Since opening its doors in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1946, Parkway Products, LLC has come a long way in building powerful client partnerships through its custom plastics, metal components and proprietary molding technologies.
As one of America’s most trusted plastics engineering firms, Parkway Products specializes in creating complex high-performance plastics and engineering resin parts solutions. It employs five diversified engineered technologies, namely High Performance Polymer Molding, Machined Plastic Solutions, Magnesium Thixomolding, Thermoset Molding, and Thermoplastic Injection Molding for manufacture, machining, assembly, automation, and even supply chain management. Its exclusive fabrication technologies produce parts that are perfect for applications that require extreme strength to withstand great friction, high temperature, vibration, and chemical exposure. The quality of its work is widely respected, landing it the #72 position on Plastics News’ ranking of the top one hundred injection molders.
In 2019, the company made several acquisitions and now has nine fully-integrated facilities operating as one firm throughout the U.S. and Mexico so clients can always find a Parkway facility within reach. Its facilities can be found in Asheville, North Carolina; Fort Collins and Loveland in Colorado; Greeneville, Tennessee; Seneca and Westminster in South Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Rockford, Illinois, and Saltillo in Coahuila, Mexico.
Parkway’s two hundred-plus clients operate in several markets, including aerospace and electronics, healthcare, agriculture, heavy truck and off-road, and other automotive and industrial sectors. Out of this group of loyal clientele, around twenty-six are Fortune 500 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
The company’s facilities share the same operating system and software to ensure uniformity and to provide clients with a sense of familiarity no matter which branch they use. “Our customers get a consistent, high-quality offering from Parkway that goes way beyond a basic transactional relationship,” says Andrew Green, who has been the company’s Chief Executive Officer since November 2020. “They come to us for a partnership that they can trust. To get the parts developed in a way that not only meets their needs today but will also serve them well over the life of their program.”
The success of its growing manufacturing capabilities and technological investments is evident in its fast-expanding client base, with the new Rockford, Illinois facility bringing with it an increase in business from the aerospace sector. This branch is focused on advanced technologies, molding with high-performance polymers and CNC precision machining of plastic parts combined with value-added services such as automated assembly and complex design for manufacturability.
Even more exciting is its Greenville, South Carolina headquarters located at the Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (ICAR) on the aptly named Research Drive. “This location allows us to be in the sandbox, so to speak, where advanced manufacturing technologies are being developed,” says Green. The company invests in platforms that allow it to continuously improve its technological systems, keeping it up-to-date with the latest developments in the field.
Parkway is structured to assist its customers in transitioning between old and new technologies with the help of multiple proprietary manufacturing technologies. “We can help steer and guide customers down the path to help them from our research and development side with what they are developing,” says Patrick Hunter, the company’s Executive Business Developer. Hunter points out that Parkway’s new Rockford facility especially allows the company to shine.
The Rockford, Illinois facility “has enhanced our development capability. Because we’re able to work with customers on further looking at high-end engineering-grade materials giving them quick-turn application parts that they can then do field testing with quickly,” Hunter adds. This means that the entire tool development cycle is much shorter, bringing components to market faster and helping customers operate and improve their capacities with more complex technology at much greater speed. This inevitably results in a better quality final product while saving customers time and money.
One great example of how the Rockford facility’s capabilities benefit big industry players is how it is helping aerospace customers switch from expensive, heavily-machined components to high-performance, molded alternatives that do not need secondary machining. These solutions are every bit as durable and functional as the original versions but are also more repeatable and much more cost-effective.
The plastics industry is not without its challenges in this pandemic recovery period, causing both customers and suppliers to have a hard time planning for the future. These challenges have arrived in the form of price spikes, component shortages on everything from computer chips to nuts and bolts, plus a general uncertainty on what demand really is out there. Parkway Products, however, knows that trust and solid relationships will help deal with these. “Relationships are critical because we can reward those who have truly partnered with us with consistency, quality, supply, innovation, technology, and responsiveness. We can work together to problem solve given the trust we have with them and that is really where value is created,” says Green. With speed and bespoke solutions fast becoming the norm, Green forecasts these types of relationships to increase in number and importance.
