When four men set out to start a plastics manufacturing business in the Northwood’s of Oconto County, they didn’t have the money to purchase an injection press. Pooling $300 a piece, they managed to scrape together enough to lease a press and with that, Nicolet Plastics was born in 1986. With minimal knowledge of the industry, Phil Hartman, Bob MacIntosh, Miles Serney and his son Flip, worked collaboratively to grow the business to where it stands today as a global producer of plastic injection molded parts with over 41,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

As Nicolet Plastics celebrates it’s 30th year in business, Bob MacIntosh remains with the organization as one of the original founding partners and the current president of Nicolet Plastics. In this Q&A, Bob reflects on the company’s growth over the past 30 years, and what’s to come in the years ahead.

Q: Over the past 30 years, what has set Nicolet Plastics apart from other plastic injection molders?

A: What has set us apart the most is our focus on lead times and quick response manufacturing. We are committed to educating our customers and getting them involved as early in the design process as possible. This helps to reduce launch times often by as much as 6 months.

Additionally, we’ve leaned on the concepts that Seth Godin share’s in his book, Purple Cow. The book implies that the key to success is to find a way to stand out – to be the purple cow in a field of typical Holsteins. With over 5,000 injection molders out there, we had to find a way to be the purple cow. We try to appeal to a sub-set of customers that typically haven’t gotten the attention we know they deserve. We focus on higher complexity parts with larger material mix and lower volume.

Q: What are the most common questions customers ask?

A: New customers are at a point where they are trying to understand the process as well as looking for price or a quote. They also ask what type of support we can provide from design, engineering, production, communication and lead time. There are many other questions including transfer tool capabilities, range of materials, credibility and security we offer in house and more.

One unique offering that our company provides for our new customers is called Nicolet Plastics University. It’s a full day course taught in our manufacturing facility with corresponding online resources. The class is offered to any customer interested in learning more about the plastic injection molding process. Taught by our lead engineer, the class provides invaluable insight for designers, engineers and anyone involved in the part & product manufacturing process.

Q: What do customers value most in your team?

A: That’s an easy question – definitely our responsiveness and expertise. Our company is nestled in a small community and that representative of our humble and friendly approach with everything we do.

Q: What have customers expressed to be the most important factors when choosing a plastics manufacturing partner?

A: The most important factors to a plastic injection molding customer is being able to handle their expectations, volume, lead time, and budget. Also being able to swiftly handle turnover on a customer’s team to ensure a new contact is up to speed and has the information he or she needs.

Q: What can a client expect during the first meeting? Please walk us through an example.

A: We try to engage engineers early on. If they aren’t involved in the design or technical side, the sooner we become involved, the better.

Our first meetings are usually done by phone, WebEx or GoToMeeting. If at all possible, we love our prospects and customers to visit our facility. Our expert employees, technology and capabilities definitely sell themselves when you walk through our doors.

Q: What are the top 2-3 hot button issues in plastics manufacturing right now?

A: Technology within manufacturing and specifically injection molding, is changing so quickly.Design support, engineering and automation are huge factors in regard to remaining competitive. There are also interesting advancements in the area of additive manufacturing (3-D printing) that we are looking at closely as possible service offerings for some of our clients in the future. Additionally, not many molders get as involved as we do in highly engineered materials.

Many have heard of the “Amazon Effect” and we are definitely feeling it in our industry as well. We are seeing that compression of time is becoming more and more prevalent. Shorter lead-time is an increasing expectation for customers with high demand for getting products to market quicker and within budget.

Q: What are you proud of and what are you most excited about for the years ahead?

A: We were honored to receive Plastics News’ award for Processor of the Year for Customer Service in 2015. It’s an award that honors companies with superior achievement among plastics processors. In the years ahead, we are looking toward expanding operations in regard to geography and overall growth.