Meet Our Team: Jack Subel

The Meet Our Team blog series gives you an inside look into our team members’ careers, exciting new projects, history with KFI, and a general introduction to some of our key players! We hope you enjoy this, and many more blogs, that give you a better idea of the people behind the operation here at KFI.

Our third chapter in this series highlights our Vice President of Sales on the Non-Automotive OEM side of the business, Jack Subel. Jack heads up our non-auto OEM sales team and is constantly looking to help clients with unique needs and working on exciting new product development projects.  

Q: What is your job title?

A: I am the Vice President of the Non-Automotive OEM team. 

Q: How long have you been with KFI?

A: I have been with KFI for 6 years. 

Q: What do your day-to-day responsibilities look like?

A: My daily responsibilities have changed over time.  For several years, I was tasked with growing our Heavy Truck business.  Now, I focus on business development in Heavy Truck, and other industries.  I also look for new opportunities in order to diversify our company’s customers. 

Q: What is your favorite part of working for KFI?

A: KFI has scale.  By that I mean, we are staffed to do big things.  Most of our competitors do not have the Marketing, Engineering, Operations, and Sales reach that we do.  Chasing opportunities that leverage this scale to “move the needle” is challenging and can be fun too!

Q: Can you share a project that your department accomplished that you feel proud of?

A: Prior to Covid, we put together a presentation that for Navistar.  They were looking for a new bunk system for a new design for the interior of their Class-8, over-the-road heavy-duty truck.  We designed it, developed a virtual reality tour of the interior with our parts in it, and presented it to their Engineering team.  I was very proud to represent KFI after that presentation.  I feel, we really showed what we’re capable of if given a “blank page”.

Q: How does your department embody KFI’s values?

A: Each day we look to grow our business and move the needle.

Q: What is your favorite memory from working at KFI?

A: Our resilience during Covid is a great memory.  This time was perhaps one of the most uncertain and challenging times I’ve seen in my 30+ year career.  Our approach to “lean in” and attempts to navigate this time with the emergency and disaster relief bed product was a great memory…although, I’m happy we’re past that difficult time!

Jack’s experience in the industry, wealth of knowledge, and positive attitude makes him an amazing colleague and leader at KFI. We are thrilled to have Jack as a part of the KFI team! Check back soon for more Meet Our Team Blogs! Interested in being a part of our team? Apply today, we can’t wait to meet you!

Thermoforming Versus Injection Molding

What to take into account when choosing the best plastics process for your next project.

As the worlds leader in custom thermoformed solutions, Penda focuses on creating durable thermoformed products. However, thermoforming is not the only process to create plastic products. We explore the differences between thermoforming and injection molding, covering everything from cost to lead time, this infographic shows a run-down of what you should take into account when choosing a process. 

Take a look at all of the factors that going into choosing a plastics process!

Interested in learning even more? Feel free to contact us to more about Penda’s thermoforming process.

Meet Our Team: Nate Franck

The Meet Our Team blog series gives you an inside look into our team members’ careers, exciting new projects, history with KFI, and a general introduction to some of our key players! We hope you enjoy this, and many more blogs, that give you a better idea of the people behind the operation here at KFI.

Our second addition to this series is our Vice President of Sales on the TriEnda side of the business, Nate Franck. Nate oversees all of our TriEnda sales teams across the world and has focused on launching new products, expanding our market, and driving new sales opportunities in a multitude of industries.  

Q: What is your job title?

A: I am the Vice President of Sales for TriEnda.

Q: How long have you been with KFI?

A: I have been with KFI a little over 3 years.

Q: What do your day-to-day responsibilities look like?

A:  Managing a team of sales managers across the world, setting the new product development direction for TriEnda, working on large sales deals, traveling around the world to see customers, and continual training for our sales professionals.

Q: What is your favorite part of working for KFI?

A: We are a very dynamic and agile company so that gives me and my team the freedom to make important decisions quickly that help grow the company.

Q: Can you share a project that your department accomplished that you feel proud of?

A:.I am very proud of the huge advances we have made in the battery packaging and grocery industries. These are two areas of business that have, and will remain, a significant part of growth for KFI.

Q: How does your department embody KFI’s values?

A: My team has been working very hard during the pandemic to move the needle! We have by far the highest backlog of orders in company history, plus we have a sales pipeline that will keep things going strong through the end of 2022!

