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| Pioneer Series: Stephen Schwartz, Plastics Consulting & Manufacturing Co.
This series is intended to highlight the long-standing careers of devoted Teflon™ coaters and their accomplishments in the industrial coating field. These pioneers in the Teflon™ coating industry are early adopters of the coating and have helped to shape the way Teflon™ has grown and evolved as a reputable industrial fluoropolymer. With the pioneers' vision and ingenuity,Teflon™ coatings continue to be regarded as the elite fluoropolymer of choice.
This interview spotlights Stephen Schwartz of Plastics Consulting and Manufacturing Company.
Q: When was your company founded?
A: Plastics Consulting and Manufacturing Company was founded in February 1962.
Q: Who founded the company and why?
A: Sol Schwartz, my father, originally created the company as Plastics Consulting Company. Sol was a plant manager with DuPont in the first plant that produced Teflon™. He decided to start a company as a consultant for industrial businesses using plastics. Over time, he couldn’t find people to manufacture the solutions that he developed, so he figured he would start doing it. Thus, the company transitioned into Plastics Consulting and Manufacturing Company, or PCM. Since the beginning, and even to this day, our mantra is “solutions for the customer”. If we’re not doing that, if we’re strictly putting a coating on a part, we’re not doing our job. Our job is to be a value added solution for the customer. That’s how the company was started and how it continues to this day.
Q: What was the first significant piece of equipment you purchased?
A: There were two significant equipment purchases. When Sol could not find solutions for his customers, he decided to provide them. He spent $300 in 1964 for a 12-inch cube oven and a $50 spray gun. He built his own spray booth from scrap metal, and that’s how spraying coatings began. More recently, in 2014, we built a completely new plant, and, with the help of Intech, we purchased a 10’x10’x16’ 850 ° Precision Quincy oven. As far as airflow and uniformity, it’s as good or better than anything I have ever seen.
Q: How would you describe the changes in the company now from when it was first started?
A: Today, we are 100% focused on coatings based solutions for our customers. A vast majority of those are fluoropolymer solutions. That transition to coated parts really took hold in the mid 70s. Prior to that, we did linings, injection molded, and machine fluoropolymer parts as well. Every day, the constant is that somebody comes to us with a problem or question or looking for a cost saving in his or her process, and we look to do it in a way that adds value.
Q: What would you consider significant milestones in your company?
A: In the late 90s, we narrowed our focus to the food processing industry. This was a very purposeful move because we saw food processing from a regulatory standpoint and the increased focus on food safety as a good match with our product line. It was a big turning point for us. Of course, the building of the new plant in 2014 is another milestone. We had a fire in part of our old plant, so we decided to level the facility and build a new facility from scratch. The opportunity to build this new facility and the focus on food processing opened up all kinds of efficiencies for us. It increased our capacity, we went to state of the art equipment, we were able to design a better workflow that allows us to be more flexible and more competitive.
Q: How has the coating industry itself changed over time?
A: From 1,000 feet up, the most significant change is the deep focus on sustainability. I think we have an obligation to use materials and processes in our business that support responsible environmental practices. I think that our customers are far more attuned to those issues today than they were 10-20 years ago. At the same time, with that in the background, our partners like Chemours are coming up with new materials that perform even better in this environment, and not even just in the materials but also in the process technology. There’s a history of coaters, like me, isolating companies like Chemours. Those days are over in the U.S. We now work together as partners, which is advantageous in terms of protecting customers and delivering superior products and solutions that adhere to regulations. There are real implications and not something we do to just pass paper on.
Q: When did you get your LIA license from DuPont?
A: In the late 60s, a customer came to us who was an injection molder down south. They were having issues with sticking and build-up and the process. We showed them that if they got a Teflon™ coating on the processing parts, they could run substantially quicker with lower pressures and less waste. DuPont liked that we were proactively going out to find problems in the industry, and they offered us the opportunity to become an LIA, and of course we accepted.
Q: How has being an LIA affected your company?
A: It lends a certain level of credibility to our customer base. The name speaks for itself. The biggest impact is the closeness that it allows us to work with the Intech and Chemours teams. Whether it’s lead generation, technical support, sales support, or inventory management, it’s really one of those few truly symbiotic vertical relationships that we see as a strong value add. It also gives us a freedom to develop new markets and opportunities. The net result of that, which goes back to the original company’s DNA, is a very closely tailored solution for our customers’ needs.
Q: What is your favorite DuPont coating?
A: My favorite coating is the coating that works the best and provides the maximum value for my customers’ needs. You’re kind of asking me which of my children do I love the most. I don’t have a favorite. Much like the coatings, there are some that I like on some days more than others. We’re a big fan of the ETFE line. It’s extremely user friendly and provides strong value for some of our customers. The 421 coating line is a workhorse for us. We’ve been impressed with some of the new water-based technology. For us, reducing or eliminating VOCs is a big focus.
Q: What excites you about the future of the coating industry?
A: It’s never ceased to amaze me, every day, a phone call or e-mail is initiated, where somebody has a problem that we can solve. Often, it’s the case that the customer doesn’t even know, even with as mature of a product as Teflon coatings, that this solution is out there. A lot of times, it’s just educating them on the proper coating and the proper application. So every day there’s a new opportunity that could be seismic in terms of the impact on business. There aren’t a lot of businesses that can say that. I’ve been doing this for 22 years now, and I remember when I started, that was one of my big takeaways, and to this day, 22 years later, it’s still true.
Q: Is there anything else that you’d like to include that we haven’t covered?
A: Everything that PCM does is truly a team effort, from the guys on the shop floor, who in some cases are truly artists, to quality control to the office staff to the sales team to the management team, it truly is a team effort that I am really proud of.