Legacy Manufacturing With a Modern Twist

Redline Plastics
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

With its roots going back a century, this family-owned company provides solutions to clients both domestic and international. And innovation, quality, and professionalism are just a few of the words its customers have used to describe Redline Plastics.

Much has changed in the manufacturing sphere since 1922 when Redline Plastics began life as Dow Canvas. Designing and manufacturing tent and awning industry products, Dow Canvas was purchased by the Webster family in the mid-70s.

Under new ownership, the business became a leader in manufacturing covers for the marine and powersports sectors. Renamed Dowco in 1996, the business expanded 20 years later into plastics fabrication when it gained Premier Plastics.

Rebirth of a business

Selling the Dowco Marine division in 2018, the family kept the plastics and powersports businesses, under the name of Redline Plastics.

“We acquired the plastics business because the marine segment of our [Cut & Sew] business was growing, and it owned the market in boat covers and Bimini tops, which were supplied to all major aluminum fishing boat and pontoon manufacturers,” says Chuck Webster, President and CEO.

The purchase of Premier Plastics made a natural fit since the company manufactured rotationally-molded pontoon furniture which they sent to a sister company to foam and upholster.

“We figured we’d be more important to our customers if we were shipping not only canvas products but also their pontoon furniture to them. So it was more of a means of segmentation into an adjacent market so we could vertically integrate.”

A worldwide leader, Redline also services other industries with cut-and-sew and plastic products, including plastic rotational molding, vacuum forming, and fiberglassed reinforced plastics.

Its aftermarket powersports products include Dowco®, Willie & Max® leather and vinyl saddlebags and luggage, and covers for motorcycles, and ATVs and UTVs. Additionally, Dowco supplies many of the large motorcycle OEMs with cover and luggage products as well.

Products include synthetic saddlebags and swing arm bags. Under its powersports division, the company sells about 100,000 motorcycle covers a year, as well as luggage.

A living culture

Designing its new state-of-the-art 222,632 square foot manufacturing facility, Redline Plastics focused on the well-being of its staff and operations.

Now settled in purpose-designed modern, clean, well-lit, and properly ventilated premises, the company aims to make Redline more than a job, but a great place to work.

“Rather than traditional corporate values… we developed cultural behaviors, actionable things that we all strive to do to build a place that we want to work at,” management says on the company website. “When we researched cultural behaviors, they were quite boring and did not resonate with us. So we made our own!”

And make their own they did. Just a few of the phrases include “Get Amped,” “Engage in Radical Candor,” “Don’t Be a Jackass,” and “Recognize Awesome.” Once the company divested the marine division, moved into the building, and expanded, the team examined what they wanted their identity to be and what values they wanted to instill in their team members.

“Everybody knows you want to deliver quality products on time and at the lowest cost possible. That’s how you do business nowadays,” says Nick Murray, Vice President of Operations. “We figured if we could make catchy sayings that reflect the way we want our employees to act and conduct business, we could speak to all levels within our organization, and make it fun. So we came up with the initial concepts, and then we added catchy pictograms and phrasing around the behavior to get the message across, while having fun.”

Best Place to Work ’21 ’22

In 2021 and again in 2022, Redline was named by Plastics News as one of their ‘Best Places to Work.’

One of the main reasons, says Murray, is that staff love the people they work with. “It’s not the pay, it’s not the benefits—although we strive to be competitive in all areas including our profit sharing programs, how we celebrate success, and how we reward all employees—it’s the people they work with day in and day out.”

With a total staff of about 180—there was an increase in staff of about 100 in the past year—Redline’s capabilities are unique in the industry simply because of its employees and what they bring. The company has industry-leading levels of skill on hand in rotational molding, vacuum forming, fiberglass-reinforced plastics, line bending, and cut-and-sew, all under one roof.

And with its engineering talent, the company helps customers transform ideas that may be sketched on a napkin all the way through manufacturing to fulfillment in all capabilities.

Rotational molding and more

Known for its rotational molding, vacuum forming, and industrial contract sewing, Redline Plastics is active in construction equipment, playground products, floor cleaners, and many other areas.

Among its smaller-scale products, the company makes panel dash inserts for the marine industry that measure several inches, while larger items include kayaks and 500-gallon tanks. At Redline, machines can handle parts from just inches in diameter to about 16 feet.

As the impact of COVID-19 on the economy lessens, Redline Plastics is seeing an increase in all sectors because of pent-up demand that has not been able to be filled in more complicated products. “We have done a nice job meeting demand and suspect that due to supply chain constraints, many customers have bulked up their inventory,” says Murray.

“If they’re unable to sell their inventory, this will lead to an eventual slowdown and then a return to the norm. To combat this looming event, we have added many new products and customers during COVID. Due to the investment in our people and our expanded capacity, in a time when there were constraints at many of our other competitors, we have been able to successfully continue our steep growth trajectory.”

Early in the pandemic, the company shifted operations to cutting disposable isolation gowns to the tune of about 20,000 units and partnered with customers to bring new lines of disinfectant sprayers to the market.

Lightweight vs. heavyweight

Some companies have transitioned their products from metals to plastics for several reasons. Finding and keeping high-quality welders is a challenge. And with rising fuel costs, making machines from plastic—which weighs much less than metal—requires less fuel, and is more efficient.

“We’ve had a number of situations where that’s happened. And with certain products like floor cleaning equipment, rotational molding is ideal for the body and the tanks and everything because it’s pretty indestructible,” says Webster.

Redline Plastics will continue to focus on supporting its domestic and international customers, whose loyalty was responsible for so much of the company’s steep growth trajectory and overall success.

Says Murray, “Our people, commitment, quality, and reputation for being able to tackle difficult products make us an exceptional partner for businesses needing components, or that want us to seamlessly make their finished product and deliver it to their consumers’ doorsteps.”

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