Hockey Isn’t Just for the Hard-Headed

Hockey and Rubber
Hockey and Rubber

Clyde Sharpe
President of International Sales, Elasto Proxy

Yes, I was wrong. But I should have been right! In my last blog entry, I predicted that there wouldn’t be an NHL season this year.  Last December, the negotiations between owners and players were as hard as a hockey puck on a cold winter’s day. Then a January thaw occurred. A deal was struck and teams took to the indoor ice for training camp. A week later and without any preseason games, the league launched a strike-shortened 48-game regular season. That’s 34 games less than in normal years and there won’t be any inter-conference play until the Stanley Cup Finals.

Here at Elasto Proxy headquarters in Quebec, Canada, I’m surrounded by fans of the Habs – the Montreal Canadiens. So unless the Habs host my favorite team, the Calgary Flames, in the Finals, I won’t have a chance to watch Alex Tanguay and company at the nearby Bell Centre. Yet John Rye, Elasto Proxy’s resident Toronto Maple Leafs fan, will have a chance to face-off against Megan Beaulieu and much of our production team when the Canadiens host the Leafs on February 9th. Still, it’s not the lack of inter-conference play that bothers me – and why my NHL prediction should have been right.

Hazards of a Shortened Hockey Season

As the hockey analyst Pierre McGuire explains, players need about 10 games to get into the rhythm of the season. If McGuire is correct (and I think that he is), that’s nearly 20% of this strike-shortened year. The abbreviated season also favors teams whose lineups haven’t changed much since the Los Angeles Kings hoisted the Cup last June. If chemistry counts, then teams like Philadelphia, Montreal, Toronto, the New York Rangers, and even Calgary will need to incorporate new players quickly. Gone is the pace of a full-length season, too, when many good teams slump in the middle yet finish strong in the end.

This year, hockey teams that get off to a slow start are at a disadvantage – and NHL players could be at risk, too. Although many skaters kept themselves in good condition, the strike did not prepare them for a regular season where every game counts and contests have a playoff-like intensity. Some hockey gear is made with shock-absorbing materials and gels that help reduce the risk of injury, but is this protective equipment really up to the task? Concussions aren’t just a problem in hockey, of course, as football fans in the U.S. will tell you.

Hockey Equipment and Player Protection

Except for the ones worn by goalies, most hockey headgear isn’t as eye-catching as the football helmets worn in the NFL (or even the CFL). In terms of preventing head injuries, however, what matters most is what’s inside. Most hockey helmets are made of a lightweight plastic, typically a polycarbonate material, and feature a one-piece or two-piece design. Underneath this hard plastic shell is a liner to help absorb impact and, in some products, a second liner for comfort. Because of our water jet cutting capabilities, Elasto Proxy has experience with custom-fabricating the EVA foam that’s used in helmet inserts.

Hockey protective equipment also includes rubber and plastic components such as mouth guards, ear protectors, and pads.  Mouth guards come pre-formed and then mold to the mouth during use, or can be softened by heating and then molded by biting down on them. Ear protectors, another type of safety equipment, can be inserted into player helmets for extra comfort and protection. The hard plastic elbow pads that some skaters like provide protection, but can cause serious injury to opponents.

What Do You Think?

The NHL is back and the 2013 season is in full-swing. There have been some good games, a few fights, and at least one charging penalty that’s resulted in a one-game suspension. But should the NHL have had a season at all? And how well will hockey equipment help to protect players during the short, intense season?

Elasto Proxy Employees Become Lean, Mean, Learning Machines


Doug Sharpe
President of Elasto Proxy

Lean manufacturing is a set of production practices that seeks to eliminate waste and deliver quality products on-time, at the lowest production costs, and according to customer needs. According to lean thinking, waste refers to any activity that does not add value. Examples include overproduction, idle time, unnecessary movement, product defects, and failing to utilize people to their fullest abilities. By minimizing waste and maximizing customer value, any organization can improve its bottom line.

Why Learn About Lean?

As a custom fabricator of high-value, low-volume rubber and plastic components, Elasto Proxy is eager to learn all it can about lean. We’re not lean experts, of course, but we’re investing our time and talents to educate our employees about lean thinking. This year, two of our team leaders will learn about lean manufacturing to boost Elasto Proxy’s efficiency and strengthen our business model. What Alain Leblanc and Elaine Bergeron gain from CSMO Caoutchouc will help both our company and our customers.

How CSMO Caoutchouc Helps

Here in Quebéc, where Elasto Proxy is headquartered, CSMO Caoutchouc is dedicated to developing a world-class workforce in the province’s rubber industry. Like other Elasto Proxy employees, Alain and Elaine have taken CSMO Caoutchouc coursework before. “General Training on the Processing” of rubber provides an excellent introduction to our industry, and features modules such as vulcanization, injection molding, and extrusion methods. For companies that need advanced training, CSMO Caoutchouc also provides in-depth and specialized instruction.

Supervisor Training in Lean Manufacturing

The course that Alain and Elaine will now take, “Supervisor Training in Lean Manufacturing,” spans eight sessions and ends in June. Each session lasts for eight hours, and provides students with an opportunity to interact with instructors who are informative, engaging, and ready to provide real-world examples of lean manufacturing. Although 6 of the 8 sessions will be held in hotel conference rooms, there are two on-site visits. Elasto Proxy will host one of these sessions, and we look forward to this opportunity.

