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General Plastics Young Leaders in Training!

General Plastics Young Leaders in Training!

Last spring, General Plastics hosted a five-hour Leadership Workshop in its Training Center for 60 Brown Deer High School students.  The students were members of DECA (previously known as Delta Epsilon Chi and Distributive Education Clubs of America) and other student leadership groups.

The program, THE TOOLS OF LIFE AND LEADERSHIP, was presented by Chuck Zamora, President of Zamora Group International – The Learning Company and focused on several key leadership skills, including:

  1. A clear definition of success.
  2. How to grow your leadership skills.
  3. The difference between Personal Power and Positional Power.
  4. Communication is a vital component to achieving success: “Communication – It’s Not Just All Talk”
  5. Why goals are so important. “If You Don’t Know Where You Are Going, you Might End Up Where You Don’t Want to Be”.

Mr. Zamora is an international speaker, and, to date, has delivered THE TOOLS OF LIFE AND LEADERSHIP to more than 92,000 students on two continents.

According to Bob Porsche, Owner and President, General Plastics, Inc., “The students were an amazing group and interacted well with our guest speaker.” Participants of this and other student training programs offer students good experiences in learning about the plastics industry and expands their future career opportunities.

“General Plastics endeavors to be involved with area schools in the industry and welcomes the opportunity to host similar programs for our community’s future leaders,” said Mr. Porsche.

General Plastics Expands Office, Training Spaces

General Plastics Expands Office, Training Spaces


Robert Porsche at General Plastics Inc. in Milwaukee.                                                                                                                                Don Loepp


A major plant expansion has freed up space for additional offices and a training area at General Plastics Inc. in Milwaukee, and it’s right on time, since the Milwaukee industrial thermoformer is adding people to key new positions.

Plant Manager Patrick Cain said the 76-employee General Plastics is beefing up its skill sets and getting more organized as it wins new customers. Some of them are large companies.

“For them to even consider you, you have to be qualified,” Cain said.

In January, General Plastics opened 11,000 square feet of office space. Only about 1,000 square feet of that was existing offices. The rest was in former factory space that became available when the thermoformer added 42,000 square feet onto its plant, doubling the company’s manufacturing space in 2016.

The manufacturing expansion also allowed the company to add a dedicated training area, expand the size of its quality laboratory, mold maintenance shop and fixture room, and improve the lunch room, Cain said.

General Plastics doubled production space with the addition, a $4 million investment. The company also reorganized production after the plant expansion, moving equipment to improve lean manufacturing, he said.

“We doubled the size of the manufacturing space but we actually reduced the total distance the part travels,” Cain said. The company also eliminated an off-site warehouse and brought that in-house.

“We’re revamping our product launch process,” Cain said. The company also is adding “swim lanes” and reduced the total distance parts travel through the shop. The Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership sent a consultant in to help, and bring in a fresh set of eyes, he said.

General Plastics won a Sustainable Business Award from the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council for the plant expansion, which included energy efficient lighting and other environmental improvements.

General Plastics runs some of the industry’s largest forming machinery. Key markets include transportation, construction, agriculture, point-of-purchase display, medical and dunnage.

New hires include an additional customer service representative, a product launch person, a thermoforming process engineer, a newly created position of continual improvement supervisor, and a production manager.

The company is now hiring a maintenance supervisor to oversee its three-person maintenance/tooling department.

As plant manager, Cain was handling some of duties, but now the supervisors will report directly to the new production manager on a daily basis. Cain will have them report to him weekly. Cain’s title remains the same, but he’s getting more involved with customers and overall strategy as General Plastics grows and gets new customers.

General Plastics President Robert Porsche said the company is getting Cain into a position of longer-term vision “rather than looking at day-to-day crisis management.”

Cain said that bigger customers, especially, do a lot more auditing of suppliers. “A lot of my time was getting pulled away from the shop floor. So part of it was the strategy of getting me more directly involved with the growth plan, and the customers,” he said.

Porsche said Crain is involved in ISO and other certifications, so he’s in a good position to work with larger customers.

General Plastics also added a human resources person, after mainly using temporary services to find new full-time employees. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has fallen below 3 percent, among the lowest in the country.

“It’s just becoming more and more challenging to find good people,” Cain said.

Since the plant expansion, General Plastics has added a dual-table robotic trimming station and a single-station thermoformer. The company now has 11 pressure forming and vacuum forming machines: eight single-stations and three rotary machines.

Porsche said the company is adding another CNC trimming machine later this year.

