Employees: More than 200
Process and product diversity drive growth for Noel Ginsburg’s plastics powerhouse and regional manufacturing anchor
Chairman and CEO Noel Ginsburg started Intertech as a college project. “It actually was a project for a management class at University of Denver,” he says. Porting the concept from the classroom to the real world subsequently “made sense,” he adds. “I had two outside investors and my family.”
With seed money in hand, Ginsburg bought the assets of a shuttered company, two machines that made four- and five-gallon pails, and went to work with a staff of about 10 employees.
Today, 34 years later, Intertech is one of the biggest plastic injection molders in the Rockies, with more than 200 employees and nearly 50 machines in about 140,000 square feet of production space. On the way there, there were a few serious bumps in the road in the 1990s -- namely when key customer Gerry Baby Products moved manufacturing overseas and a local licensee of Fisher-Price closed its doors.
“A lot of my customers got bought out and moved production to Asia,” says Ginsburg. Intertech responded by acquiring a few of its competitors. “That just kept it flat,” he says.
After 9/11, Intertech saw sales dip by more than 40 percent. “The whole country just paused with that tragedy,” says Ginsburg. He says that Intertech went from $18 million in sales to $8 million, so he “right-sized the company, which is never fun. We just fought through it.”
In the process, Intertech diversified its business. Today it makes storage containers for a licensee of Hefty and baby-changing stations for Koala as well as proprietary lip balm and food packaging. “There’s 200-plus products we make out of this facility,” touts Ginsburg.
Intertech also acquired a medical manufacturer in 2013 (now branded as Intertech Medical) and offers turnkey services that include assembly and packaging (branded as Intertech Solutions). Of the latter, Ginsburg says some customers “never see their product -- we manufacture, assemble, package, and distribute it.”
The strategy has paid off. Intertech’s revenues are now $30 million and Ginsburg has a goal of doubling that number by 2019. He credits lean enterprise processes and implementation of the socio-technical Toyota Production System (a.k.a. just-in-time production) with the company’s growth.
“It’s kind of a never-ending process, but it’s one of the most effective business advantages we’ve ever had,” says Ginsburg. “It’s paying incredible dividends.”
He says his goal moving forward is to make lean manufacturing the “way of life” at Intertech. Beyond embracing the tenets of lean and adding more automation to its facilities, the company also utilizes the cloud for quality control and training and Twitter for internal communication.
“It’s much more than a class, it’s something you have to do all of the time,” says Ginsburg. “If the United States had embraced lean 30 years ago, our manufacturing would have never moved to China.”
Challenges: Energy prices in metro Denver. “Our power costs are high,” Ginsburg says. “If we moved our facility to Loveland, we’d save 30 percent on our power bill, which is $700,000.”
Ginbsberg also says Colorado’s business property tax sometimes drives manufacturing from the state, noting, “Some of our laws are for the economy we had, not the economy we could have.”
Opportunities: “There’s definitely a re-shoring of production back from Asia that we are beneficiaries of,” says Ginsburg.
Inside of the country, he says there’s also “a reconfiguration” in progress with manufacturing expanding from the Midwest and Northeast to the South and West for logistical reasons. “Where Colorado used to an island in the middle of nowhere, it’s now a place where things get made.”
Needs: “Getting trained people in technical fields is a real challenge,” says Ginsburg. For this reason, Intertech has an internal apprenticeship program. Ginsburg was a founding chair of the Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Authority to help push a career-oriented education track for manufacturing in Colorado.