Injection Molding | 4 MINUTE READ

Molder’s Philosophy of ‘Giving Back’ Helps Attract New Employees

R&D Plastics participates in numerous programs to further plastics education with local universities and high schools. This effort breeds good community relations and helps attract new employees.
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Running a molding business these days may mean more than machines and pellets, revenues and expenses. In an era when plastics are under daily attack in the press and in legislatures, and when scarcity of experienced personnel is a chronic frustration, processors might do well to put community relations high on their list of priorities.

A strong proponent of that philosophy is R&D Plastics, owned and run by CEO Rod Roth (son of Merrill Roth, founder of Grant & Roth Plastics) and Sal Gonzalez, v.p. of operations. Located in Hillsboro, Ore., R&D Plastics is a medium-sized custom injection molder serving domestic and foreign manufacturers in medical, electronics, transportation, recreation, wastewater treatment, and defense industries. Started in 1996 (after the sale of Grant & Roth to SPM) and approaching $8 million in annual revenues, the business operates out of a 28,000 ft2 plant with 60 employees and 17 presses from 40 to 720 tons.

A Focus on People & Community

Focused on competitive pricing for high-quality parts, combined with a high level of technical support and service, R&D Plastics practices a personal approach to business. “We focus on a small number of customers in order for management to be involved in services all accounts,” says Roth.

“Rod, Sal and their team make this place so tight-knit that it’s like a family business—and in some ways it almost is,” observes Don Williams, manager of Pacwest Industrial Sales, regional representative for Wittmann Battenfeld, which has become a favored supplier for robots at R&D Plastics, which also just bought its first Wittmann Battenfeld injection press. “Many former Grant & Roth employees from Rod’s dad’s business are still there, 25 years after that business was sold. It’s a real testament to the people-focused culture they’ve built here that people come seek them out for work, and they stay for a long time once they get in the door.”

Giving back to the community is a core value of R&D, and it starts at the top. Roth and Gonzalez have both made it a major part of how they run their business. For nearly a decade, Gonzalez taught classes at two local colleges, Portland Community College and Clark College. In his limited spare time, he worked with students in their plastics labs, training them in skills to land jobs in the plastics industry. Sometimes, Gonzalez was directly training employees of R&D’s competition, but he considered that a positive: “It’s a really small industry, especially out here in this region. We see competitors’ employees come in all the time; but in our eyes, by being friendly and ourselves, and expanding their knowledge, we’re helping to support the entire industry. Plus, who knows, they might change jobs down the road and remember the good people and great training they got from us!”

Roth, meanwhile, also supports local higher education. He sponsors three scholarships at Western Washington University’s Plastics and Composites Engineering program, brings in interns from the school every summer, and is a guest lecturer in classes. This close relationship with the university has led to the school being somewhat of a feeder program into R&D Plastics, with talented graduates moving from interns into full-time employees. Around eight graduates have followed this path so far.

R&D also constantly brings people into its plant from around the region to learn about what the company does and to train them in practical skills. Every year, R&D hosts an open house for anyone from the community who wants to come, usually drawing a crowd of around 100. R&D feeds them and gives tours of the plant.

In addition to the open house, R&D hosts a “Lunch and Learn” every month for anyone who wants to attend. Topics are varied and encompass a wide range of skills, recent examples including mold texturing and sonic welding.

Quarterly, R&D will go over some bigger topics, including part design, material selection and mold design—also for anyone who wants to attend. As with its support for local schools, these events regularly host competitors’ personnel, but R&D sees the plastics industry as a community and lives by the mantra that “building good will is good business.”

Inspiring a New Generation

Every year, R&D hosts a plastics industry tour in the Portland area for engineering students of Western Washington University. R&D hosts about 45 students and faculty, loading them onto a tour bus early in the morning and coordinating thorough tours of plastics-related companies such as moldmakers and prototype shops, including Nike’s in-house molding and extrusion operation, GMNameplate injection molding, PMT plastics metalizing, and a few OEM manufacturers such as Daimler, always finishing up with a tour of R&D Plastics. Some of the students take full advantage of this and experience the “Portland tour” more than once during their student track.

R&D also participates in a “Manufacturing Day” event, inviting about 75 to 80 local high-school students to educate them about the plastics industry, the injection molding process, and career opportunities. R&D sees the value in supporting the interest of future job seekers, as well as the importance to the community of supporting job opportunities for local people.

“We really respect what R&D does day in and day out to support their community,” adds Jason Cornell, Wittmann Battenfeld’s West Coast regional manager for robots and automation. That sentiment is echoed by Williams: “R&D gives back more than anyone else I’ve ever known in this industry, and they’ve earned their status as godfathers of plastics out here.”

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