NCET explores business and technology
By Dave Archer
When Guy Gardner bought Quality Plastics in Sparks in 1983, the company had a single piece of technology: a photocopier.
Today, the company’s staff of 35 relies extensively on the tools of technology to design and manufacture often-complex plastics products for business-to- business, business-to- government and business-to-consumer markets.
Of course, extensive use of technological tools in advanced manufacturing applications around northern Nevada is nothing new.
What sets Quality Plastics apart is its careful adaption of just enough technology to get the job done efficiently.
As visitors walk through the company’s facility on Industrial Way, they’re often struck by the well-used framework of the machines that Quality Plastics uses for processes such as vacuum forming.
The age of the equipment is misleading. It’s highly automated, often relying on programming written by Gardner himself. He recalls that he went down to Barnes & Noble, got a book on automated robotics, and taught himself to begin automating Quality Plastics.
One important lesson: The technology doesn’t necessarily need to be the newest or the shiniest thing to hit the market.
“A simple computer can move the automated world,” Gardner explains. “Automation does not require the latest computer technology.”
Instead, the company relies on the discipline of mechantronics to create an efficient production system through the combination of mechanical engineering, systems thinking and electronic-control systems. A little out-of- the-box creativity comes into play, too.
For instance, when Quality Plastics needed a heating unit that could precisely hold the temperature of motorcycle parts during manufacturing, it found a unit originally designed for orthopedic products met its standards perfectly — and cost-effectively. The manufacturer of the oven now even has sent teams from Germany to learn from Quality Plastics’ innovative use of the equipment.
On the other hand, Quality Plastics isn’t afraid to invest in powerful new technology when it’s appropriate. Its engineering team relies on Solidworks, the computer-aided design software, to model new products in three dimensions. The software, in turn, is networked directly with the automated vacuum-forming, machining and laser-cutting equipment on the shop floor.
Another powerful software tool, JobBOSS, helps Quality Plastics manage the manufacturing process from the preparation of initial quotes through job scheduling, production and shipping to final payment.
The company also has invested in powerful new computer-driven machining equipment, allowing it to further speed the pace of manufacturing.
As it competes in markets stretching from the United States to China, Australia and elsewhere, Quality Plastics relies on a combination of well-designed new products and cost-saving new technology to stay ahead of its competition.
Guy Gardner reminds us that the drive to create competitive, winning organizations — not the desire to own the shiniest new toy — is the best reason to invest in technology.
Learn more about the way that technology drives today’s manufacturing during NCET’s Tech Wednesday event from 5:30 – 7:30 pm on Wednesday, March 8, at Quality Plastics in Sparks. More information and registration, visit NCETwed.org.
Dave Archer is President/CEO of NCET, which produces educational and networking events to help individuals and businesses explore and use technology. This column first appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal.