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Plastics Business: The View from 30 Feet

Business gurus often talk about the view from 30,000 feet – the big picture that provides a look at overall operations. Perhaps, however, the focus should be on the view from 30 feet – a close-up of specific processes and procedures that make an impact now.

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PMC SMART Solutions receives Bosch Global Supplier Award
PMC SMART Solutions, LLC has been honored with the “Bosch Global Supplier Award 2015” from Robert Bosch GmbH. PMC received the award in the Plastics-Injection Molding category, for their work supplying Bosch with plastic components and assemblies for steering, fuel and electrical systems in the U.S, Mexico, and Europe. In all, Bosch has given awards to 58 elite suppliers from eleven countries, all of which were hand-selected from a pool of 35,000 total candidates. This is the 14th time that the supplier of technology and services has given out the global supplier award. By presenting this award, the company recognizes outstanding performance in the manufacture and supply of products or services – notably in the areas of quality, costs, logistics, and innovations. “The Bosch Global Supplier Award honors our top suppliers, who play such a key role in Bosch’s success,” said Dr. Volkmar Denner, chairman of the Bosch board of management, at the award ceremony in Stuttgart. “Our suppliers are important partners in helping us shape the connected world. We want to work with them to develop beneficial solutions for our customers.” The theme of this year’s award ceremony was: “Power of partnership – connected intelligence”. 

In 2014, the Bosch Group’s purchasing volume came to some 25 billion Euros. Europe still accounts for the lion’s share, at roughly 60 percent of the global purchasing volume. Outside Europe, procurement is centered on China, the U.S., and Japan. 

About PMC SMART Solutions, Manufacturing Technology that Saves Lives
Founded in 1929, PMC SMART Solutions is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, with locations in Shelbyville, Ind.; Detroit, Mich.; Guanajuato, Mexico; and Wiesau, Germany. PMC has a strong history of creating plastic-based products in highly-regulated markets and is a contract manufacturer for 10 of the top global Tier 1 automotive manufacturers and seven of the world’s largest medical device OEMs. PMC is a certified women-owned business by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). For more information, visit www.pmcsmartsolutions.com.

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Women In Plastics: Lisa Jennings
Plastics News
July 22, 2015


Lisa Jennings

President and CEO, PMC Smart Solutions LLC

Lisa Jennings, 43, is president and CEO of Cincinnati-based injection molder PMC Smart Solutions LLC. She loves her job at the family-owned company, she says, and, like many of the women profiled for this report, enjoys exercising.

Jennings received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and business from DePauw University in 1993, and an MBA in finance from Washington University in 1999.

Q: What are some of your career highlights?

Jennings: I worked as an intern for Emerson Electric during my time as an MBA student. My experience there helped me realize that my preferred niche was rooted in midsize, entrepreneurial companies, rather than in larger, publicly traded ones. In 1999, I made my leap to PMC. I started with the company as a financial analyst, and from there, I served as vice president of sales and marketing before taking the helm as president in 2010. In my time as president and CEO, a significant highlight has been PMC Smart Solutions’ registration as a woman-owned enterprise effective January 2014.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?

Jennings: In 2006, PMC made the strategic decision to pursue the medical device market. I was leading exploration of the market and interactions with initial potential customers. Our leadership team and outside advisory board agreed that our future success was dependent on focused leadership to strategically develop this new market. I was challenged to dedicate more than 70 percent of my work to the medical device market, while continuing to support the rest of PMC’s core business with the remaining 30 percent of my time. I dove in with a combination of fear, excitement and the spirit of entrepreneurship. The result of this effort: more than 30 percent of PMC’s business today is in medical devices, and we are excited to continue bracing for growth.

Q: What is your biggest failure and what did it teach you?

Jennings: In 2000, we made the decision to open a facility in Tucson, Ariz., to support the cellular and commercial electronics industries in California. Immediately after opening the plant, a massive portion of our electronics business shifted to Asia. We’d missed the pulse of the market’s domestic manufacturing efforts, and we felt the sting of having to re-evaluate. That said, we were secure in the knowledge that we’d taken the venture on in a financially managed way. We were able to sell the facility to another plastics processor at minimal loss.