Q: What is your favorite memory from working at KFI?

A: My favorite memory with KFI has been traveling to Portage nearly every week during my first year at KFI. These trips were fun and enlightening. I loved hearing stories from colleagues, meeting such long tenured employees, and hitting up local spots really made for a fun and eventful year!

It is apparent in speaking with Nate that he has a passion for this industry, TriEnda’s products, his sales team, and KFI. We are so happy to have Nate as a leader on our team! Check back soon for more Meet Our Team Blogs! Interested in being a part of our team? Apply today, we can’t wait to meet you!

Meet Our Team: Sarena Krueger

The Meet Our Team blog series gives you an inside look into our team members’ careers, exciting new projects, history with KFI, and a general introduction to some of our key players! We hope you enjoy this, and many more blogs, that give you a better idea of the people behind the operation here at KFI.

To begin this series, we will speak with our Vice President of Marketing, Sarena Krueger. Sarena oversees all marketing and communications as well as business development and industrial design teams. Sarena has helped to build KFI’s marketing and industrial design departments into one of the leaders in the thermoforming industry. Among other projects she has overseen the complete re-launch of all six of KFI’s brand sites.

Q: What is your job title?
A: Vice President of Marketing and Communications, all of our Business Development, Industrial Design and the Marketing teams all report to me.

Q: How long have you been with KFI?
A: I have been with KFI for 18 months.

Q: What do your day-to-day responsibilities look like?
A: It is different every day. I work with the sales teams to execute new product launches and campaigns, planning for trade shows, directing our digital marketing tactics, and work on corporate initiatives, such as hiring campaigns and updating the look and feel of our corporate communications.

Q: What is your favorite part of working for KFI?
A: The people and the opportunity! I see a long runway ahead for the company, and I like contributing to our successes and helping to improve our business.

Q: Can you share a project that your department accomplished that you feel proud of?
A: I love all of the videos that we have created. They are such a fun and effective way to display our products. The end results are a clear result of collaboration between engineering, sales, and my teams.

Q: How does your department embody KFI’s values?
A: The key value that the marketing, business development and industrial design teams most embody is Get Things Done. In the year and a half since I have been at KFI, we have updated all of our websites, created countless new pieces of collateral, videos and images.

Q: What is your favorite memory from working at KFI?
A: Starting my career during a global pandemic and seeing how everyone banded together to come up with a very cool product that helped people in such an unbelievable time in our history.

While Sarena is one of our newer leaders, she has definitely embodied KFI’s values and brings energy, experience, creativity, and drive to the team. Interested in being a part of our team? Apply today, we can’t wait to meet you!

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Join us in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at Penda.

Here at Penda we pride ourselves in our diversity, inclusion, and friendly atmosphere. It is with that in mind that we want to take the time to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Starting on September 15th and ending on October 15th, this month seeks to honor, educate, and celebrate the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans.

George E. Brown, a California Congressman, introduced the idea of Hispanic Heritage Week back in June of 1968. Later on, in 1987, U.S. representative Esteban E. Torres proposed extending the heritage week to a month long observance to celebrate the Hispanic culture and achievements. Senator Paul Simon submitted a similar bill in 1988 that passed through Congress and was then signed by Ronal Reagan in August of that same year. President George H.W. Bush was the first president to declare the period of September 15th to October 15th Hispanic Heritage Month.

This celebration begins mid-month because September 15th coincides with the national independence days for man Latin American countries. With the U.S. Hispanic population at over 60 million in 2019, the Hispanic American populations are the nation’s second-fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the country.

As an organization we value all of our workers and enjoy celebrating the diverse work environment at all of our locations. With one of our plants located in Lerma, Mexico we know the importance of having bilingual associates, especially in human resources and literature that is available in both Spanish and English.  

Along with bilingual literature and associates, we strive to provide an open, honest, and welcoming environment at every Kruger Family Industries facility. Join us in celebrating this important heritage month and look into working as a member of our diverse team.

Penda’s Custom Projects and Design Capabilities

Explore some of Penda's custom projects and unique design capabilities.

Along with Penda’s always reliable bedliners, wheel well liners, and VanGuard products, our team also specializes in unique designs and custom projects that include thermoforming, injection molding, and complex assemblies. The engineering and design teams here at Penda have over 40 years of experience working with customers to create custom designs and products that work for each organization. This includes experts in CAD tools to support the simplest of jobs to the most complex automotive applications. 

