Making Recycled Plastic Work

Gracious Living Corporation
Written by Pauline Müller

In a time when sustainability and the environment is a growing concern, Gracious Living works toward maintaining its signature style in the iconic products that improve our lives, while improving the state of our planet.

Canada’s biggest patio furniture brand is stepping up to the global environmental challenge by using increasing quantities of recycled materials in its lines, while keeping quality and product performance unchanged.

With its main facilities based in Woodbridge and Mississauga, Ontario, the company’s stylish products are favoured throughout North America. By building close customer relationships, its team keeps close tabs on end-users’ needs and requirements, enabling it to maintain its position as relevant and a trendsetter. As a nimble industry leader, the company is well known for its novel approach and its innovation, responding fast to customer demands.

For this team of dedicated industry professionals, customer service is one of its all-time top priorities. To ensure this priority permeates all its departments, it has implemented a sophisticated order-processing system whereby production scheduling and completion dates are immediately generated as orders are captured. Clients are then given this information, together with the shipment window and a pick-up number.

Adapting and evolving
Gracious Living Corporation also prides itself on being adaptable, evolving alongside its market and the international manufacturing industry with the help of the latest tech. “We have been recently focused on information technology and expanding our recycling and compounding capabilities,” says Carlo Nudi, vice president of business development.

The company also recently introduced an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system which, along with new wireless technology and automatic reporting, has given it improved access to real-time data during the manufacturing process.

With the ever-present pressure to improve recycling, the company’s long-held target of achieving 100 percent recovery of all plastic waste was achieved, thanks to a significant investment in the latest equipment. “We extend our recycling and compounding services to help our contract customers through collection and recycling programs we manage,” Nudi says.

Considering that plastic can take up to 500 years to break down when dumped into the earth, this is a significant contribution to a global issue – especially in the light of a recent report that claims the U.S. recycles less than 10 percent of its municipal solid waste stream.

This gives plastic manufacturers an even greater responsibility to do what is right for the environment by reusing material – a responsibility that Gracious Living is fully embracing and in which it is setting an admirable example. Manufacturing new products from recycled materials can generate energy savings of up to 60 percent – a benefit not to be scoffed at. Another notable saving is gasoline; as much as 2,000 gallons on every ton of recycled plastic.

Production heavyweight
Gracious Living is also one of Canada’s leading plastics moulders. Its 65 injection moulding machines ranging from 100 tons to 3000 tons, 43 extrusion lines, and extensive recycling and compounding capabilities enable the production of premium products for contract customers. And this immense capacity is what allows the company to meet the most demanding customer needs. From the design phase to prototyping and tooling, plastic injection moulding, extrusion, and assembly, Gracious Living does it all. Its capabilities also include sophisticated laboratory equipment for process control and material analysis meanwhile adhering to the International Organization for Standardization’s ISO-9001:2015, a protocol outlining the requirements and setting the standards for quality management systems.

The company is also a registered partner in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), a program to strengthen collaboration between government and privately-held companies.

In its manufacturing operation, the company is structured for optimum efficiency with over 500 employees and a great management team spread across 12 departments. Its divisions cover finance, sales, human resources, customer service, engineering and product development, purchasing and materials, production, quality control, recycling and compounding, maintenance, and information technology.

Thirty years
This year marks the company’s 30th year in business since the resin patio-furniture brand, Gracious Living, was purchased by Vito Galloro and Enzo Macri, in 1989. The Gracious Living Corporation was born of humble beginnings with small premises that included an office and a distribution facility. At the time, all its work was contracted, with the brand exclusively focused on patio furniture mainly distributed throughout Canada.

Over time, the company grew from its role of sales, marketing, and distribution of patio furniture in Canada into establishing its own extensive manufacturing capabilities. It also expanded its distribution to the United States. Its proprietary product lines evolved to include houseware, hardware, and recreational products sold throughout Canada, the USA, and Mexico. One of the most iconic products was the storage-drawer towers in its houseware category, a huge market favourite for many years.

Production skyrocketed and soon, its manufacturing capabilities were extended to include contract manufacturing for other companies. As market demands began to revolve more around sustainability, the company moved into recycling programs with its customers’ plastics, too.

Today, Gracious Living is Canada’s biggest patio furniture brand, manufacturing tons of products in its facilities amounting to over 1,000,000 square feet. “In addition to proprietary products we have balanced our portfolio with contract manufacturing, supporting world-class customers from design to mass production and distribution,” says Nudi.

Keeping it lean
Ontario’s rising costs challenge the company to keep its operations lean and efficient without losing quality. The focus is strong on remaining both cost-efficient and financially stable, often by maintaining stable recycled material content in selected product lines, mitigating the risk of cost volatility in virgin materials.

These lines are often most popular with environmentally-aware clients who want products with higher sustainability specifications. To satisfy this market, the company has introduced state of the art technology with which to extract scrap material that is then transformed into high-quality pellets. “This allows us to meet our customers’ challenging requirements and maintain our efficiencies and ultimately, our profitability,” Carlo says.

Building and sustaining
When it comes to sharing the secrets of its success, the company is generous with its knowledge. Carlo’s advice is that talent and dedication are very important in any team, as that’s what builds and sustains companies. As soon as the right team is in place, ensure the team remains highly motivated. Give them focus and direction and see to it that everybody paddles in unison.

In terms of innovation, his advice is to always embrace the new and to continue improving and moving forward, with great customer service underscoring everything you do. Lastly, Carlo’s advice is to be smart about supply chain management and to establish a stable supply base. Good, long-term partnerships and strategies always stand one in good stead.

With its sights fixed on growth and innovation, Gracious Living is committed to implementing the latest technology in its drive to become an internationally-relevant recycled-plastics manufacturer.

A main target, of course is to minimize its environmental impact and, to achieve this, the company has already shown that it welcomes change by fully adapting to it. Ardently keeping plastic in the recycling loop, while producing quality products, this company is achieving some admirable goals.



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