Type: News

Coronavirus Update

March 18, 2020

To our Valued Customers,

In response to the expanding global disruption caused by the spread of COVID-19, Nicolet Plastics is constantly monitoring the recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as we strive to help protect our customers and employees alike.

Both our Health, Safety, and Security, and program management teams have been continuously assessing and reassessing risk at both our Mountain and Jackson locations.  We are also providing our employees with facts and training about COVID-19 and reminding them to follow simple but effective steps to keep them safe with frequent handwashing and social distancing outside of the workplace.  In addition, we have been encouraging work from home if possible and staying at home if not feeling well.

At this time, Nicolet Plastics would like to inform you that we are currently not experiencing any delays in our supply base or our operations that will affect your orders going out.  If this should change for any reason, we will be in contact with you.  If you should have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact your sales or account manager.

In these unprecedented, challenging days, we will do our very best to continue to provide our customers and employees with the highest level of safety, support, and stability. This global pandemic, as stressful as it is to every one of us, also reminds us of the importance of being able to collaborate and work together as a global community to meet our biggest challenges.

Sincerely,

Tony Cavalco

CEO, Nicolet Plastics LLC

TruVenture Composites LLC Announces Acquisition

TruVenture Composites LLC, parent company of Nicolet Plastics LLC located in Mountain, Wisconsin, is pleased to announce that Nicolet Plastics has completed the acquisition of CNR Group, LLC located in Jackson, Wisconsin. CNR Group provides an extension to the capabilities of Nicolet Plastics by focusing on smaller‐tonnage injection molding and will now operate as CNR Plastics Division under Nicolet Plastics. CNR Group was founded in 2010 by Bob and Cheri Albrecht as a producer of plastic injection molded parts for the medical, electronics, agricultural, industrial, consumer, dental and sporting goods industries. It operates out of a 31,000 square‐foot production facility and produces such products as medical visor frames, packaging clips, lids and containers, consumer product components and many other components. CNR Group also offers custom assembly. All employees of CNR Group have been retained and will continue with CNR Plastics Division. Following the acquisition, Bob and Cheri Albrecht will also remain with the company in their roles to manage CNR Plastics Division. Additionally, Bob and Cheri Albrecht will assist TruVenture Composites and Nicolet Plastics with organic and acquisition growth opportunities. TruVenture Composites acquired Nicolet Plastics in 2017 as the base of its plastics and composites portfolio to which it continues to search for acquisition targets in the Wisconsin area that have plastic processing capabilities in injection molding, blow molding or thermoforming, among others. The objective of TruVenture Composites’ portfolio is to better support its customers’ requirements by providing broad and integrated plastic processing capabilities under one company dedicated to exceptional quality and customer service.

TruVenture Composites and Nicolet Plastics welcome Bob and Cheri Albrecht and look forward to working with them to continue the growth of its plastics composites business. For additional information regarding CNR Plastics Division, please visit the company’s website: www.cnr‐plastics.com. Additional information on TruVenture Composites and Nicolet Plastics can be found at www.truventurecomposites.com and www.nicoletplastics.com, respectively.

The acquisition was finalized on August 31, 2018. Taureau Group, LLC advised TruVenture Composites on the acquisition and DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C. provided legal representation to TruVenture Composites.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Tony Cavalco at ACavalco@truventurecomposites.com. Tony Cavalco is President/CEO of TruVenture Composites.

Nicolet Plastics Injection Molding Company Logo

Nicolet Plastics Named an Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Private Company in America

Each year, Inc. recognizes the fastest growing private companies in America. Companies that made this year’s list grew (on average), six-fold since 2013 which is an incredible accomplishment considering the economy grew just 6.7 percent in that time.

2017 marks the fourth time Nicolet Plastics has been included on the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Private Company in America lists.

“Of the tens of thousands of companies that have applied to the Inc. 5000 over the years, only a fraction have made the list more than once,” said Eric Schurenberg, President & Editor in Chief of Inc. Media. “ A mere one in ten have made the list four times.”

Inc. 5000 represents not only the fastest-growing private companies in America, but companies that create jobs, value and innovative solutions. View the full list here.

6 Plastic Injection Molding Trends to Watch in 2018

According to Global Market Inc., the injection molded plastic market has established itself as one of the most dynamically evolving businesses in recent times. As one of the most commonly-used processes for product manufacturers, plastic injection molding is a precise method that can fabricate nearly any type of plastic part. Technologies, processes and materials used in injection molding continue to advance – allowing manufacturers better insight to design, develop and produce the highest performing and cost efficient plastic parts.