Q: What is your current challenge at work?

Jennings: Time. I love the work I do, I love the people I work with and I want to have ample time to give to every person, to each issue. Making sure that I have enough availability to spend time with all of the things that need me and all of the things that I’d like to be a part of is a daily juggle. I work very hard to ensure that I’m available and able to help.

Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?

Jennings: Without giving the impression of a cliché answer, I’d tell you that the digital sharing of information is a big interest of mine. Moreover, it’s important to our business. We live in a digital world that’s in perpetual communication with itself, but PMC’s regulated industries tend to be safety-critical and high-risk — traditionally, slower to adopt change in the hope of managing risk. That said, our customers are more and more often facing regulations that require the communication of a component’s history and make-up electronically and at a moment’s notice. 

Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?

Jennings: Technical, manufacturing and engineering organizations are actively seeking smart, capable businessmen and women.

Q: Who is your mentor, or someone you look up to?

Jennings: I admire Jeanette Walls, author of The Glass Castle, as well as Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel and Silver Star. I heard her speak at the 2011 Cincinnati YWCA Career Women of Achievement Awards. Reading her books leaves a deep impression, but meeting Walls in person and hearing her speak inspired me to think about the greater context of the world. She reminds people that beauty, success and good are in the eye of the beholder.

Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?

Jennings: I’m in the job I really want, and I strive every day to have a healthy work-family balance. I’d like to continue to meet, know and encourage women who are actively doing the same.

Q: What do you do to relax?

Jennings: I spend time with my family, exercise, read and enjoy doing things outdoors.
  

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PMC SMART Solutions stays lean, adept at critical molding
Plastics Machinery Magazine
Issue: May 2015
By Angie DeRosa


Lean manufacturing practices are ingrained at the Shelbyville, Ind., injection molding facility of PMC SMART Solutions LLC, where insert molding, two-shot molding and overmolding are performed. The company is world-renowned for its deft skill in molding high-temperature, highly engineered resins such as PEEK and polyphenylene sulfide (PPS). Other biomaterials that it works with include bioresorbables and polysulfone. The components being molded are not for the faint of heart.

Here, dedicated presses have been configured scientifically to produce safety-critical parts for Tier 1 automotive suppliers in one section of the facility. In another, a Class 8 clean room is home to all-electric presses that mold components that go directly from PMC’s facility to the operating room. The parts being molded can go directly into the human body. This site is certified under ISO 13485 and is FDA registered to produce finished medical devices.

“SMART” is part of the company’s name for a reason. It is an acronym for Scientific Manufacturing Assures Reliable Throughput. In its fourth generation of ownership, the company was started in 1929 by the Gerdes family. It was recently certified women-owned.

PMC President Lisa (Gerdes) Jennings leads the tour along with Vern Nightenhelser, director of manufacturing operations. Jennings explains how scientific molding and a culture of extremely high quality give customers the confidence to entrust their most critical products to PMC.

“We are making brake parts every day. If a brake goes bad, somebody could die. The culture and mentality is just within us,” she says of the stringent practices that must be followed. “Our parts get put into other things, and tested and cycled. We’re the last hands before they go into one of our family member’s surgeries.”

PMC’s quality systems and performance “help our customers feel safe with us delivering their babies,” she says. “They are ultimately responsible for these parts going into the operating room.”

PMC is based in Cincinnati where it began operations in 1929. On the day of the tour, Jennings just had been notified that her firm has won two awards from customers — one on a global scale and the other for the NAFTA region.

“So I can say that we’re getting two awards. I just can’t be specific right now,” she said.

STANDARDIZING FOR SIMPLICITY

The awards are the ultimate feather in the cap for very strategic and purposeful manufacturing practices that incorporate lean into every part of the operation. Lean is communicated throughout the operation through tangible results, for example, achieving less than one-half percent scrap rates. That includes start-up and shut-down. There also is the 99.7 percent on-time delivery. Unplanned down time due to maintenance failures is less than 1 percent.

