Welcome to the new Plastics Technology.

Welcome to the new Plastics Technology. In my last two columns, I previewed the changes we had in store, why we were making them, and what we hoped to achieve. Now you have in your hands the execution of that plan. Incrementally, these changes will also be reflected in our website (PTonline.com), our current e-newsletter (PT Insider) another e-newsletter on materials (PT Materials Insider) that we will introduce in 2010, and all future product launches.

I got quite a bit of positive feedback from the editorials I wrote in the September and October issues. We’re all busy, we’re all multi-tasking, so I appreciate the time you took out of your day to shoot me an email or call me on the phone. Now that you have our magazine in front of you, please feel free to let me know what you think of our transition, positive or otherwise.

Our goal from the start was to better position Plastics Technology as a conduit between you—the processor—and your suppliers of machinery, materials, etc. But just as importantly, we wanted to position ourselves as a conduit between processors, in an effort to create a community among all types of processing operations where ideas could be shared for the benefit of the whole industry. To get there, we thought it was important for our magazine to help you solve the problems of the day, or at the very least to give you some direction on where to go to get answers. And we thought it was critical to shine a light on best practices among your peers from which you might pick up a tip or trick or two to help you improve your business.

With an audience as broad as ours, serving up these “best practices” is no simple task. Because on the surface, a thermoformer of truck-bed liners might not have all that much in common with an extruder of medical tubing or a molder of caps and closures. But there are common elements that bind the North American plastics processing marketplace. There are typical problems and solutions, as there are typical strategies and tactics a processing firm can take to position itself better in good times and bad, regardless of the type of machine being used or product being fabricated.

I think one of the most important of these strategies and tactics is innovation, and in this issue we introduce you to two seemingly very different companies whose commitment to that concept has helped insulate them in these difficult times while positioning them to prosper when things rebound. Superficially, the businesses of MGS Mfg. (On Site feature, p. 24) and Plastican (Processor Strategies, p. 48) are as different as night and day. One is involved multi-shot molding and in-mold assembly, the other molds cans for industrial packaging. But look just a little deeper and you’ll see a customer-focused, solutions-oriented business model that uses technology to keep a step ahead of the competition. And as a result, both are leaders—and innovators—in their respective fields.

You too can be an innovator. In fact, I would argue that you have to be. That doesn’t necessarily mean buying the most expensive piece of equipment or highest priced resin. Innovation comes in many shapes and sizes—combining “unblendable” materials to come up with your own formulation, adding to a part’s functionality and eliminating another part from an assembly, or making a product stronger and lighter while using less material. Sometimes it comes in the form of solving a customer’s problem that they didn’t know they had in the first place.

If you think you are an innovator, let us know. We’d love to pay a visit.