Key areas that will continue to be of focus in the year ahead are the advancements in automation, sustainable practices, and software that allow for parts to be analyzed and tweaked virtually before production. In addition, industry experts credit lower oil prices, technological advances, technical expertise, and rapid growth in the building and construction sectors as drivers for continued future growth.

As we look ahead to 2018, we’re closely watching and leveraging the following plastic injection molding trends. Are you?

1. Automation

The impact of automation has been felt in virtually every industry, but the increased deployment of automated tools and robotics in the injection molding industry stands to be monumental. Automated robots boast speed, accuracy, agility and adaptability, which allows for significant increases in production.

Labor and energy make a tremendous impact on plastics processors businesses. To effectively compete internationally, processors must automate to increase the productivity and reduce costs of their operations in order to remain competitive.

Even when working with low to mid volume plastic parts, automation can greatly improve the cost and labor efficiency of production. However, automation is much more than simply adopting the use of robots. While automation may allow for increased processing time, a high level of skilled labor is still needed to manage operations effectively.

Another development in manufacturing automation, according to a recent report, is the integration of collaborative robots or “co-bots” which are increasingly being adopted to work collaboratively with humans. Through the use of robot controllers and specialized sensors for operations, manufacturers are able to address common issues such as labor shortages, repetitive processes and ergonomically-challenging tasks. In fact, many businesses that have embraced automation are reporting improved part consistency and quality, which is why we see this trend expanding in the coming year.

2. Environmental / Sustainability

In an effort to contribute to eco-friendliness and sustainability, the injection molding industry as a whole has been working diligently to decrease energy consumption and create bio-based and recyclable products. Thanks to advances in engineering, newer injection molding equipment now uses between 20%-50% less energy compared to those released just 10 years ago.

Responsible injection molders are also working diligently to reduce the amount of scrap plastics produced in the molding process and gaining efficiencies in doing so. For example, obtaining scrap material that can be repurposed in addition to recycling materials. Taking a few small steps to put sustainable practices into place can (over the course of a few years) save hundreds of thousands of pounds of material from going into landfills.

Many companies are working to strike a balance between their use of conventional plastics and bio-based alternatives. In addition, some organizations are in various stages of development and deployment of plastics, made entirely or in part, from soybeans, corn, flax and other materials, to meet the demand from consumers to save fossil fuels and reduce the negative aspects that traditional plastics have on the environment. Count on more manufacturers to increase their focus on environmental sustainability while reducing their carbon footprint in 2018.

3. Nearshoring

For manufacturers seeking to reduce production expenses, outsourcing of injection molding and/or processes to other countries is an industry trend worth noting. According to one medical device industry expert, the cost difference between injection molding a part in Asia versus North America is actually very small because the labor component is negligible. Electricity is a major component of injection molding, and energy costs are rather universal. So, what’s the element driving the nearshoring trend? Shipping.

The high cost and lengthy shipping times associated with manufacturing components or finished products overseas is forcing many U.S. companies to evaluate their operations and manufacture and ship from locations that are geographically closer. Companies benefiting from nearshoring cite faster delivery, reliability and cost-savings as major factors in their success. Creating long-lasting relationships with injection molders who can act as a partner in your product development process and assist with design for manufacturability also has major benefits. These reasons make us anticipate even more organizations shifting to nearshoring in the near future.

4. Precision Molding

The need for addressing manufacturing challenges swiftly, resolve production issues quickly and help engineers and technicians troubleshoot in real-time is being met by an abundance of technology in our industry – specifically by RJG eDart technology and software platforms like IQMS and Moldflow.

  • RJG eDart: RJG is a comprehensive and powerful process monitoring tool for injection molding applications. The system helps gain greater control over stabilizing the injection molding processes and ensures parts of the highest quality.
  • Mold Flow: Mold flow analysis simulates how a material will flow through a mold and how the material will orient within the mold. The simulation exposes potential warp and stress points and can help identify areas where sink marks may appear. It can also help to identify where weld lines will be located within the part. Mold flow is an aid in the development of optimal gate location and size. It allows an injection molder to identify stress areas and increase radii in order to eliminate stress points and perfect the tool before the final stages.
  • IQMS: When IQMS application software is used throughout an organization and the molding process, the system can provide a very efficient way to monitor every single step of every single machine in real time to make certain adjustments can be made at a moment’s notice.

5. Metal to Plastic Conversion

While the concept of metal to plastic conversion isn’t new to the industry, the contributions that this process is making in terms of reducing weight, improving fuel efficiency, increasing strength, as well as chemical and heat resistance are striking. Furthermore, factors such as design flexibility and the use of new and improved polymers is causing more and more companies to consider injection molding to meet their needs.

