30 Jul Technical Sales With Application Engineering
We all know about technical sales, but most of us aren’t aware of the details of technical sales. Therefore, our today’s guest will help us understand how technical sales is conducted using application engineering in injection molding plastics sales.
In this week’s The Faces of Business Episode, our guest speaker was Sean Mertes. Sean is the Application Development Engineer at Amco Polymers and the Sales Manager for Polymer Technology and Services (PTS). Sean has been doing technical sales for injection molding plastics companies for over 20 years and is a technical sales expert in the plastics field.
The conversation started with Damon asking Saen to introduce himself. Saen shared that at first in college he experimented with everything from molding to development. However, later he joined an application development company and from there, his journey began.
After this, Saen talked about tech support and technical sales. He said that when you are in tech support, people don’t call you in for a handshake or for golf, they call you in when they really need help.
Furthermore, Damon asked Sean if all the learning and stuff about plastic and related tech support is available on YouTube or not. To this, Sean said that all of it is now on the web and anyone can check it out as well.
Moving on, Sean explained technical sales and support in detail. He said that when a person comes in for application development or something like that, you must follow few steps. At first, you have to ask the customer at what stage of development they are.
After this, you have to make sure they are getting what they want. And then you can also ask them that there is a new technology and it’s not been introduced yet, this is how you can do your technical sales with your customers.
In addition to this, Damon asked Sean that how are the sales in the plastic industry. Responding to this, Sean said that when it comes to technical sales before the Covid things were fine. However, once Covid started they knew it was there, but they weren’t sure to what extent. Therefore, after Covid, things changed, and they had to shut down a few places because of this.
After this, Damon asked Sean about technical sales and whether the prices in the plastic industry have increased or not. To this, Sean said that the prices have drastically increased after Covid and are still increasing every day.
By the end of the conversation, Damon asked Sean if there are any new technical changes in the plastic industry. To this, he said that when it comes to technical sales, yes, there are many changes and things are getting more and more electrical these days.
The conversation ended with Damon thanking Sean for his time.
Sean Mertes is the Application Development Engineer at Amco Polymers. Apart from this, he is also the Sales Manager for Polymer Technology and Services (PTS). Before this, Sean has worked at Nexeo Solutions for almost 17 years.
Apart from this, Sean is an experienced Application Development Engineer with a Sales Manager and Technical Service background. Moreover, he is also skilled in Research and Development, Material Selection, Engineering, Thermoplastics, and Polymers.
At this company, he first worked as Tech Service Engineer and later as Application Development Engineer. As for his education, he has studied at the American injection Molding Institute. Moreover, he has a master’s in mechanical engineering from South Dakota State University.
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Technical Sales With Application Engineering
The Exit Your Way Business Round Table Live Stream
plastics, people, talking, mold, called, polycarbonate, working, bought, piece, technology, problem, wheelers, design, molding, put, industry, big, interesting, day, shawn
Sean Mertes, Damon Pistulka
Damon Pistulka 00:04
All right, everyone, Welcome once again to the faces your business. I’m your host, Damon Pistulka. And man, am I excited for my guest today. This is a guy that I’ve known says I didn’t have gray hair. So I’m excited to get to talk to Sean murtis day. And we’re going to talk about technical sales, with with application engineering. And and really, this is super interesting to me. And I know that a lot of the manufacturing people here that are listening will understand what we’re talking about. But I’m just gonna let Shawn start in on this. And first of all, I’m just gonna say, Shawn, thanks for being here.
Sean Mertes 00:46
Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Damon, I’m excited to be part of your your show. Awesome. Awesome, dude.
Damon Pistulka 00:53
Well, we started eons ago, in injection molding? Yeah, what was it 90 dog about a man is like, it’s like this before Prince was popular man. Cuz you’re in Minneapolis. And actually, actually, Dave Meyer, a guy that I know they’re from the cities who does digital work. He actually is one of the guys that built one of France’s websites. So Oh, one of his later ones, where he was actually selling music on it.
So that’s what got me thinking. And he was talking about that last week, we interviewed him on our Friday show. But so you’ve been in the plastics industry for quite a while, Shawn, first of all, in as an applications engineer on the plastic side in the molding company where we work together, and we started out of college. And then you started working for plastics companies that actually developed the company, the plastics themselves, that are used by the people that are molding products. And you’ve been in that ever since.
Sean Mertes 01:55
Correct? Yeah. So you know, we went to college, I’ll go to state university, we both went to the same place, I was there for a little over six years, did a little bit of everything from molding to design, and then worked for a I went to be a tech rep for a large distribution company. And it was my job to make things run quickly, smoothly, bigger, better, faster, stronger, and do a lot of training. So I did that for about 1012 years, and then moved into application development, and then kind of moved into sales slash application development with a smaller company. And then that smaller company was bought by the company I’m with right now.
Damon Pistulka 02:37
Very cool. So when this so it’s interesting that you you’ve seen the mold of the molding and the production setting in the beginning and at Falcon plastics, where we work together. And then then as you are training people and tech support and trying to help them solve these problems in molding, where were you actually in the field, then watching things being molded and helping them make them run better? or What were you doing when you were doing that? That tech support?