In May General Plastics added a granulator to size-reduce trim scrap, which is sent back to a sheet extruder. “We get more for our trim that way and there’s a lot less trucks going back and forth, freight-cost wise,” Cain said.

Meanwhile Porsche is looking forward to the Society of Plastics Engineers’ Thermoforming Conference, scheduled for Sept. 24-26 in Fort Worth, Texas. He will be honored as Thermoformer of the Year — for the second year in a row. The 2017 conference, which was set for Orlando, had to be canceled when Hurricane Irma pounded Florida — so Porsche has had to wait a year before getting the top award.


Injection Molding vs Thermoforming

Injection Molding vs Thermoforming

General Plastics, Inc. is a premier manufacturer and supplier of thermoformed plastic components, offering pressure thermoforming, vacuum thermoforming, trimming and assembly value-added services.

Thermoforming is a method of processing cast or extruded plastic sheet into finished parts up to 0.500 inches thick.  The raw material is heated to its specific thermoforming temperature and immediately shaped to the desired configuration.  At processing temperatures, the material is very pliable, enabling it to be formed rapidly into exceptionally detailed components with a minimum of force.

Pressure is the key in forming the final parts.  That pressure can be either positive (pressure forming), or negative (vacuum forming), and is maintained until the part has cooled.  The processes can be utilized to mold a single part per cycle, or multiples/families of smaller parts per cycle.

Thermoforming is a single sided process with only one side of the sheet controlled by the tool surface. The best uses for thermoforming is when production quantities range from 250 to 5000 annually.  This process offers lower tooling costs, faster product development cycles, and can produce parts with color and texture.

Advantages of Thermoforming

  • Thermoforming tooling costs less in comparison to injection molding.
  • Prototype tooling using cost effective molds.
  • Thermoforming tooling is faster to produce – 6-8 weeks -vs- 12-20 weeks – which means your product is quicker to market.
  • Overall cost of a thermoformed part when tooling is amortized and may be significantly less over time.
  • Tooling is more adaptable to design changes. There is little to no maintenance on tooling and it does not wear out.
  • Thermoforming could maintain dimensional tolerances for part sizes as expansive as 6’ x 10’
  • There is less molded in stress and the end-product will not experience knit lines or sink marks (in a thermoformed part). This means that in many cases the aesthetics of a pressure formed part will exceed an injection molded part.
  • An etched texture in a pressure form tool will yield aesthetics challenging injection molding.
  • Allows shipments to be conveniently scheduled to reduce inventory.

Plastic injection molding can be used to make plastic parts for similar applications. Injection molding has a very high tooling cost, but for large quantities, the cost per part is less. Here are some points to consider in making your Injection Molding -vs- Thermoforming decisions.

  • Thermoforming is a single wall construction
  • Attachment points such as bosses and/or inserts must be done secondarily in thermoforming since it is a one-sided tooling process whereas injection molding these details are molded into the product.
  • It may be more cost effective to bond a metal bracket, which can act as a stiffener as well as an attachment point.
  • Thermoforming will yield a part with variable wall thickness which is based on part geometry as well as processing techniques. Another benefit of this feature is the part weight may be less, which means it is less costly to ship.

General Plastics, Inc. is your full-service thermoforming solution with more than 30 years of experience with expertise in the following applications:

  • Pressure forming (6’ x 10’)
  • Vacuum forming (6’ x 10’)
  • CNC & Robotic trimming
  • Full assembly and sourcing
  • Packaging and kitting
  • Prototype and production tooling
  • DFMA assistance
  • Design freedom for undercuts, texture and color

To discuss your Thermoforming needs, call General Plastics, 414-727-6855; Toll Free: (888) 611-0270 or email us sales@genplas.com.


After Delay, SPE will Honour Thermoformer of the Year

After Delay, SPE will Honour Thermoformer of the Year

March 18, 2018 by Canadian Plastics

One year late, the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) Thermoforming Division will honour plastics industry veteran Robert Porsche as the 2017 Thermoformer of the Year. The award presentation was postponed from 2017 because of Hurricane Irma.

One year late, the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) Thermoforming Division will honour plastics industry veteran Robert Porsche as the 2017 Thermoformer of the Year.

Robert Porsche

The award presentation was postponed from 2017 because of Hurricane Irma.

The presentation will take place during SPE’s Thermoforming Awards Dinner, held in conjunction with the 26thSPE Thermoforming Conference, September 24-26, 2018 at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel and the Fort Worth Convention Center. The dinner will take place on Tuesday, September 25, at AT&T Stadium.

