With nearly 50 years of experience behind it, N.E.W. Plastics Corp. continues to fill needs in the plastics industry while innovating plastic recycling technology. The company operates two plants in Luxemburg, Wis., totaling 110,000 square feet of manufacturing space, with an additional 100,000 square feet dedicated to warehousing. In its facilities, the company converts more than 25 million pounds of discarded plastic into useful, environmentally friendly products every year.
After founding the company in 1968, Irvin Vincent began exploring the idea of recycling plastic trimmings and industrial waste. A few years later, he was able to produce the industry’s first recycled plastic lumber, which it continues to manufacture as one of its three distinct business units.
The blow-molded product division offers injection and extrusion blow molding, including a catalog of stock containers for chemical, agricultural, food and cosmetic industries. The second division is a full-line distributor, offering rigid and flexible packaging solutions – including closures, decorating capabilities, screen printing and labeling – for clients in the health and beauty, and food and beverage industries, among many others. The plastic lumber and custom extrusions division – known as RENEW Plastics – offers products for building suppliers, and manufactures custom components for the construction industry, all with recycled materials.
Because it serves a wide range of industries, N.E.W. Plastics has to meet certain quality and safety standards. The company is Safe Quality Food (SQF) certified and engineers in quality from the start of the manufacturing process.
“Not a lot of extrusion blow molders are SQF certified,” President Mike Rekitzke says. “We are audited annually to make sure our processes are under control. When product leaves here, it has undergone numerous Standard Operating Procedure checks and process checks throughout the manufacturing stream to make sure it’s safe when it leaves here. And as far as safety goes, we maintain SQF procedures and documentation on a daily basis to provide the information we need to make sure it is safe and inspected.“
The company does many of these inspections through Process Control including Automated Vision systems, robotics and a full ERP system that was installed four years ago. Everything is barcoded and scanned so nothing is left unchecked for quality. “Our goal is to go to as much automation as we can with auto-stacking and robotics,” Rekitzke explains. “Our vision systems take much of the human element out of inspection. We’re using technology wherever we can to keep ourselves viable in the industry.”
Thanks to its success in recent years, N.E.W. Plastics has added a 20,000-square-foot addition to the rigid packaging plant, two new extrusion blow molders and two new PET stretch blow machines.
“We’re always looking to grow both organically from our current location, but we’re always looking for opportunities in the marketplace to grow in other areas,” Rekitzke says. “We’re in Luxemburg, so for the rigid packaging side, we have an area of 450 miles where we’re very competitive. After that, we have to look for opportunities outside.”
But Rekitzke notes that the plastics market has changed dramatically in recent years. Many of the company’s experienced, long-term employees are beginning to retire, so the company has to bring in a new workforce and ensure it is trained not only quickly, but thoroughly.
N.E.W. Plastics has partnered with Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, The University of Wisconsin Stout and Algoma High School to familiarize young interns with manufacturing. In addition, the company has donated a piece of blow molding equipment to the high school’s technical lab. “We can build a pipeline of students that – as they grow and understand manufacturing – they will want to come work for us,” Rekitzke says.
N.E.W. Plastics also makes healthcare a huge focus in maintaining a positive work environment. In addition to providing health insurance, the company has an on-site occupational nurse and free clinic available to all employees and their families for things such as cold and flu visits and back-to-school physicals. “It’s a great way to keep our insurance costs down and in control, while also helping us keep a healthy workforce,” Rekitzke adds.
The company also spends as much time being a true partner to and listening to its customers and suppliers. N.E.W. Plastics makes regular visits to customers so it can ensure it’s matching its capabilities to customer needs. Additionally, the company sticks with a core group of suppliers.
“We partner and show loyalty to our suppliers and customers,” Rekitzke says. “We know our suppliers can take care of us the best, and we give them as much information as we can about our forecasts and budget, so they can plan around our needs.”
N.E.W. Plastics will remain a family owned company and prides itself on this notion because it can offer more personal service to customers and make important decisions swiftly, Rekitzke says.
“We find in many cases opportunities have a very short window and our ability to react quickly and make decisions quickly sets us apart,” Rekitzke says. “The things we’ve been able to do to make us the employer of choice in our area keeps a steady group of people coming and keeps our customers and suppliers happy.”