DeKALB finalist for PlasticsNews Processor of the Year

AKRON, OHIO (Jan. 7, 4:20 p.m. ET) -- Three custom molders -- injection molders Hoffer Plastics Corp. and Rodon Group LLC and DeKalb Molded Plastics Co., which does both structural foam and injection -- are the finalists for Plastics News’  Processor of the Year Award.

A team of judges from the PN editorial department in Akron picked the finalists.

DeKalb is based in Butler, Ind. Hoffer hails from South Elgin, Ill. Rodon, a custom molder also known for K’Nex construction toys, is in Hatfield, Pa. Rodon was a finalist last year for the award.

The winner will be announced March 5 at the Plastics News Executive Forum in Tampa, Fla. The finalists and winner will be honored at a reception, and the next morning, executives from each finalist company will hold a best practices panel discussion.

PN will profile the Processor of the Year winner in the March 11 issue.

Judges evaluated all candidates on seven criteria: financial performance, quality, customer relations, employee relations, environmental performance, industry/public service and technological innovation.

Last year’s Processor of the Year was Steinwall Inc., a custom injection molder in Coon Rapids, Mich.

Senior reporter Bill Bregar, who coordinates the Processor of the Year Award, will visit all three finalists.

Here is a look at those companies, in alphabetical order.

DeKalb Molded Plastics

The 130-employee DeKalb Molded does it all: molding, decorating and even final assembly and warehousing for some customers. It’s a one-stop shop.

Sales have increased 15 percent a year the past two years, to $22 million in 2012. DeKalb has been consistently profitable, even during the recession, when sales sank to $10.8 million.

The secret is one of DeKalb Molded’s strengths: excellent day-to-day cash management and attention to detail. Good inventory management, aided by a new IQMS system installed in early 2012, “has allowed DeKalb to carry lower levels of raw material and component inventory,” according to the company’s submission. The processor uses RJG in-mold sensors to make precise parts.

Markets include medical housings, material handling, safety products and recreation products.

By paying its bills early, DeKalb takes advantage of vendor discounts, racking up more than $30,000 in savings in 2012. The goal: $50,000. And officials wanted to pay off DeKalb’s operating line of credit by the end of the year.

DeKalb took a team approach to surviving the recession. Employees, and good planning, also helped DeKalb bounce back from a fire on Oct. 20, 2011.

President Rick Walters said the fire was big, but it was mostly limited to finished goods and other material on the outside of the building. Damage was limited to the back corner of building, with some water damage to the plant. But DeKalb’s disaster recovery plan kicked in, and company officials met off-site to contact customers and vendors immediately.

Walters got the call at 1:30 a.m. “We had contractors on the ground next morning,” he said.

DeKalb Molded Plastics scored well in all seven criteria, especially in employee relations, customer relations, and industry and public service.

Walters, a down-to-earth veteran of DeKalb Molded, sets the tone. He shares a breakfast, lunch or dinner with every employee on his or her anniversary date — off-site at a restaurant. A safety committee meets monthly. Every quarter, on all three shifts, management meets with shop-floor employees for a profit-sharing and state-of-the-company report.

DeKalb leaders have made a strong commitment to hiring veterans. About one-fourth of the 35 newly hired workers in 2012 are veterans. A DeKalb molding press operator, Skylar Jacquay, a member of the National Guard, nominated his company for an Above and Beyond Award. In December, Walters said, the company announced it will make up the difference in pay when veterans go away for training or deployment.

DeKalb is a big player in Butler, a town of 2,600 in the northeastern corner of Indiana. After the fire, DeKalb hosted a thank-you dinner for police and firefighters. Now, Walters said, the company will do that every year, as a way to honor all emergency responders with a meal and a gift card.

Human resources director Kassy Davis spends a lot of time in area schools, helping with career guidance. The company is a big supporter of local charities, especially Big Brothers Big Sisters.

In the customer relations area, DeKalb employees have worked hard to develop a reputation for their fast response and extra effort. They communicate well. “They drive their business on customer satisfaction,” said one customer. Said another: “Not very often do we have a supplier come to us with a proposed solution to an issue. Thanks for taking an interest in our product to make it better.”

DeKalb Molded won a PN Excellence Award for customer relations two years ago.

DeKalb received five nominations for the award, from: Rick Mann of supplier KibbeChem Inc.; Tom Meisels, president of Toronto toolmaker FGL Precision Works Inc.; Bradley Morgan, president and CEO of Plastic Solutions, a resin distributor in Milton, Ga.; Richard Kemp, vice president of materials at Dallas-based Trinity Highway Products LLC; and Brian Bowman, DeKalb’s accountant from Fort Wayne, Ind.

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