The Australian manufacturer moulding its own identity

As a manufacturer, finding your place in a competitive marketplace often means attempting new ideas that have the potential to disrupt the industry. At A Plus Plastics, the family business is setting the tone as well as meeting industry demand.

At the turn of the millennium, Matt Holloway and his father took their moulding business into a new era.

From humble beginnings, A Plus Plastics is now in its own rights an automated injection moulding manufacturer – distributing a homegrown production line, in addition to its commissioned work the business was originally built on.

A Plus is now leading the plastics industry in the design and manufacture of rigid plastic containers for packaging, materials handling and supply chain logistics market.

It was in 1973 when company founder, John Holloway, bought the first injection moulder for his Sydney-based firm.

At its inception, he relied upon large orders by the truckload to afford to invest in more workers and more machines.

In 2007, his son took the helm and the business into unchartered territory.

With the dawn of disruptive technology, he and his father, who is now the company’s chairman, had the foresight to commercialise their own range of product lines from a variety of different materials.

Almost two decades later, and the business still thrives on its ‘family-run’ status, while embracing new technologies that have made it a reliable contributor to the global supply chain.

“We have had to change the ways we do things to stay competitive and the establishment of our own proprietary products has done that,” Holloway said.

“My father didn’t have any of his own products, so companies would approach him and request large quantities of different components that they wanted to be made as part contract service, which still makes up 50 per cent of our business.

“When we bought the company back in 2001, we recognised that manufacturing in Australia was headed towards a pretty tough climate – with a strong dollar at the time and strong competition overseas – so that’s when we put a lot of capital into our own proprietary products.”

As a managing director who has grown up in the business, Holloway has strived to maintain its roots as a contract injection moulder its client base can rely on.

The company’s machines can mould up to a 7kg shot of plastic with clamp force to 1,400 tonnes all equipped with some form of automation, whether that is a three- or six-axis robot, which increases efficiency, consistency and improves cycle-time.

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“If you look at our productivity, you can probably measure it somewhere between 20 and 30 per cent from a tangible figure of output,” Holloway continued.

“Without automation, it would otherwise mean having an operator on the side of the machine, opening and closing a door. Electricity is one of our biggest overheads working in the manufacturing industry.

“Our machines hours have increased our electricity usage but the cost has remained very stable and comes down to how efficient the machines are.”

As a one-stop shop for the moulding and tooling industry, A Plus Plastics has put itself in a position where it can serve the client at any stage of production – from design and prototyping all the way to the final stage of mass production

This, Holloway says, is the trend manufacturers are following. While labour costs overseas are generally cheaper than here in Australia, by automating the workshop, manufacturers like A Plus Plastics are able to complete a variety of orders at a more competitive rate.

A Plus Plastics manufacture a range of engineering polymers from recycled polypropylenes, ABS, and styrenes, right through to tensile glass filled Nylons.

“We complete a lot of inquires online through our web page for moulding assistance,” Holloway said, “but we do have a reputation in the marketplace which means companies will seek us out.

“We are able to offer that turnkey solution for our customers, which means we can handle design and prototyping and the production of commissioned tooling overseas here in Australia.”

Forecasting advancements in the industry, the company is now writing its own story – no longer relying only on demand but also setting the tone for the industry, which has sustained a steady growth that can often evade Australian start-up manufacturers seeking a foothold.

“With our own products, we are in control of our own market,” Holloway continued. “We sell our products to a well-established distributor base and often our products become part of their business too.

“Generally, the margin on our own products is a lot healthier, so there is a lot less risk. In the marketplace, we are seen as an alternative manufacturer for high-volume production work compared to our larger competitors here and overseas.

“There are a few major moulding companies in Australia and we are seen as a flexible alternative, as a family-owned company, which customers continue to find appealing.”