In 2023, Conair marketed a bold new challenge to its customers, to “Make Every Pellet Count.” It’s a challenge that encompasses not only providing the broadest line of auxiliary equipment, but also the knowledge, advice, technical and field service that plastics processors worldwide need to transform feedstock – plastic pellets — into high-quality products with maximum efficiency, and an eye toward recyclability, reuse and longterm sustainability.

To support this challenge, Conair relies on a mix of the old and the new – skilled and experienced personnel, new people and ideas, trusted products, service and support innovations and constant development of new technologies.

Standing as it has for more than 65 years, the Conair Franklin facility may be easy to overlook, though it is the home of one of Venango County’s largest and longest-tenured employers. Among the more quiet, external changes coming to the facility is new signage, where the name and logo of Piovan Group will appear just above that of Conair, reflecting Piovan Group’s acquisition of IPEG and Conair in January 2022.

The impacts of the 2022 acquisition are still being felt through the global plastics industry, since the acquisition created the largest supplier of plastics auxiliary equipment in the world, combining Piovan’s strong market position in Europe, the Middle East and Asia with Conair’s market-leading position in the Americas, India and Asia. For decades, both companies have built successful equipment brands and have much to learn and share in terms of people, products, services and new technologies. As the dynamics of this mix continue to unfold, Conair President Jason Ganim makes clear that the Conair Franklin facility and its employees remain a focal point for growth and investment in the company’s global future.

“Some things have changed at Conair, but many things remain the same,” said Ganim. “We have been and expect to continue as a strong, stable employer in Venango County. That legacy is going to continue as we are very proud of the people and the products we produce here.”

Driving New Products

In 2023, products and technologies developed by Piovan and Doteco, an Italy-based sister company of Conair, have helped Conair open new markets and sales opportunities. For example, two families of material blenders developed by Doteco are now marketed by Conair under a new brand name, Conair by Doteco. Another product, the Vento air ring, is also part of the new Conair by Doteco offering.

Together, these products open the way for expanded sales to producers of blown film and synthetic fibers markets throughout North America.

Another new product is the AutoRSS – an Automatic Resin Selection System. The AutoRSS enables the automatic routing of multiple sources of plastic resin to multiple destinations of plastics processing machines. This new product complements existing Conair products that perform similar tasks but with a unique design that serves customers who desire more automation.

Collaboration around these and other products and technologies from Piovan have brought new opportunities to our Franklin employees, who now support these products with assembly, shipping, technical support, and spare parts services. Ganim notes that the new products, parts, and service operations have all merged smoothly and cost-effectively – all part of the ongoing integration with Piovan.

Conair also added to its line of size-reduction equipment in 2023 by developing the GP “general purpose” shredder, filling a gap in its size-reduction product line. The new GP shredder serves small- to medium-sized plastics processors who need to grind their scrap economically for reprocessing so that they can “Make Every Pellet Count.”

Conair has been asked by the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) to provide one of its Viper family of granulators to a unique “sustainability” exhibit at the NPE2024 trade show in May. The Viper granulator, which is equipped with Conair’s latest “Smart Granulator with Optimizer” (SG) control, will play a vital part in PLASTICS’ efforts to repurpose and recycle 100 percent of the scrap plastics produced at this global trade show.

Structuring for Success

Early in 2023, Conair completed an internal reorganization to best focus on product execution and customer needs. That reorganization expanded the Product Management team and created Engineering and Product Development teams, a Systems and Installation group, a Units Equipment team, as well as focused sales efforts centered on heat transfer, size reduction and extrusion products.

The Product Development and Product Management teams are working to develop new technologies and products, and to manage the evolution of Conair’s extensive product range. The team, together with the rest of the organization, will showcase its efforts by fielding a display of 55 products in 20 interactive displays at NPE2024.

The newly formed Systems group now focuses solely on designing, engineering, sourcing and installing “turnkey” systems for plastics processors. Its dedicated role reflects the tremendous growth of Conair’s systems business as processors recognize the exceptional value and return on investment that they can realize when the Systems team solves equipment selection, installation and integration challenges that their own personnel lack the time, experience or opportunity to solve on their own.

