The next time you apply under-arm deodorant, take a moment to look at the plastic dispenser it comes in. It has several parts, is made of colored plastic and is filled with deodorant. The dispenser has many plastic parts, some of which are made in Hamlet at Plastek.
The Plastek Group in Hamlet was established in May, 2010 after renovations transformed what used to be Rexam into the Hamlet manufacturing plant. The plant serves to mold deodorant components for Unilever, who fills them with your product.
General Manager Steve Ulrich explained that plastic pellets of the desired color are sent through a heater-compressor which will mold the plastic using tools with as many as 126 cavities. The tools are comprised of multi-million dollar machinery. There are five different components made at Plastek that assemble to make the deodorant container. These parts are assembled at the plant during a high-speed assembly process, a “continuous motion assembly,” as Ulrich called it.
Did you know your deodorant is filled from the bottom? The part you can twist to bring more deodorant out of the container is where the hot deodorant is poured in. Then the container is sealed and set upright to cool. This is done by Unilever.
The employees at Plastek do about six percent of the work that it takes to make these containers. They work in the molding area, and see to it that the quality of the products remains on par with expectations. Some people move materials from one location to another, and handle the containers. Some have help.
What may look like a scene from the future is daily occurrence at Plastek, where AGVs, or “Auto-guided vehicles” roam around the plant and move heavy boxes and containers to a storage area. They are essentially robot forklifts that navigate by sensors they carry, which communicate with sensors located around the plant.They have no human driver.
“These are still new,” said Project Manager Jerry Chance. “We are still getting used to them.”
The AGVs come to a screeching halt if someone steps in front of them, and they move at about the speed of human steps.
When Plastek began making the components for deodorant containers, they worked only with colors pellets. These pellets were melted and molded into the components. Chance said the newest challenge for Plastek is trying out a liquid-based plastic in the molding machinery. The liquid pellets allow them to experiment with new colors.
Plastek employs about 240 people, with the first shift being comprised of over 100 employees. Each shift begins with a safety meeting, and as a result, there have been “very few safety issues” since the plant opened, according to Ulrich. Plastek employs some entry-level folks, but prefer applicants to have factory experience.
“Plastek brought Richmond County opportunity in hard economic times,” said Chance. “Plastek is a family-oriented business.”
Plastek is a second-generation, family owned company, and Joe Prischak is the founder. Now 80 years old, young Prischak asked his boss for a raise, but wasn’t given one, so he quit and started his own company making tools and dyes. He started the company with two other people, and the company is still running today. He earned enough money to go back and buy the business from the boss that wouldn’t give him a raise.
“Two weeks ago, he was at our grand opening,” said Chance. “He speaks to everyone, all the workers. He knows what it means to be one of those workers.”
That same attitude is reflected in Plastek’s management as well.
“I see Steve on the floor every day,” said Chance. “It really helps with the morale.”
“We make millions and millions of components a day,” said Ulrich. “We have to do it right. And we give safety awards. We like to celebrate here. We give awards every 90 days, and everyone gets one.”
Staff Writer Dawn Kurry can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ex. 43, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.