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Monthly Archives: January 2018

Polymer Contours set to grow business in 2018 thanks to automation

When we last interviewed Tyson Daniels, owner of Polymer Contours, Inc. in the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center in south Allentown, in March 2017 he set a bold goal: reaching $1 million in sales by the end of his fourth year in business.

In December 2017 Daniels made his company automated by purchasing two robots that allow two of his three machines to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week producing parts for his customers. His operation is now 60 percent automated, and as a result, he says he’s on track to reach his goal by the end of 2018, his fourth year in business.

Going Automated

The machines run through their cycle and as the mold opens the robot (sprue picker) grabs and expels the runner, or excess plastic, into a granulator that will feedback to the machine, while the finished parts fall onto a newly acquired conveyor belt that moves them into a shipping container, which will be delivered to the client once it’s full. The automated cells are a closed loop system that feeds both virgin material and reground material simultaneously, saving time by allowing any excess to immediately be put back into operation.

“The machines are also hardwired into an auto-dialing system that will call my cell phone if an alarm is triggered. We then set parameters within the specific production cycle and if something is off I know about it instantaneously. I then log into my camera system and immediately see which machine has an issue. This allows me to track their operation and alerts me if there is a problem; this way I can come in to reset the equipment and continue production,” explained Daniels. “These two robots have allowed my business to not only meet demand but to double my capacity. Now I can produce in six days what used to take a month to run. At this rate, I could double my productivity each year.”

And while many decry the role of automation in replacing workers, Daniels has actually increased the hours of his operators who now service the machines, program and set up new jobs to run, and replenishes the materials the machines use to make their plastic parts, from spools that hold solder to oxygen analyzer covers for the medical industry.

Client Growth

Daniels attributes many of his new customers to being referrals from existing customers, as well as a result of the work he’s done in building the company’s brand recognition.

“We do good work, never miss a delivery, and are always on time,” says Daniels. “We’re always proving ourselves and we’ve created a reputation for good quality, on-time delivery and competitive cost that proves our value. That has led to working with good customers who refer us to their colleagues at other companies as well as utilize our services to build their plastic product lines.”

 

Improving Efficiencies

As a member of the Manufacturers Association of Plastic Processors, Daniels began learning about scientific molding, which uses a series of tests and equations to perform experiments on machine processing to maximize output. He brought in an engineering consultant to teach him and his team about cycle time and how to reduce production time by increasing consistency and utilizing machine effectiveness through a scientific testing.

“We were able to reduce production time by 33 percent for one of our largest jobs, which meant reducing times from 18 seconds per shot to 12 seconds. That can save the company over $50,000 a year and reduce the time it takes to fill an order by an entire day. Time is money after all,” said Daniels.

What’s next for Polymer Contours?

“I’m hoping to purchase some new equipment that will aid in effectiveness when running higher grade engineering resins like glass filled materials by minimizing machine wear and machine downtime,” said Daniels.

“I’d also like to get into rapid prototyping using quick-change systems to deliver molded parts quicker and within the same timeframe of a 3D printed part. A molded part is a more accurate representation of a finished product and can be cost-effective using custom mold frames with interchangeable inserts. This will allow us to deliver a prototype that is very close, if not identical, to the finished product in under two weeks, dramatically decreasing the time it takes to prove a concept.”

 

Polymer Contours Automation from Anthony Durante on Vimeo.

Startups at Bridgeworks Enterprise Center Continue Steady Growth in 2017

Annual incubator impact survey shows modest increases in revenues and salaries

Allentown, Pa. — January 26, 2018 — The Allentown Economic Development Corporation announced the aggregated results of its annual Incubator Client Impact Survey today. In 2017, the 10 Bridgeworks client companies earned over $4.63 million in revenue, which is a 4.6 percent increase over 2016.

Collectively the companies employ 28 full-time employees and another 46 people as either part-time or contracted employees. Total salaries, wages and contractor fees paid to these employees increased by 2.6 percent to $1.31 million.

“Although the growth we saw last year was modest, it’s encouraging to see that our Bridgeworks clients are continuing to grow their businesses year after year,” said AEDC Program Manager Anthony Durante. “Internally, we are seeing the client companies actively engaging in the advisory services and educational opportunities that we are providing. As a result, they are implementing best practices into their businesses which ultimately sets them up for long-term growth and resiliency in the future.”

Durante added, “If we look back to where we were in 2012, as an incubator program, we are really hitting our stride. We have a group of solid ventures in our program, our programming continues to improve, and the center is approaching full capacity. I am confident that our board and our stakeholders are very happy with the progress that we have made with the business incubator.”