Studio 540 is Penda’s in-house design team. This innovative group is skilled in industrial design, conceptualization, CAD modeling, and rendering. Along with that, they are an incredibly creative and communicative team that loves working with our customers on unique projects to ensure state-of-the-art styling during design and manufacturing. 

Another example of a custom Penda project is the Dodge Ram Box. The challenge here was to design, build and validate inner fender storage box system for Dodge trucks. Working in a restricted timeline of 18 months from conception to production, our team dove in and delivered the Dodge Ram Box in that time. Penda provided improved tool timing and low cost in order to assure on-time delivery and quickly engineered and developed a heavy-impact structural solution required for bin and lid.

The High Desert customization project was another in-dept, unique solution that our design and engineering team worked closely with Chevrolet to complete. The main charge from Chevrolet was to design a fully functioning cargo management system to mirror the Chevy Avalanche. Working hand-in-hand with Chevrolet’s team of design specialists, Penda created an aesthetically pleasing, fully sealed cargo management solution for their pickup truck bed. The program’s finished components included six key finished components, with a total of 154 mating components. What Penda ultimately delivered was a complete program on time and on budget. Leveraging our world class design and engineering, process management expertise, vertical integrations and assembly capabilities to create the optimal custom solution for this project.

Motor Grader Design

An example of a custom digital project is the motor grader rendering below. This rendering began as a sketch by one of our Studio 540 designers and was rendered to exemplify the large plastic components that Penda could thermoform for similar equipment. From exterior body panels to interior trim, Penda has the ability to work from ideation through to a complete product. 

Penda’s designers love to create solutions as unique as each customer we have the pleasure of working with. Interested in learning more about working with Penda? Contact us today!

What To Expect With A Global Rise In Materials Prices

Discussing costly material prices, recent supply shortages, and TriEnda’s actions to mitigate rising material costs.          

During the first two quarters of 2021, global supply chains have faced challenges with rising costs of material prices and supply shortages. At Penda, we’ve witnessed the change in costs and shortages like many other businesses.  While these changes can put a strain on supply chains, our processes and strong communication with customers has gone a long way to ensure we’re managing cost expectations and delivery schedules.

We discussed these challenges with our Vice President of Supply Chain Management, Sean Smith, to gain some deeper insights into this global issue and what he expects for the future.

Causes of Rising Material Costs            

When we spoke with Sean, he listed a few different causes for the rise in material prices we’ve seen:

  1. The COVID-19 Pandemic
  2. The Suez Canal Block
  3. The Recent Texas Freeze

All of these are playing a role in the challenges we’ve been working through, especially the ongoing pandemic. Sean stressed that they all tie into one major imbalance in supply and demand.

Back in March of 2020 when shutdowns began, certain industries completely shut their doors, while other businesses in industries deemed “essential” remained open and even prospered. Sean explained how a shift in supply and demand is leading to a lot of the issues occurring today. For example, take the microchip shortages. A sizeable percentage of the supply of microchips typically went to manufacturers in the automotive space to produce vehicles. But, when auto plants shutdown and people stayed in their homes, that supply didn’t stop instantly. In fact, the supply of microchips that was typically reserved for vehicle manufacturers went towards manufacturing video game consoles as people turned to those to keep themselves entertained at home. And now that auto makers are opening back up, they don’t have access to their typical supply of microchips that are now reserved for the high demand of videogame consoles, and thus their supply-chains are strained. The same principles of the shift in supply and demand has applied to many other materials across the globe.

Catastrophes like the Suez Canal blockage and the electric outages caused by cold temperatures in Texas also contributed to material price increases. 12% of global trade passes through the Suez Canal which includes 30% of all global container traffic. So, when the blockage occurred in March, it created a problematic domino effect within global supply chains.

The freezes in Texas were another unexpected catastrophe that are leading to material price increases. In Texas, there are many facilities that create the high-density polyethylene material that is used in the production of our thermoformed drop-in bedliners, and other plastic solutions. Cold temperatures and the lack of preparation in the south led to power failures and the shutdowns of those plastic plants, which have a direct impact on businesses who rely on that plastic material like Penda.

