Canadian Plastics

Productive Plastics’ Hal Gilham named SPE Thermoformer of the Year

Gilham has a 40+ year career in the plastics industry.

August 4, 2021   Canadian Plastics

Photo Credit: SPE

The Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) Thermoforming Division has named Harold (Hal) Gilham, the former head of Mt Laurel Township, N.J.-based Productive Plastics, as its Thermoformer of the Year.

Now retired, Gilham began his informal education by working at Productive Woods, his father’s wood pattern shop. Gilham graduated from Lynchburg College and rejoined the company and quickly made an impact by bringing in modern accounting, job costing, and business operations analysis. “It wasn’t long before more business came in, including thermoforming tooling,” SPE said. “After working with a team reworking a fiberglass mold, Hal saw an opportunity and decided to expand the business into plastics processing. He purchased his first machine, and Productive Woods became Productive Plastics.”

As the business grew with a steady flow of heavy gauge work, Gilham sought ways to expand his business, which included providing “value added” services. “By offering information on the materials, design, and the thermoforming process to his customers, Gilham expanded the business into more active markets,” SPE said. “The electrical device market in the New York Metropolitan Area and the introduction of pressure forming as an alternative to injection molding created even greater opportunity.”

In the 1990s, the company continued to expand into other markets, and Productive Plastics increased its pressure forming capabilities and began serving the medical device industry, utilizing more heavily engineered materials that required specifications above the usual ABS or HDPE. “As new technologies were used in five-axis CNC machining and tooling techniques with loose pieces, process improvement became a core value and a catalyst for running the business,” SPE said. “During this time Hal’s father James, the founder of the company, retired and Hal gained complete control of Productive Plastics.”

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Toward the end of 2010, Productive Plastics conducted numerous projects where plastics purchases were equal to those in metal in cost, which was highly unusual for a small thermoformer; and in the same time period it reduced its machinery from 12 thermoforming machines and 15 CNC machines to six thermoformers and six CNC machines while more than doubling its output.

A former SPE Thermoforming Division Board Member, Gilham is an emeritus member of SPE.  During his tenure on the Board, he served as Chairman of the Materials Committee, the Processing Committee, the Machinery Committee and Parts Competition Chair at a few SPE Thermoforming Conferences. In addition, he served on the Division’s Awards and Nominating Committees. Gilham’s son Evan Gilham is now chief operating officer of Productive Plastics.

The award will be presented during SPE’s Thermoforming Awards Dinner, scheduled for Sept. 21 at the JW Marriott Grand Rapids and the Amway Grand Hotel, Grand Rapids, Mich.


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