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World Class Plastics: Simplicity Equals Success
   by Dianna Bodine
   Profile   Fall  2007
  
More is not necessarily better. World Class Plastics is a prime example of a plastics molder that has successfully implemented plans to become more efficient by subtraction, not addition. With a business philosophy based on getting the right customers ‘on the bus,’ a hard look at materials strategy, and dedicated employees who put their heart into molding, World Class Plastics is moving in the right direction.

Getting the Right Customers on the Bus
In 1994, World Class Plastics opened for business. The operation consisted of three men, one press, and one customer looking for a partner to mold automotive clips and fasteners. Today, World Class Plastics operates two facilities, with almost $15 million in sales annually, producing thermoplastic injection molded parts predominantly for the automotive industry for use in the interior cabin and under-the-hood applications. Tooling sales account for $1.5 million each year. Its headquarters and main fabrication facility in Russells Point, Ohio conducts business from 47,000 square feet with an additional 22,000 square feet of warehouse space. The Russells Point facility operates 24/7 with 100 employees. The second facility in Rome, Georgia is staffed by three associates, producing nearly $700,000 annually and operating 24/7 with ‘lights out’ production.

Scott Wisniewski, vice president of engineering, has been with World Class Plastics (WCP) since the beginning. The years have seen several transformations in the company’s philosophy and business practices but most recently, doing business with the right customer has become important to both sustained sales success and internal job satisfaction. “Honestly, after 9-11 we were at the point where we took on some things that were outside our standard practice,” explained Wisniewski. “It helped us survive – we brought on some difficult things like decorating and chrome plating just to survive from 2002-04. We came out the other side, but those add-on processes affected customer happiness and internal happiness.”

Based on three elements - leaning out the bad players, developing good contracts, and reducing the complexity of the plant’s operations – WCP looked to redefine its own operational efficiency. The company started by weeding out customers whose product no longer fit into the facility’s goals. A survey results presentation by MAPP and Plante & Moran provided a formula to calculate the materials cost of each customer.

# of materials x number of tools x number of presses = total

The management of World Class Plastics, including Vice President of Finance Mark Seeley, applied the formula to each of its customers. “It basically gave us a ranking. Then we applied our own emotions using the 80/20 rule – 20 percent of business causes 80 percent of the problems. We listened to people in the facility and asked them where the problems were found,” said Seeley. By taking a hard look at its customer base, WCP was able to gear up for new business while removing some of its obstacles to internal satisfaction.

Reducing Waste, Increasing Awareness
A change to the customer mix wasn’t the only revision to plant philosophy. WCP took a hard look at its materials management process with a simple experiment that began in May of 2006 when WCP started to track raw material scrap. A large cart was placed at the front of the building with four labeled trashbins for four types of scrap, providing a visual reminder of the reduction effort. Employees were asked to weigh and log the amount of scrap at the end of each shift. “When we were first starting this in May, we developed a tracking graph. When we made the scale for the graph, we put 500 pounds for the month,” explained Seeley. “The next day when we came in, we had 750 pounds of scrap. And here we were, thinking that 500 pounds would cover us for 30 days.”

It was a huge awakening for WCP management and employees, who calculated that at that time, WCP was throwing away close to $50,000 worth of raw material each month. Efforts were immediately made to reduce the amount of scrap and the company is currently down to $7-$8,000 worth of waste per month. Seeley acknowledged that there is a marketing benefit to WCP’s efforts, as well as a financial gain. “By making scrap reduction a priority, we’re showing our customers that this company cares and we’re paying attention.”

One way to reduce scrap is for operators to have an intimate familiarity with the equipment that projects are running on. Since its inception in 1994, WCP has been committed to standardization in its equipment. Whether it’s an injection molding machine or a piece of auxiliary equipment, an effort has been made to use only one brand of machinery, so an operator can go from one machine to the next without having to reorient themselves. Visualization also plays a key part. On the production floor, WCP keeps a sample of all the parts currently running on a board so that operators can make a judgment as to what is meeting production standards and what is not. In the case of scrap, the board allows operators to see what has been thrown away in the previous 24 hours. A reduction in its materials base has made a significant difference as well. At one time, WCP was using more than 120 materials in its molding operation. Now, the majority of the molding done at WCP (60-70 percent) is done with polypropylene. Scrap polypropylene can be recycled and sold, further reducing waste.