Sean Mertes 03:10
Yeah, so when I was at Falcon, the nice thing is, is it’s it’s, you know, it’s a big company, but a smaller company, and you have certain customers, and you get to see what you get to see. So you don’t get to see all the stuff that everybody does and all the bad. So when I left there and went to work for the distribution companies attack rap, it was overwhelming for the first 234 or five years because basically, when we were at Falcon, if I couldn’t figure it out, I would call my guy and my guy back in the name his name is Mike Van Dyne phenomenal. I a good friend of mine still and say, Mike come in and help me fix the problem.
Well, guess what? I went from being the guy that you know, tried everything and then call somebody in to the guy that called got called in. Yeah. You know, now I’m responsible for a couple $100,000 tools. They’ve tried everything. All right, Shawn, fix my problems. Sometimes it’s not so easy. So unfortunately, most of the times for tech service, we don’t get called in for handshakes and don’t get called in to go golfing. We’re called in when they’re up against a wall and they need Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that’s true.
Damon Pistulka 04:22
So in when you’re in that role, and the tech support there, did you have did they have good people that can help you if you couldn’t figure things out? Are you pretty much sitting there to go back to the basics of physics and everything else and just kind of figure it out that way.
Sean Mertes 04:40
A little bit of everything. You know, back in the day, a lot of the suppliers had their own internal tech wraps that I could call back in the day they had a one 800 dial or dial dial, dial dial and a one 800 DuPont for their inside tech line. I remember DuPont Her name is Nancy.
Rich, that’s weird, I probably can still remember the phone number, but I could call them and they put me up with the right person. Nowadays everything is being you know, working from homes cost savings, a lot of the large suppliers are relying on distribution and the manufacturers such as ourselves to be the leaders in their plastic. So back in the day, there was a lot. Um, but as you know, when we started, we had computers, but Google was probably Google, but not what Google is now. Yeah, learning some of the stuff and you know, reading the papers and term papers and stuff. We had to go to the library and do research and stuff now. Everything’s at your fingertips.
Yeah, I want to learn something or do something nowadays, you can YouTube and figure it kind of pretty much a lot of things out. I’m back in the day. There’s a lot of networking, where it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Yeah. And, you know, things have changed. So it’s been an interesting road to see how it started with. I remember, we had a big catalog on front of our offices that we’d put everything in and here’s this stuff. Here’s for bicarbonate, here’s abs, here’s PC abs, we had drying guides and sheets. You know, nowadays you buy something I just bought a generator. They didn’t even give you a book anymore. Yes, yeah. Can you print it? Yeah, yeah. So it’s a good,
Damon Pistulka 06:17
it’s a good point. So now if I’m sitting here as a as an injection molder, and I’m having a problem, it does YouTube have videos on solving, you know, a specific an ABS kind of problem. Do you see that kind of support kind of stuff on YouTube? Now? I never even thought of looking for that kind of thing.
Sean Mertes 06:37
Yeah, they do. There’s a lot of stuff like back in the day, they still have a couple of them, you know, like online training classes that Yeah, a four. And you can do but there’s Yeah, like troubleshooting. I don’t know if YouTube necessarily, there’s a lot of stuff on like troubleshooting black specs, you know, check your back pressure, check your temperature, check this, check this on a lot of presentations that anybody put on.
I’m a member of SPE Society of plastics engineers, I’m actually a program chair. But when you’re a member of SP, you can go in and see it. So I can go back. And I can see all kinds of old presentations. I have presentations that I possibly put on, and then you have access to the seminars, and you can download them. And yeah, it’s all at your fingertips. So yeah,
Damon Pistulka 07:24
yeah, I never even thought about that. And that because it is so much more available to you, and so much easier to access, if you know where to go.
Sean Mertes 07:35
You know, the funny thing is, is I’ve talked about this back in the day, SP you know, you you show up, and you’d pay $30 and you’d get a dried out piece of chicken, you know, network for a while. And then you’d have a speaker come and talk for an hour or so about things you need network. And it was basically who you know, nowadays, I was talking to some of the younger SB members. And I said, you don’t network anymore. Like why don’t need to network, I can be on a computer, I can do this, I can see anything at my fingertips.
For me, there’s still something about school of hard knocks, I would rather talk to a mechanic or talk to you to go, Hey, Damon, I’m having this problem. And you say, hey, try this. Try this, as opposed to Google because anybody can put something on Wikipedia, anything, anybody can put anything on the internet. Is that right? As long as they’re, it’s their perception. And I suppose even if you’re talking to somebody, it’s their perception perception of right and wrong. But if it’s someone I know and trust, I know. I’m gonna trust a lot more I still Yeah. personal relationship.
Damon Pistulka 08:41
Yeah, is Yeah. And then, you know, that’s funny because you say that it’s changed for me a lot over the past couple of years, especially as we got stuffed in our houses the past year and a half or so with COVID and our business going virtual even before that, but still haven’t at least a video connection like this. And then meeting people in person when it when you can, when you’re in the area or something works really well even for even for a troubleshooting kind of thing, because, you know, you talk about technology.
And last year, we sold a business that we never met the owners in person. We never saw the business in person. And the buyers of the business never visited the business. Because it because of COVID and we did things with video we did I mean stupid, not stupid, but we did use whatever the what’s the iPhone, FaceTime, FaceTime, there we go.