The 2017 conference, scheduled for Orlando, Florida, was cancelled because of the hurricane.

Porsche began his thermoforming industry career working in sales for Profile Plastics in 1975.  In 1987, he purchased Milwaukee, Wis.-based General Plastics Inc., where he remains president and owner.  “When Mr. Porsche first purchased the company, General Plastics had eight-full-time employees housed in an 11,000 square-foot facility,” SPE said. “Under his leadership, General Plastics now has over 70 full-time employees, and expanded its facilities to a 93,000 square-foot building. Their modern facility contains a complete collection of the newest single station, rotary, and twin sheeting formers, as well as two three-axis and six five-axis CNC routers and the most advanced fully robotic trimming equipment.”

Along the way, Porsche has served in a variety of leadership roles as an SPE Thermoforming Division Board Member where he chaired the Finance, Machinery and Processing Committees in addition to two SPE Thermoforming Conferences.

General Plastics is an ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certified, full service custom plastic thermoformer. The company manufactures products for the bus, rail, truck, marine, office, lavatory, medical, health and wellness, gaming, arcade, food and beverage, construction, and machine guarding industries.

In 2014, General Plastics was presented with the Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year Award in the small business category and was nominated for the award again last year.


General Plastics Building Expansion

General Plastics Building Expansion

General Plastics recently completed an expansion of the plant’s original 9000-square-foot space to expand employee working, meeting and eating environments.  While the immediate benefits of the renovation are employee related, the value-added benefits that will be achieved upon its completion are customer-focused.

The renovation includes:

Twelve new offices

Training Center with interactive software

Conference Room

Expanded tooling and maintenance

Expanded employee lunch room

Added quality control checkpoints

In providing more space for training and by expanding areas such as tooling and maintenance there is a natural improvement in the work flow process, provides more space for the fixing and tuning and achieves greater efficiencies at the prepping station and improves the company’s communication and productivity.  These improvements combined, lead to faster turn-around times and a higher level of customer satisfaction.

The greatest customer-related benefit of this renovation is the plant’s added quality control checkpoints. Customers are required to meet industry-specific quality standards, the plant’s addition of more quality checkpoints, help ensure that these industry-specific quality standards are met.

The expansion also reduces scrap material, which is a positive impact on the company’s sustainability and stewardship strategic goals.

The renovation began in mid-May 2017 and was completed in December 2017.


General Plastics Achievements: A Year in Review

General Plastics Achievements: A Year in Review

With a culture strategically focused on investing in innovation, sustainability and growth, it should come as no surprise that General Plastics has earned some recognition. In 2016 the company earned the following awards.

2016 AND 2017 Milwaukee’s Future 50 Program award. This was the second consecutive year that General Plastics also earned this award.

2017 Sustainability Business Process Award from Wisconsin Business Council. According to the Wisconsin Business Council, sustainable businesses are constantly seeking ways to run more efficiently and reduce costs associated with producing their product or service.  Whether the focus is on energy efficiency, materials efficiency, or employee productivity, process improvements can create triple bottom line benefits.

2016 Manufacturer of the Year the Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year Award celebrates the successes of manufacturers in the state: their innovations, philanthropy, technological advances, commitment to customer satisfaction, and quality jobs.

2016 Plastics News Processor of the Year Candidates for this award are evaluated on seven criteria: financial performance, quality, customer relations, employee relations, environmental performance, industry/public service and technological innovation.

2017 Plastics Inc. of Milwaukee names Thermoformer of the Year Robert Porsche was awarded the Plastics Inc. of Milwaukee’s Society of Plastics Engineers the Thermorfermer of the Year. Porsche has been active in the Thermoforming Division for many years. He is the chair of the finance committee; co-chaired two Thermoforming Conferences (including last year’s) and his company supports the parts competition. He is a prior winner of the Division of Outstanding Achievement Award and has served as a speaker and moderator on heavy-gauge technical sessions. “Bob’s leadership in a variety of roles has contributed greatly to the division’s success,” said Bret Joslyn, chairman of the SPE Thermoforming Division.

2017 Central City Business Award General Plastics was awarded Small Company category. During the awards ceremony it was said, “By investing in General Plastics Inc., owner Bob Porsche also has invested in his employees’ futures and the future of manufacturing.” The Central City Business Awards salute the spirit of entrepreneurship, growth and optimism for the future. The award is in recognition of entrepreneurs and commercial enterprises whose contributions toward growth, expansion and prosperity are making a difference in Milwaukee’s central city.