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6/26/2012 | 3 MINUTE READ

Innovation Never Sleeps

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Inspiring words from the 50s hold true today.

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 aided the war effort. 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, more than 60 years later, SPI 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 at an NPE2012 luncheon, and also during a recent meeting of the SPI National Board in Indianapolis.

President Truman’s efforts to motivate industry got me thinking, especially with NPE just a couple of months past. There were so many innovations at the show that it will take us through the August issue—and then some—to report on them all. But the real issue is whether or not North American plastics processors are really ready to implement new technology to make their businesses more competitive globally. Americans by and large are a skeptical bunch, but the time has gone to do the same things the same way.

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. I’d 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;  “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 as at the previous show. Of course, compared with NPE09, a lot more exhibitors were making product at this show, so there was more material to recycle to begin with. My point is that 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 lb a day as part of its bag-to-bag recycling program (more on this upcoming 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. Check out the Processor Strategies article on p. 56 of this issue.

Efficiency: Make more with less. Avail yourself of more energy-efficient primary processing or auxiliary equipment. Go to our website, ptonline.com, and search for Energy Miser, a series of articles we have run by Dr. Robin Kent. You’ll be astonished at the things you don’t know about energy use in your plant. And did you hear about the new drying technology that actually lets you measure moisture in process? Check out our March issue, p. 17.

Solutions: You don’t just make parts. 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 without 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.