Keene Village Plastics’ Colorful Evolution in Filament Manufacturing

Colored precision

With one of the largest manufacturing facilities in the States, Keene Village Plastics is passionate about solutions, and evolving its capabilities to provide customers with the widest range of filament assortments

Quality control is pinnacle to the success of Ohio-based business Keene Village Plastics. Manufacturing Today learns about how innovation, exemplary team work, and cutting-edge technology have made all the difference to the success of this business, as we speak with Saverio Minucci and John Hosbach, who serve as the Managing Partner and General Manager respectively.

Keene Village Plastics offers numerous products for the filament industry; whether it be PLA, ABS, polystyrene, propylene, PETG, the company covers an assortment of filament in various sizes throughout its catalogue. “Those can come in one kilogram to five-kilogram rolls, and we also offer them in different colors; blues, purples, reds, translucent – you name it,” begins Saverio.

“To make this possible, we operate out of a 60,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. With over 50 extruders, we run the machines across three shifts, usually between five-to-six days a week. We then have a separate shipping and receiving warehouse that is about 25,000-square-feet, and that’s where we keep all our raw materials in stock, as well as our finished goods. We have a really unique custom in-house quality control system that is equipped with lasers to manage the parameters of our customers’ needs in terms of what type of size they want or what their tolerances are,” says John.

Saverio continues John’s thoughts, stating that being a local manufacturer for its clients, gives Keene Village Plastics a competitive edge. “We probably have the largest facility I have seen in the US. Many of our competitors are internationally-based, which might make it difficult to source products, whereas ours are made right here in the US.

“Another characteristic that I think sets us apart is our ability to switch and multi-task different types of products at one time, and coupled with that, we set our needs based on our customers’ demands. We work closely with our clients; whether they need a private label product, or if they want to use our particular product, we are able to package them individually. Overall, I believe we are service orientated to our customers; we are not set to one strict standard or one product,” Saverio explains.

Bespoke options

John, whose remit finds him on the shop floor on a regular basis, discusses the uniqueness of the Keene Village Plastics facilities in greater detail, noting that the company has been evolving with technological developments since the mid-2000s. “We have a three-axis system, which is quite unique. The filament is run through this process and gives us roughly 300,00-to-600,000 scans on a 2.2 pound (1KG) reel, whereas most of the industry, if utilizing lasers, would typically have total scan capacity of less than 150,000. This ensures that the consistency and quality of the filament that we produce is better. From a machinery standpoint, that is really what sets us apart in the industry,” he says.

The business is fortunate to have internal talent able to modify its laser recording software as its needs have changed. This, coupled with the company’s best-in-class machinery, has allowed Keene Village Plastics to evolve in line with changes in the industry. “Our team can update the system to continue to meet new developments, which is essentially how we have been able to stay leaders in this business. It began as an ‘off the shelf’ solution, but we had to customize it to get it to do what we needed. Now, when we get customers who require specific modifications, we can accommodate that because we understand that this industry is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution,” says John.

Following from this, both gentlemen believe that product innovation is driven by a combined effort from its in-house team, customers, and suppliers to create an assortment of color effects that keep the product offering memorable. “We have a couple of engineers in-house who come up with different types of products. Some of our vendors will also bring in different types of resin material for us to experiment with. In addition, customers will also come to us with an idea for a product or a filament type they want us to run, and we will work hand in hand with them to develop that product. Whether it’s a certain type of plastic, some sort of rubber content in it, or cold extrusion, we will work with them, and go to our vendors, or our color processors and come up with the raw product ourselves,” Saverio shares.

Team approach

John adds his thoughts saying that it is not always easy to change the base materials that much, so Keene Village Plastics focuses on different color effects. “We have a stellar line in ABS, which comes in metallic flakes and sparkles, and those have been really popular in the ABS materials. So, we want to develop that even further and bring those same colors across our PLA and PETG to offer customers the same color option across all materials.”