Before moving forward with a plastic to metal part conversion for your organization, we suggest meeting with an experienced design engineer to determine if such a transition is suitable for your product and application.

6. Design For Manufacturability

We’re also noticing an increase in companies working with their plastic injection molders and engineering teams early in the design process. Collaborating with customers at the genesis of their product offers several benefits, including:

  • Selecting the right material for the application
  • Considering radius and wall thickness
  • Ensuring proper gate location
  • Considering draft
  • Including ribs for strength and durability
  • Properly accounting for mold shrinkage

Not only do these elements ensure a smooth manufacturing process of components and/or finished products, it provides the ability for you to go to market quicker while remaining within your budget.

Injection molding plays a vital role in the development of products that serve a plethora of industries. It’s a fluid manufacturing practice that involves a series of complex processes, but finding the right partner makes all the difference in the success of your part. If you’re unsure of how to benefit from the injection molding trends predicted for the year ahead, contact our knowledgeable design engineers, tooling and production experts today.

Nicolet Plastics Acquired by TruVenture Composites LLC

This post was originally published by Plastics News on March 9, 2017 and written by Dan Loepp

Nicolet Plastics sold; new owner to seek additional acquisitions

When Bob Macintosh started to plan an exit strategy from Nicolet Plastics Inc. six years ago, he wanted to leave the company in the hands of a stable buyer.

The custom injection molder’s location, in the Wisconsin North Woods, was a complicating factor.

“My end goal was to create stability for this plant and this area. This is a community of 700 people. If something happened that affected the jobs of the 82 people who work here, that would be devastating to this area,” Macintosh said.

After a long search, Macintosh thinks he found the right buyer. On Feb. 28 he signed a deal to sell Nicolet to TruVenture Composites LLC, an affiliate of family-owned Badger Mining Corp. of Berlin, Wis.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Badger Mining was looking to diversify outside its core business of mining and processing sand and other aggregates for industrial applications like hydraulic fracturing. It settled on plastics as an industry of interest, and contacted Macintosh about Nicolet.

Nicolet may be small, but it has a reputation in plastics and manufacturing circles. The company was twice a finalist for Plastics News Processor of the Year, and in 2013 it won a Frost & Sullivan Manufacturing Leadership 100 award.

Macintosh had talked to other potential buyers, including plastics processors and private equity investors. But he was having trouble finding the right fit. A key was protecting the workforce.

True Venture understood his priorities, so Macintosh expects very few changes. True Venture bought both the business and the plant, in tiny Lakewood, Wis., in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. All the employees and the management team are staying.

John Ogorek, the chief financial officer, is adding CEO to his title, but Macintosh said that transition started about a year ago.

The biggest changes: a new name, Nicolet Plastics LLC, and a new role for Macintosh. He’ll be working with the new owners to find more investment opportunities in the plastics industry.

“Businesses either grow or die. We are definitely growing,” he said. “I’ll be working with them the next two years, making sure this business grows and survives, and looking for other opportunities.”

Macintosh said Nicolet needs more molding capacity. But as he approaches age 70 he didn’t want to go back into debt to make that happen. Plus, because of the scarcity of new workers in the North Woods, expanding at Nicolet would be difficult.

Now he’s looking to buy companies with capacity to take on more work, and that have complementary values to Nicolet and Badger.

Nicolet has 82 employees and 19 presses, ranging from 40 to 610 tons of clamping force. It generated $14 million in sales last year, Macintosh said.

Nicolet is known for making the most of complexity — molding small lots, with numerous tool changes — using a philosophy called Quick Response Manufacturing, which they learned from Rajan Suri at the University of Wisconsin. The company specializes in low- to moderate-volume projects, and highly complex custom parts.

The company celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. Macintosh and three partners started the company in 1985 and incorporated in 1986. They started with an investment of $1,200 — $300 from each partner — molding in a small garage with a leased Newbury press.

Over time, Macintosh bought out the other three partners, the last one in 2008.

Focus on Lead Times: Using QRM to Get Ahead

This article was originally published by Plastics Business in the winter 2017 issue and written by Lara Copeland, contributing editor.

Business gurus often talk about the view from 30,000 feet – the big picture that provides a look at overall operations. Perhaps, however, the focus should be on the view from 30 feet – a close-up of specific processes and procedures that make an impact now.

Over 30 years ago, at a time when a new home in the US cost an average of $90,000 and many Americans were embracing “Hands Across America,” a small group of four entrepreneurs collaborated and – contributing $300 each – established a plastics manufacturing company in the middle of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Nicolet Plastics LLC (NPI), Mountain, Wisconsin, since has expanded beyond its initial $1,200 investment and one leased press to a 19-press, 42,000-square-foot production facility that focuses on complex industrial and medical components and assemblies. Throughout the years, the company has thrived by pursuing business endeavors and facilitating growth. More recently, Nicolet has set itself apart from the competition by centering its efforts on shrinking lead times and increasing customer satisfaction.

