Making a Vital Difference

Vital Plastics
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

Regarded for its plastic injection molding and contract assembly offerings, Vital Plastics is a problem solver for customers in a number of diverse industries. Customers have come to depend on its experience and commitment to customer satisfaction.
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Through its plastic injection molding, engineering and assembly solutions, Vital Plastics strives to make a “Vital Difference” in its customers’ operations. They define the “Vital Difference” is a philosophy of constantly seeking ways to get better at everything, to learn and to share that knowledge and experience with all partners.

Since the very beginning, when it was founded in 1994, Vital Plastics has been about providing an exemplary customer experience. While it began as an assembly business, within a few years it added injection molding to its repertoire, which led it to find greater levels of market success.

CEO Terry Townsend recalled, “The company was started to provide assembly services to a Tier 1 automotive supplier. I was hired in 1996 to integrate molding services for this customer as well. Our core values of Integrity and Honesty, Respect and Civility, Trust, Teamwork, Customer Focus, Persistence and Innovation have helped this relationship with our first client continue to grow and flourish for over 23 years.

Townsend continued, “Beginning in 1996, we began to build the infrastructure and the systems and procedures to become a successful molding supplier. In 2000 I had an opportunity to buy into the company, which I did, along with another industry veteran, Joe Ahlm. The three partners ran the company and continued to grow it until 2006 when our original partner decided to pursue other interests.”

Townsend and Ahlm jointly purchased the company and continued to expand its offerings and market reach. It was a tragic blow to Vital Plastics when Joe Ahlm was diagnosed with, and succumbed to, pancreatic cancer in 2011. Townsend acknowledged him as, “a wonderful guy, a great friend and a brilliant business man. His passing was a major loss personally and professionally.”

Townsend became the sole owner of Vital Plastics at that time and continued to focus on growth and expansion. The company has worked diligently to diversify its customer base beyond the automotive industry. In 2014, Vital bought another building in the same industrial park and split the business between its automotive functions and its “custom manufacturing.”

In 2014, Vital Plastics celebrated a milestone: its 20th anniversary. For two decades, investments were made in its operations, expanding its resources and capabilities to include new technologies and equipment with great results.

“We’ve been continually upgrading and adding to our capital resources,” Townsend explained. “We have a significant investment in facilities, automation, workstations and robotics at the press. We’ve tried to make an investment wherever possible to minimize labor and to automate the process as much as we can.”

The company’s operations are spread across two facilities which include the original 40,000 square foot molding and assembly facility and a second 26,000 square foot molding facility in Baldwin, Wisconsin. Vital Plastics is equipped with 52 molding machines with variable capacities ranging from 28 tons to 400 tons, with a team of over 100 full-time employees and 180 part-time employees. Operations take place 24 hours a day, seven days a week in most areas.

Where possible, Vital Plastics separates its operations into small manufacturing cells that are focused on a particular project or customer and are designed to serve as an extension of its customers manufacturing operations. This is supported by its highly professional and experienced team of employees who have the expertise and equipment to satisfy customers’ diverse needs.

“We’re trying to put our money where our mouth is, in terms of giving people the tools to help them help the company. We’ve spent a large amount of time and money on our well-defined job descriptions, performance measurements, training and personal development plans” Townsend explained. “The objective is to maintain standards of quality and delivery via a motivated, engaged and experienced workforce. Also, it doesn’t hurt if you try to have a little fun along the way.”

The management team credits the current group of employees at Vital Plastics with being one of the best groups in their history. This team of professionals has been assembled through referral and internal development and are given opportunities for growth through extensive training and mentorship programs.

One of Vital Plastics most unique services is its hand assembly program. As Townsend explained, “We’ve developed a program over the years where folks will come to the plant, they take parts home, assemble them at home and are paid piecework.” This program serves as a great opportunity for retirees, stay at home parents or anyone else looking for flexible work hours. Many individuals have been successfully participating in this program for over 20 years.

For Vital Plastics, the goal is to exceed its customers’ injection molding and assembly needs by any means necessary. From prototyping through production and assembly, the company helps to unclutter customers’ manufacturing floors to improve productivity, performance and profitability for customers in the automotive, aerospace, construction, consumer products, electronics and other diversified sectors.

“Having worked for other companies and seeing how they are run, we’re trying to create something different. We’re dedicated to our core values. Foremost among our core values are honesty and trust. If you get people to trust you and they believe that you are honest, you are going to get the kind of feedback and performance you want to see,” Townsend explained. “Over the years, we’ve developed a very genuine commitment to customer service from our workforce. I know that most manufacturers say that, but I think our reputation is that we are problem solvers as a company throughout our organization. It’s just a part of who we are and it’s been that way since the beginning,” noted Townsend.

Vital Plastics offers cost-effective solutions with an utmost commitment to quality, delivery, safety and customer service. Its quality program is ISO9001:2015 certified and offers precision output with the promise of minimal defects.

Indeed, a culture of continuous improvement and feedback has been adopted and integrated at Vital Plastics. As Townsend noted, “[Our team members] are the ones in the trenches, doing the work and seeing the issues. Employees are encouraged to identify those issues, propose solutions and to participate in their implementation. We encourage that throughout the organization. It’s one of the things we talk about regularly at our meetings.”

The company recently acquired a tool shop and its mold building capabilities, bringing the owner and his expertise on board as its new Tooling Manager. While there is no intention for the company to build all of its own tools, increasing its capacity to include tooling is part of a longer term growth strategy. As Scott Glor, Business Development Manager with Vital Plastics explained, “He had his own shop for many years and wanted to get out of the day-to-day management so we bought his tool shop and him, essentially. This is new for 2017; now we can build our own prototype tools and small tools molds internally, giving us more control over quick repairs and short timelines.”

Vital Plastics recently adopted a new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) program and is in the process of finalizing updated training programs and mentoring initiatives to better position itself to support future growth. The new system replaces older technology to integrate all functions of the company. Future add-ons will include EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) and payroll.

When asked about the experience of shaping a company, Townsend stated, “It’s been a really interesting and enjoyable experience for us to watch this company mature and develop over the years. We hope our efforts will result in a legacy of a company that is a great partner for our customers, a contributing member of our community and a great place to work for our employees.”

Through its commitment to continuous improvement and growth, Vital Plastics has become big enough to meet the needs and expectations of its growing customer base but remains small enough to provide an unmatched attention to detail and standard of service. The company’s goal is to create winning relationships with everyone they meet.

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