The auxiliary equipment that supports clean room molding is located outside the clean room.
“You continuously have to drive waste out of processes,” says Nightenhelser, who has been with PMC for 33 years. “You have to do that to remain competitive and you have to do it internally. You can’t wait for your customer to tell you that. You have to do it yourself. And that is how you’re always looking for a little better way to make what you buy into what you sell instead of recycling it into the scrap bin or the dumpster. You’re forced to do that because of the cost of your materials.”

Jennings refers to it as managing to the pellet.

“Whether it’s $1,000-per-pound material for implants or $3-per-pound material for something else, we treat it all the same. All of it matters,” she says.

This is where the primary machinery and other equipment play a critical role. In PMC’s world, molded parts are extremely complex. Some of these components have to be molded to tolerances as low as 15 to 20 microns. To reduce the complexity in other areas of the operation, officials have standardized the equipment. In this way, they also have fewer spare parts to store.

“We’ve done our homework on why we’re doing it and what we need,” says Nightenhelser. “It’s based on what you’re getting from the customer and then we go in and rightsize the equipment to make sure it’s best utilized for that (project) and we couple that with volumes. So I wouldn’t go to Lisa and say that I need this press for 100 pieces a year.”

Instead, they seek volume. Think a half million, 1 million, 2 million parts per year. Then they can rightsize the primary equipment or the automation and that makes it easier to get a return on investment.

“You do not want a little bitty mold in a great big press,” he says. “We did a lot of work years ago on the equipment as far as, we’re going to go to Milacron Roboshot, here is why. We’re going to use a Matsui dryer, here’s why. We haven’t deviated from that and that creates familiarity amongst the troops.”

The Roboshots are standardized, all-electric, closed-loop, so they support PMC’s scientific manufacturing and scientific molding.

“We dial in the process and the press is tied into the robot and it will reject a part automatically,” Jennings says. “If it rejects a part three times, it shuts down automatically. We use the press’s features to manage our scientific injection molding.”

From a parts standpoint, the technology has evolved within that press so that it can be done in a closed loop. When the process of standardization began, PMC took into consideration the technical capabilities of the pieces of equipment, all of the advantages and disadvantages, says Jennings.

“We took into account, just like on the vertical presses, all-electric versus hybrid. There are a lot of people who use hybrids in the clean room. We just said, ‘It’s not for us,’” she says.

Two all-electric vertical Nissei presses round out the clean room molding capabilities. In the automotive facility, a 200-ton Engel vertical press performs molding of an accessory drive assembly. Actual finished products are displayed at the press so that operators can see the ultimate placement of the parts being molded.

This plant operates under the concept of OEE, an acronym for Overall Equipment Effectiveness. Nightenhelser explains that it takes into consideration the availability of people, the availability of the equipment and first-time quality. It’s a calculated system that scores a company in all those categories. World class is considered 85 percent.

He’s proud to disclose another tangible number to communicate to the troops. PMC is in the 90 percent range.

“It’s just another tool to use,” he says. “It makes you look at, for example, why on third shift you have an availability issue. It will point out that you do not have the right number of people on that shift if your availability on that shift is low.”

CREATIVITY VERSUS CAPITAL

Jennings is happy to be in a place where PMC can think about a physical plant expansion up from the current footprint of 67,000 square feet. They already have done the preliminary analysis and can add about 21,000 square feet. But it’s not without thorough review and taking lean thinking into that analysis.

Within the last 18 months, PMC finished expansion of the clean room, which included the addition of a press, an ultrasonic welder and some assembly. But that total clean room space is configured creatively so that there is less need for capital outlay. The clean room is modular and expandable.

A lot of items are on casters so that the necessary secondary and testing equipment can be wheeled up and out. Workers can wheel up the assembly station for a certain job.

“It’s our way of flex manufacturing in the space that we have in the spirit of creativity versus capital,” she says. “Otherwise, if we had all this stuff fixed where it was, we’d need expansion a lot quicker.”