Seeley cautioned that reducing scrap on the production floor should be the final step in reducing waste. “Every meeting that I’ve attended in the last year has touched on raw materials as a full circle process that starts when the material is purchased,” said Seeley. “You really have to go from start to finish, and that includes a good contract.”

Performing in Pre-production
A good contract begins with a solid understanding of the project about to be undertaken. World Class Plastics works up front in the pre-production phase to ensure process capability. This includes an in-house team of engineers with over 60 combined years of experience who work with the customer’s design team to provide maximum product success, which ultimately accelerates speed to market. Mold flow analysis helps to determine optimal gate location, venting issues, weld line location, part temperature variations, and optimal wall thickness, preventing problem areas.

“We will go to the customers and help them design their plastic part,” said Wisniewski. “That’s a huge differentiation for customers when they’re looking for a molder. We’re a small Tier 2, trying to survive. That means that we have to service our customers and being really diligent on pre-production items helps to solidify our relationships.”

Once awarded a project, WCP delivers with a heavy focus on quality control. The molder uses Conair proportional valve vacuum loaders on each press to prevent contamination from material handling and minimize labor resources. Many of the machines pull directly from silos and a dryer staging area to minimize any handling. Highly repeatable Sumitomo presses perform true Statistical Process Control on the most critical of machine parameters. Automated OGP Video Comparator offers accurate and consistent measurements on the final product and all finished parts are inspected with calibrated equipment to ensure they meet the customer’s standards. Quality Technicians travel to each work cell to capture critical dimensions and attributes, which are then used to provide real time process/part data collection, real time reaction on the production floor, and an automated history for traceability.

“We strive so hard for customer service,” said Wisniewski. “We’re not trying to become millionaires with one part – we have a long-term vision that says we’ll make a small amount of profit on every part.”

Gearing Up for Honda
The changes in customer philosophy and materials handling have allowed WCP to gear up for a three-year Honda-related project that is expected to increase WCP’s annual sales by 30-35 percent. The new contract came to WCP on the recommendation of a customer who had reason to be impressed with the molder’s capabilities. “It’s a huge change in about 2 years time and I wish I could tell you it was all strategic planning, but basically we were good people in a good place,” said Seeley. “It’s servicing your customers with diligence and having them come through and reward you with a nice package.”

The company has been planning for more than 18 months, adding more than fifteen employees, two new material silos, an additional $250,000 investment in an automatic material handling system, and a 750 ton injection molding machine. By adding a dedicated press, WCP expects to see an increase in efficiency. “In custom injection molding, you put a tool in and change it out in the morning,” explained Wisniewski. “When you can leave a tool in a press, you will have less scrap, you don’t have contamination, and you have less work for your people. It reduces complexity. For the next three to four years, we’ll have the opportunity to be more profitable because we have dedicated machines running dedicated tools.”

Building on Heart
World Class Plastics has become a success story in today’s molding environment by controlling everything to do with raw material, from incoming pricing structures to scrap control to internal quality. As the raw material flows through the facility, its efficient use will determine the survival and profitability of the company. Wisniewski and Seeley believe that reducing complexity by reducing the masses of raw material types is a focal point for the company’s future success.

But when you ask them what one thing differentiates WCP from other molders, there is no hesitation. “It’s an appreciation for the people of WCP - the hearts of WCP associates who step forward on a daily basis to help when they don’t really need to,” stated Seeley. “The people in this facility work very hard to support the team activity.” Wisniewski added, “It’s their desire to meet orders, to do the right thing that sets us apart.”

