the next generation of manufacturing is here, thogus president says

When it comes to manufacturing facilities, the first things to come to mind are not state-of-the-art gyms, free personal trainers and tech-savvy employees. Yet Thogus, a national provider of plastic injection molding services based in Avon Lake, is no ordinary manufacturer.

"The perception of manufacturing facilities is that they're full of smokestacks, dirty and capital-intensive," Matt Hlavin, President of Thogus, told the audience at last week's sold out TEDxCLE conference. "We've created a culture in which everyone is an innovator, and we want our employees to have a work-life balance."

Thogus, founded in 1950 as a traditional tool and dye shop, got into the plastics industry in 1958. Hlavin joined the company in the late 90s and took over as President in 2009. In the past 15 years, Thogus has reinvented itself as a leader in the growing field of customized plastic injection molding.

"Today, our society is not about mass production, it's about mass customization," Hlavin said. "We're the next generation of manufacturing -- companies like ours take a customer's idea and help them to create it."

Since taking the helm, Hlavin has worked to develop the next generation of manufacturing employee by training his workers in the latest technology and providing a clean, modern work environment. Today, Thogus employees use crowd-sourcing to develop and test products, employ social media to communicate their latest product innovations, and maintain an ongoing rapport with customers. "We can make a customized iPhone cover in 45 minutes," Hlavin said.

As another example of Thogus' innovative products, Hlavin cited a device that will help autistic children to predict when they will get uncomfortable in their environment. The technology will help them to lead healthier and more normal lives.

Reinventing Thogus wasn't easy. After making a decision to get out of the automotive business and focus solely on plastic injection molding, Hlavin reduced his workforce by more than half. "This helped us to become a more agile company and go after the next generation of employee."

Source: Matt Hlavin
Writer: Lee Chilcote

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