We had to FaceTime we FaceTime go around, here’s some inventory, counting the inventory, you know, looking at the machines, all that kind of stuff. It was really, it was wild, to do that kind of stuff. And so they Yeah, kind of off on a tangent there on that. But the the ability to be able to connect with people that can help you or that you can help is really something and I think that The the younger people that are coming up are probably utilizing maybe LinkedIn more or Instagram or something like that with the network of people that they’ve met, could be digitally, but that they know are in the same industry solving the same problems.
Sean Mertes 10:16
Absolutely. Absolutely. And nowadays with technology and shipping and Amazon, there’s really nothing you can’t get. Yeah, very quickly. And if you want to pay for it, it can you know, you can get some from California next day air. Yeah. And it’s no big deal. It was it was a lot harder back in our day.
Damon Pistulka 10:37
Yeah, yeah, that’s for sure. So when when you’re out here, now, you talked about you were doing this tech support, and you haven’t people calls. Now, when you’re working with application development. Talk to me about a typical way that you’re going to help a customer find what they want. So one of your solute where you have to work through the solution to the problem and get them down to the end result.
Sean Mertes 11:01
Okay, well, first off, I think the main question is, have you been doing it in the past? Is this something that’s existing? You’re trying to make it bigger, better, stronger? Is that brand new? Is anybody else doing it? You know, let’s say that, you know, you want to make a four wheeler, you’re not going to start, you know, from scratch on building a four wheeler, because by nature, they had the three wheelers behind a big red Yeah, was the deal, you know, then they went to four wheelers.
Now they’re at side by sides, and you’re not going to start all over, you’re gonna say, Okay, what are they currently doing? What are they currently using, you know, automotive, there’s some information that’s out there. It’s amazing how just on the computer, I can say, show me all the vehicles that are out there. And I want to know, the Evie batteries, I don’t know, the components of the batteries. And there’s pictures, they blow it up. And they say this one’s made out of polypropylene. This one’s made out of polycarbonate, this one’s made out of this. And you can see, you know, and reverse engineer a lot of stuff.
So that’s one of the ways to do is say, Hey, you know, can I reverse engineer it? number one. And number two, if it’s something new to say, Hey, I’m making something nobody’s ever made it before it’s not out there, then it kind of comes down to Okay, what kind of properties you need? It doesn’t need heat. Does it need UV? You know, if it does need heat, how hot and for how long? Do I need to worry about, you know, RTI? continuous use temperatures? If I’m talking outdoor, do I need you all right, is a f1 f1 rating means it’s been set for outside so many hours, and it maintains its physical properties?
Or does it just need to look good? You know, if I’m making a patio chair, and it’s throwaway disposable, I don’t necessarily care. Um, but the big question is just asking them to rank the criteria, you know, I want clear chemical and under a buck a pound? Well, there’s certain criterias I can do and certain criterias I can’t, I can get you clear, and I can get you some chemical resistance. But under a buck a pound may not be possible, you know, hand in hand, some things don’t and especially now with the resin crisis and everything the way it is, you can’t get your hands on anything.
Damon Pistulka 13:09
Okay, so I was just gonna ask the supply of plastic is is tight, like steel and everything else that people are trying?
Sean Mertes 13:18
Absolutely, you know, and it’s, it’s funny, because if we look back, we’ve had seminars talking about this. Um, when COVID started, nobody knew COVID we knew what COVID was, but we’re like houses. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So we have all kinds of inventory or suppliers and manufacturers of all kinds of inventory. I was saying start shutting companies down and we’re saying, we don’t want to get stuck with millions of dollars of ml. Yeah, we need to sell it off.
I need to get rid of it. But in the plastic industry, people got shut down and automotive shut down, but it kept trudging forward. And because it got shut down, and we ditched all the old inventory. Then we have that cold snap that came through. Um, I can’t remember exactly what they called that cold snap that actually froze down in Dallas Houston. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. manufacturers. They lost electricity, because they lost electricity, all the fracking and all the pipes and everything froze.
Oh, yeah. start from scratch. I have we have pictures showing these cracked pipes. And the problem is, you can’t just fix the pipe that cracked because you don’t necessarily know as the other one that’s right there that you just got done fixing it structurally damaged. So basically, you got to start over. If you’re tearing everything apart, as well started from scratch, then you can’t be within six feet of somebody else. You’re working by yourself. Yeah. During these big huge pipes and trying to do things with mass up in the air. Yeah, it takes years and years to get these built and they had to go in and rebuild them. Yes, very, very quickly. So
Damon Pistulka 14:51
we’re talking about the plastics production facilities. Yes. The materials production facilities because I never thought of that. So yeah. I’ve got a A couple of friends that are in the Dallas area, and they were lucky enough to have generators. So they didn’t, you know, have everything frozen. But they that that has to be a mess because people don’t? Well, plastics are made from the byproducts of refining oil and then down the line, it gets processed many other times it turns into plastic, but I never thought about how that would affect it. Because a lot of the plastics are made down there around refining areas
Sean Mertes 15:26
absolutely in alignment to is just with COVID. You know, you can have plan operator standing. Rather, you can do any kind of shut down, nobody knew was gonna happen. And now everything’s on force for sure everything’s on allocation. So if we do have access to it, everything that we bought last year, the only thing you get 60% of everything you bought last year 70% we get a percentage, and then you have to divvy that down. Yeah.