Our conversation moves away from the technicalities of the business, and onto the people aspect, which has been touched on briefly. Both Saverio and John agree that people are crucial to the success of the company, and working together as a collaborative team is a quality Keene Village Plastics has strived to instill in its operations since its inception. “No man is an island, so it’s about cultivating ideas from our management team. We have weekly meetings where we discuss production and inventory, quality control, research and development of new products, and John, for example, who has been with us for eight years, really takes a unique and personal interest in everything we do. We have a team approach where everyone feels a part of the family, and we carry that mentality of working as a partnership with our employees than straight to our customers,” expresses Saverio.

This approach to people is also reflected in the company’s relationship with its suppliers, which proved to be highly beneficial during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. “We take relationships with our vendors very personally. We work with them daily to get different types of resins and colors for our customer base, and we are incredibly proactive as opposed to being reactive when it comes to disruptions. We discuss lead times with them and due to the fact that we make so many different colors and so many different products for a wide range of customers, in certain circumstances, we have to change orders a couple of times a week or daily depending on what type of material came in. So, we strongly believe in excellent communication to keep our customer satisfaction at the highest level possible,” Saverio continues.

“During the pandemic, business blossomed because a lot of people were using our filament to make PPE. So, while we ensured our employees stayed safe, we were also able to continue operating throughout 2020, which was a blessing in itself,” John adds.

However, this is not to say that the business was not exposed to a few supply chain issues, but Saverio shares how the business implemented numerous measures to help overcome those challenges. “Throughout the supply chain issues, we made deals with our vendors to bring in more inventory, and ensure we had enough resin and colors on hand, although it wasn’t easy. There were delays, and backlogs, so we have to do partial shipments to our customers. There were times throughout where we brought in blanket orders to prepare ourselves for that level of disruption, and rather than being able to ship the order at one time, we worked with our customers to do multiple shipments to keep them and keep ourselves afloat.

“Our team was unbelievable at coming in over weekends to assist us, and many were willing to work overtime to help out. We brought in a lot of temporary labor to some of the areas when we had demands.”

Motivation & determination

The fact that the team was willing to commit to longer working hours to see through the uncertainty of the pandemic echoes what both men discussed regarding the company culture, and John shares his own experiences of ways in which he saw his team shine. “2021 was a challenge for us because we moved our facility into another location in Ohio. Fortunately, I have had the same guys with me for about ten years so everybody understood what the expectations were, they appreciated what they were trying to accomplish in the new building, and that is to uphold that same sort of motivation, and determination regardless of being in a different facility, and everyone really fulfilled that. Everybody is taking that pride in what they do, whether it is from keeping the plant and extrusion lines organized, clean, and making sure they are excited about work when they come in every day. With some 200 colors across all our materials, no day here is necessarily the same, and I am just incredibly proud of the team we have here who bring such excitement to their work, and get the job done so well.”

As the business heads towards 2022, Saverio and John are excited about the plans that Keene Village Plastics has in store. “We are in the process of coming up with some new types of filament. We are also working on redoing a couple of our individual lines with new relaunch systems that will allow us to fulfil different types of relining on different spools, so when our customers are using it, and it comes off the spool, it will be more neatly wound compared to some of our competitors. Above that, we are looking at adding multiple translucent colors to our product line,” says Saverio.

On a more long-term scale, both Saverio and John would like to see the business at least double in the next five years, and, given how quickly the business has grown since it began, this is a goal they believe to be easily achievable. “We want to get more government contracts, and more manufacturing products through some of our suppliers and customers. On the industrial side of things, I would like to see us expanding our offerings for industrial OEM manufacturers. At the moment, everyone who is in need of 3D printers, we will work to help them develop the type of filament they may need for their processes. If we can keep our sights set on infiltrating those areas, then I know the future looks fantastic for Keene Village Plastics,” Saverio concludes.

Keene Village Plastics
Services: Manufacturer of thermoplastic welding rod and 3D printing filament