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Every year, Plastics News conducts a survey of North American thermoformers and ranks them by annual sales.  This year, for the first time, Ray Products made the top 100.

In fact, we received special recognition in the introduction to the report for moving “up 32 spaces”.  That took us from 122nd last year to a respectable 90th this year.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “What’s the big deal?” Is celebrating 90th place really worth celebrating at all?

Yes, and here’s why:

According to data from the survey, the thermoforming market in North America is a $13.3 billion market. 85% of that market is dedicated to thin-gauge packaging, which typically includes clamshells and blisters, a segment we’re not part of. We are, however, ranked against that segment of the industry in this list.

If you exclude thin-gauge thermoformers from the list, our ranking improves dramatically, putting us at:

  • 26th overall for specialty heavy-gauge thermoformers
  • 22nd overall for specialty pressure formers
  • 10th overall for heavy-gauge thermoformers who specialize in medical devices

In a market dominated by disposable packaging, we are proud to make the top 100 when we’re exclusively making durable, long-lasting equipment.

So, we thought we’d take a look at what helped us get here. For that, we sat down with our company president, Brian Ray. Brian represents the 3rd generation of family leadership at Ray Products. On April 1st, the company celebrated its 71st year in operation.

Brian attributes Ray Products’ recent growth to a number of factors.

“Our growth has come from different areas,” says Brian. “Being willing to take on technically challenging projects, strong partners who trusted us to do things that haven’t really been done before in thermoforming, new materials from strong materials partners, and being able to bring new things to market.”

Still, when Brian looks at the top-100 list and picks out heavy-gauge thermoformers like Ray Products who have experienced growth over the last few years, he does see some commonality.

“In my dad’s generation,” says Brian, “secrecy was a big deal. You didn’t talk about your projects, because you were afraid someone might swoop in and take your clients. I inherited that perspective from him, but I’ve had to realize that things have changed.”

“Today,” says Brian, “if you’re not showcasing the work you do, it’s seen as a sign that you might not be doing work that you’re proud of. Now, we’re intentional about showing off our work whenever our clients give us the go-ahead, and we’re really open about the technology and processes we’re using. I’m sure that’s earned us far more work than we may have lost.”

“When I look at the other heavy-gauge thermoformers who are climbing up the list,” says Brian, “they’re open and transparent in the same ways.”

Even in a competitive industry, Brian says he’s always experienced an impressive amount of collegiality in thermoforming. The Plastic News rankings list the name of each company’s CEO, and Brian estimates he’d recognize close to half of them at a trade show.

“It’s nice to be part of an industry where I’d happily take a call from any of the CEOs on this list, and I’m sure they’d do the same for me,” says Brian. “Not because we made a top-100 list this year, but because that’s the way our industry has always worked.”

As for what’s next, there’s no doubt that we’re facing a time of uncertainty. No one knows yet what the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be on thermoforming or manufacturing in general. Right now, our facility is busy churning out critical medical supply components and parts for other critical infrastructure projects. But it’s impossible to say what next month — or next quarter — might bring.

Still, Brian does see some reason to be optimistic in the face of the challenges brought on by coronavirus.

“We haven’t seen a disruption to the global supply chain anything like this in decades,” says Brian. “I wouldn’t be surprised if, in a post COVID-19 world, many manufacturers see more value in sourcing components closer to home.”

Whatever the future brings, it’s nice to be recognized for our growth. And as always, we recognize that it couldn’t have happened without the hard work of our talented employees as well as the support of our suppliers and customers.

Also, we’d like to give a special thanks to Hollee Keller, an editorial research coordinator from Plastics News who was incredibly helpful in helping us dig in to and analyze some of the data in the top-100 report.

How Can Ray Products Help You Today?