Damon Pistulka 15:52
Wow. And, wow, that’s something that’s something because it is it is it is really interesting how that’s hit all the industries, I mean, how it hit the housing market with the lumber prices, and then it moves into everything else. And it’s, it’s because of the sharp drop, and then the sharp ramp back up. You know, and it’s interesting how that’s affecting everyone, because I know earlier this year, you know, the price of steel and sheet steel, and everything was almost to the point where you couldn’t even get quotes, it was like, This is the price of the day kind of thing for them. And so did you see that? The price of plastics going up like that to where they absolutely, yeah,
Sean Mertes 16:31
it’s okay. It’s phenomenal how much the price of plastics, I think every day I get 234 price increases. Now. It’s just going up and up. And it’s, it’s just got to a point of everybody just kind of knows it is what it is. And it’s same thing. I mean, I’m technical sales. So I don’t necessarily, quote every single day. Yeah, pricing as much as a true salesperson does. But some of it is, we have what we call a Christmas list to say you want plastic, and you haven’t bought before.
There’s no allocation, put your name on the list, at least you’re on a list to get Yeah, it’s something but we can’t guarantee dates, we can’t take delivery orders, we can’t guarantee anything. And then when or if we can get it. We’re going to do everything we can to work with you to get you what you need. But guarantee pricing and we’ll tell you what your pricing is when we get allocation and we get to come in.
Damon Pistulka 17:24
Yeah, yeah, that’s why I’ll do cuz that’s, that’s like, that’s, that’s crazy to think that we’ve got. It’s at a time where you cannot get it. Right. I just did anything really. I mean, when was the last time you and I were around when you couldn’t go get something?
Sean Mertes 17:42
I mean, like anything, you know, and that’s the funny thing is, is a lot of times there’s certain things but like, you know, the toilet paper shortage, you couldn’t get it, okay? Everybody hoarded and did some things. Yeah, get a toilet paper, people are saying, Hey, we don’t want inventory either. And they couldn’t shut down. I stopped making some stuff. But I don’t think it’s ever been as bad where you can get polycarbonate, abs nylon, polyethylene, polypropylene, oh, my goodness, etc.
I mean, if the list goes on, I mean, there’s very few and far between. So that’s been my biggest job lately is working with OEMs and molders. To say, Okay, I’m being told I can’t get this resin. I can’t shut down. I got to continue making something what’s your closest equivalent? or How can I get from point oh, yeah, me. And sometimes it’s, you know, twice the price. But guess what, they got to do what they got to do to keep things moving. And sometimes maybe they’re over engineered or over SPECT to where we can say, hey, you didn’t necessarily need this. Let’s try this.
They try it. I’m working on a seminar right now called, you know, single sourcing or double source dual sourcing, where a lot of people were happy saying, Hey, I’m buying this resin. It’s the only thing on the print. Well, guess what now is discontinued? I can’t get it unless it’s tested or approved. Now, it’s nice to have three, four or five things on here is I’ve tried this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, and just go down the line. And you know what works and what doesn’t work.
The other thing is, is working with these engineers. They know what works, but they don’t know what doesn’t work. So I asked them Okay, do you need cold weather impacts? Well, yes. Okay. What kind of cold weather impact how cool. Zero minus 20 minus 40. You know, is it going to be in your area, Seattle versus Minneapolis? Or is it going to be in you know, Canada or? northern Alaska? Yeah. Yep. different temperatures, different time? Yes. So,
Damon Pistulka 19:36
yeah, it’s it is you bring a couple good points up in this about, you know, engineers wanting to over engineer something by saying, hey, I want I want minus 60 degrees, because someone could use this at the North Pole, right? But then you go back and that’s too expensive. When he comes down the road, it gets too expensive and they go oh, no, no, we might have to cut it back a little bit.
You know, minus 10 degrees or something like that, and and you have to help them balance that with the best properties. Right? That’s, that’s really about technical sales is really one of the things that that differentiates it from a, selling a product that doesn’t have that technical requirement. Your your knowledge around it in your application knowledge is, is really key. So, do you have specific lines that you cover? Or do you have a broad spectrum and and you have to zone in on each one when you’re doing a different project for someone.
Sean Mertes 20:39
Um, so the company I work for is a large distribution company formulator, slash compounder. So we have access to pretty much anything and everything. I mean, I can get it from pvcs, to elastomers to TPU, polycarbonate, we have anything and actually, I have just happen to have my little, you know, a Tana gram of all the different kinds of resins.
Okay, last question. And this is what I want to go through when someone calls me and says, Hey, I have this and this, I looked at this tonight, kind of run through the list of Okay, if it’s outdoor, whatever outdoor properties, well, my HSA is a weatherable polymer, on my pmma my acrylics are made for outdoors, I can get some UV polycarbonate, there’s different things. And so I run through scenarios in my head to say, Okay, what kind of impact you need, what kind of strength you can make chemical resistance you need, then you start getting up the triangle pyramid, you know, as you started going up higher and higher and higher, it costs more money, but you get more performance.
