Celebrating Three Generations of Manufacturing Innovation & Leadership at Hoffer Plastics

How Thinking Ahead Continues to Propel Hoffer Plastics into the Future

Back in 1953, Robert Hoffer started out with a powerful idea: Putting the needs of customers, employees and the community first would drive a successful business. It’s a seemingly simple concept that has led Hoffer Plastics through 70 years of business.

Today, into our third generation of family leadership, the course that Bob and Helen set for Hoffer Plastics remains at the heart of our success. As we conclude our 70th anniversary year, we’d like to celebrate some of the many innovations and ideas that have and continue to drive our company forward.

Generation One: Entrepreneurial Spirit

This company, of course, wouldn’t be here without the entrepreneurial courage of Robert Hoffer and his wife, Helen. We remain steadfast in our visionary values on which they built Hoffer Plastics – Family, Integrity, Service and Trust.

 Robert continually maintained an eye on the future, taking many bold steps to set standards for taking care of customers and the community.

  • Adapting the Focused Factory Model: Seeing that large factories sometimes can lose sight of innovative opportunities, Robert implemented a Focused Factory model at the Hoffer Plastics facility in South Elgin. This organized individual plants and teams around customers, markets and technical expertise for greater accountability.
  • Prioritizing Education: Robert had a passion for education – specifically around manufacturing. That’s why the company established the first U.S. Department of Labor-recognized injection molding apprenticeship in partnership with Elgin Community College in 1979 (a program that continues today).
  • Bettering the Community: Rooted in a commitment to giving back that’s been at our core from the beginning, Hoffer Plastics continues to ignite a brighter future for our community and our company through the Hoffer Foundation (established 1966).
  • (Co)Generating New Ideas: Always thinking about new, innovative ways of serving customers and the community, Robert, together with his sons, established an on-site co-generation facility that would both ensure continuous power to the plant in the event of an outage and allow Hoffer Plastics to assist in relieving the local power grid, if necessary.

 Robert Hoffer accomplished many milestones in more than 40 years as CEO of Hoffer Plastics. In doing so, he laid a solid foundation for ongoing excellence as the business transitioned into its next phase under the leadership of the next generation.

Generation Two: Operational Advancement

With Robert setting a course for innovation, the next generation of Hoffer leadership sought to scale operations to meet rapidly rising demand. Together, William and his brother Robert Jr. instilled a focus on operational excellence that built upon the foundation laid by G1.

  • Improving Processes: Under G2’s leadership, Hoffer Plastics embarked on its Lean manufacturing journey to enhance efficiency, reduce waste and keep pace with customer expectations and demands.
  • Advancing Technologies: G2 made important investments in the latest advanced manufacturing technologies to benefit customer programs. From equipment re-investment to the addition of new technologies like 3D printing and robotics, William recognized Hoffer Plastics’ ability to guide customers through the adoption of new technologies and processes.
  • Expanding Capabilities: William led the team to expand its capabilities beyond injection molding, adding assembly and post-molding secondary operations expertise to its wheelhouse. Focused on adaptability, we were able to do more for our customers, streamlining production while meeting diverse customer requirements.
  • Centralizing Sustainability: For William, ensuring Hoffer Plastics focused on sustainability was a non-negotiable. He supported and led employees in creating our facility-wide recycling program. Today, that program enables us to divert 350,000 lbs. of material from landfills annually.

Thanks to G2’s innovative leadership and relentless operational improvement, Plastics News recognized Hoffer Plastics as 2012 Processor of the Year.

Building upon a strong foundation for growth, William transitioned to his new role as Chairman of the Board in 2020, paving the way for his three children – Gretchen, Charlotte and Alex – to take the helm.

Generation Three: Collaboration for the Future

Since taking on leadership roles – and becoming co-CEOs last year – siblings Gretchen Hoffer Farb, Charlotte Hoffer Canning and Alex Hoffer have worked together to steer Hoffer Plastics through unprecedented challenges.

Now, with the company stronger than ever, they’re focused on creating an even more vibrant tomorrow by further cultivating our formidable strengths: entrepreneurial spirit, innovative energy and core values.

  • Leading Boldly to Inspire Change: Inspired by their grandfather’s innovative spirit, G3 does not sit back and wait for change. They lead it. Take our new co-CEO model, or the new investments in automation, capabilities (i.e., micro molding), product development and beyond. These bold steps forward are only possible with financial strength, and a culture of operational excellence.
  • Investing in New Technology: We continue to reinvest 10+% per year back into new equipment – automation, robotics, the co-generation plant, new processing machinery and beyond. These investments not only help us better serve customers with high-precision parts. They also make our workplace more fun, rewarding and inspiring for new ideas!
  • Innovating New Products: Among those new ideas is the Lok™ family of products: Hoffer’s patented caps and spouts for flexible and rigid containers that preserve product safety, enable recyclability and differentiate on-shelf. Proprietary closures represented a bold departure from our foundation in injection molding but opened new opportunities for our team and customers.
  • Investing in People: Staying true to one of the vital lessons of our history – that people matter – G3 recognizes the importance of strengthening the team with new expertise. Just look at our latest hires. Our Vice President of Operations, Director of Human Resources and Business Development Manager are helping us meet customers’ evolving needs while driving what’s next.

The best part? G3 is just getting started.

Recognizing Our Achievements. Readying for What’s Next.

From the humble beginnings of a single-injection molding press, Hoffer Plastics has come a long way over 70 years. In this article, we’ve explored only a sampling of the many remarkable innovations that continue to define our legacy.

We’re proud of the best-in-class manufacturing operation we’ve built – and even prouder of the way we’ve upheld our founding values along the way. With our people-first sensibility, we’re excited to take on the future together with you!