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Updated: April 26, 2021 manufacturing excellence awards

Manufacturing Awards: United Solutions: Growing workforce, sustainability and specialties

Photo | Courtesy of United Solutions Maria Tello Hernandez, an employee at United Solutions.

For 99 years, United Solutions in Leominster was owned and operated by the same family.

Founded in 1919 by Canadian immigrant Eugene Tourigny, the company – then known as United Comb & Novelty Co. – originally manufactured small items like combs and buttons, sourced from tortoise shells and cattle horns.

It wasn’t until 1986 the company pivoted to the plastic housewares market, another 20 years after which it donned for the first time the name United Solutions, as it is officially called today.

But after over a century in operation and after the founding family stepped aside in 2018 after Tourigny’s grandson, who ran United for 42 years, made the difficult decision to retire, the plastic goods company continues to grow and improve itself.

Under the leadership of President and CEO Dave Reilly – who in March celebrated his one-year anniversary at United – and ownership of private equity firm Camber Holdings, headquartered in Boston, the plastics company has focused on bolstering business in three major areas: reinforcing its workforce, honing in on its three major product categories, and ramping up its sustainability efforts.

Until a little over a year ago, the majority of its manufacturing team were temporary workers, but now, United is in the process of transitioning that portion of the staff to roughly a 90% full-time workforce. The company added more than $2 an hour to its direct labor wage. Those are moves what Reilly casts as investments in the company.

“No matter the business, it’s true that people are the strongest asset,” he said. “And so we are really focused on building a culture of teamwork, accountability and service.”

At the same time, United is taking care to focus on the three products it makes best, narrowing down its SKUs to concentrate efforts around paint buckets, outdoor trash cans and consumer totes. Of major note, with the latter: United Solutions is the licensed manufacturer of Rubbermaid storage totes, with whom it launched in February a hunter green, 100% recyclable product line.

Honing in on these specialties allows the company to boost its credibility by focusing and providing the best products to its customers, said Reilly.

But the United Solutions is looking outwardly, too. As the fight to combat climate change wears on, company leadership is well aware plastic manufacturing has developed something of a negative reputation. To combat this, United has been taking steps to increase its environmentally sustainable efforts, boasting a closed loop system and an increasing array of recyclable products made out of already recycled materials, as well as attention toward decreasing its CO2 emissions.

“It’s a fully closed loop system,” said Fred Beauregard, vice president of sales and marketing. “We don’t throw any plastic away. It’s all recycled back through our equipment in our process.”

After over a century in business, it might be easy for some to fall into a rut. But with United Solutions, between its emphasis on workforce development, product streamlining and environmental consciousness, it’s clear the company has no intention of standing still. Other areas of change include identifying areas for market growth – like redeploying energy from certain brick-and-mortar retail options and into ecommerce, where United has seen tremendous growth over the last two years.

The payoff seems to be showing.

“Everybody’s really embraced the challenges, and the mentality really is to bring it on,” Reilly said.

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