The data comparison between the 2012 and 2017 surveys show how the incubator has increased its impact on the region. The incubator clients are employing nearly three-times the number of people and paying out more than 41-times the salaries and wages. Revenues earned by the client companies is also up by 2.5-times. Today the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center is 85 percent occupied.

“We work to create an environment that supports manufacturing, but it is the entrepreneurs who take the true risk, create jobs, and grow the local economy,” explained AEDC Executive Director Scott Unger. “Our combined continued success is good for Allentown.”

The annual impact survey of the client companies participating in the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center business incubator program gathers important data on job creation, company revenues, and obtained loans, grants, and equity investments. That data is aggregated into a report that demonstrates the economic impact that the incubator has upon the Allentown and Lehigh Valley communities.

 

About Allentown Economic Development Corporation

Allentown Economic Development Corporation is an independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve vacant and underutilized properties within the City of Allentown in order to create an environment where manufacturers and other companies can flourish throughout their lifecycle, from launch to rapid growth, and on to long-term success and profitability. By doing so, AEDC can advance the economic vitality of Allentown and the Lehigh Valley through job creation and business growth.

Over the course of its 29-year existence, the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, founded in the refurbished Mack Trucks Plant 4A in 1989, has helped launch more than 61 companies in Allentown that have created more than 618 jobs. It is a member of the Ben Franklin Business Incubator Network. Today, the Center is home to Amorphic Tech Ltd., ColdEdge Technologies, The Colony Meadery, County Seat Spirits, HiJinx Brewing Company, JH Plastics, LightLab International Allentown, MTS Ventures, Polymer Contours, and Zzyzx Polymers.

For more information, please visit our website: http://allentownedc.com/

AEDC and Regional Economic Developers Meet with State Representatives to Discuss Manufacturing and Retail Job Outlook

Photo Credit: April Gamiz, The Morning Call

On Thursday, January 11, Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla and State Representative Mike Schlossberg hosted a roundtable discussion entitled “Where are the jobs?” Seven representatives from regional economic development, municipal, and union organizations participated in the discussion to lend their expertise on the topic, including Allentown Economic Development Corporation Program Manager Anthony Durante.

The goal of the roundtable was to discuss how things like automation in manufacturing and the growth of online sales are impacting the landscape of the job market in our region and how legislatures might enact policies that encourage growth and ensure job creation and retention.

The sentiment across the panel was that changes were happening in the manufacturing and retail sectors that can’t be stopped, so the best we can all do is learn to adapt and embrace them. Several panelists, including Durante, expressed that the gloom and doom in the press about machines replacing jobs is not exactly accurate.

“It’s true that several tedious manual manufacturing processes are now being done by automated systems, which does eliminate those positions,” explained Durante. “But it also creates new positions for people to operate and troubleshoot those machines as they run. Those new jobs require a higher skill set and are higher paying positions. However, I have personally witnessed companies trying to retrain workers for these new positions to prevent layoffs.”

Despite the impact that online shopping is having on the retail industry, the Lehigh Valley has remained surprisingly resilient to its impact. Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation CEO Don Cunningham pointed out that two major retailers, Amazon and Walmart, collectively operate more than five million square feet of distribution warehouses in the Lehigh Valley. With its proximity to the Northeast Corridor, where nearly 75 percent of the population of the country is centered, the Lehigh Valley has become a major hub for distribution and transportation of goods being purchased online.

The panelists unanimously agreed that the education system needs to be actively involved in reshaping the workforce of today and the future. Schools at all levels need to ensure that STEM topics drive the learning at all levels. Several members felt that trade schools and community colleges could not only be utilized to provide key education and training as opposed to a traditional four-year degree, but could also be the primary training ground for retraining workers whose positions are potentially being offset by automation so that their skills are current, and they remain a vital part of the workforce.

Durante also encouraged the legislature to recommit state budget line items for innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Many of these technologies are just in the early phases,” explained Durante. “There are opportunities for them to be improved upon and implemented in new ways, and Pennsylvania is in a terrific position to take advantage of that with its tech hubs in the Lehigh Valley, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. Incubators like the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center and Ben Franklin Technology Partners need to be fully supported by the state so that researchers and entrepreneurs have the resources they need to bring these innovative technologies to the marketplace. These small companies are the ones that create the most jobs in our regions and will be the ones that keep Pennsylvania competitive in the future.”

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