Canadian Plastics

FAMILY PACKAGE: Plastilec Inc.

A ccording to Greek mythology, Prometheus once carried out the impressive feat of stealing fire from the gods. For a Canadian plastics processor, stealing business from China may not be quite in that ...

July 1, 2008   By Mark Stephen, Managing Editor



According to Greek mythology, Prometheus once carried out the impressive feat of stealing fire from the gods. For a Canadian plastics processor, stealing business from China may not be quite in that league, but it’s a good sign you’re doing something right.

Plastilec Inc., a custom molder in Chambly, Que., recently took over an account to mold containers for an all-natural skin cream that had previously been molded in China, after the customer encountered problems with quality consistency and colour matching. “The customer, located in Montreal, needed a company that is very flexible and able to change colour quickly,” said Sandrine Milante, Plastilec’s director of operations. “They decided it was worth paying a little more to have the product made in Canada, in return for faster response to colour change demands and daily delivery.”

The company now molds more than five million of the containers a year for this product, in 14 different colours — a singular accomplishment, for reasons relating to the nature of cosmetics packaging. “The cosmetics business makes fancy products, but they are not overly hard to make, and quality is often not the most important aspect for the customer,” Sandrine said. “This gives the Chinese a real edge, and I don’t know of any cosmetics products that aren’t made in China — other than those we’re manufacturing.”

Plastilec is an example of that oldest style of business operation, increasingly rare in today’s industry: the family- owned business. When Gaetan and Yvonne Milante purchased the company in 1995, it had just three machines. One year later, the Milantes bought the Plattsburgh, N. Y. plant of Twinpak Inc., an injection molding company specializing in the packaging business, and brought its machines into the Plastilec facility, then located in Longueuil, Que. By 2002, capacity and services expansions made it necessary to move to its present location in the 26,000 square foot Chambly plant. Today, Gaetan Milante is the managing director, while Yvonne Milante serves as president, said daughter Sandrine.

SECRETS TO SUCCESS

As rare as is the company’s background, rarer still is its level of success; Plastilec has experienced approximately 10 per cent growth for every year it’s been in business, according to Sandrine. At present, the company currently employs approximately 30 workers, and houses 12 molding machines.

Cosmetics packaging makes up roughly 70 per cent of Plastilec’s business, and the needs of that particular industry are clearly reflected in the company’s philosophy. “Customers in the cosmetics industry are used to getting answers quickly, and to having their demands satisfied even faster,” said Ron Desjardins, business development manager. “Our own structure is well suited to this, geared towards thoroughness and a quick response time. It’s simple: if a telephone rings here, we answer it, and also return calls as quickly as possible.”

Unlike other packaging suppliers, Plastilec mixes material per shift, not per batch or per order, Desjardins explained.

“If a customer needs a certain amount of a particular colour right away, we simply make a work order and it’s taken care of by the next shift.” To guarantee this rapid response, he continued, the company operates 24 hours a day, with technicians on every shift, meaning production runs can begin at midnight, if necessary.

While cosmetics packaging is a company specialty, it’s not the only one. Plastilec is also involved in pharmaceutical and in precision medical molding, as well as molding for the electronics industry. In this latter area, the company recently kept another contract away from Chinese competition. “We had an electronics customer who wanted us to mold the part prototypes, with the bulk of the work then being sent to China,” Desjardins said. “We convinced him we could mold, paint, assemble, package and ship the parts just as well on our own. Instead of this work going to China, it’s now staying in Canada.”

Plastilec Inc. (Chambly, Que.); www.plastilec.com; 450-658-9090


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