Monthly Archives: May 2014

Cultivating a Culture of Safety at AIN Plastics

Safety has always been important within AIN Plastics. As the leader for AIN Plastics safety initiatives I can name any number of clichés and catch phrases, but simply stated, our goal is that – “Every employee should go home in the same condition they arrived.”  Additionally, I hope when AIN employees go home at the end of their day they can say they learned something new as well, whether it is understanding a new product application, how to operate a machine safely and efficiently, or how to administer CPR to a co-worker in distress. Keeping all employees involved and engaged in safety can sometimes be challenging but it is also a highly rewarding experience. Safety not only protects employees, but employees who are happy and feel safe at their jobs are more productive.

Creating a Culture of Safety for AIN Plastics Employees and Guests

AIN has had a site self-auditing process in place, and this year the Executive Management Team at AIN will be added as a new level to our safety auditing process. This will keep Management involved in Safety, and also provides the individual facility being audited another perspective on safety. Having management’s support and involvement in growing a “Zero Injury Culture” at AIN Plastics is important to our employees and sets an example that is visible to customers, suppliers, and guests.

DSC_0003Updated Visitor Safety Protocol

We initiated a visitor safety orientation that must be reviewed by all visitors of an AIN Plastics facility. Our goal is to emphasize the importance of safety not only to our employees, but to all of our visitors and guests. We have added color coded areas of the plant so employees and visitors know if special training or PPE (Personal Protection  Equipment) is required to be in that area, and to help ensure that visitors stay within areas that are safest. Guests to AIN Plastics facilities can easily be seen because they wear a different color than regular employees helping everyone to know at a glance when we have visitors and to help us keep our visitors as safe as possible at all times.

In January I visited three ThyssenKrupp sites in California as part of ThyssenKrupp’s “Safety Advisory Council Meetings.” We audited the sites, reviewed opportunities for improvement and shared best practices as part of our quarterly meetings. In May we will tour six facilities in the Detroit/Toledo area with special guests from ThyssenKrupp AG (Germany): Dr. Neilinger (Head of Occupational Safety and Health) and Dr. Daume (Head of 6S) will be benchmarking and evaluating how we can share best safety practices. It is always exciting to have visitors from Germany to show off our North American sites and discuss the safety of our employees. I look forward to the meetings and the opportunity for dedicated Safety Time with our teams, and seeing what new things I can learn!


Photo---Theresa-GestewitzTheresa Gestewitz

Operations Director
ThyssenKrupp Materials NA AIN Plastics Division

About Theresa Gestewitz –
Ms. Gestewitz began her career with ThyssenKrupp Materials NA AIN Plastics Division 20 years ago. Her first role was Buyer at AIN Plastics Lancaster, PA facility. She has also held additional positions as Office Manager, Corporate Buyer, and Plant Manager. She assumed her Safety Leadership role in 2010.

What Is a “Tough Plastic”?

I need a “Tough Plastic”, what do you recommend?

In our post “How Sales Reps Help You Find the Right Plastic Material” we explored the need for probing questions when assisting a customer with a material request because there are as many different varieties and formulations of plastics as there are applications for them.  Some terms are standard to a market or industry; others may be subjective or open to interpretation.  Two people most certainly may describe the same thing in two different ways.

One of the best ways to identify the material a user is really seeking is by asking questions, in particular regarding the application.

By inquiring as to the intended use of the item (the application) a competent sales person can  direct the customer to a range of materials from which to choose.  A statement that often comes up by a customer is: “I need a tough plastic”.

Nerd SuperheroDefining Tough Plastic…

This can be a troublesome term depending on a person’s particular definition.
Is toughness how a material wears or the “Wear properties”? – one might consider a raw material as tough because of its ability to perform well in a high friction, high load bearing application, such as a bearing or roller.  Often various strength values and data are used to demonstrate toughness of this kind.
Is toughness how hard a material seems to be? One might also think of toughness as being related to the hardness of a product. Hardness is really a tested value of the chemistry of the material based on a scale, and does not indicate its performance, but rather gives a scale of comparison of one plastic to another.
broken phone in a female handIs toughness how well a material stands up to impact? Its common to think that a hard material is more impact resistant and therefore tougher. Impact resistance is actually measured by a notched Izod Impact test and some materials such as silicone or urethane used in luggage and cases are designed to absorb impact so being impact resistant doesn’t necessarily mean hard.
One of my favorite examples that I learned early in my career was that of Polycarbonate (under such common trade/brand names as Lexan®, Makrolon®).  This is the base material most often described in ‘bullet resistant glass.’  The impact resistance is great but I was surprised to find that the hardness value was lower than many other materials thus it’s actually softer.  Sure, it didn’t break when hit with a hammer because, being softer it absorbed impact, but it could easily be cut with a tool or saw making it very popular.

Determining what a term such as toughness means in the most accurate way possible is one more way in which the questions that a plastics sales rep asks can make the difference in whether or not you get the material best suited to your particular application. As you can see, a term that may be crystal clear to one person may ultimately have a different meaning to someone else.

A particular set of properties might be more or less crucial to a given application, we do not engineer applications but rather give you the best tools and guidance to do so!

Lin Poulin
Telemarketing Manager
ThyssenKrupp Materials NA
AIN Plastics Division

International Association of Plastic Distributors. IAPD, Introduction to Plastics, a Training Manual
Quadrant Engineering Plastic Products. Design and Fabrication Reference Guide
Ensinger. Ensinger essentials, Technical know-how for plastic applications
AIN-Plastics Blog Post – Why Purchase Plastics Through a Distributor