineering at contract molder New Berlin Plastics (New Berlin, WI).

Part 2 addresses each of the four main variables in arriving at correct parts the first time: machine, method, material, and man.


Plant Tour: Sharing strengths to stay on the ball

Solid values, new technology, and a partnership with a thriving consumer product company add up to a successful business for these Colorado custom molders.
 
Starting with one machine and an idea in a college independent study project, it’s somewhat hard to believe that 29 years later Intertech Plastics is thriving as the largest locally owned molder in Colorado. But the right combination of creativity, perseverance, and dedication to the company’s employees and the surrounding community has kept the company successful, even in a tough economy. “Our quote line is probably as healthy as it has ever been, even in down times,” says Noel Ginsburg, president of Intertech Plastics. “Our earnings are better this year because of lower raw material costs and an improved mix of customers.”



Starting in one corner of the building, Intertech Plastics has expanded to its current 120,000-ft2 footprint.



Tour guides Andy Lee (left) and Keith Hamilton show the company’s performance metrics, on which bonuses are awarded to employees.





A variety of patterns and logos are created in-house to keep the DGL Products’ lip balm balls in sync with current trends.



Though molds aren’t manufactured in-house, a tool shop provides maintenance and repair when needed.



Since Intertech offers a wide range of machines for a wide range of product sizes, molds come in all shapes and sizes.



The sizes and tonnages of Intertech’s machines that cover a variety of potential applications are all listed on the company’s website.



Intertech’s largest press, a 1500-ton Husky, awaits the installation of its new barrel. 



The new 600-ton Husky Hylectric slashed cycle times on Intertech’s thin-wall packages. 



Even with increased labor costs, performing lip ball assembly in Colorado instead of China adds value, shortening overall production time by two to three months.

As a student at the University of Denver, Ginsburg developed a thin-wall food container for a product management class, and when his father’s condiment business was sold while Noel was in college, an unwanted injection molding machine found its way to the corner of the facility in which Ginsburg has been expanding his business ever since. Originally named Container Industries Inc., Ginsburg started the company in 1980 after a mentor and another partner went forward with his business plan. 

A good partnership was formed in the early years with Gerry Baby Products, which named Intertech Plastics Vendor of the Year in 1987. Although Gerry was sold and moved out of the state, the experience gained with these products now makes Intertech Plastics instrumental in design development for one of its key customers, baby care producer Koala Corp.

Symbiotic success

Adding to Intertech’s success is the increasing popularity of the products it molds for a sister company. Dennis Green, inventor of items like the odor-eating sneaker ball, had molded a variety of consumer products at Intertech for more than six years, and after patenting a ball-shaped lip balm container that can be easily identified in a purse or bag, Green’s company was acquired by Ginsburg two years ago, with the new name DGL Products Inc.

The SPF-20 lip balms, which are sold under the Ballmania, Twist & Pout, and Serenlipity brand names, have been featured in a variety of consumer magazines. Custom logos can be added, and a new contract will feature Major League Baseball and university logos on the balls. Business overall at DGL increased 57% from 2007-2008, and based on the 2009 numbers, sales will exceed $5 million. “We’ve taken a very small company and infused it into a bigger business,” says Ginsburg. “We’re now growing triple digits every year with this product.”

The relationship is mutually beneficial to both companies, with the marketing and design experience of DGL helping Intertech’s sales, and the existing manufacturing infrastructure of the molding business allowing DGL to create new product lines and displays quickly. “We’re able to do things as a consumer product company that we normally wouldn’t be able to do,” says Ginsburg. “For example, we have a much more complex accounting system than normal startups.”

Even though it costs a few cents more per item for assembly labor, bringing the production of the lip balm balls from China back to Colorado took 60-90 days out of the process, which is valuable time when it comes to the new trends in colors and designs that change every season for some of the lip products. Intertech’s facility has the capacity to expand DGL product manufacturing to meet a $20 million annual sales level, a figure that Ginsburg expects to be attained within five years.

But the molding business has covered much more than consumer products over the years, and has served industries including medical, industrial equipment, telecommunications, packaging, and even a little in the automotive aftermarket. Andy Lee, technical sales, and sales manager Keith Hamilton give us the tour, from railcars of incoming material to decoration, assembly, and packaging.

