Plastic Plus Limited
Toronto, Canada

Synopsis: Plastic Plus underwent major expansions in 2008 and 2017, and is currently adding new equipment. (Most of this report refers to the 2017 expansion.) Lab owner and president Paul Faibish offered an inside perspective on how the lab was transformed by new technologies.

Lab Owner’s Report: Paul Faibish

“In 2008, we doubled the size of our building to 13,000 square feet. We added additional freeform and coating equipment at the time. We thought that would satisfy us, but we got busier and busier, and then in 2017 we pulled the trigger and bought the 30,000 square feet building next door. We moved the 50 or 60 feet from one building to the next. We filled it up, and as we speak we’re expanding again. So we’re not stopping.

We were actually the first lab in North America to process freeform lenses. We’ve been doing freeform now for 16 years. As demand has increased, we’ve seen the need for additional equipment, which is due to the need for redundancy. Space has always been an issue—we’ve gone from a couple of manual machines to one line of freeform, to two lines of freeform. Presently, we have three lines of freeform, fully automated, and we’re talking about a fourth line as well.

Now we need more throughput, and we have to adjust a part of the conveyor system. We just ordered some new equipment, and we’re having that installed. Over the next few months, we’re going to acquire additional equipment and reconfigure our conveyor system.

Satisloh is working very closely with us, and they’re going to upgrade the software so it’s a smarter conveyor system. It will take six to nine months to get this completed. With COVID, things aren’t working as quickly as we would like. Everything is more cumbersome. We’ve had delivery system difficulties, and even getting people over the border these days is difficult.

We’re very lucky we were able to acquire the building next door, because that allowed us to run out of two buildings for about six months. We stayed in our old building while we renovated the new building. We added the new equipment to the new building section by section—for example, when we had the new generators up and running in the new building, we brought the old generator over.

And when we got the new polishers running in the new building, we brought the old polishers over. We actually had less than three hours’ downtime over the entire process. There were multiple days when we worked around the clock, but we only had one IT outage for a couple of hours on a Saturday morning. It wasn’t easy. We worked hard, but that’s what you have to do.

The equipment manufacturers help us, but keep in mind that they’re out to sell equipment. You’ve got to look out into the market, you’ve got to look at what your needs are, and we appreciate what they suggest, but sometimes the lab owners know what’s best for them and their market. We were very lucky that we had an excellent contractor. We’ve worked with the same trades for years, and the same trades came through for us and they worked very hard—electrical, IT, our shelving people.

Right now our entire lab is automated, from blocking to surfacing, to hard coating and to the mapper, everything is online and nobody touches a lens. We’re busy—currently we’re running our lab five days a week, 18 hours per day, and we’re doing a shift on Saturdays as well. 100 percent of production goes on the freeform line, conventional and freeform lenses regardless of brand, and then we’ve got a large coating lab as well with full dip coating and AR.

Since the expansion in 2008, we’re probably up 400 percent to 500 percent. Plus, between 2008 and now, our customers have come to expect better quality, better service, and faster delivery time. The bar just keeps getting higher and higher all the time.”