An American-Made Story at Intertech Plastics
by Dianna Brodine
Intertech's business model is based on providing turn-key solutions, believing that customers are looking for more than just molded parts – they are looking for products that are assembled, packaged, warehoused and distributed.
Intertech was a stop on US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker's nationwide listening tour in July. The Secretary met with business and thought leaders, entrepreneurs and academics.
Intertech offers decorating solutions, including pad printing, in-mold decorating, painting and part labeling.
This is, above all things, the story of American manufacturing. It's a biography of an owner who believes in the resurgence of the manufacturing industry and who is eager to promote it in every sector at any time. It's the tale of a company with employees who walk away from the plant each day believing that "I made that" is a reason to be proud. It's an article about a man who grew up around people who made things and knew from an early age that he wanted that for his own life.
This is the story of Intertech Plastics in Denver, CO.
Intertech Plastics, Inc. originally was founded as Container Industries by Noel Ginsburg in 1980. "My dad was in the food manufacturing business," Ginsburg recalled, "so from the time I was five or six, I had worked in a factory setting." Ginsburg anticipated a career in his father's business, but when he was in college, his dad sold the business to Kellogg. "It was the right thing for him to do," said Ginsburg, "but it's also why I ended up in the plastics business and not the food manufacturing business!"
At around the same time, while Ginsburg was attending the University of Denver and in his junior year, a local container molding plant was preparing to close. "I did a business plan as part of an extra credit class I was taking," he said, "and I decided it had promise."
"When we bought the assets of this company," said Ginsburg, "it only had 12 employees, and I didn't know anything about molding. It was a heavy learning curve!" Because he grew up in a family that was involved in production, Ginsburg had general manufacturing knowledge, and a mentor helped him through the challenges of the first year. Still, ownership as a young 20-something wasn't easy. The container industry changed rapidly as many of the company's customers were bought out or moved out of the state. "In order to survive, we had to diversify, which is how we got into custom molding," Ginsburg explained.
Expanding the product line
Container Industries originally produced four- and five-gallon paint and food containers. Expansion was on the menu with the development and addition of a one-gallon mayonnaise container for fast food chain suppliers, a Traypak line of products still in production today. Further expansion into the consumer plastics industry led Intertech to its current status as a high-volume producer of products such as totes, laundry baskets, plastic drawer systems, baby products and mobile device cases.
The company is one of the largest molding and manufacturing companies in the Rocky Mountain region, with more than 200 employees and 50 presses, from 33 to 1,500 tons. Still, Ginsburg saw an additional opportunity to grow, and Intertech Plastics recently moved into the medical device market with the acquisition of Image Molding. "The company was a very well-run molder doing business with the big brands in the medical device industry," Ginsburg explained. "It had brilliant engineering capabilities, but lacked some of the support systems that we already had in place, such as IT systems, sales staff and management personnel."
Although consumer products and medical devices would not appear to be symbiotic, merging the two production types under one corporate umbrella has not been difficult. "The basic principles are the same," he said. "The decoupled molding process and lean manufacturing process applies through both facilities." Ginsburg also is quick to point out that both production plants bring value to Intertech. "It's not that we're de-focusing on the industrial and consumer product side of our business," he said, "but it's high-volume, low-margin production. We wanted to diversify our overall concentration both from a customer and an industry perspective."
Providing solutions, not molded parts
Intertech's business model is based on providing turn-key solutions, believing that customers are looking for more than just molded parts – they are looking for products that are assembled, packaged, warehoused and distributed. "So many of our value-added services, such as pad printing, assembly and fulfillment, are part of our vision to provide whole product solutions, rather than just plastic components," explained Tim Nakari, senior account manager and marketing director at Intertech Plastics.
Ginsburg elaborated, saying Intertech's turn-key solution business model has been in development for more than a decade, but it just recently became a business focus. "It's been driven by the reshoring of product from Asia," he said. "Customers are telling us they'd like to bring production back from overseas, but they don't have the systems in place to manage the supply chain anymore. If we're able to supply an assembled plastic part that is decorated, packaged and ready for distribution, we can enter their supply chain at a time when China is losing its competitiveness. By providing a fully integrated solution, we become a vendor of choice."
Intertech plans to continue its aggressive approach, pursuing its competitive advantage as more US companies look to bring production back to American soil. "Many US molders can make the part, but they aren't in a position to complete the package," Ginsburg said.
As major OEMs and entrepreneurs alike are realizing that their total cost of production no longer is lower when outsourcing overseas, Intertech has expanded capabilities with a variety of value-add methods including pad printing, assembly, packaging design, fulfillment, managed inventories and direct sales distribution. "In fact, today, consumers are buying products online from Amazon.com and those products are shipping right out of Intertech Plastics," said Ginsburg. This has provided the company with skill sets in packaging, sales and marketing that can be used in support of its customers while the company works to position itself for what Ginsburg believes is a bright future in manufacturing.
