Apex Newsletter February 2013

Apex Newsletter February 2013

A Two-Year Tale About Teamwork  

Meet a few members of the Apex team: Ed Dobrzenski and Nick Hansen (sitting, left to right), and Damon Neff and Serenity Miller (standing).

In the fall of 2010, an unexpected visitor stopped by Apex and asked to tour our factory. He provided turnkey packaging services to consumer products companies and wanted to learn more about our blow-molding capabilities.

A year later, this individual initiated a dialogue with us about a project that would be a good fit because of our location and capabilities. One of his customers had a new shampoo in the works and he needed to select a bottle manufacturer. For the next 10 - 12 months. we had discussions about bottle design, pricing, warehousing, delivery – the works. Then the magic moment came: he gave us an order for 520,000 bottles.

There was one twist, however; the Apex team had only eight weeks to produce the mold, sample the bottles, and be production-ready. Typically for a new customer with a new product, we request 10-12 weeks. We had our work cut out for us.

The first step was to make the mold, and then the samples. Typically, we make one mold and one set of head tooling. If we have concerns when we run samples, we rework either the mold or head tooling and run more samples before showing them to the customer. We were confident we’d get the mold right the first time, but because of the tight turnaround, we couldn’t chance having to make adjustments to the head tooling. Richard Bell, Apex Plastics' Tooling Supervisor, suggested we make two sets of head tooling at the same time, based on different designs. After inspecting the two sets of head tooling, Richard, who has 25 years experience, selected the head tooling he thought would work best for the job. He was right; the customer approved the samples.

The Apex team was excited about this opportunity. It started as a name and an idea and we had been discussing the project for a long time. And while we have decades of experience creating plastic bottles, we faced a learning curve with this job. We had recently invested over $1 million in a new blow molding machine and downstream equipment which was installed and running full production for only a very short time.

“Everyone knew there would be challenges,” explains Jason Munsterman, Apex Plastics' First Shift Production Supervisor. “Would there be any unforeseen problems with the new machine? Would we know what to do if something stopped working properly since we didn’t have any experience with it yet?”

The new machine proved to be everything we had hoped and then some. “It was still stressful for employees to learn to use the new equipment at an expedited pace,” says Nick Hansen, Apex Plastics' Operations Manager. “To meet our deadline, several production operators, supervisors and quality associates worked a few Saturdays and Sundays – some 12-14 days straight.” Still, everyone on the team understood this new customer offered an opportunity to increase business and was glad to be part of it.

A few months after delivery of the 520,000 bottles, the customer placed another order. This time it was for 300,000 pieces of the bottle, produced in a different color, for a different product.

Teamwork Leads to Greater Productivity   

Richard Bell, Apex Plastics Tooling Manager, attributes part of the company’s success to its we-can-do-it attitude.Richard Bell

“Without a team, you forfeit the game,” says Richard Bell, Apex Plastics' Tooling Manager. He should know; for 11 years he coached Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball for boys.

But at Apex Plastics, the stakes are much higher. And ever since Richard joined the company in 2005, he’s helped support a culture where employees come together to ensure all deadlines are met.

“When I started here, the tooling area needed to be organized,” he admits. “The person who held the job previously wasn’t able to spend enough time in the department. Our set-up guys spent a lot of time looking for materials they needed to prepare to run a job. We were lucky if our set-up team could set up one job a day. So we changed the way we operated.”

Today each part has its own Product Set-up Book with all the se-tup instructions and mold information including preventive maintenance, repair details, and history of use. Richard indexed and labeled every item in the department to make them easy to find. Now, he says, the team regularly completes multiple set-ups each day.

It’s this kind of efficiency that has helped the Apex team say yes to customers even with tight deadlines (like the story above). But Richard also attributes the company’s success – last year was a record-breaker – to a team with a positive, we-can-do-it attitude. “Our employees are looking to achieve goals,” explains Richard. “If one department is overloaded, another one pitches in.”

"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." - Henry Ford