As an example of a highly complex medical part, PMC has an overmolded part that has five components that it assembles and then overmolds with Santoprene. It is then tested for 100 percent electrical functionality. This part goes into an electro-surgery device for one of the largest medical device companies in the world.

“I would say that we’re really excited to be in that position (of expanding),” she says. “But we are also going to really think about the right way to do that too. Is it build it and they will come? Is it, can we build but progressively add on to that over time depending on what the business requirements are? You can get all excited about putting 20,000 square feet on and outfitting it with everything you might need but you only have a press to put in there for the work you have committed from a customer. So I think the lean concept for PMC goes into how you expand, too. There is always a delicate balance because you want to optimize flow and future potential with not getting out ahead of yourself.”

ADAPTING TECHNOLOGY TO MEET ITS OWN NEEDS

When PMC cannot find a technology beyond its own walls, it will create it within. Take, for example, its Optimized Thermal Management System (OTMS) for injection mold temperature control. Jennings and Nightenhelser show off the area where this technology is in play – among the auxiliary equipment that is separated from the clean room injection presses. All the auxiliary equipment is located outside the clean room and its functionalities are transported through conduits.

PMC’s desire to run high-temperature materials is what led them to find solutions such as OTMS. PEEK is one of the primary materials. As Jennings puts it, most medical molders wouldn’t touch it because they don’t know how to run it. Outside of medical, those who mold PEEK would use hot oil.

That hot oil cannot be used in a clean room, however. Most people use electric cartridge heaters in their tools. But PMC had to figure out how it was going to control the temperature between 350 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit with electric cartridge heaters. Electric cartridge heaters only put heat into the tool; the heat cannot be pulled out. Once you pump it in, putting 700-degree material in there, the temperature of the mold can go way beyond 400 degrees Fahrenheit. PMC started looking at technologies to explore how it could be done differently.

It partnered with SINGLE (pronounced Sing-lay) using the SINGLE Temperature Controls STW200/1-6-25-HO.2 system which uses pressurized water for these high-temperature medical and implantable biomaterial applications.

“Water is much cleaner and much more efficient than running oil,” says Nightenhelser. “There are less leaks. The tools look better when they come out of the press.”

“It has been a huge selling point for customers,” Jennings says.

Cooling is almost instant. It can be up to six times slower when using oil. PMC now is taking this technology into automotive. It is converting some jobs that it ran on oil and even has begun seeing improvements in cycle times from the use of the technology.

PMC’s technical prowess is a point of pride for Jennings. Customers might not even know that something is possible.

“I think we’re really good at thinking through something that has never been done before,” she says. “Technically, a challenge that a customer has that they can’t figure out. Sometimes they didn’t know that what we were suggesting was even possible or that there was even a material available that could do what they needed to do. But then we go out and look for it, whether it’s an existing technology or taking an existing technology and applying it in a completely different way, which is really what happened with the pressurized water.”

As PMC has thrived on taking on highly complex devices with challenging materials, Jennings and Nightenhelser are honest about the challenge of finding tooling. Their customers always are demanding more in terms of tooling.

“Because the parts we’re pursuing in our niches are so technically complex, finding tool shops that are capable of building those tools is a challenge,” says Jennings. “We used to build tools in Cincinnati. We were a molder first and a tool builder second. But finding the tool shops that are at the tippy top of the pyramid, as we call it, that’s a challenge. We’re taking on more and more dimensionally complex parts. And that is more in automotive than it is in medical, for sure. Medical parts are more complex for completely different reasons. The tool shop situation, there are some great tool shops, always have been, but we’re really pushing the envelope.”

IMPLEMENTING THE POKA-YOKES

If you never have heard the phrase “poka-yoke,” it is a lean manufacturing concept for error-proofing. In Japanese, it means avoiding inadvertent errors. It is implementing habits or devices where errors are most likely to occur.

A molding cell, for example, would be designed so that the molding, robotics and any other automated functions cannot be performed incorrectly. This practice is perhaps best illustrated by what happened with a transfer tool that PMC received for a vibration control device for engine mounts.

