Extra: Shamrock Plastics Creates A Variety Of Custom Products – Business – Journal Star
There’s a lot of greenery in Mary Cay Westphal’s office, and that doesn’t even count the head-to-toe green outfit she wears when expecting visitors.
It’s all part of the theme of Shamrock Plastics Inc., a custom thermoforming company that shapes plastic into usable shapes. Touches of the theme range from clover rugs in Westphal’s office to green elements in buildings and even the office cat, appropriately named Rocksy, lounging everywhere.
The company specializes in parts for heavy machinery, like dashboards and door panels for Caterpillar, Inc., but also creates products like trays for ice cream machines and Lamplighters, a line of covers of decorative lamps for the holidays. The factory, which has an average of twenty employees, is located on the site of an old lumber yard nestled in a neighborhood.
While working at the company, Westphal, owner and president of Shamrock, saw her embrace automation, expand to new products, and increase plant footprint. But she has also seen changes in the corporate culture of plastics.
“When I started 30 years ago there were so few women in the industry,” Westphal said. “It was unusual and I was treated like I didn’t belong.”
Online, Shamrock boldly boasts of being a “woman-owned business” at the top of its website. When customers choose between Shamrock and a similar company, plant manager Gary Potter said female leadership was the deciding factor.
The closeness to Caterpillar, as well as the ties to the region and the factory’s family atmosphere have kept it in Peoria. The company tries to keep the atmosphere fun, whether it’s a St. Patrick’s Day party where employees are required to wear green, or small moments in the factory, like when employees stick a Lamplighters snowman or a pumpkin-lantern face on their head.
“We had our guys in the store wearing them every now and then,” Potter said. “It breaks everything. Everyone is having fun. “
Westphal also makes a point of talking to every employee.
“Mary Cay used to go and hand out checks to everyone at the end of the week,” Potter said. “Well, she wanted to continue this tradition so that she could talk to them. So when the computers have taken over the checks, she pulls out and hands out their check stubs.
Since its founding in 1968, the company has been named Company of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce and has been named Platinum Supplier by Caterpillar.
Today, the company is trying to convince companies to take products previously made with steel and convert them into cheaper, lighter plastic parts.
“It’s exciting, it’s changing, it’s new,” Westphal said. “This is the new way forward.
Braley Dodson can be reached at 686-3196 and [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @BraleyDodson.