 

Our Expectations Looking Ahead

Dealing with rising prices is challenging for our internal teams as well as our loyal customers. We do everything in our power to keep costs low for them, and it is understandable how price increases can steer businesses away from choosing to purchase plastic material handling solutions. After speaking with Sean, he made it clear that he sees some light at the end of the tunnel for material prices. Barring any more unforeseen catastrophes, Sean said that he expects to see a dip towards the norm for many material prices. We may not see pre-pandemic price levels, but they are expected to go down slightly as time goes on and more and more lockdown restrictions are lifted to allow for the production of more materials.

If you wish to dive into the world of custom thermoforming or are looking to utilize thermoformed plastics to create a lower-cost and more durable component for your product, schedule a call with a member of our dedicated team today so that we can help you decide what’s right for your business!

 

 

A Day in the Life of a Thermoforming Finisher

Penda employees working on plastic product

Explore the workplace of thermoformed plastic manufacturing by stepping into the shoes of a Finisher at Penda.

Ever wonder how truck bedliners are made? If so, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll be diving into the world of our production associates here at Penda to learn more about their daily duties, let’s start with our Finishers.

What Does A Finisher Do?

Our Finishers are important to the production of the automotive and OEM solutions we create here at Penda. We value their role tremendously as they touch every part that is manufactured for our customers. Because of this, we emphasize the development of our Finishers and many go on to earn promotions within production or even to the office if they choose.

The role of a Finisher is pretty straight forward, they’re tasked with finishing off a thermoformed product so that it’s ready to be shipped to the customer. This can be done via trimming, cleaning, assembly, and packaging of the parts and products we produce. Finishers also support their team at their work cells by assisting with the setup of secondary finishing tools like drills and handheld routers and clean up their areas by sweeping excess plastic pellets and removing scrap from the ground.

Pictured here is an example of how a Finisher performs trimming to finalize a product before it is shipped. Once this SmartDitch liner is pulled off the thermoformer, two finishers use handheld routers to perform a rough cut to trim any excess plastic. Next they remove the excess and toss it in the pelletizer, they smooth out the edges using a utility knife. After this is done, the SmartDitch liners are stacked on a pallet so a Forklift Driver can transport them through the warehouse for shipment.

A Thermoforming Finisher’s Schedule

At Penda, Finishers work on a 4-on-4-off schedule, with the opportunity for 1-2 days of overtime. There are both day and night shifts at the plant to accommodate every person’s lifestyle. Each Finisher is given two half hour paid breaks during the day which don’t occur at any set time, the crew is free to take these breaks when it best suits them or the machine they’re working on. When days are hot in the summer, we provide extra heat breaks and add extra Finishers to each work cell to help lighten the workload and give everyone a chance to stay cool and rest.

Every day, a Finisher has the opportunity to work on a different work cell which is producing a new product so that they see a variety of thermoforming work. With a wide array of automotive and custom solutions created at Penda, a Finisher could go a very long time before working on the same thing twice. If you’re interested in becoming a Thermoforming Finisher and joining the Penda team, please apply today! To send us your application, you can visit our website to view our openings and a member of our team will be in touch with you shortly.

 

Why work at KFI?

man smiling in office

Exploring the many things that make KFI a great place to work!

With a multitude of employers out there, sometimes choosing the right organization to work for can be daunting. It is important to keep in mind the culture that an employer fosters, the feel of the work environment, and how the current employees review their time with the company. Luckily, here at Kruger Family Industries we have outstanding employees that would like to share a little bit about their experiences work for KFI with you.

 

“The family atmosphere that KFI has across the organization is unmatched!  Truly enjoy coming to work every day and there are always new things that challenge you.” – Jacob Hacker, Inside Sales Manager, 1.5 years with Trienda

jacob hacker

“What has kept me here all these years is really the fact that the people are decent, and the hours are good. The 2, 2, 3 schedule is great and you don’t get burned out.” – Brian Kearns, Extrusion Operator, 37 years with TriEnda

Wendy Baker

 

“My favorite thing about working at Penda is the people that I work with. I like showing people things that I learn throughout the day and teaching other people is a lot of fun.” – Wendy Baker, Lead Operator/Trainer, 11 years with Penda

 

“I really like that KFI is a family owned business that cares about their employees.  I’ve been with the company for 34 years in the finance department and have gained so much knowledge and experience working here.  I love the variety of work, opportunities to keep learning and interaction with great co-workers.” – Sheila McFarlane, Cost Accountant, 34 years with KFI