When the global financial crisis struck the country nearly a decade ago, the manufacturing sector did not escape its wrath. Nicolet leaders, aware of the ramifications of surrendering to the recession, realized they needed to act to reinforce the company. Bob Gafvert, business development manager, explained, “Nicolet knew we wouldn’t survive trying to be like the 5,000-plus other molders in the country at that time. We needed to do something different and approach our business in a new way that would further differentiate us from the herd of molders.”

Nicolet reviewed its business and found its complexity score was off the charts when benchmarked against other molders. “In 2010, Nicolet was scoring in the millions while other molders were at a score of 300,000,” Gafvert continued. “We knew our complexity was something we could exploit when the easy, high-volume parts were being sourced off shore.” Wanting to explore options in efficiency, the company contacted the University of Wisconsin-School of Engineering and Dr. Rajan Suri, the founder of the Center for Quick Response Manufacturing.

According to the website for the Center for Quick Response Manufacturing, QRM begins with an understanding that time is the most valuable resource in any enterprise. The QRM methodology was designed specifically for high-variety manufacturers of custom-engineered, low-volume products looking to reduce lead times – much like Nicolet. This companywide approach is geared toward reducing lead times in all phases of manufacturing and office operations and is not to be confused with lean manufacturing – a philosophy focused on eliminating waste for high-volume repetitive production manufacturers.

Rather than eliminating all variabilities in manufacturing processes, QRM focuses on the elimination of dysfunctional variabilities, such as organizational issues that can cause rework, and helps companies find and understand the potential competitive advantages in strategic variabilities. Examples include, “the ability to cope with unexpected changes in demand, a large selection of options for customers and offering custom-engineered products,” according to the website. These strategic variabilities can be huge competitive advantages for companies not interested in higher-volume work, while the elimination of dysfunctional variabilities can cut the longer lead times often associated with highly custom work.

Since Nicolet implemented QRM in 2010, business began to increase. “The marketplace is taking notice of our business model and responding positively to our strategy,” Gafvert said. QRM has allowed Nicolet to compete in the manufacturing arena and gain entry to new prospects. The company has seen significant improvements in quality, reductions in lead time and reduction of inventories. It also has increased profitability and brought products to market more rapidly. Specifically, Nicolet reported reduced lead times for QRM business by two weeks while also reducing setup and changeovers by multiple hours.

“Reducing customers’ time to market and launch of new products has been a continued success. When we help a customer reduce their product launch by weeks and months, we are finding that our commitment to QRM is playing a significant part in delivering and exceeding customer expectations,” Gafvert affirmed. “Whether it’s been on the front end with customer service and orders and acknowledgements or in the quick turnaround of quoting in engineering, we found opportunities for efficiencies in reducing the white space in all aspects of business.”

Presently, Nicolet is continuing its focus on reducing white space – the time a job is waiting between steps, when something is not physically being manufactured in the press – and the company is seeing success with the complexity and diversity of its customer base and their products. As Gafvert acknowledged, “The variability that we experience day in and out is strategic for us, and QRM supports that business model.”

Adopting the QRM approach companywide did come with a few obstacles. “It requires a paradigm shift in terms of manufacturing, such as letting go of certain lean principles, as well as a culture change across the board,” Gafvert added.

To be successful, QRM needs to be employed throughout the company, and it takes time to get everyone on board. As the company has expanded over the last five years, its new hires have had to learn the importance of using QRM and how to support Nicolet’s customers with it. Additionally, getting suppliers on board can pose a challenge. The company is working to educate its suppliers on the value of time and to convince them to adopt a QRM mindset. As Gafvert suggested, “We can’t wait days for a supplier to get back to us with pricing or availability on a material or assembly part because it slows down the process.”

As the company looks for ways to remain prominent in the manufacturing arena, it is “incredible” as Gafvert put it, to see where it all started. Nicolet marked its 30-year anniversary over a two-day period this past fall by offering plant tours and celebrating with its customers (current and prospective), suppliers and the surrounding community. “It was a great opportunity to get people from the area into the facility to see what we do, the level of automation and the opportunities that exist in manufacturing,” Gafvert articulated.

