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Adapt, Overcome, Triumph:

Adapt, Overcome, Triumph:

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Photo by Rebecca Lippiatt.

Orion Plastics is a manufacturer of custom extruded plastic sheet products for the heavy gauge vacuum forming industry, and melt blown polypropylene non-woven fabric to produce N95, surgical masks, disposable masks and other PPE for the medical industry. Orion’s on-site warehouse stocks product sheets in many different sizes, gauges, textures and colours.

Stephen Moore, president, explains, “Our most in-demand product is a co-extruded specialty engineered ABS and TPO sheet for use in the RV and aftermarket automotive industries. These products offer custom colours matched to paint colours, are durable, and feature decorative surfaces and textures for weight reduction, fuel economy and provide weight reduction on vehicles and heavy trucks. We have experience over the past 20 years exporting our products worldwide and have expertise in international trade, trade finance and have the fastest lead times in the industry.”

The company was founded by Douglas Wayne Minion, and his son Shayne Minion. Wayne was the former first chairman of the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission; having run many businesses during his career he wanted to launch and run a business with his son. In 1999, Orion acquired the assets of RPC Manufacturing and opened for business. By 2000, the company was already growing fast, necessitating a relocation to a larger facility on the south side, along with the purchase of second sheet extrusion line. A third extrusion line and an expansion into the coextruded ABS sheet market happened in 2003, followed by growth across Canada and the United States from 2004-2009. In 2010, Orion purchased and commissioned a fourth sheet line, the largest of its kind in Canada. It is capable of running extruded plastic up to 120” wide. This sheet is used to run roof caps for John Deere and Case New Holland combines and tractors.

Between 2012 and 2014, ownership shifted to the current group: Stephen Moore, president; Greg Makar, VP sales and marketing; and Nuno Branco, VP operations.

The new owners revamped the business and the growth continued. Moore says, “We relocated to the St. Albert facility in 2017. In 2019 Orion, in partnership with Great Canadian Solar and Enmax, we installed the largest solar array in Edmonton and St. Albert. This array is capable of producing approximately 1.0MM kWh/yr, offsetting 20 per cent of our electrical consumption.”

Saving on electricity isn’t the only eco-conscious step Orion has taken. Moore points out, “The plastics industry has been given a bad rap in recent years, however Orion Plastics has embraced the circular economy and is a big proponent of recycling. We have closed loop recycling in-line granulators on each of our lines. Whatever is not used gets captured and goes back into the process. When an extruded sheet goes to the customer, we work with them to set up a recycling program, and whatever they don’t use is picked up, brought back to our plant and converted back into finished products. We are big into environmental sustainability and finding ways to work with other companies to leverage resources. We want to be the first net zero plastic manufacturing company in North America and with the initiatives we’ve embarked on, we are well on our way to doing that.”

Not even the pandemic could slow down this progressive company.

“In April 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government of Canada’s Call to Action, we purchased three melt blown polypropylene non-woven fabric extrusion lines to support the PPE and medical mask industry,” says Moore.

“COVID-19 brought to light the structural risks in our economy by showing how much of our strategic assets have been outsourced overseas. Globalization has given us the impression that the world is smaller than we think, however the pandemic has strained supply chains too far. We are currently a leading manufacturer of the woven fabric used in PPE in Canada and have recently been congratulated by the Hon. Dale Nally, Minister of Natural Gas and Electricity, in celebration of how we are converting Alberta’s natural resources into fabric to support the province’s health services. This is just one more way in which Orion is creative, innovative and an active participant in job creation. By entering the PPE market, we were able to hire more staff, even during the height of the pandemic.”

Moore takes time to reflect on how far Orion has come in just a few short years, saying, “The most rewarding thing for me about Orion Plastics is that I started my career as a plastics engineering technologist, but throughout my career I have had the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally, learn new things, and create that opportunity as well for the employees and families of the team at Orion Plastics too. Like many startup companies, it took time for Orion Plastics to find its footing. For the first 12 years Orion struggled to achieve profitability, and not until after restructuring the business and redefining its mission did we attain our goal. From that point the company has been a great success.

“During our restructuring, we focused our efforts on the top 20 per cent of our customer list. These partners were the best in their industry. Orion adopted the motto, ‘we don’t try to be everything to everyone.’ We focus on our core customers, exceed expectations, and providing remarkable customer service. Our challenge now is developing innovative ways to create new products and supply chain solutions for our partners and customers so we can solve their challenges.”

Orion is ISO 9001:2015 certified and COR® recognized. The company practices lean manufacturing and continuous improvement to achieve unmatched quality and delivery industry wide while offering competitive pricing. In addition to being customer and culture focused, Orion is very active in the community, supporting causes such as Canada’s Great Kitchen Party, The Lung Association Alberta & NWT and Soccer Elite Academy/Northside United FC.

Orion has been recognized as an EY Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist (Prairies), by the Grant Thornton Private Business Growth Awards as a top 10 finalist (Canada), as a Lund Supplier of the Year, by the EEDC Manufacturing Centre of Excellence (Alberta) and as a CPSC Employer of Choice (Gold).

The ownership team thanks the staff, clients, and vendors, along with Master TEC Chair Emeritus Rick Harvey as well as the founding and present members of TEC Canada KEY545 (2009).

“We want to tell our partner customers and clients that we are grateful to work with each and every one of them,” Moore adds. “They are the best of the best in the plastics industry, and we are fortunate to have the opportunity to support them on producing their products and being a valuable part of their supply chain, creating the amazing products that consumers enjoy everyday.”

Moore draws parallels between Orion Plastics and one of his favourite movies, Dead Poets Society, noting that Orion has overcome numerous challenges by seizing the day (carpe diem), looking to experienced mentors for guidance (Oh Captain! My Captain!) and most of all, in life, business, management, and giving back, he and the team at Orion strive to “make their lives extraordinary.” When always endeavoring to do better and to achieve the next goal and overcome the next challenge, Moore knows Orion can change the future of plastics.

“From here, the sky is the limit!” concludes Moore. “Electrification of the automobile and transportation industries present new and exciting opportunities, and Orion Plastics looks forward to rising to the challenge. Onward and upwards!”

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