The daily, bread-and-butter work of helping customers assess, size and select individual items, or “units,” of Conair equipment is the task of the new Unit Sales team, which serves hundreds of customers each week. Additionally, the Extrusion sales group handles the specialized equipment involved in tube, pipe, and profile extrusion processes. Long recognized for its expertise in profile and tube extrusions, especially for medical, industrial and building-products applications, the Extrusion team has recently expanded its portfolio to include PipeMaster products for downstream processing of large plastic pipes, up to two feet in diameter. Another new release in 2024 will be Profile Master – a system designed for large-size plastic extruded profiles. Our Size Reduction team is excited to be in year two of the GP shredder rollout, and our Heat Transfer team is looking to build upon the recent successful relaunch of our Temperature Control Unit lineup.

Creating Innovations

Conair’s most recent innovations go well beyond new equipment. A labor shortage affecting the plastics industry has made it difficult for processors to recruit and retain skilled, dedicated operations and maintenance personnel. This shortage, combined with the rapid pace of change in equipment technology, has made it more challenging for processors to operate and maintain their equipment inhouse. In response, Conair employees have played an integral role in developing and delivering new solutions, including a “common” control platform that is easier to learn and use across multiple equipment types, and two new contract service offerings.

The first new service innovation sends Conair field personnel to processor facilities to provide regular “MachineHealth” assessments. These periodic assessments are used to verify equipment operation, identify and recommend maintenance procedures, and help customers’ in-house personnel learn effective maintenance practices. The second, equipment service agreements, go a step further. These agreements leverage the experience of Conair field personnel to provide complete, “turnkey” maintenance and repairs as required to keep processors’ production equipment running to perfection.

“Both of these new programs provide vital support for our customers and will help to expand our revenue base in the years ahead,” said Brian Dowler, vice president of Product Management and
Customer Care.

Meeting Challenges

Nothing is more important to Conair – and its Franklin- based assembly operations – than making on-time deliveries of high-quality products to customers. To accomplish this task, Conair engages hundreds of full-time employees and works with dozens of supplier companies in a global supply chain.

However, like many companies, Vice President of Operations Bob Puleo said that Conair experienced supply chain problems in 2022 and 2023 that affected its on-time-delivery performance. “To address this issue, we have undertaken a continuous improvement effort to evaluate and add qualified, competitive suppliers to our supply chain,” said Puleo. “We have also insourced and expanded a number of operations, including our electrical panel department, where Conair staff can outperform external suppliers by responding quickly to customer needs. As a result of these and many other efforts, on-time delivery results have improved steadily throughout 2023.”

Developing Talent

Conair recognizes that its current success relies on the talent of dedicated employees, but that its future as an employer and member of the Franklin community, depends on its ability to develop new leaders through educational and community outreach. That is why Conair invests extensively in developing and retaining its employees.

Conair takes pride in exceptional employee loyalty. It enjoys an employee retention rate of 87 percent and invests in employee talents whenever possible. So, as Conair set a new high for EBITDA in 2023, proceeds dedicated to employee profit-sharing added approximately $1.50/hour to the regular wages of every single employee. And, new for 2023, Conair employees enjoyed “Give Back Day,” a PTO day dedicated to community service paid for by the company.

Educational outreach also plays a vital role. Once again in 2023, the Conair engineering co-op program offered several University of Pittsburgh students paid internships in new product development. This ongoing program, which saw three former co-ops hired for full-time work in 2023, continues to play an important role in bringing in new talent and ideas vital to the future.

Having a little fun – safely, of course – was also on the agenda for 2023. A new, employee-run committee arranged monthly get-togethers – picnics, ballgames, and family fun – while a new program, “Toolbox Talks,” offered monthly training on important elements of workplace safety. Topics included CPR and fire extinguisher training, and safety refreshers involving ladders, hand tools, electric devices and more. Progress in the ongoing safety initiative is tracked on monthly scorecards and posted for all employees.

2024 Outlook

Fresh off record-setting revenues in 2023, Ganim sees another promising year ahead. “Right now, our revenues are at an all-time high,” said Ganim. “We’re planning for additional revenue growth next year, and with all our activities dedicated to new product launches, improving the supply chain and boosting on-time deliveries, we expect to see a strong start to 2024.”

“There’s a legacy here, built on a committed, high-performing workforce, a solid business, a lot of hard work, and a little fun, too,” said Ganim. “In collaboration with the Piovan Group, we will continue to focus on innovation, our customers, our employees and our community here in Franklin. Conair people, products and services make a huge impact in virtually every region of the world, and we’re going to keep right on doing so.”