So you can start getting more and more properties as you start going up that pyramid, but your cost starts to go up. Yeah, yeah. And then we started talking about offsetting the cost by running thinner, instead of running at you know, 100,000 thickness or 80,000. Which kinda was when we were engineers. I mean, yeah, if everything was like, 80 to 100,000. That’s pretty normal. Nowadays, you know, I’m seeing a lot of 60,000 40,000 I got stuff, you know, thinner and thinner, you know, it’s just more cavities and thinner wall section. So yeah,
Damon Pistulka 22:08
that’s what I was gonna ask you. So. So, you know, in molding? What is kind of over the last 10 years, 15 years? What have you really seen in differences now you’re saying wall thickness thinning and some other things, but what’s really what are really been some of the interesting things, you’ve seen people producing injection molded parts or doing
Sean Mertes 22:29
you know, um, now things I mean, officially, nothing’s really changed. It’s always kind of been, um, when I walked through Falcon plastics, the very first time it kind of reminded me of growing up a kid, that playdough Fun Factory. Put in the backside, you squeeze it for extrusion, we take this piece and you jam it, I have some silly party that I was, yeah, whatever else, but you can form it into a shape and you can do whatever you want. Or back in the day when we used to buy the model airplanes, and they come with all these pieces, you cut them off. And I’m like, wow, that’s that’s a terrible design. Because it’s non uniform wall.
It’s non uniform flow path and it’s Fishbone there’s flash everywhere, and they show you the sprue and runner and you have to do it yourself. It’s kind of got to where everybody is more critical on appearance. They don’t want to see the game they don’t want to see gait blush, they don’t want to see appearance appearance is very very critical nowadays. Back in the day, it was kind of more of a shooting ship. Here’s a part of how functional is it and now it’s gonna look pretty you know what’s gonna happen ugly cell phone case or Yeah, awesome. Everybody’s proud of what they have. So
Damon Pistulka 23:46
I definitely noticed that I’ve definitely noticed that when you look at a molded part you very seldom you won’t see any flow lines you won’t see where the gates had a lot of time they really spent a lot of time to design the parts so that they look good and not and
Sean Mertes 24:01
then to shot I mean your cell phone case you know even though you don’t think a lot about it, I mean there’s so much that goes into these you know they have a soft touch and then this has got a bond to this and so it’s two shot is very, very thin, because then they want the impact they want the strength they weren’t water resistance you need you know, all the different things so everything’s gone thinner, more aesthetic. On to shot colors,
Damon Pistulka 24:30
Chela to shot for people that don’t know it is basically you mold one piece and you take that piece and put it into the mold another mold and you mold the site the second bit of plastic around it with different properties correct
Sean Mertes 24:42
juja you can actually do it where like the the platen rotates, or the mold rotates and you don’t put it in it just automatically does it shoot Okay, whoever barrels shoots the first shot, rotate, shoots the second shot kicks it out on that or two shot where you actually take one molded you know, use And then you put it into the press another time and you shoot another one around it. Yeah, yeah, that’s
Damon Pistulka 25:05
resins two different materials. Like you said, that’s how you can get a hard center or hard feature. And then the rubbery outside of, like a phone case is a great example. Because you got you have the soft outside in a, in a rigid interior, but I’m interesting.
So, you know, the, one of the things that I really have been interested in for my entire life, I mean, I can still remember when I was, you know, we remoulding right. And we were working in the size of machines that we were working with, we’re, we’re not really that big in the industry comparatively, right? And now, you know, cuz I think we had like a 500 ton or something like that. And that’s not the way it’s, it’s different. But now they have a billion have like 5000 ton machines or something like that.
Sean Mertes 25:53
Yeah, it’s amazing. I’m not necessarily sure how big they are worked on the afforda. Three, you know, 3000s, not uncommon and your tonnage is the amount of pressure it holds between the cloud Yeah, Latins, and how much it can hold it together. So the larger the size, let’s say you’re making some bumper facias off for automotive or side by sides. On flow path, the wall thickness, again, it’s all different. It’s all tonnage and pressures and speed. Um, technology is kind of the same, it’s always kind of been the same thing. you heat up the plastic you squirt it in, you cool it down and kick it out.
But you know, the technology is changing now to where use infrared cameras to determine the temperature of where it’s coming out to optimize it. You’re using mold flow simulation, just to before you can put it in to say, how is it gonna flow in my mold? What kind of warpage? Am I gonna get you you’re doing predictive simulations, you know, prior to even getting started? how it’s going to flow, how it’s going to warp and how my water lines are? And what kind of cycle times back in the day, we used to have to guesstimate we look at Yeah, what do you think the cycle time is gonna be? And
Damon Pistulka 27:03
so that’s probably one of the major technological upgrades or improvements over the last 10 or 15 years, though, is like the mold flow analysis, because you can really simulate pretty well now with the software. Yeah, yeah. Good. Good. So yeah, I was I was funny, because this last weekend, we were, as I mentioned, before, we got on we were we were at a at a place up in the mountains. And I grabbed one of these, these Adirondack chairs, you know, the saddle over it, but it was a molded chair. And I always, always think about, boy, that thing was in a big machine to mold one that big chair, that’s that.
