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March 28, 2016 Manufacturing Excellence Awards

FLEXcon keeps pushing the envelope

Courtesy The FLEXcon coater group includes (from left) Richard Jakubowski, Paul Wunderlich and Janet Zywiec.

Manufacturers have come and gone over the past 60 years, but Spencer-based FLEXcon has held strong, as a worldwide leader in pressure-sensitive adhesive coated films.

The company has come a long way since it was founded in a garage 60 years ago by Myles McDonough. Back then, it was a local startup, and today it is a leading innovator in custom films with more than 1,000 employees worldwide It remains a private, family-owned firm.

FLEXcon’s secret to maintaining a strong presence in the manufacturing industry is to focus on client relationships and employee development, and be able to shift to clients’ shifting needs, said Mike Engel, FLEXcon chief operations officer.

“We have continued to be able to, despite economic cycles, develop opportunities with customers and continue to move forward,” Engel said.

Constant innovation

The company is a world leader in pressure-sensitive film products, with locations in Ontario, California, Hong Kong and the Netherlands, in addition to its main facility in Spencer.

Traditionally, FLEXcon has been able to shift its core processes to the needs of the market, Engel said. The company has been involved with medical devices for 30 years. Regulations require specialized films for medical devices to have cleaner applications, using a coated laminate rather than mechanical bond agents.

Despite three decades of experience in medical devices, FLEXcon considers it an area of growth, Engel said.

“It is a very broad-based market area, although we’ve been providing products into one-on-one applications for many years. We’ve identified it’s growing and becoming a specialized area that we wanted to have as a specialized focus,” he said.

Shifting a core business doesn’t necessarily mean hiring all new workers. In many cases, it just means reassigning people to different areas of focus.

“We’re able to flex ourselves within the business to manage new opportunities very quickly,” Engel said.

John Killam, center director of the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP), said FLEXcon is an example of one of the more high-tech manufacturing companies in Central Massachusetts.

“The technology they deploy to make their materials, and also materials used are very high tech, in a very high-tech environment,” he said.

FLEXcon seeks out relationships with startups and with colleges and universities. The company works with Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the University of Massachusetts to help students bring the product they dreamed up to life.

FLEXcon is involved in the Manufacturing Initiative, a statewide program partnering cleantech hardware startups housed at Somerville incubator Greentown Labs with manufacturers. The benefits are twofold: small companies get products to market faster, and manufacturers can access more clients.

FLEXcon may be an international company, but its roots are very much in this region. The company has a strong internal reference structure, meaning many employees refer their family members to work at FLEXcon. A strong employee base is at the company’s core, Engel said.

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