Larger than local

“More companies are looking to manufacture in Denver and ship products west, forgoing the higher manufacturing costs often found in California,” says Hamilton, who has seen a lot of growth in the company during the 10 years he’s worked at the facility. More than 20 employees have worked for the company for a decade or more, including Mike Madrigal, one of the first Intertech employees hired by Ginsburg 29 years ago, who is optimizing the company’s newest molding machine during our visit.

Railcar volumes of PP and PE come in through vacuum loaders, but a fair amount of engineering resin is also used, such as the SAN for high-end coin collector cases. PolyOne is a major materials supplier, and AEC material handling equipment is working with many of the presses.

Intertech has 25 injection machines, from a 25-ton Arburg to a 1500-ton Husky, with Toyos, Toshibas, Cincinnati Milacrons, and Van Dorns in between. Complementing this fleet are 11 high-speed robots and an array of auxiliary equipment. The company also has what it says is the largest blowmolding machine in Colorado—a Cincinnati Eclipse T2000. The new 600-ton Husky Hylectric, which came off Husky’s production line less than six months ago, has increased high-speed packaging capabilities, trimming cycle time for Intertech’s proprietary Traypack containers in a four-cavity mold from 14 seconds down to just 6.5 seconds.

Sustainability matters here, too. Equipment Intertech recently purchased uses half the energy, and proprietary packaging designs in some of Intertech’s products use 20% less material. Intertech also has experience in molding biomaterials, with one machine running a unique biodegradable application that IMM isn’t at liberty to share. “One aspect of going green is identifying and eliminating waste streams,” says Hamilton, who adds that one engineer took on a sustainability role to identify areas for improvement.

About 80% of its tools are built overseas, and the company works closely with three Chinese mold manufacturers and numerous local companies. Three engineers on staff manage tool builds, design parts, and provide engineering support. An onsite tool shop supports engineering, performing tool maintenance, insert changes, and ECRs. Even though tools aren’t made internally, the company excels in helping customers with quick-turn projects, from engineering changes to complete build. Part design review is done in SolidWorks, and part cost estimation can be calculated from the original part design, with complete tooling documentation available to customers. The company does a lot of insert molding and runs high-cavitation molds, and can also perform overmolding.

Last year, of the 35 tools brought to Intertech Plastics, 30 came from overseas. At the time of our visit, the company had just landed a 22-tool job from a medical client, with five of the molds coming in by the end of the month.

And customer service? Even when a customer ceases to be a good fit, as was the case with a job that needed to transition to a lower-volume molder, Intertech employees flew to the new molder’s location to ensure that it was able to run good parts.

Access to information

Aside from using New Product Introduction software, a proprietary procedure using a five-step process to ensure a smooth transition from product development to production, Intertech Plastics just went live in March with its new ERP system from IQMS. DGL Products is in the process of switching over to IQMS as well. The integrated system monitors order tracking, inventory, machine performance, and quality. “In the past, we had no less than five custom databases to run the business,” says Hamilton. “IQMS consolidates them into one system.”

Customers can log on to the IQMS database to track inventory, and if there is a quality issue coming from a customer, Intertech automatically gets an e-mail about it, 24/7. Access to real-time data gives Intertech people the ability to respond quickly to customer needs. “We communicate with our employees with the best technology we can get,” says Hamilton.

Intertech also communicates a number of its business metrics to its employees and shares financials with the entire company since a bonus program is determined on sliding scales for how the plant rates on these metrics. “We keep employees informed, and try to keep them safe, secure, and involved in the business,” says Ginsburg. Part of keeping employees informed involves knowing about the health of the industry as a whole, so every year Intertech employees spend two days offsite with Jeff Mengel, the managing partner of consulting firm Plant & Moran’s plastics industry team, to learn about trends affecting plastics manufacturing.

Temporary workers are hired on when needed, completing tasks such as putting the balm inserts into the ball packages and packing a variety of products for shipping. Intertech focuses on offering services from part concept all the way to delivery, such as using time study and movement analysis to determine whether assembly can be done effectively at the machine or whether it requires a separate line. It also reviews areas for possible improvement after production itself begins.

Responsible corporate citizens

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Intertech Plastics isn’t what happens within the manufacturing walls, but the numerous ways the company is involved in the community. The tutoring, career initiatives, scholarships, and United Way achievements the company has been involved with are too numerous to cover with this tour, but the awards received seem secondary to the sense of pride the employees have for helping out. “Free enterprise has a responsibility to the community. If you build a successful business, you are able to give back,” says Ginsburg.

