Jamestown Plastics, Inc. takes pride in its ability to design and manufacture challenging products according to precise client specifications. A custom manufacturer of thermoformed products, Jamestown celebrated its 60th anniversary this year.
A family-run business, Jamestown Plastics boasts an innovative product of its own called the Click it Clam™. A reusable clamshell container, the Click it Clam™ can store a wide variety of items and has won kudos from consumers and industry groups.
Company President Jay Baker is proud of the Click it Clam™ and Jamestown’s all-around capabilities. “One of the key attributes to who we are and who we’ve been for decades is that we do all of our own engineering and all of our design and most critically, all of our own tooling in-house,” he says. “So when somebody comes to us with anything from a sketch on a napkin to a product in hand [with] complete models and math data, we’re able to take it on… There are a lot of shops that don’t control [the manufacturing] process from A to Z. We do, and that allows us to maintain our promises to our customers about delivery and quality,” says Baker.
Jamestown operates two manufacturing facilities in Brocton, New York (where the company is also headquartered) and Brownsville, Texas. Both plants are ISO 9001:2008 certified, and the firm will be moving to ISO 2015 certification this summer. In addition to its in-house tooling and engineering operations, the company also operates a warehouse in Phoenix, Arizona and a few smaller storage facilities where it keeps raw materials and finished goods.
Jamestown has clients in the medical, consumer goods, aerospace, defense, electronics, industrial and automotive sectors. The company’s products include everything from mud flaps and automotive trim components, to hazardous materials packaging (for aerospace and defense customers), clamshells, signage and produce organizers. “Right now by sales volume, medical would be number one,” states Baker.
The company also offers contract packaging and fulfillment services including blister sealing, radio frequency sealing, inventory control and tracking, and more.
A high-tech operation, Jamestown utilizes precision robotic laser systems and specialized clean rooms. “We have clean rooms at both locations where we do products that require [a high] level of particulate control and humidity control,” explains Baker.
Altogether, Jamestown has around 100 employees. “We’re a relatively small company. We have three full-time engineers and probably have six who might wear multiple hats. We have folks in our tooling area that are completely capable of designing and engineering as well as actually building the tool. They jump in on projects with the skill sets necessary to get the project done,” says Baker.
Jamestown Plastics was founded in 1958. Baker’s father became General Manager in the early 1970s then bought the company with his wife in 1976. Jamestown remains a family-run firm, with Jay Baker as sole owner.
“My father’s philosophy was always to find a solution for the customer; don’t say ‘no’. We’re a company that tries really hard not to use that word. We have customers come to us with [ideas] that our competition has turned away as impossible. We try very hard to find a solution for our customers. Through that we’ve become very diversified in our capabilities as well as our customer base,” says Baker.
Indeed, diversification has helped Jamestown through some tough times. “We have clients ranging from very small companies to multi-billion dollar corporations. We have a very, very big range in industries served, from pharmaceutical to automotive to consumer goods to industrial. We had some competitors that didn’t make it through the recession; they were heavily focused on automotive. Our business in automotive also fell; in 2009, it was abysmal. But our other areas allowed us to stay afloat and keep moving forward,” states Baker.
Another company principle has been to “treat employees like family. They’re very loyal. They’re not jumping ship. We have many employees that have been with us 25 to 30 years and that’s at all levels, from shop floor level on up to management,” he continues.
In terms of what the company looks for in a new hire, Baker says, “The number one thing is attitude. We look for self-starters. Given the types of things we do, it’s great to have [people with] some mechanical aptitude. That relates to understanding ways of solving problems for the customer. We have many employees that were doing the simplest things when they started with us—picking parts off the end of a line of a machine or boxing. They showed an aptitude for some other area and we encouraged them. We have an employee who has been with us 30 years now that started out packing parts. She’s now one of our top tool designers. We try to provide opportunities for employees.”
One huge opportunity for the entire company comes in the form of its proprietary product, the Click it Clam™. Baker came up with the concept for this product himself. The cleverly designed clamshell has a special locking feature. As a product, the Click it Clam™ is easy to handle (it can be opened and closed with one hand) but is also durable and tough. Jamestown can emboss a company’s name and logo on the Click it Clam™ if they so request. Perhaps most importantly, the Click it Clam™ is not a single-use product, but can be reused as needed.
Introduced less than three years ago, the Click it Clam™ “is the first product that we’ve had that we sell direct to consumers. We’re selling Click it Clams™ as a storage solution for everything from ammunition to toilet paper—anything you want to put in it. That’s what we’re trying to get across to major players in the consumer products area. You’re already using plastic as a packaging solution. Why not, for no more cost, give the consumer a reusable container? It is the perfect [application] for reduce, reuse, recycle. You can [use it to] build brand loyalty. For all of our customers, we put their logo onto the Click it Clam™,” says Baker.
In addition to ammunition and toilet paper, Click it Clam™ customers have used the product to store medical supplies, hardware items such as nails, screws and bolts and consumer goods.
Some industry experts have called the product “revolutionary,” says Baker. Indeed, the Society of Plastics Engineers recently gave the Click it Clam™ a gold Innovative Product of the Year award in the thermoforming division – roll fed category.
Innovative as the Click it Clam™ is, Jamestown still puts heavy emphasis on “old-fashioned customer service,” says Baker. To this end, Jamestown wants suppliers that are “a lot like us. If we have an issue, we call them up and say, ‘it’s our screw up, but can you help us out?’ Just like we do with our customers. We frequently can pull a rabbit out of a hat for our customers. That builds loyalty. In our supply base, we look for the same thing. Quality’s got to be there; in manufacturing today, that’s a given. After quality, price is important and customer service. Old-fashioned customer service is what we look for,” he states.
Over the decades, Jamestown has been involved “in some really crazy things,” he shares. The company once worked on a project to develop a protective covering for armored tank-piercing missiles, for example. The client in that case was the U.S. military. “We do a lot of different things that people don’t normally think of in our industry. We like the most challenging projects,” states Baker.
In terms of promotion, Jamestown takes part in a fair number of trade shows. The firm recently headed to Las Vegas to exhibit at a shooting show where company staff highlighted the Click it Clam’s™ ability to store ammunition and outdoor supplies. Jamestown also does national hardware shows and maintains a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Baker says “maximizing the potential” of the Click it Clam™ is Jamestown’s biggest challenge at present. “There are so many different and diverse avenues for this invention. We’re trying to narrow the field a bit and seize those opportunities. We’re trying to address the most obvious applications and get into those markets. We’ve picked up many, many new customers just in the past 18 months. And we’ve got hundreds and hundreds of very interested customers that we’re in conversation with.”
The company’s future growth in part depends on how it responds to the Click it Clam’s™ growing popularity, he says. “We have customers who wish us to supply them internationally with the Click it Clam™. One of our challenges is to decide what approach to take to that: a partnership approach with a foreign manufacturer? Establish a foreign manufacturing presence and do it ourselves? We’re working right now through some of those possible opportunities,” states Baker.
That said, Jamestown’s immediate prospects look very bright. “2018 will be a very interesting year for us. We will be in Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods. There will be Click it Clams™ in all those locations. That gives us a lot of exposure,” says Baker.