As a young adult, Hal Gilham began his informal education by working at Productive Woods, his father’s wood pattern shop. Mr. Gilham graduated from Lynchburg College with a degree in political science and for a short time he successfully entered corporate sales in the greater New York City area. However, motivated by the freedom and opportunity he saw in his father’s small business, Hal joined the company and quickly made an impact by bringing in modern accounting, job costing, and business operations analysis. It wasn’t long before more business came in, including thermoforming tooling. After working with a team reworking a fiberglass mold, Hal saw an opportunity and decided to expand the business into plastics processing. He purchased his first machine, and Productive Woods became Productive Plastics.
As the business grew with a steady flow of heavy gauge work, Mr. Gilham sought ways to expand his business, which included providing ‘value added’ services. By offering information on the materials, design, and the thermoforming process to his customers, Mr. Gilham expanded the business into more active markets. The electrical device market in the New York Metropolitan Area and the introduction of pressure forming as an alternative to injection molding created even greater opportunity.
In the 1990s, the company continued to expand into other markets. Under Mr. Gilham’s leadership, Productive Plastics increased its pressure forming capabilities and began serving the medical device industry, utilizing more heavily engineered materials that required specifications above the usual ABS or HDPE. As new technologies were used in 5 Axis CNC machining and tooling techniques with loose pieces, process improvement became a core value and a catalyst for running the business. During this time Hal’s father James, the founder of the company, retired and Hal gained complete control of Productive Plastics.
Toward the end of 2010, Productive Plastics conducted numerous projects where plastics purchases were equal to those in metal in cost, which was highly unusual for a small thermoformer. In the same time period, Productive Plastics reduced its machinery from 12 thermoforming machines and 15 CNC machines to six thermoformers and six CNC machines while more than doubling their output.
A former SPE Thermoforming Division Board Member, Hal joined SPE in 1991 and is now an emeritus member of SPE. During his tenure on the Board, Mr. Gilham served as Chairman of the Materials Committee, the Processing Committee, the Machinery Committee and Parts Competition Chair at a few SPE Thermoforming Conferences. In addition, he served on the Division’s Awards and Nominating Committees. Mr. Gilham is now retired but remains engaged in the industry where he spent most of his 40+ year career. His son, Evan Gilham, is now Chief Operating Officer of Productive Plastics.