“What’s new?” I have been asking that question each month for 360 issues of PLASTICS TECHNOLOGY. Back when I first started asking that question, the answer was a souped-up machine or a more cooperative resin. In those days, there were so many things we didn’t have to ask about: SPC, SQC, CAD/CAM, MRP, ERP, CIM, JIT, OSHA, EPA, CPSC, PC, and “.com.”
What does that say about the last three decades in plastics? For one thing, today’s demands for quality and consistency leave no room for the old “spit-on-the-barrel” school of processing know-how. Also, much more business savvy is required of plastics managers in a world that runs at the speed of the Internet. And those managers now have to think about more than just getting product out the door. Health of their workers, safety of the consumer, and preservation of the planet all loom larger on the plant floor.
Today I’m editing a magazine for a new breed of processor—the “full-service” custom manufacturer who does so much more than shove product out the door. Once upon a time, the image of that custom processor was just a small shop making parts for a much larger OEM. Now, many custom firms are international enterprises that rival in size the customers they serve. They design the product, mold it, decorate it, and assemble it.
In a way, that’s the biggest change of all. The plastics processor now commands respect. It’s no longer “the plastics…what?” To me, as editor of a magazine devoted entirely to the plastics processor, that’s a big change for the better.