SDI Plastics: returning manufacturing to Australian shores

Director Kulbir Dhanda
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SDI Plastics has spent nearly two decades perfecting the art of plastics injection moulding. Despite operating in an industry that has been around since 1872, the Brisbane company continues to innovate, producing award-winning designs for big ideas in plastics manufacturing and tool making. It is also involved in many R&D projects.

The family-operated company is born out of a true passion for manipulating raw materials into functional components. The Australian Business Executive recently connected with company Director Kulbir Dhanda to discuss how SDI Plastics successfully caters to a global clientele, survives revolutionary changes in the manufacturing industry and continues to push the boundaries on thought processes and practices.

Building a dedicated and active executive team

Since 1993, SDI Plastics has built its expertise in engineering high-quality plastic parts for a diverse array of clients, ranging from Tier 1 corporates to mom-and-pop inventors. While the bulk of the mouldings are used in the packaging, construction and industrial sectors, the company has projects currently running in the farming, medical, landscaping and automotive industries as well. SDI serves a partner to each client’s growth, guiding them through everything from design challenges to prototype development to international market launches.

Dhanda, who currently leads the company’s R&D efforts and oversees its strategic growth initiatives, was introduced to plastics as a child. The journey began with his father, who worked for Kodaks European injection moulding facility that introduced new products to the market. His expertise was honed on 17 types of injection moulding machines that produced more than 11 million parts per month for the European market.

Despite inheriting his father’s passion for plastics at a young age, Dhanda decided to pursue a degree in international business from Griffith University in Brisbane. He then polished his skillset in product sourcing, negotiations, management and export market planning in Australia’s telecommunications industry. Finally, in 2003, he came back to the family business and received formal training to become a qualified injection moulding technician.

The company boasts an impressive 186 years of combined experience in the industry, and no one is afraid to roll up their sleeves to get the job done. “From the top down, we can all run an injection moulding machine,” Dhanda says proudly. “We have a huge amount of knowledge when it comes to designing parts for injection moulding and tool making, so there are all sorts of problems that we resolve.”

When working with SDI Plastics, clients get to tap into the company’s global network of partners throughout Australia, China and Malaysia and its extensive knowledge of foreign contracts, cultural negotiations, supply chains, market testing and service delivery. “All the guesswork is removed,” explains Dhanda, who describes SDI Plastics as a complete OEM solution. “They really don’t have to worry about anything. Our clients can comfortably pick and choose which way they want to go.”

Diversifying is the key to surviving

Navigating the slump in Australian manufacturing, which was largely due to high labour costs and outsourcing, required creativity and an in-depth look at every facet of the company. “We survived by strategically pivoting various parts of our business, and we grew in areas that we never developed,” notes Dhanda, who believes companies are returning to Australia because of the higher level of service found here.

When working with SDI Plastics, clients get to tap into the company's global network of partners throughout Australia, China and Malaysia and its extensive knowledge of foreign contracts
When working with SDI Plastics, clients get to tap into the company’s global network of partners throughout Australia, China and Malaysia and its extensive knowledge of foreign contracts

First, the company focused on strengthening its executive leadership, even if that meant making the difficult decisions to remove people who were not on board with moving in a new direction. In recent years, SDI Plastics has also cultivated blue ocean markets to build mutually beneficial global partnerships, has strengthened its investment in R&D programmes and fine-tuned production inefficiencies and automation.

“It was not one specific thing that helped us through that downturn in Australian manufacturing,” Dhanda says. “We really did pivot in many areas to change the way we do things to become a competitive company in Australia.”

Dhanda is also aware that his company will need to continue along the path of innovation so that it can stay ahead of an increasingly competitive crowd of companies that supply fantastic components. SDI Plastics spends extra time in the research and discovery phase, challenging operations at every stage.

“Our clients desire new methodologies to help them become more globally competitive in this market. Our thought process is there has to be a better way than the conventional method,” he explains. “There are numerous times where we’ve been able to successfully make a component run more efficiently by using better quality parts because we have a complete understanding of the whole process.”

Along with its R&D programmes, Dhanda believes resourcefulness, efficiency, service and a reputation for delivering results is what truly differentiates SDI Plastics from its peers. “We are a results-producing company. How we operate, our experience, our skillset is what sets us apart,” he shared. “We take personal pride in every relationship that we establish, and we really do take each project personally.”

An industry focus on environmental sustainability and new technology

Reaching $164 billion (AUD) in 2017, the plastic injection moulding industry is projected to generate nearly $327 billion by 2023. While rising demand in packaging, food and medical devices is driving global growth, Dhanda is most excited to explore collaborations with tech companies by capitalising on artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT). He also sees potential to diversify into exporting Australian products overseas thanks to the absence of a foreign exchange rate.

Dhanda is inspired by the industry’s growing embracement of a circular economy to reduce the amount of plastics thrown into the rubbish. Under this guiding principle, companies are finding new ways to recycle plastic components into the production process to incorporate them into other products. He notes that Australia will soon benefit from the big changes that are currently happening across Europe.

SDI_Plastics_manufacturing
Along with its R&D programmes, Dhanda believes resourcefulness, efficiency, service and a reputation for delivering results is what truly differentiates SDI Plastics from its peers.

While he concedes that changing human behaviour regarding waste is difficult, particularly in Third World countries, there are some fantastic solutions emerging from industry collaborations. SDI Plastics is currently working on an R&D project that Dhanda expects will have a massive impact locally and globally if it comes to commercialisation.

Another trend trickling into Australia out of the European market is the use of metal 3D printing. This technology enables manufacturers to integrate metal components with plastic parts to provide reinforcement, rapid prototyping and low-volume manufacturing. During the past two years, SDI Plastics has emerged as a leader in this space with projects currently in development. “This is really going to change the industry in a big way,” Dhanda reveals.

“I see many areas where we are growing, and our R&D department is thriving,” Dhanda says. “It’s really exciting to see how that is going to come to fruition in the near future.”

For more information on SDI Plastics visit www.sdiplastics.com.au.


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