"I was at the CGI America (Clinton Global Initiative) event in Chicago in June," said Ginsburg, "and I was listening to a panel where one panel member said the US will be totally energy-independent within seven or eight years. That is a huge competitive advantage, and it means the macroeconomics in our industry are shifting." Ginsburg cited a reshoring example that indicates others are seeing the shift: "One of the largest technology product manufacturers in the world is looking to build a new facility, and it's looking to do it in the US. The company is doing it for a lot of reasons – to be closer to the market, certainly – but wouldn't be doing it if the economics didn't make sense."
We made that
As part of its drive to succeed, Intertech Plastics currently is deploying lean manufacturing methods within its facilities. "It's not a program," Ginsburg said. "Instead, it changes the DNA of your business. It changes everything you do." With process implementation beginning earlier this year, Ginsburg is convinced lean manufacturing can be a key factor in creating more jobs and strengthening US manufacturing. "I heard the head of the Toyota group speak about how if US manufacturers had embraced lean manufacturing 20 years ago, business never would have gone offshore at all," he said. "Our future for the next 30 years really is up to us. We will create jobs, not just in manufacturing, but also in all the support systems that go along with it." Ginsburg continued, "If there's one thing this country needs, it's good jobs."
At Intertech Plastics, the goal is to be an efficient manufacturer that is responsible to its customers and its employees. "I think a big message to our stakeholders is that we can be competitive – we are competitive – and if we deploy scientific molding and lean manufacturing methods in our facilities, we will dominate," Ginsburg said.
The company blog, written by Nakari and posted to the Intertech website, echoes the belief that American manufacturing is rising in strength. A recent entry goes further, encouraging its employees' and customers' pride in US-made products.
"...what's really special is to be a part of something here at Intertech Plastics. We can talk all day about the numbers behind why programs are moving back to the US, and we can speculate about all of the risks with sourcing in China – all reasons that compel us to mold and manufacture here in the States. However, it's quite another thing to actually see it happening – the ability to see the tools, touch the products and speak to the people actually working on the programs – and then walk through a store in the midst of all the made-in-China products and be able to say, ‘Hey, see that part? We made that. In Denver.' This reshoring thing you keep reading about is real, and seeing it first-hand really is something to be proud of."
"Our employees have a tremendous amount of pride in the products they produce," said Ginsburg. "There are three passions we talk about relative to our mission of molding a better world, and we share them with all employees regularly. First is passion for our customers' products; second is passion for sustained economic growth and third is our passion for community and employee development."
For Ginsburg, it's important that Intertech's employees understand how their efforts in the plant lead to better products in stores and in hospitals, which will, in turn, enrich someone's life – and their own. "Their involvement in the production process enables them to support and grow their own family, in a career path they can build upon," said Ginsburg. "When we talk about our mission of molding a better world, it's one part, one person and one community at a time. Being able to say, ‘We made that', or ‘We built that' is a big motivator."
Community involvement coincides with marketing and mission
This commitment to employee and community growth is core to the values of Intertech Plastics. Over the years, Intertech has been involved in outreach initiatives with at-risk or rehabilitation programs and more formal charities such as United Way.
"We're actively involved in the community," said Ginsburg, "which is an important part of our values and also has a side benefit of marketing our company." He cited a long-term involvement working within the classrooms at local schools and his chairmanship of the United Way campaign. "These efforts not only benefit the area in which we live, but also expose Intertech to a lot of companies, both locally and nationally," he said.
Recently, Ginsburg was involved in the creation of the Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance to modernize manufacturing, become more competitive and create jobs in the state. As a result, Intertech was a stop on US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker's nationwide listening tour in July. The Secretary met with business and thought leaders, entrepreneurs, academics and Department of Commerce employees, according to a press release, to hear about their priorities, concerns and ideas on how the public and private sectors can work together to strengthen the economy and create American jobs.
"I view these things as our industry responsibility," said Ginsburg, "but as a result of Secretary Prizker's visit, we had 12 to 15 hits in newspapers and trade magazines. The side benefit of doing the right things for our community and for the manufacturing industry is that the visibility we receive as a result builds our credibility and our brand, which makes us a stronger company."
Intertech has created a business model where products can be produced competitively in the United States while employing American workers. "The cool thing about manufacturing is at the end of the day, we made something," said Ginsburg.
"We make stuff that makes a difference and in the process, we create good jobs. I think that's our responsibility for our community and our country."