As a result of continuous product development and considerable investment, Thermoplay is considered a global leader in hot runner system solutions. Business Development Manager Chris Whitlam has been in the plastics industry for almost 20 years, and at Thermoplay for over five years. He is the next PlastikCity Partner to face the HotSeat…
What trends do you think will shape the future of UK plastics? How will Thermoplay respond?
Biodegradable issues and the life cycle of plastic materials will become ever more prominent due to the environmental issues around the globe. Thermoplay have already successfully processed some grades of biodegradable plastics and continue to conduct trials of such polymers at our technical centre whenever these come on to the market.
How has Thermoplay developed during your tenure?
In the UK Thermoplay has been increasingly recognised as a quality brand: The business has grown into a global organisation thanks to the backing of our owner the Barnes Group. In the UK, for example, we are one of the few suppliers of hot runner systems that have UK spares stock holding and a service organisation. Thanks to our UK base and service, we have won many major accounts; significantly increasing the business over the past five years. The business has also been driven towards small medical parts thanks to the introduction of our 11mm valve gate nozzle.
What do you credit as the key to your success?
Developing the UK team has been the key to our success. We have trained a service and sales engineer to ensure we could meet the needs of our customers as the business grows. I have over 36 years’ experience in injection moulding and so am able to offer technical support and training. We also assist our customers by offering onsite hot runner training in order to ensure that they optimise the full benefit of their systems.
What has been the greatest challenge in your career?
Every day is a new challenge as technology moves us further ahead, going from 2D to 3D CAD, fax to email and from landline to mobile. Business has had to adapt – every step of the way.
My greatest challenge therefore is to embrace new technology, meet the expectations therein and then gear up a business to respond to the increased customer expectations. Today we need instant responses for customers and need to be able to send quotes and drawings within hours.
What advice do you wish you’d had on entering the industry and does that differ from the advice you would give to an Apprentice joining now?
Today I would encourage anyone to enter the Plastics industry, starting with processing or toolmaking. I would also encourage any apprentice to continue with their studies and to study at degree level. A first degree is a minimum requirement for many senior roles with future employers.
What hidden talents do you have?
My original chosen career was graphic design. However, the offer of a paid apprenticeship in the plastic sector diverted my career path.
Happily, I did not abandon my creative talent, went on to study photography and whenever time allows have the ability to create water colour masterpieces!