And people don’t understand what I mean, when you look at the bumper facia of a car, what the tool behind that really looks like. And I’ve always been amazed at those things and what they do. But we’re sitting here talking about molding, and about tech support and application engineering with Sean myrtus. At am copolymers. And, you know, the one thing that I was going to ask you that I thought we couldn’t get off without doing is what’s the most interesting application that you’ve had to work on? Oh, the most interesting and the most fun. I don’t know, either one. Either one. Tell me tell me the most fun First of all, because that?
Sean Mertes 28:23
Well, fine. I mean, there’s so much different things. But if it’s something, you know, like working on four wheelers, and side by sides, we do a lot of stuff with guns, you know, back in the day, you know, I think you even had your ffl license years and yeah, and so now, you know, working with guns and magazines and clips and different pieces. So I love working on things that I physically can use and utilize. Yeah, in this life.
So you know, work with large OEMs on that is is always so much fun. To me. It’s it’s a seeing it from the beginning to the end, and actually physically, I’m coming up with an idea. I’ve seen some stuff all the way from a paper napkin, you know, to a design to this to a tool, and then it takes off.
Damon Pistulka 29:14
Sean Mertes 29:15
Some of those. Probably the best but
Damon Pistulka 29:19
yeah, so you’re you’re helping people across the board that are doing all kinds of different stuff, right. So you’re talking about UTV stuff, you’re doing OEMs for cars, you’re doing electronics applications, you’re doing all different kinds of stuff, correct?
Sean Mertes 29:36
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. So some of them like I said, when I see a good design, I always like to remember it. This is one that I’ve actually carry around with me. And this is a living hands so basically, it’s got a little piece that goes on your belly. This is actually as you can put your earphones in quick Yeah. But people don’t think about but that the little piece of you know you have to have steel.
They’re so that pot. Yeah, if you go in there, this actually has a living hinge that pops out. So it’s an open and shut tool with hinges that clips snaps into place to create this little belt loop. Oh, gate is down here in the bottom. It’s subsets. I mean, this design I’m gonna say is 30 years old. But this cool design of how they made it work to lock into place. Yeah, shot. It just, I’ve opened this and close this probably 100,000 times and it still works like a champ. You know, I carry this around as a really cool mold design part design feature. That Yeah, I see.
Damon Pistulka 30:43
Yeah, when you see those things that that the clever designs that people can come up with, like you said, from the napkin, and then roll it into the the product. And then ultimately, some of these things, you know, in molding, you can have 10s, and hundreds of millions of these things made.
Sean Mertes 30:57
Oh, yeah. I mean, I’m looking at your headphones right there. And I bet Yeah, last thing is on that headphone, oh, there’s a lot. Yeah. You know, they’re just, you know, the sound quality that they have and the acoustics that go into it. That’s the thing that probably amazes me the most is how, how many little things go into each design?
Sean Mertes 31:19
we both travel quite a bit. And I like listening to books on tape and different things. But one of them that kind of amazes me as they’re talking to, I think is called Malcolm Gladwell with the tipping point, yeah, talks about like Sesame Street’s and how they weren’t sure that you know, animated characters and real people and how kids would interact. But the one of them that they said, and it still strikes me weird, because I never really got into it.
That is it just goes into it. Like Blue’s Clues. Yeah, one of the you know, like, for getting kids remember it? I remember Sesame Street, you know, something shows up on a screen then do you remember it and where you look and marketing and just appearance and stuff? And how much like I said, how much really goes into making thought, but you don’t even we don’t even think about
Damon Pistulka 32:04
Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. That’s true. It’s it is it is interesting when you look at that, because it does really give you some appreciation for the amount of work that goes into these kinds of things. Because that that’s the Yeah, I hadn’t thought about that for a lot of years. But it doesn’t matter what it is, it can be a simple little pen clip, that are the top of a pen. Actually, this is probably a really, really good example of how much thought you have to put in because you got to make every little piece in this thing for next to nothing, right? be competitive.
So it’s got to go super fast, it’s got to be super reliable, it can never screw up. And and you got to be able to make 100 billion gazillion of these things at the top and never wear out every day, just all the things that have to happen for most of the stuff that we do, because people don’t realize that if if I go home with my new, whatever SUV and and I’ve got an an air cleaner on it that or a component on it, that’s plastic,
there probably were half a million of those made or more and because of use on multiple models and use on everything else and just that one little piece in your in your air system that pulls the air into your vehicle, a molded piece on there, the requirements around it and just the design intent and everything that has to go into just that one little piece. When you think about everything we have, I mean someone could walk into their kitchen now and look at 100 different things on your kitchen. And not even I mean even just a blender Blender for your Margarita on the on a nice sunny day we
Sean Mertes 33:54
are talking about is you know just bread, the bread bag that goes to keep us fresh, how many layers there are actually in bread or chip containers you know, you have your your tie layer, your binding layer, your moisture layer, your oxygen layer, you know, and I mean, we’re talking how thin it is and how it is but yet there’s how many different layers that go in film. And like I said, unless you actually stop and think about it or look at it. It can go right over your head go it’s just how hard is this just plastic?
