A man who decided not to take “No” as an answer when he was told he didn’t have enough education to become a manager did what many wish they could but never had the guts to do. Jim Vander Kolk started Royal Technologies with the help of his silent partner and he never looked back.
Building the company on great customer service, solid working knowledge of the industry, and excellent products coming off his first used press and sampling molds, Vander Kolk’s company has evolved to utilizing over 1,000 employees in Michigan, Alabama, and Texas, and over 400 presses.
Royal Technologies has built its company to support other major companies such as Steelcase, Stanley Black & Decker, Panasonic, Toyota, and DeWalt. Plant Manager to the Mission facility is mechanical engineer Trung Nguyen (pronounced Winn), a McAllen resident for 20 years.
“I came to the Valley to work at Stanley Black & Decker’s maquiladora in Reynosa on its Rotation Program for a year,” said the Pennsylvania native. “I had graduated from Penn State, started work in Maryland at the corporate headquarters for Black & Decker, then came to the Valley in the Manufacturing Management Development Program to develop future manufacturing leaders.”
Love and marriage fit into the equation, and two baby girls and a boy later and Nguyen was hooked on life in the Valley.
“I was happy with my job at Black & Decker and my life here. I like the peace of it,” he said.
One of Black & Decker’s suppliers, High Tech Plastics, was looking for a Plant Manager and Nguyen fit the bill.
“I learned manufacturing and plastics at Hi-Tech Plastics which then was bought by Royal Technologies,” Nguyen explained. “Ours is a high-end consumer plastic product which has a longer life span than one-time-use plastics such as plastic cups.”
With its injecting molding presses, Royal Technologies supplies parts to maquiladoras as well as other select Reynosa and other select companies, its site doing production only.
Part of what excites Nguyen in his work is his capacity to work with his 184 employees, training them in the culture of the company.
“This is a company with strong values and culture,” Nguyen said. “It’s a culture of caring. We believe in family and want to make sure family life is good. For example, we don’t work on weekends. At times I see where everyone is trying to be better than the other person, so we train our employees to work as a team, for the betterment of our facility and the whole company.”
Becoming an Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOP) company goes a long way in helping that happen.
“One of our core values is stewardship. It gives people ownership of their business. We’re building trust within the company, so they know that if they work hard, they get a bonus besides becoming owners of the plant. The only problem we’re having is we keep growing, which means we have not fully transitioned over to the ESOP plan yet.”
Another way to increase employee efficiency is that the company has its own training and development program, Royal University.
“We have programs where we teach people the skills they need, teach them how to think technically and the business of plastics, but our biggest challenge is to intertwine those skills with the values of the company. Our owner is adamant about our values, integrity, stewardship, teamwork, hard work, and excellence. We work a lot on the culture of our plant so our people will see this is not just a technological company, it’s a company with values and culture, the culture of caring.”
Nguyen took the culture of caring a step further by opening the plant to FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) RGV. An organization that aims to motivate kids to pursue education and jobs in STEM through classroom activities, in this case building robots, a tournament is held in the open space in the plant. Since Nguyen first wanted to become an engineer to design toys, helping students from elementary through high school work on their robots, and possibly think of engineering as a career, is right up his alley. He’s also a mentor through RGV Lead.
“I’m proud we’ve been able to be a part of that,” Nguyen said. “Our desire is to develop human resources, develop people, develop technical talent within the Valley and get them to stay in the Valley. We want to make that transition into advanced manufacturing.”
That thinking is one reason the company changed its name from Royal Plastics to Royal Technologies.
“We didn’t want to be pigeon-holed to be just plastics even though the core of our business is still injection molding. We do, however, like to think of ourselves as a manufacturing company that uses technology,” he said.
This company with a heart on top of the great business sense has a plant manager who might say one of his favorite things to do is work with the people in his facility.
“I strive to focus on their heart, their lives. I want to understand them and find out what their passions are. What do they need help with? If I can assist them in any way, I know it will help them work better. In the end, if you work on someone’s heart, it will pay dividends for all involved,” Nguyen said.
Believing in its commitment to the Valley, its people, and its customers, Royal Technologies will continue to grow into a Valley leader through its own goals, culture, and values that have taken it this far.