The customer didn’t design the tool so that the parts could be aligned automatically and then put together. PMC has equipped the system with a special arm to align the top part to the bottom part to make sure they are aligned every time, says Nightenhelser. Inside the welding fixture, there is a sensor that detects the presence of a bladder. At a different stage of production, the part is sent through an overall height gauge before an ultrasonic welder will cycle the next time.

Elsewhere in the facility, Nightenhelser showcases the most-automated cell that is in production for automotive. Central to this cell is a 380-ton all-electric Roboshot and all the requisite automation for the task of making a part that goes atop an all-electronic steering housing. Two million pieces go through the press annually. It’s a PBT material with 30 percent glass. As you can imagine, this press is dedicated. There are only mold changes that occur, no material changes. This system has eight poka-yokes, three inside the press.

Every station has something to validate, whether the part has met the criteria to move to the next station, including vision systems and parts measuring. When the part is finished, it is ready to go to the customer’s electronic power steering assembly line.

“We want to confirm, in a simple, lean way, that a part is good before we add more value to it,” explains Jennings.

Angie DeRosa, managing editor

aderosa@plasticsmachinerymagazine.com

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BRAVING NEW WORLDS - SMART BUSINESS MAGAZINE
Lisa Jennings translates PMC SMART Solutions’ strengths into a new market venture.

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Medical Device Summits Case Study - PMC SMART Solutions & Arthrocare
Norman Gordon
Vice President, R&D
ArthroCare


ArthroCare has done around USD 300,000 worth of business with a solution provider from the marcus evans Medical Device R&D Summit, according to Norman Gordon, Vice President, R&D, ArthroCare.

A delegate at two Medical Device R&D Summits, Gordon said: “When I am searching for vendors, the Summits are useful for assessing the marketplace. Although we were looking for new vendors, it is very possible that we would not have met or ended up working with PMC LLC if we had not attended the Summit.”

Since your last Summit, you have been working with PMC LLC on a new project. How did this relationship develop?
We do a lot of work with a material that is difficult to mold, which not many companies in the US have the expertise and experience that is required to do it well. We had one vendor for all our molds and were satisfied with them. However, when we had a hard look at our risk management plans, we realized that we were single-sourcing some expertise and production capabilities, and needed to find new vendors.

We met PMC LLC at the marcus evans Summit and got a feel for their capabilities and which industry partners they work with. They seemed to be a pretty good fit with our needs. Thus, we had them quote competitively with the other vendor, and decided to work with them.

The contract value was around USD 300,000. Over the next few years, as we generate revenue for our company, we will probably purchase some additional components from PMC and place orders for new molded parts.
Although we were looking for new vendors, it is very possible that we would not have met or ended up working with PMC LLC if we had not attended the Summit.

How do the Summits help you find vendors? How efficient and effective do you find the one-on-one meeting format?
They allow you to cut to the chase quickly. The vendors get a chance to present themselves to folks that they might not otherwise have access to, and delegates get an understanding of their capabilities that they might not have otherwise sought. The meetings can be very valuable.

Every few years, the marcus evans Summits help me see the most recent advances in project planning, interact with folks facing similar challenges and hear how they have solved problems. It is definitely time well spent. When I am searching for vendors, the Summits are useful for assessing the marketplace.

Are you planning to work with any other solution providers you met through marcus evans?

With one of the other vendors, we have identified an overlap in their machining capabilities and some of the parts we make on a regular basis, so we are keeping in touch to possibly utilize their services when we are at that point in the product development cycle. We certainly will bring them in when we get started on some new projects, late summer or fall 2013.

To access more marcus evans Success Stories, please visit the website: http://casestudies.marcusevans.com

Contact: Sarin Kouyoumdjian-Gurunlian
Press Manager, marcus evans, Summits Division
Tel: +357 22 849 313 / Email: contactus@marcusevansuk.com

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www.medicalmanufacturingsummit.com/casestudy

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