With its close-knit family dynamic, the company’s first response to the still-raging global health crisis was naturally to protect its people. “Our focus needed to be on keeping our employees safe and healthy. We were navigating through territory that was unknown to everyone. The goal was to continue doing business as usual as much as possible [while] keeping our folks safe and healthy. [This] was the most important thing,” says Amber Galford, the firm’s Vice President of Human Resources. Part of its strategy looked at what was working or not working for other companies and applying safety and other procedures that best suited its teams and its business structure.
This approach placed the company and its teams across the country in a strong position. The result of operating smoothly was that its existing clients and several new ones could depend on Parkway Products as a go-to supplier. Galford is confident that keeping the company’s people and their families in good health keeps the business going and growing during an economic challenge the world has not seen in many years.
During this time, the company continued supplying its clients with parts and technological product launch management. “During the pandemic, there was a tremendous need for oxygen concentrating equipment for life support throughout the world. We were able to use our technology to make essential components,” says Green. The company also launched robotic assembly for fabricating larger numbers of thermoplastic components for another client in the healthcare industry. “This helped save lives throughout the world but it all started with a Parkway team that was able to keep each other safe and healthy and took care of each other and our customers,” Green adds.
The new CEO is full of praise for his employees. “I’m amazed by [them], I’m proud of the resiliency of our associates, of our team members. They stepped up [to the challenge] and were able to do a lot of good,” he says.
Galford supports this statement, highlighting her fifteen years at the company as being a member of a big, caring family that loves one another. “It makes for a very strong unit of people. The best part is that it is true. This [family] feeling has certainly helped us navigate through these tough times,” she says.
The Vice President knows what she is talking about. Since starting with the company in 2007, when it had only around one hundred employees, she has seen it grow to about eight hundred people over the past fourteen years. She ascribes the firm’s success at building team spirit to its insistence on letting its people know that they matter and that they are appreciated as leadership focuses on making the company a preferred employer throughout its regions. This has allowed it to increase the team in such a way that, despite its size, has maintained warmth and a feeling of belonging to something greater.
As a token of thanks to its people, the company provides a wellness program managed by a dedicated team that oversees the health of all who work for Parkway Products. Employees enjoy having access to health professionals and are incentivized to participate. “We do everything we can to create an environment [in which] we can help folks make healthy decisions about smoking and exercising,” says Galford. “We encourage our employees to get involved in activities that benefit them from a health and wellness perspective.”
This sense of family is extended to the greater community as the company supports as many charitable causes and organizations as it can, annually. From community activities to a Toys for Tots drive at holiday time, the list is hefty. Greeneville, Tennessee, gains its support every year during its winter athletics season, as do many other initiatives that the firm knows are close to its people’s hearts.
Parkway is known for forging ahead no matter the challenges. “It’s been a proud moment here for us to reach our seventy-fifth year in business. The statistics are pretty telling. I think only one in three businesses last ten years; about one in ten last sixty years. I’m looking forward to a time when reconnecting in person is possible,” says Green. Starting this past April, the company started celebrating its anniversary at its plants, and celebrations will last until April 2022.
Management is ready to support his vision and continue the legacy of integrity that has brought it this far. He points out that the company has seen many economic cycles come and go and that this will not change but that its resiliency will continue to carry the company far into the future. As 2021 has seen ongoing growth, Parkway Products is ready to take on whatever comes next.
“We don’t spend our time and resources cultivating awards. Saving people’s lives by supplying life-saving equipment around the world and being able to launch projects during the pandemic: that’s what matters to us,” says Green. “Our customer list is the envy of many in the industry. That’s what is gratifying to us. That’s where we [continue] to spend our time and energy. Our goal is to reach the century mark.”
Value addition is not going away at Parkway Products, and this formidable team will undoubtedly reach that hundred-year goal over the next twenty-five years.