Over the next three to four years, World Class Plastics will focus on refining its operational excellence and improving production efficiency while focusing on quality, cost, and delivery. With secure new contracts, an eye on simplifying its processes, and the people to back up its promises, World Class Plastics can take pride in both its genius and its courage. More is not necessarily better. World Class Plastics is a prime example of a plastics molder that has successfully implemented plans to become more efficient by subtraction, not addition. With a business philosophy based on getting the right customers ‘on the bus,’ a hard look at materials strategy, and dedicated employees who put their heart into molding, World Class Plastics is moving in the right direction.

Getting the Right Customers on the Bus
In 1994, World Class Plastics opened for business. The operation consisted of three men, one press, and one customer looking for a partner to mold automotive clips and fasteners. Today, World Class Plastics operates two facilities, with almost $15 million in sales annually, producing thermoplastic injection molded parts predominantly for the automotive industry for use in the interior cabin and under-the-hood applications. Tooling sales account for $1.5 million each year. Its headquarters and main fabrication facility in Russells Point, Ohio conducts business from 47,000 square feet with an additional 22,000 square feet of warehouse space. The Russells Point facility operates 24/7 with 100 employees. The second facility in Rome, Georgia is staffed by three associates, producing nearly $700,000 annually and operating 24/7 with ‘lights out’ production.

Scott Wisniewski, vice president of engineering, has been with World Class Plastics (WCP) since the beginning. The years have seen several transformations in the company’s philosophy and business practices but most recently, doing business with the right customer has become important to both sustained sales success and internal job satisfaction. “Honestly, after 9-11 we were at the point where we took on some things that were outside our standard practice,” explained Wisniewski. “It helped us survive – we brought on some difficult things like decorating and chrome plating just to survive from 2002-04. We came out the other side, but those add-on processes affected customer happiness and internal happiness.”

Based on three elements - leaning out the bad players, developing good contracts, and reducing the complexity of the plant’s operations – WCP looked to redefine its own operational efficiency. The company started by weeding out customers whose product no longer fit into the facility’s goals. A survey results presentation by MAPP and Plante & Moran provided a formula to calculate the materials cost of each customer.

# of materials x number of tools x number of presses = total

The management of World Class Plastics, including Vice President of Finance Mark Seeley, applied the formula to each of its customers. “It basically gave us a ranking. Then we applied our own emotions using the 80/20 rule – 20 percent of business causes 80 percent of the problems. We listened to people in the facility and asked them where the problems were found,” said Seeley. By taking a hard look at its customer base, WCP was able to gear up for new business while removing some of its obstacles to internal satisfaction.

Reducing Waste, Increasing Awareness
A change to the customer mix wasn’t the only revision to plant philosophy. WCP took a hard look at its materials management process with a simple experiment that began in May of 2006 when WCP started to track raw material scrap. A large cart was placed at the front of the building with four labeled trashbins for four types of scrap, providing a visual reminder of the reduction effort. Employees were asked to weigh and log the amount of scrap at the end of each shift. “When we were first starting this in May, we developed a tracking graph. When we made the scale for the graph, we put 500 pounds for the month,” explained Seeley. “The next day when we came in, we had 750 pounds of scrap. And here we were, thinking that 500 pounds would cover us for 30 days.”

It was a huge awakening for WCP management and employees, who calculated that at that time, WCP was throwing away close to $50,000 worth of raw material each month. Efforts were immediately made to reduce the amount of scrap and the company is currently down to $7-$8,000 worth of waste per month. Seeley acknowledged that there is a marketing benefit to WCP’s efforts, as well as a financial gain. “By making scrap reduction a priority, we’re showing our customers that this company cares and we’re paying attention.”

One way to reduce scrap is for operators to have an intimate familiarity with the equipment that projects are running on. Since its inception in 1994, WCP has been committed to standardization in its equipment. Whether it’s an injection molding machine or a piece of auxiliary equipment, an effort has been made to use only one brand of machinery, so an operator can go from one machine to the next without having to reorient themselves. Visualization also plays a key part. On the production floor, WCP keeps a sample of all the parts currently running on a board so that operators can make a judgment as to what is meeting production standards and what is not. In the case of scrap, the board allows operators to see what has been thrown away in the previous 24 hours. A reduction in its materials base has made a significant difference as well. At one time, WCP was using more than 120 materials in its molding operation. Now, the majority of the molding done at WCP (60-70 percent) is done with polypropylene. Scrap polypropylene can be recycled and sold, further reducing waste.