From one machine to 25, and plenty of room to grow, Intertech Plastics has built a successful business by combining solid values with technology. “You have only your creativity to rely on to survive,” says Ginsburg, and it’s pretty clear to see that with the creative products, ideas, and ways to involve the business with its surrounding community, Intertech Plastics will continue to thrive.

Vital Stats
Intertech Plastics, Denver, CO
Facility size: 120,000 ft2
Annual sales: $15 million
Markets served: Consumer products, medical, industrial equipment, telecommunications, packaging
Capital investment: >$1 million within past two years
Materials processed: PP, PE, PETG, ABS, PC, SAN, PLA
No. of employees: 90-100, depending on temporary workers
Shifts: Three 8-hour shifts, seven days/week
Molding machines: 25, 25-1500 tons; Husky, Arburg, Cincinnati Milacron, Toshiba, Toyo, Van Dorn
Molding technology: High-cavity, insert molding, overmolding, large-part blowmolding
Secondary operations: Assembly, pad printing, sonic welding, hot stamping
Internal moldmaking: No
Quality: ISO 9001-2000; plantwide 5S training, ASQ certified quality manager

Web extra: Colorado molders fill a vital role as responsible corporate citizens

While the successes of Intertech Plastics and its sister company DGL Consumer Products are impressive, especially in a struggling economy, the efforts of the employees and president/founder Noel Ginsburg in community programs show an equally great success story. As some molders worry about finding educated employees when the baby boomers retire, Intertech Plastics employees are helping to educate local students in a variety of subjects. And in addition to volunteering time in a variety of programs, the fundraising efforts of Ginsburg and the employees help to finance even broader-reaching programs.

Not only does Intertech Plastics focus on educating its employees by teaching math, science, and English through the company’s Basic Tutoring program (with basic skills tutoring also available to children of employees), but it also makes time to educate students in the surrounding community. For an hour every Monday, five employees mentor at-risk high school students at nearby Montbello High School. Ginsburg has been involved with the School to Career Initiative project since its inception, aiming to engage high school students in career interests and match them to local hands-on opportunities. Ginsburg partnered with Colorado Governor Roy Romer to serve on the National Governors’ Assn. Round Table on School to Work and served as vice chair of Colorado’s School to Career Steering Committee.

Intertech Plastics is also involved in Lights On After School in Denver, a program aimed at reducing the dropout rate and increasing academic performance, which is a partnership between Mile High United Way, the City and County of Denver, and Denver Public Schools. Grants help after-school programs expose elementary and middle school students to a variety of activities involving arts and sciences, and studies show that participation has a positive impact on student achievement and school attendance.

The company has received numerous community-based awards over the years, including the Martin Luther King Social Responsibility Business Award and the Helen Phelps Award for Distinguished Service at Denver Public Schools in 1995, the University of Denver Daniel L. Ritchie Award for Ethics in Business in 1998, and the Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award in 2000.

Ginsburg has also been personally involved with Mile High United Way—serving as fundraising campaign chair in 1997—raising $26.8 million to support human service agencies throughout the Denver Metro area. The great majority of Intertech Plastics employees also have been involved with United Way fundraising. In 2007, Mile High United Way awarded Intertech Plastics the Spirit of Hope Award for the best Employee Campaign for a Small Business. The award honors organizations that have gone above and beyond in promoting community service throughout their companies, with 97% of Intertech active in United Way fundraising efforts.

While many programs focus on shorter-term education success, Ginsburg was a founding board member of the Colorado I Have A Dream Foundation, a long-term dropout prevention program for youths from disadvantaged communities. The participants, called Dreamers, go through a 10-year program of mentoring, academic assistance, and life-skills development, and upon graduation from high school they receive a $4000 scholarship to a chosen post-secondary institution. Fifteen years ago, Ginsburg and his wife Leslie sponsored 42 students in The Ginsburg Class of 1999-2004. The dropout rate for the Lincoln Park neighborhood in which the sponsored class lived was historically greater than 90%, but with the program’s help, the Dreamer class graduated more than 90%. One graduate went to Loyola and is now working in biofuels, while another Dreamer works at Intertech Plastics.

Because of Ginsburg’s heavy involvement in the community, he attends a lot of award dinners, frequently extending invitations to customers. And as if all the participation in existing charities wasn’t enough, five years ago Ginsburg started a charity golf tournament.

“Free enterprise has a responsibility to the community,” he says. “If you build a successful business, you are able to give back.”

Andy Lee | [email protected]