Damon Pistulka 34:25
Yeah, yeah, yeah, that is interesting. It’s It’s, uh Yeah, so that’s, that’s that. Yeah, I started to go back into that and my my head goes back into the days of, of designing stuff for people and you do when you’re, you know, making one or something. It’s a lot different than making 100 million that’s for sure. Yep. And, but so what are some of the things that you’re excited for in the industry that you see happen, then you go, man, this is gonna really be cool.
Sean Mertes 34:54
Um, let me think You know, the industry even though it’s changed so much, it’s changed so incrementally. Um, it’s still the same technology, the only thing I really like is, um, there’s a point now where there’s some new technology out there, where it’s kind of they’re saying, you know, can you, you know, basically everything before was you fill it as fast as possible, fill it 95 to 99% fall, then you pack it and cool it so and so forth.
There’s some new technology out there that says, hey, maybe you don’t have to fill fast, maybe you could fill a little slower and get better, you know, characteristics. And, you know, they’re just kind of starting to challenge some of the things that are out there.
So it’d be interesting to see, you know, do they really come to fruition or not, um, you know, it’s a, it’s a paradigm shift, you have to switch. So now all these injection molding machines, they have to get retrofitted to be new, or, you know, some people are gonna stick with the old you know, it’s kind of like back in the day with the DVD player versus the blu ray versus the what are those big discs or whatever else? They’re like, Alright, which way am I gonna go? Because which one’s gonna lead and which one’s gonna win?
Damon Pistulka 36:11
Yeah. So are you seeing a lot more electric machines in the industry? I know, those were popular as, and I know, people are using them. But are those are those becoming more prevalent? Or are the traditional hydraulic and clamp? mold? molding machines Still, the mainstream?
Sean Mertes 36:33
No, it’s, I’d say, it’s probably coming more and more electric, those electric servos are so repeatable, the problem is they carry a price tag with them. Oh, yeah, um, you know, back in the day, I remember, you know, especially you, you know, being plant manager down in Tennessee, you know, your response for building and buying brand new machines, so on so forth.
And nowadays, they have some stuff that comes from China and overseas, and you can buy a press for, you know, under $100,000. And you can get a, you know, a 300 ton press for $80,000. I’m making these numbers out, but it’s it’s like, Holy smokes. I mean, they’re almost disposable, like these little four wheelers that I see, when you go buy a brand new one, you know, they can cost four or $5,000.
But you can buy these little Chinese Japanese one for $800. I mean, how are they making this making it over there shipping it here, you know, the bad thing is, is they’re cheap, you know, after a week or two, something starts falling off, and you have to replace it and, you know, put duct tape on it. But they’re still they still built the tool. They still made it. And I’m just amazed how, yeah, how cheap things can get any cell phones. Just what you’re getting cell phones for now. And yeah, yes. Yeah.
Damon Pistulka 37:47
be interesting to see how that how that goes. All right. That’s cool. That’s cool. Because I was curious it but it but it is interesting, because that industry was was was old when we got into it. I know. That’s one thing. It’s got, you know, it’s been around because you go back, you know, they were they were molded plastics in the 50s. And, you know, the funny thing
Sean Mertes 38:11
is, is it is old, but compared to steel compared to the other stuff, it’s new technology. It’s really true. New technology. I mean, yeah, I mean, we’re what, you know, 50 years into it, iron and steel goes back to, I guess how old that technology is. And that’s the thing that we’re preaching now is part design. You know, everybody’s like, Oh, just make it thicker, make it thicker, make it thicker?
It’s like, no, the steel industry doesn’t do that. Yeah, they use ibmc channels, they understand moment of inertia. And this is where my engineering background really helps out, you know, because I remember from our statistics class that we took together and some of those classes, but you know, stiffness or rigidity is equal to moment of inertia times your modulates Yeah, so I can have, and I don’t know if I have it with me right now.
But I did a seminar where they talked about a ruler, I take a ruler and I have it in a flat area, I can bend it nice and easy. I turn it this direction, I try to bend it and it’s much more rigid. That’s because my moment of inertia changed. So you know, adding ribs, adding things. And that’s where right now you know, the technology of strength and stiffness, and how thin can you get and how fast can I fill it and sink? And it’s it’s boggling how how things can be made so different. And
Damon Pistulka 39:30
yeah, he’s still evolving the industry with this many years. And like the computers and the design capabilities, and the modeling capabilities allow you to keep getting better and better and better before you actually go into the physical product.
Sean Mertes 39:43
Well, I think we’re slowly starting to catch up to Yeah, the steel industry. Like I said, the I beams and a C channels, and we’ve been doing it for years. But everybody was kind of just following along and plastics and doing what they were doing because it was working. Yeah, broke. don’t fix that. Until all of a sudden now someone goes hey, wait a minute. I got to start worrying about cost.
So I need to go thinner, I need to do this I need to foam, you know, using, you know, technology rake and foam thin wall and I can foam a straw, you know that technology is new where you actually put, you know, carbon dioxide or liquid into the barrel, and then it comes out is you know, a foaming agent as opposed to the widget we use back in the day.
