MAKING IT WORK: PolyWorks, founded in 2003, has tripled its workforce in the past five years. Above, from left, Roger LaFlamme,
co-owner and executive vice president, works with employees Albert DeLeon, team leader, and Lola Objois, quality/process engineer.
PBN PHOTO/NATALJA KENT
By Michael Souza PBN Staff Writer
PolyWorks’ biggest problem last year was finding enough people to triple the size of its workforce. Business has been very good for the North Smithfield designer of foams, plastics and gels, according to co-owner and Executive Vice President Roger LaFlamme. The best news is that it is only expected to get better.
“Ramping up a company quickly is challenging and so is finding the right people. When you are running three shifts you have to build a management team, you have to find all the different levels of workers and you have to train. And you have to do that when there is a lot of pressure from your customers because you can’t make enough, fast enough,” he said.
PolyWorks assists their clients in researching, designing and manufacturing products, such as gel coatings for pen grips, padding for athletic equipment, shoe inserts and bedding material. Their recent growth has been so expansive that in March, the company teamed with the R.I. Department of Labor and Training’s Business Workforce Center to recruit applicants for production-line and machine-operator positions.
“At one point I think we had the largest number of on-the-job trainees in Rhode Island,” LaFlamme said.
In an economy that’s been down for four years, PolyWorks’ story is welcome news, but initially growth was slow.
The company started in 2003 when its three original partners – LaFlamme, Daniel Wyner and Richard Fox – decided to form a startup dedicated to designing new technology.
PolyWorks has since excelled in meeting the needs of other companies and solving their problems. “Most of the growth in our company has been the result of developing proprietary molding technology for urethane foams. We started a licensing agreement with Rogers Corp. [in Woodstock, Conn.] and at the same time G-Form [Providence] started selling that technology and it exploded,” he said.
They developed a process for Rogers Corp. to mold their own sheets of foam into three dimensions. At G-Form, PolyWorks molds all of the company’s products. “That’s what really caused our growth over the last two years,” LaFlamme said. However, there is also no doubt that their products are desirable across the board, as products such as gel-sole inserts and pen and pencil grips become increasingly popular.