Molding  Lean Managers  

Elaine has never learned about lean before, and Alain studied it briefly while at CEGEP, our system of post-secondary education in Quebec. Thanks to CSMO Caoutchouc, however, both will participate in informative, interactive sessions that include leadership training, continuous improvement, and lean strategies for management. Through coaching, role-playing, and problem solving, Elaine and Alain will learn about more than just machine-based efficiency.

How to Talk Lean

Lean manufacturing involves communication, both between first-level supervisors and company managers, and between team leaders and their employees. To eliminate waste and maximize customer value, all members of an organization must be willing to suggest improvements – and managers must be willing to listen. Internal communication can be easy to overlook, but is vitally important.

For over 20 years, Elasto Proxy has promised to fully understand the needs of our partners and deliver on them. As Elaine and Alan now learn about lean manufacturing, we look forward to listening to their ideas so that Elasto Proxy can build a better company and strengthen its commitment to customers.

Elasto Proxy Supports Centraide Laurentides

Centraide Laurentides
Centraide Laurentides

Doug Sharpe
President of Elasto Proxy

Centraide Laurentides is a non-profit organization that supports a network of community assistance groups throughout the Laurentians, the region north of Montréal that Elasto Proxy calls home. Here at our headquarters in Boisbriand, Quebéc, we’re more than just a Canadian company or a global business with offices in North America and China. Elasto Proxy is a member of a local community, and we support Centraide Laurentides in its efforts to help our neighbors who are in need.

Centraide Laurentides collects donations from businesses and individuals in and around Boisbriand. The organization’s focus is local but diverse. In distributing funds to a variety of charitable groups, Centraide supports food banks, provides tuition assistance, buys eyeglasses, and even pays for children’s visits to museum. A good steward, they also ensure that groups use donations wisely. For example, each group must be recertified annually and prove that it’s helping more people than the year before.

As Christiane Quessy, our area representative explains, Centraide Laurentides is part of the United Way, but independent. There are 18 Centraide branches in Quebéc, but all of the money that we donate is used to help our local community. That’s why for every dollar our employees give, Elasto Proxy adds 2.5 dollars more. Centraide Laurentides has many donors, of course, and some of its biggest supporters are people who received assistance when they were in need. They are a testament to its success.

As a small, family-run business that’s grown from a “Mom and Pop Shop” into growing global player in the rubber and plastics industry, we’re also committed to our community. Our name, a marriage of “elastomer” and “proxy” defines Elasto Proxy’s commitment to fully understanding the needs of our partners and delivering on them. As a supporter of Centraide Laurentides, we’re proud to play a part in meeting the needs of our neighbors, too.

We invite you to donate to your local charity, or to help us in supporting Centraide Laurentides. Look for them on the Web, or find them on Facebook. Thank you.

Elasto Proxy Supports Moisson Laurentides

Doug Sharpe
President of Elasto Proxy

Moisson Laurentides
Moisson Laurentides

Moisson Laurentides is a community service and charitable organization that collects and distributes food to people in need. Headquartered in Blainville, Quebec, Canada, the Laurentian Foodbank is the hub of a social services network that provides more than just food assistance. As the Services page on its website explains, “Feeding people is a precarious thing. Feeding their esteem and hope is another”.

As part of its mission, Moisson Laurentides collects food donations in 116 municipalities and distributes supplies to nearly 90  local organizations. In turn, these local groups help to feed families in their own communities. Each month, the Laurentian Foodbank aids 50,000 people, of whom 40% are children. The organization’s permanent employees embrace this task, as do hundreds of dedicated volunteers.

Food donors also play an important role, especially during the holiday season. Each year, the Great Food Drive of December encourages both businesses and individuals to participate. As the co-founders and co-owners of a Québec-based company, my wife Donna and I are pleased to support the good work of Moisson Laurentides. In this endeavor, we are joined by the entire Elasto Proxy team.

During last month’s Family Day event at our office in Boisbriand, Elasto Proxy asked attendees to bring three non-perishable food items. The family and friends who joined us gave generously, donating boxes of pasta, canned goods, bottles of juice, soap, and even some toys. The donors were then entered into a drawing, and the winner received a coupon for groceries. Elasto Proxy’s food donation drive was a great success, and we were pleased to provide Moisson Laurentides with four big boxes of donations.

Elaine Bergeron, one of Elasto Proxy’s Team Leaders, helped organize this year’s food  drive and explained the food bank’s operation. First, incoming donations are separated by category. Next, various types of items are added to individual baskets, along with fresh vegetables and perishable items such as milk and yogurt. To ensure that all recipients receive equitable amounts, Moisson Laurentides also weighs these baskets before dispersing them to local organizations.

On behalf of Elasto Proxy, I’d like to thank all of our generous employees along with their families and friends for supporting Moisson Laurentides during the Great Food Drive of December. In my next blog entry, I will describe how our team will support one of the Laurentian Foodbank’s partners, Centraide Laurentides, throughout 2013.