The Lean Manufacturer Known for Its Values
Polymer Technologies Inc. has been dedicated to providing solutions for thermal and acoustic energy management and air and fluid transmission since 1989. The company’s customers have the option to choose from a wide selection of innovative standard products (including hydrophobic melamine foams, elastomeric mounts, and hoses and molded rubber parts), or work with the team to create custom designed solutions. The in-house manufacturer serves as a valued resource to businesses of various industries looking to grow their margins while enhancing their product performance.
Robert Prybutok, President and CEO, was inspired to use his background in acoustics to found Polymer Technologies with his spouse Suzanne Prybutok, starting out with an empty factory in Newark, Delaware.
“As a young man I was motivated to control my destiny and achieve success through significant personal investment and achievement,” Prybutok reveals. “I always had a vision of managing or owning a manufacturing company. In 1989, when the company I worked for was acquired by a competing firm, I realized it was an opportune time to start Polymer Technologies Inc. I did not wish to uproot my family and relocate. I decided if I could build a successful company for others, I could accomplish the same for my family and develop a family legacy.”
Polymer Technologies was founded on the values of honesty, integrity, positive attitudes, trust, and confidentiality. “However, these values are just words and are interpreted through statements that define how we perform and approach every day, how we deal with associates, suppliers and customers. We have statements that expand on these values and define Polymer Technologies’ culture,” says Prybutok.
Each year, Polymer Technologies reviews and updates these cultural statements, including in January of this year. These values underpin the family-owned company’s unique customer service approach, which sets it apart from other manufacturers.
“We focus our market approach on the concept of developing ‘customer intimacy,’ and using the customer intimate approach throughout our process from beginning to end. This customer supportive approach is important, since we sell engineered products where collaboration between our customer’s technical group and Polymer’s technical staff is critical and supports the customer’s developmental projects,” Prybutok elaborates.
He tells us that Polymer Technologies’ ideal customer is one who values supplier collaboration and development support. “We strive to establish long-term relationships with both suppliers and customers.”
Since its 1989 inception, the customer-oriented, ISO 9001-certified company has added additional branches to its headquarters in the Pencader Corporate Center in Newark, where most of its manufacturing and testing is still performed. Across its three locations, the company employs about 150 people.
In 2004, Polymer Technologies expanded with the addition of a PMP (polymer molded products) facility in Northern New Jersey. The engineers at the 33,000 square-foot molded products division provide their customers with energy management solutions. They accomplish this via creating custom 3D foam solutions using POLYFORM® molded foam. This is different from the 2D foam solution Polymer Technologies also offers because it allows for enhanced acoustical, thermal, and vibration control while simplifying assembly and reducing production costs.
In 2014, Polymer Technologies acquired a business, expanding into Norwood, Massachusetts. There, its new Elastomeric Solutions Division (ESD) specializes in shock and vibration isolation materials, serving industries such as heavy trucking, medical equipment, aerospace, and defense.
“The addition of our ESD division adds an extensive isolation product line and capability to the Polymer Technologies broad portfolio of product and technical solutions for energy management. To support our isolation product requirements, we have established a manufacturing and supply agreement with Polybond of India,” Prybutok explains.
As part of the agreement with Polybond of India, Polymer Technologies acts as the exclusive supplier of Polybond’s engineered rubber and silicon hoses in North America. “The Polybond relationship supports our isolation product requirements with extremely cost-effective products that they private label for Polymer Technologies to broaden our isolation product solutions. Although somewhat removed from ‘energy management’ products, the engineered hoses are used by the majority of our customers and prospects,” adds Prybutok.
The ESD location also offers Duraflex®, a proprietary rubber compound that no competitor has been able to recreate. The compound is well suited for high-fatigue applications and disperses energy sustainably, without damaging equipment.
Recently, Polymer Technologies has added two new product lines of anti-vibration engine mounts: ArmorFlex™ and SquishyFlex™. The engineered mounts are broadly used for many engine- and component-related applications across a number of industrial markets such as generators or portable and stationary air compressors. Having these product lines on hand and available to customers as they need them will allow these customers to run their businesses more smoothly.
“The concept is to inventory a supply of these mounts in several sizes and configurations to allow us to easily meet our customers’ product requirements without the delay of producing to order. This also allows customers to manage cash flow by scheduling based on requirements, versus based on minimum production run requirements,” says Prybutok.
Moreover, Polymer Technologies is also integrating higher temperature thermal wraps into its product line, which will further increase potential content on customer units. With it, the leading-edge business will have products for noise control, vibration isolation, high temperature insulation and air/fluid transfer. The company also now offers new custom hoses and molded rubber parts directly to other manufacturers who need fluid and air distribution on engines and related systems, including cooling packs and emission controls.
Polymer Technologies works via lean manufacturing principles, enacted with the ultimate goal of eliminating waste in business. An integrative approach can accomplish this goal in several ways, including through streamlining manufacturing processes, enhancing organization, and boosting sustainability practices.
“The most obvious area of gain with lean manufacturing principles is in the manufacturing area, where processes get streamlined and orders are processed through manufacturing cells and out the door with no time spent in inventory,” says Prybutok. “One result of lean is to maintain almost all inventory in a raw materials state to give optimum flexibility for manufacturing scheduling.”
Storing inventory in this manner maximizes returns by optimizing production labor while reducing scrap. Encouraging better organization and housekeeping throughout the facility, a natural extension of these concepts has been to focus on recycling scrap and minimizing landfill waste. In 2014, Polymer Technologies obtained an environmental management systems certification.
Prybutok further informs Manufacturing in Focus that lean principles also impact the company’s sales, administration and accounting functions. “The housekeeping guidelines are applied to the office environment as well. Easy strategies such as minimizing printed materials and attempting to always print and copy on both sides of paper make a significant difference over the course of a year.”
Executing all of these lean strategies, no matter how simple they may seem, can help drive sales and grow a business for years to come.
The lean business’ primary focus for the short term—the next two or three years—is to maximize product sales from all three facilities. “We have open capacity, and need to gain more output from existing processes. This involves the sale of existing products as well as several new products we have been developing,” says Prybutok. “Over the past several years we have invested in our facilities and in broadening our product capability. Another initiative for the coming two to three years will be to pay down debt as we consider new growth strategies.”
Prybutok anticipates that business growth in the near future will be organic, and over the longer term, focused acquisitions will be considered over the next three to ten years.
As Polymer Technologies realizes these goals and continues its growth, the sound solutions engineers look for new teammates who exemplify the corporate culture and founding principles. While Prybutok says the given requisite for any employee is to possess excellent skills related to the position hired for, he also believes that culture is of equal importance.
“We stress values, and define these values as ‘Polymer’s Fundamentals’: a series of statements that convert value words such as honesty, integrity, etc., into meaningful statements of behavior that we live by. The culture is top down and practiced by management with the expectation that all employees will behave accordingly. We stress our values and maintain that culture trumps capability.”
In addition to its customers and partners, the self-insured business also looks after its team, providing each employee with a robust health plan. Its innovative culture and positive values have helped secure its position as a trusted manufacturer. Indeed, in June of 2016, Polymer Technologies was recognized with the Innovation and Technology Award during the Delaware Business Times’ Family Owned Business Awards, granted to the business that is doing something different or modernizing operations to better serve its customers.
Polymer Technologies has been dedicated to providing its customers across mass transit, aircraft, power generation, and more with its productivity-boosting solutions for just shy of three decades. With its new ArmorFlex™ and SquishyFlex™ product lines, valued partnerships, lean manufacturing principles, strong values, and ambitious growth plan, 2018 is set up to be a keystone year for the award-winning manufacturer.