So yeah, knowledge is always changing. There’s, you know, polymers are changing, you know, we have some new grades here, which you know, can go down to minus 60 still maintain clarity, chemical resistance, I’m putting polymers zucchini, I mean, still basically the same polycarbonate backbone, the same copolyester backbone, same backbone, but they’re getting some different things, you know, like, we have a syndiotactic polystyrene. So we
Damon Pistulka 40:54
can’t even say that word. Yeah, but that so they get no put better attitudes to make the properties, the end properties of it more, more, you know, more extreme, I guess for like,
Sean Mertes 41:08
you know, the new trend is green bio base. Yeah. You know, all about bio bass with your background, so on and so forth. But there’s different things bio compatible or bio polymers? Um, you know, is it going to degrade or fragment? And did it come from oil? Or does it come from natural sustainable resources? Yeah, does it disappear, and if it disappears, disappear in 60 days, 90 days a year, 20 years, you know, end of life cycle, you have your pls and pH A’s and so many.
Damon Pistulka 41:41
Yeah, yeah. Cuz there was actually somebody that I was talking to, I saw a guy from California that’s developing cosmetics that are in bottles, that the bottles degrade over, I don’t know how long over nine months or six months or something like that, once they’re in a landfill and, and something to do with the additives and the way that they process the plastic when they’re making it, that allows you to do that. But yeah, that’s that’s interesting, too, because we are reading is one of the some of the things in the sustainability.
The reuse of plastics, and the and the making them be able to degrade is is probably something you get a lot with the more disposable kind of applications it is, but you know, watching stuff, it gets to be a tricky business too, because you could take a disposable degradable, um, cutlery. Yeah. And then if you want to take normal cutlery, you can’t tell the difference between a disposable degradable cutlery and normal cutlery. So you take it and you want to do postconsumer.
So you go in and you start pulling all these different colors out. Now you start blending and mixing well now I contaminated my in with plla because you can’t tell the difference between a PL and nobody’s looking at the numbers nobody’s looking at. You know, we can do some stuff on density and floated out. But it gets to be now you start putting some stuff in your recycled stream. And now you just contaminated this and now things that aren’t supposed to degrade are gonna start to degrade it. It’s a it’s a tough.
Yeah, road. For us. It’s a tough, it’s a tough nut to crack. Yeah, it’s a tough nut to crack, but we’re gonna have to crack it sooner. Because I think that, you know, you’re right, though. Because old school, you had to keep everything absolutely right. Hopefully they’ve figured out better ways to do it now. So at least on some of this, where you’re trying to recycle but you’re exactly right that if if I stick this plastic pin in in a bunch of milk jugs, I just contaminated all the milk jugs because this plastic isn’t anything like the stuff that’s in the milk jugs
Sean Mertes 43:49
when you think about the top of the metal jug is you know, the milk jugs are polyethylene. The tops made out of polypropylene. Yeah, we’ll see if the ring on it that doesn’t come off. And yeah, it’s gonna be separated when they grind it. Yeah, water model. Same thing. The water bottle is made out of a different thing than their cap. Then they have a liner in there. Yeah. All the printing on. Yep.
Damon Pistulka 44:11
Yeah, that’s it. That’s a good point. So recycling is gonna be a challenge or it has been for a long time and hopefully we got some smart people working on that. They’re gonna figure that stuff out. I’m sure there’s a lot of smart people working on that. But yeah, you got a lot of they’re doing that so. So Shawn, what’s up with you for the rest of summer, man? what’s what’s planned? We’re going to do
Sean Mertes 44:33
um, well, we’ve been bought out toy hauler. So actually just a little camper that can throw up early and and we’re gonna go to Sturgis here and 20 some days. So fun. Nice. We’re just talking about going to outdoor concerts. I mean without COVID now it’s nice. Yeah, get out and be around other people and you know, then goes and do different things. You know, the State Fair What’s gonna happen Renaissance Festival? Um, we’ve had phenomenal weather. It’s been dry so the farmers haven’t necessarily liked it. But it’s been mid 80s and Oh, nice
Damon Pistulka 45:12
sunny days. Good stuff, man. Good stuff. Well, it’s it’s been awesome to have you on here Sean and and as it usually does our time Our time is we could sit here for hours but but we got we got, we got things that we’re gonna get done after this so awesome. so thankful to have you here and for those people that want to reach out and get a hold of you. Is LinkedIn a good place to get a hold of you?
Sean Mertes 45:38
Yeah, absolutely. Can I check my LinkedIn? I have some subscribers or followers on so forth.
Damon Pistulka 45:45
Yeah. Very good. So Shawn murder Sam copolymers. If you got any questions about plastics, he said he’s, he’s been in this a couple of weeks now. So well. We’ll be but but he can help out there and and we’ll have your contact information or the company and your LinkedIn profile in the show notes so people can see that when we’re when we get that put up. But thanks so much for being here.
Sean, really appreciate you stopping by the faces of business. Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Damon. All right, man. Everybody else is listening. We’re gonna be back here on Thursday. We’re going to be talking with some another interesting person about business and what they’re doing and just kind of sharing with the people in general. So come on back again, and we will talk some more. Thanks, everyone for joining us today.