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6/15/2012 | 3 MINUTE READ

Innovation Never Sleeps

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It happened before many of us reading this were even born. It happened during World War II.


It happened before many of us reading this were even born. It happened during World War II, when President Harry Truman spoke to the organization now known as the Society of the Plastics Industry at its yearly gala. It might as well have been said yesterday, as the sentiment is just as valid.
Truman was commending the plastics industry for the many innovations that gave a boost to the Allied Force’s war efforts. But as a true Missourian—the “show me” state, remember—he wanted to see more. More innovation, more creativity, he urged members of the plastics trade group. Incredibly, the SPI somehow managed to dig up and dust off his speech, audio and all, from its archives in Washington, D.C. SPI President Bill Carteaux played the audio recording in a presentation he gave an NPE2012 luncheon, and also during a recent meeting of the SPI National Board in Indianapolis. Here is part of what Truman said:
"Although much progress has been made in the development of plastics in the last few years, we all know that our industry is still in its infancy. Great things are expected of it. Although you members of the plastics industry have already made a noteworthy contribution to American technology, you must never for a moment relax your effort."
The president’s efforts to motivate got me thinking, especially with NPE just a few months old. There were so many innovations at the show, so much so that it will take us through the August issue—and then some—for us as a publication to report on them all. Granted, we are no longer an industry in its infancy. But the real issue is whether or not North American plastics processors are really ready to implement this technology to make their businesses more competitive globally. Americans by and large are a skeptical bunch, but the time has come and gone to do the same things, the same way.
Now I don’t need former v.p. candidate Lloyd Bentsen (I am old enough to remember him) to tell me that he knew and worked with Harry Truman and that I’m no Harry Truman, but I’d like to see “more” too. Like more:
Automation: At NPE we were treated to stunning displays of sophisticated injection molding technology at numerous booths. These included a new way of labeling small syringes, requiring super-precise positioning of 16 small, extra-thin labels at high speed; a “full-cover” IML in which a food package gains barrier protection from being completely covered by the label; and an award-winning process called “3D IML.” See our June issue for more details.
Recycling: I was happy to learn that at this year’s NPE twice as many pounds of material were recycled than the year before. Of course, compared to NPE09 a lot more exhibitors were making product at this show, so there was more material to move to begin with. Point is, the industry is making giant strides in this area. Programs are afoot to recycle PET-based clamshells. And just last month I visited the Hilex film-extrusion and bagmaking plant in North Vernon, Ind., which is recycling up to 80,000 pounds a day as part of its bag-to-bag recycling program (more on this in our September issue).
Training: We all know about the problems manufacturing in general is having in attracting qualified labor. One possible solution is to improve the skills of the people you already have. Train them.    

Efficiency: Make more with less. Avail yourself of more energy-efficient primary processing or auxiliary equipment. Go to our website, ptonline.com, and do a search for Energy Miser, a series of articles we have run by Dr. Robin Kent. You’ll be astonished at the things you thought you knew but perhaps didn’t. Did you hear about the new drying technology that actually lets you measure moisture in process? 

Solutions. You don’t make a part. Maybe you used to. But shoot-and-ship is yesterday’s mindset. Today, you are solving a problem, creating value or creating an opportunity for your customer.
Fundamentals: You can’t innovate with knowing the fundamentals of processing. There are still lots of artisans and knob turners out there. Our Know How columns on materials, injection molding, extrusion, blow molding and tooling are there to help you embrace the science of processing.