Solar Plastics

BY James Slade ON March 24, 2015.

Solar Plastics is a global leader and supplier of innovative, custom-engineered, rotationally-moulded plastic parts. It is a family-owned company of 200 employees spread over 2 factories in Iowa and Minnesota. Established in 1964, Solar Plastics has enjoyed a successful history of steady growth.

Although the technical process behind the production of its rota-moulded parts is virtually unchanged for 47 years, fluctuating market demand has meant that the parts have been used for a variety of applications. At present, the company produces a wide range of components such as fuel tanks, hydraulic tanks and custom assemblies for customers across 18 industries.

Solar Plastics decided to become ISO 9001 certified because several of their high-profile global OEMs requested that their suppliers should have established, verifiable and internationally-recognized quality management systems. Mr. David Johnson, Quality Engineer, regards ISO 9001 as the ultimate foundation of excellent quality management, “the qualification inspires customer confidence as well as enhancing company professionalism. It also guarantees that all of our internal processes are as effective as possible.”

Mr. Johnson believes that ISO 9001 also carries tangible employee benefits, “as a result of the qualification, we now have special training sessions for new workers that help them to know exactly what their job entails. It allows everyone at the company to answer the question, ‘how do I know that I’m doing my job right?’” The clear processes and the calibrated quality gauges enable employees to take individual responsibility for assuring a high level of quality in every procedure.

Solar Plastics has recently announced that their latest product, the low permeability gasoline fuel tank, has been approved by the latest government guidelines for evaporative emissions in off-road gasoline engines. As many of its customers will be subject to the new regulation at the start of 2012, this ‘green’ product is extremely important for the company. In order to further demonstrate its commitment to minimizing environment impact, and following the strong recommendation from a high-profile customer, Solar Plastics decided to acquire the ISO 14001 Environmental Management Standard.

IMSM helped them become both ISO 14001 and 9001 certified. Mr. Johnson recalls, “IMSM were extremely professional and very helpful in showing us the best way to comply with what sometimes seemed like rather daunting demands!” Mr. Johnson found the two standards quite different: “ISO 14001 requires an organization to review and then be compliant with all applicable federal, state, and local laws relating to the environment. The standard also requires public communications regarding environmental matters. This is a significant commitment by an organization.” Matters were complicated by the fact that Solar Plastics’ two factories were spread over different states, each with slightly different environmental laws.

Implementation of ISO 14001 took 10 months and involved proposing objectives and projects to improve efficiency in energy usage and reducing waste. As a result of being certified, Mr. Johnson is pleased that the company now “practices what we preach”. The standard demonstrates Solar Plastics’ real commitment to the environment which supports its sales effort, as well as satisfying the expectation of its existing customers.

Mr. Johnson believes that having two ISO qualifications adds important value to the company and helps to set it apart from the competition. With these high quality management and environmental standards, an excellent customer service and innovative products, Solar Plastics is currently enjoying a growth spurt and is very optimistic about the future.