Looking ahead, NPI is expecting continued growth at the facility and through expansion of its customer base. The ability to cope with unexpected changes in demand and its success in providing custom-engineered product in low to moderate volumes has been – and will continue to be – the cornerstone for Nicolet’s progress. “Our plan is to spend another 30 years in our community,” Gafvert asserted as he discussed his enthusiasm for developing the next generation of production, master molders, engineers and customer service staff. He concluded, “Nicolet will continue to focus on driving value to customers who see the opportunity in a relationship with us based on overall value and partnership.”

Benefits of Metal to Plastic Conversion for Agricultural Parts

Metal to plastic conversion processes have been used for decades; however, many manufacturers have not considered all the benefits that can be applied to improve products. Guided by the ability to reduce weight and improve fuel efficiency, automotive and aerospace companies have been among the most active in converting metal to plastic. Another industry highly impacted by metal to plastic part conversion is agriculture. With advancements in design, engineered plastics can be just as strong and chemical and heat resistant which makes plastic a great option for fluid handling systems and other high-temperature applications. Here are a few other benefits that manufacturers of agricultural products will see with a metal to plastic part conversion.

1. Design Flexibility:

One of the greatest aspects of converting metal agricultural parts to plastic is the design freedom that is created in the process. It is recommended to work closely with an experienced injection molder and design engineer to gain an understanding of the features that should be taken into account to maintain a complex structural design for your part. Specifically, it’s more efficient to create complex parts out of plastic than metal because injection molding easily allows for under-cuts, threads, ports and tight tolerances.

The design flexibility also enables greater strength in plastic parts. With the ability to mold in features for structural strength like ribs, bosses and gussets, strength can be increased without adding additional cost.

2. Weight:

Reducing part weight with a metal to plastic conversion is another big advantage of the process. Reducing part weight by using plastic gives you more parts per pound of material, significantly reduces shipping costs, and oftentimes improves the end-user’s ease of use with the product. Additionally, in some applications reducing part weight can improve gas mileage and boost recycling opportunities.

3. Cost:

In general, agricultural product manufacturers will see an overall cost reduction for metal to plastic part conversion. There are several ways that cost reduction comes into play throughout the design and injection molding process:

  • Multiple metal parts can be replaced by one injection-molded part made of durable, engineered plastic – eliminating the need for fasteners and assembly
  • Colors can be added to the plastic polymer, eliminating secondary operations for painting or laser marking
  • The need to weld, grind, and add dent and scratch resistance and noise dampening is eliminated

4. New and Improved Polymers:

The continuing advancements in polymer development have enticed many product engineers and designers to evaluate the use of traditional materials such as metal. New and improved polymers have allowed part manufacturers and injection molders the ability to produce parts that were once thought of as impossible to create with plastic.

Advanced polymers with specific fillers and reinforcements also allow engineers the ability to add a significant amount of structural integrity to molded parts. With the proper selection and design optimization, plastic parts can be as strong as metal.

Before moving forward with a plastic to metal part conversion, it is important to meet with an injection molder to determine if the transition is suitable for your product. This process requires considerable analysis that keeps the end use, cost, environmental conditions and manufacturability in mind. Analyzing the benefits for conversion and the real-world environmental impact will help you make the best material choice for your agricultural part.

Are you considering a metal to plastic part conversion? Let Nicolet Plastics walk you through an efficient evaluation process.

Manufacturing in the Northwoods: Q&A with Bob MacIntosh of Nicolet Plastics

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.

Manufacturing in the Northwoods: Q&A with Bob MacIntosh of Nicolet Plastics

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.

Nicolet Plastics, Inc. expands its use of EMI Shielding Plastic Compounds.

Nicolet Plastics has developed expertise in providing reliable EMI/RFI shielding in applications where electromagnetic compatibility is required. In working with specialty compounds and unique processes, Nicolet is providing customers intrinsically safe products that metals are unable to achieve. In addition, this approach removes the cost and secondary processes of coatings, saving customers weeks of time to finished product.

We are finding that new regulations are driving new expectations and requirements for designers and manufacturers to integrate shielding into product designs.

EMI shielding can provide protection to components from incoming EMI, and RF. Multiple compounds allow designers to achieve the expectations required, and provide flexibility in design that traditional coating methods limit. Nicolet has provided cost and time savings opportunities to customers through introducing stainless steel fiber with the plastic compounds, providing the shielding required.

Opportunities abound to incorporate flame and wear additives to meet your application requirements while decreasing lead times.

Mining, Agriculture, Medical, Electronics, Energy, and the Industrial OEM marketplaces are all opportunities for incorporating EMI and RF shielding, as more and more equipment is connected and powered every day.

If you are interested in learning more about Nicolet Plastics, Inc. and our success with providing injection molded plastic parts with shielding built into the component, please contact us.