Sheila McFarlane
rob fahey

 

“My favorite thing about working here is the transparency, the friends, the comradery, and the education that we keep furthering with each other’s knowledge.”  – Rob Fahey, Quality Technician, 9 years at TriEnda

 

“KFI is a great place to work because there is a true spirit of collaboration and cooperation to achieve common goals.  The company is willing to invest in its people and in the best available technology, and I believe that combination will ultimately send us to the top in the plastics manufacturing realm.” – Diana Risner, Project Manager – System Solutions, 4 years with TriEnda

Diana Risner
riley haight

 

“The family culture at KFI has fostered my personal and professional growth and has allowed me to gain the confidence to bring new ideas and opportunities to the table.” – Riley Haight, Inside Sales Representative, 7 months at Penda

 

“Although I have been working with KFI for a short time, I have liked it because it is a place that inspires me to learn and develop my skills, also all the people here are always willing to guide me and help me.” – Daniel Reyna, Inside Sales Representative, 2 months with TriEnda (Mexico)

daniel reyna
alex greene

 

“An Industrial Design career at KFI gives me the opportunity to utilize a wide range of skills: sketching, CAD modeling, 3D rendering, and graphic design, all while applying sustainable thermoforming design principles.” – Alex Greene, Industrial Designer, 10 months with KFI

“I really enjoy the work schedule. Having 4 days off is like a mini vacation. I enjoy the family atmosphere, the people you work with become your family.” – Brandon Prew, Finisher, 10 years with Penda

Whether you are looking for a position as a design engineer, an extrusion operator, or a human resources generalist, KFI focuses on building a positive and collaborative work environment in every department. If you are interested in joining the KFI family, take a look at our careers page and apply today! We can’t wait to meet you!

An Introduction to KFI’s In-House Design Team: Studio 540

designer drafting an image

Studio 540 is KFI’s internal design studio, capable of providing insight into projects that require ergonomic and aesthetic innovation.   

Studio 540 is KFI’s in-house design studio. With skilled industrial designers and animation specialists, Studio 540 offers services to KFI customers that few other organizations can. From 3D renderings and CAD modeling to virtual reality presentations and concept animation videos, Studio 540 goes above and beyond for KFI’s customers.  

Through an established design process and thorough communication, Studio 540 creates sketches, models, animation, virtual reality environments, and brings real products to life.  

Step One:  

Ideation- The first step in the Studio 540 process is always ideation. A good product is conceived by addressing consumer needs and improving products through innovation. Once a business case is established, Studio 540 begins multi-departmental collaboration and offers an array of solutions in the form of expressive sketches. 

Step Two:  

Sketching- Our designs then consider the many facets of a project and create the first depictions of the product through sketches. Aesthetics, mechanics, ergonomics, assembly and manufacturability are further explored with refined sketches. Sketches are styled to reflect automotive surfacing and visual strength. Ergonomics considerations are developed to solve the end user’s needs. 

Step Three:  

CAD Modeling- Sketching is followed by a more technical creation of the product through CAD Modeling. Studio 540’s design team is capable of realizing 3D forms through solid/surface modeling techniques.  High fidelity CAD models help the Engineering team incorporate design aesthetics into the final product. 

Step Four:  

Rendering- Moving on to the rendering step in the process means building on the 3D models and creating realistic digital creations. Photorealistic images enhance CAD data with simulated light, advanced materials and camera perspective. Renderings of both existing and conceptual products are essential for effectively highlight product design and are one of Studio 540’s specialties. 

Step Five: 

Model Making- The fifth step focuses on preemptively identifying and solving conceptual issues through Model Making. Improving the ergonomics of conceptual products can be addressed early on with model making.  Using foamcore, 3D printing and metal fabrication, costly problems can be proactively identified and solved before tooling is made. 

Step Six:  

Virtual Reality- After a model is approved, the Studio 540 designers bring the product to life through Virtual Reality. Full-scale CAD data from Studio 540 or the Engineering team can be dropped into vehicles and environments for an immersive exploratory experience.  Ergonomic considerations can be easily explored through Virtual Reality capabilities. 

Step Seven: 

Animation- Lastly, our skilled designers create unique animated pieces to showcase product capabilities.  3D animations exhibiting the functionality, style and innovation of products are an indispensable tool for promoting and communicating our product capabilities to consumers.