As a third-generation, family-owned manufacturer offering advanced thermoforming solutions, Ray Products is committed to staying at the forefront of industry knowledge and trends. We attended this year’s SPE Thermoforming Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, October 24-26, to learn about the latest innovations in thermoforming machinery, materials, and equipment. President Brian Ray reflects on this year’s conference and discusses the impact it is poised to have on the company’s future endeavors and the evolving landscape of thermoforming as a whole.
Q: What was your biggest takeaway from attending the 2023 SPE Thermoforming Conference?
A: “I’m always amazed at the advances made in our industry. The shared focus on elevating the process and the willingness to discuss best practices is refreshing.”
Q: What significant advancements in thermoforming were discussed at the conference?
A: “I was really impressed with the amount of high-level assembly being done within our industry. It’s not just custom molding of plastic parts anymore – it’s high-level, complex assemblies incorporating various processes coming together to provide a finished part solution for customers.”
Q: What current challenges facing the thermoforming industry were discussed, and how does Ray Products plan to address them to maintain its competitive edge?
A: “The cost of manufacturing – regardless of industry – is a constant challenge. We’re based in California, so we’re no stranger to manufacturing challenges; that’s why we focus so much on automation, employee training, and early customer involvement. With so many manufacturing choices, we need to make sure we listen to our customers, understand what they want, and determine if our process is the best fit to satisfy those customer requirements.”
Q: What were the key discussions and impressions during your interactions with industry professionals at the conference?
A: “We spent a lot of time with various tooling manufacturers, discussing more automated solutions for formed-in features like undercuts, better surface finishes for molded-in texture and reduced lead times. We were also impressed with the prototype services offered by various vendors at the show. From a materials standpoint, the number of thermoplastics being offered that can solve many issues other processes face is remarkable. There are numerous solutions for high-impact, chemical-resistant, fire-rated, recyclable, high-heat materials that won’t scratch or dent, can be bonded and color-matched, have low surface energy, and meet UL V-0 and 746C regulations. The possibilities are endless.”
Q: Did anything catch your eye at the conference as a potential asset for enhancing Ray Products’ current capabilities?
A: “Anything that can reduce set-up or cycle times has my attention. Quick change systems for tooling and clamp frame systems that easily adjust were a talking point. Automation was a huge topic, not just for material handling and secondary operations, but the impact AI and machine learning will have on our industry.”
Q: This year’s conference theme was “The Business of Thermoforming.” What key strategies do you foresee implementing to ensure Ray Products remains at the forefront of the thermoforming industry?
A: “A continued push to measure and improve. Sometimes we get stuck in the weeds of our day-to-day operations, and this conference provides so much additional perspective that I always leave with fresh insights and actionable strategies that can be implemented to improve our business.
Additionally, industry and processing knowledge are critical to success. Therefore, we need to be better at documenting what we have and elevating our employees to become the next generation of leaders within our industry.”
Q: Are there any final thoughts you’d like to share about the conference?
A: “With so many ways to communicate and access information, we can easily forget how important a face-to-face conversation can be, as well firsthand experiences like holding a sample part, touching a prototype tool, or seeing oven heating technology up close and in person. This year’s conference was an amazing experience, and I especially enjoyed the panel discussions, which are a great way to share and exchange best practices.”
President Brian Ray’s insights from the 2023 SPE Thermoforming Conference illuminate our commitment to industry leadership. Armed with a fresh perspective and newfound knowledge, Ray Products is geared to navigate challenges, embrace innovation, and shape the future of thermoforming. If you’re ready to start your thermoforming journey with us, contact us today!