Seeley cautioned that reducing scrap on the production floor should be the final step in reducing waste. “Every meeting that I’ve attended in the last year has touched on raw materials as a full circle process that starts when the material is purchased,” said Seeley. “You really have to go from start to finish, and that includes a good contract.”

Performing in Pre-production
A good contract begins with a solid understanding of the project about to be undertaken. World Class Plastics works up front in the pre-production phase to ensure process capability. This includes an in-house team of engineers with over 60 combined years of experience who work with the customer’s design team to provide maximum product success, which ultimately accelerates speed to market. Mold flow analysis helps to determine optimal gate location, venting issues, weld line location, part temperature variations, and optimal wall thickness, preventing problem areas.

“We will go to the customers and help them design their plastic part,” said Wisniewski. “That’s a huge differentiation for customers when they’re looking for a molder. We’re a small Tier 2, trying to survive. That means that we have to service our customers and being really diligent on pre-production items helps to solidify our relationships.”

Once awarded a project, WCP delivers with a heavy focus on quality control. The molder uses Conair proportional valve vacuum loaders on each press to prevent contamination from material handling and minimize labor resources. Many of the machines pull directly from silos and a dryer staging area to minimize any handling. Highly repeatable Sumitomo presses perform true Statistical Process Control on the most critical of machine parameters. Automated OGP Video Comparator offers accurate and consistent measurements on the final product and all finished parts are inspected with calibrated equipment to ensure they meet the customer’s standards. Quality Technicians travel to each work cell to capture critical dimensions and attributes, which are then used to provide real time process/part data collection, real time reaction on the production floor, and an automated history for traceability.

“We strive so hard for customer service,” said Wisniewski. “We’re not trying to become millionaires with one part – we have a long-term vision that says we’ll make a small amount of profit on every part.”

Gearing Up for Honda
The changes in customer philosophy and materials handling have allowed WCP to gear up for a three-year Honda-related project that is expected to increase WCP’s annual sales by 30-35 percent. The new contract came to WCP on the recommendation of a customer who had reason to be impressed with the molder’s capabilities. “It’s a huge change in about 2 years time and I wish I could tell you it was all strategic planning, but basically we were good people in a good place,” said Seeley. “It’s servicing your customers with diligence and having them come through and reward you with a nice package.”

The company has been planning for more than 18 months, adding more than fifteen employees, two new material silos, an additional $250,000 investment in an automatic material handling system, and a 750 ton injection molding machine. By adding a dedicated press, WCP expects to see an increase in efficiency. “In custom injection molding, you put a tool in and change it out in the morning,” explained Wisniewski. “When you can leave a tool in a press, you will have less scrap, you don’t have contamination, and you have less work for your people. It reduces complexity. For the next three to four years, we’ll have the opportunity to be more profitable because we have dedicated machines running dedicated tools.”

Building on Heart
World Class Plastics has become a success story in today’s molding environment by controlling everything to do with raw material, from incoming pricing structures to scrap control to internal quality. As the raw material flows through the facility, its efficient use will determine the survival and profitability of the company. Wisniewski and Seeley believe that reducing complexity by reducing the masses of raw material types is a focal point for the company’s future success.

But when you ask them what one thing differentiates WCP from other molders, there is no hesitation. “It’s an appreciation for the people of WCP - the hearts of WCP associates who step forward on a daily basis to help when they don’t really need to,” stated Seeley. “The people in this facility work very hard to support the team activity.” Wisniewski added, “It’s their desire to meet orders, to do the right thing that sets us apart.”

Over the next three to four years, World Class Plastics will focus on refining its operational excellence and improving production efficiency while focusing on quality, cost, and delivery. With secure new contracts, an eye on simplifying its processes, and the people to back up its promises, World Class Plastics can take pride in both its genius and its courage.