The story of Palm Products is as much about innovation in product design and manufacturing as it is the story of a simple philosophy that guides the company’s success: continuously make improvements, however small they are, and the business will transform to meet the needs of the market.
Global sustainability has always been the goal – with the company motto from the early 90’s being “Quality products for world markets”.
Palm Tooling was founded by tool-maker, Jack Sullivan, in the 1960s as a specialist toolmaking business and was followed by adding moulding machines to become Palm Plastics. Back then all tools were made without the aid of computer controlled machines and CAD designs. Mills and lathes were operated by winding small wheels. Tool-making is a most exacting skill where tolerances are measured in 100th of a millimetre. To achieve these tolerances by hand and eye without an making error requires great skill and patience. Jack transferred this exactness to the moulding side of the business.
Robert Wilson purchased the business in the late 80’s, after a corporate career in engineering and senior roles in sales, marketing and general management. The dream was to use the engineering and production skills of the business to develop a complementary consumer products business.
And so began the transformation of the business to one that has embraced the best technology and systems and the Toyota production method with its emphasis on lean manufacturing and continuous improvement. Palm Products is unrecognisable today. Technologically advanced machinery and processes place the company at the forefront of innovation and design globally.
Robert’s past experiences have instilled in him a customer-centric attitude that demands the end-user’s needs are addressed in every product category, and each product designed and marketed. Fit for purpose design is a mandate of all product research and development. He knew that a customer-focused company would not be realized without a workforce that was motivated. Respect, mutual trust and goal congruence underpin the loyalty and commitment of staff at Palm Plastics. All employees are valued equally within the business, and decisions are made in concert with those directly affected. As a result, the staff at Palm Plastics place a high value on their role within the company and the products are of an extremely high quality, whilst being cost competitive with imports from Asia.
Despite high interest rates and a crippling recession, Palm Products grew in the early 1990s. During the first five years of the decade, the principles that guide the business were formed: drive the costs down, simplify processes and constantly invest in the business. Continual improvements were made to machinery, processes, training and an increasing investment made in product development. By 1995, Palm Products was manufacturing and marketing a stackable tumbler, which is still in production today. Wine glass and champagne flutes followed, as well as plates and bowls.
The product and engineering excellence achieved in the automotive sector directly impacts the manufacture of drinkware. Palm Products has, for many years, made automotive instrument cluster lenses for Toyota. The skills learnt in making these lenses with high clarity and at zero rejects is directly transferable to making clear drinkware. In 2004, Palm Products purchased its first two-shot injection moulding machines to manufacture 2 colour drinkware. The process enables complex parts to be produced that are not possible using the normal single shot process – such as moulding a non-slip material onto the base.
Ongoing investment in the upgrading of equipment and replacement with newer and higher technogy machines and processes will continue to drive costs down and increase high quality. The improved performance of the factory continues to define the success of Palm Products through its third decade under Robert Wilson’s leadership.
Despite the growth of consumer products, the automotive industry will continue to be an important part of the business. The engineering and production skills necessary to remain globally competitive in the automotive industry is an important part of being globally competitive in consumer products. A measure of this commitment is Robert Wilson’s past position as Treasurer of the Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers.
Today, Palm Products supplies high precision automotive components found in Toyota, Ford, GM, Porsche and Hyundai vehicles and Volvo trucks and IVECO trucks .
The company is also involved in R&D through GM North America – a testament to the company’s innovation and technical ability.
The collaboration with Marc Newson in 2012 marks a recognition that a stronger integration of good design into Palm Products corporate vision is a necessary part of being internationally competitive. It is no longer enough to have the best functionality.
Development of new innovative products that combine good design with Palm Products DNA of functionality and production capability will drive an exciting future for the company.