Colton, CA – California’s Inland Empire, is heavily dependent on the industrial sector, and plastics are a big part of that business and employment. One such company is Microdyne Plastics, Inc., one of the oldest plastics companies here, was established in the early 1970’s, by Ron Brown. His family of five children formally took the reins in 2015 after his death.
The plastics industry includes making the plastic as well as forming the plastic into a final product. Making the resins for plastic and rubber products falls under chemical manufacturing, while “Plastics and Rubber Products Manufacturing” is another part of the manufacturing sector, based on the US Census, Business Patterns NAICS classification system[i].
During the tenure of the last forty years, plastics have become main-stream in everything from automobiles, electronics, healthcare, and consumer products. But over the years, the disposable packaging produced out of plastic has also come under scrutiny by environmentalists. Family member, Judy Lopez, the new president of Microdyne, recognizes the environmental issues. “We know that we have to work on recycling more plastic, and our goal is to assist customers into the new compostable plastics being formulated now. We absolutely need plastic products; can’t live in a modern world without them, but we can do a much better job of what we use plastics for, and when to use other materials for disposable items,” says Judy, with emotion. “If those of us inside the industry work on this problem, we have a better chance to do a better job with the environment than from outside the industry.”
This kind of transition won’t happen immediately, but the industry knows the huge opportunities if truly biodegradable resins are developed. Bill Gates is one who is attempting to help this process along. Gates boosts compostible plastics development to a higher biodegradible level by investing in a company called Renmatix in Philadelphia.
New processes made from plant materials instead of petroleum look promising. But building plastic products is a complex process, with many formulations that have unique properties. Plastic from oil won’t be replaced soon, but adding more plastic in the disposable stream would be a great leap forward. Microdyne Plastics team fully supports this effort, and will continue to build its expertise in these new materials and pass it along to its customers in the years ahead.
The manufacturing portion for plastic and rubber manufacturing has 235 establishments employing nearly 10,000 people in the Inland Empire, pumping over 412 million dollars into their pockets. The “Plastics Material and Resin Manufacturing,” that makes the material includes another 22 establishments and 773 employees.
Only a hand full of these companies employ over 250 people, so they are mostly part of the small business community. They represent about 8% of all manufacturing establishments in the full manufacturing sector in the Inland Empire. Many of these are family owned.
Plastics are incredibly diverse with several basic forms of production requiring different equipment. Generally these include blow molding, injection molding and extrusion molding. Blow molding works like blowing a balloon into a container then cools, injection molding is a cavity that has plastic injected into it, cooled and then it comes apart to take out the object. Extrusion molding is more like squeezing soft material through an opening, like making pasta.
Microdyne Plastic is engaged in the first two of these methods, requiring two sets of equipment. This capability allows flexibility and complete projects for their customers such as a blow molded bottle and an injection molded cap for the same bottle.
Family business always has its challenges, but it also has advantages. Each of the kids has grown up in this highly technical business. Over the years they have done about every job in the plant, so for a smaller business they have a deep bench with lots of experience in running thousands of different products. They generally do custom products to a customer’s specifications and many have been with Microdyne for decades.
[i] US Census, Business Patterns NAICS classification system, https://censtats.census.gov/cgi-bin/msanaic/msadetl.pl