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February 26, 2015 | Our first days in the US

On we go with the tour, with the weather still registering icy (minus 10). Occasionally the sun makes a brief appearance. We prepare for our next visit. And then a big shock! We’ve lost all our computer data. Nothing seems to work. What do we do now? It took us just a moment to discover that the charging cable had been connected overnight to a defective socket and the battery had also died.Connecting the computer to a working socket confirmed that this was the problem and we were able to retrieve all our data. This reminded us how important it is to back up data and we resolved to do this conscientiously from now on.

Today we visit Phoenix Technologies, in Bowling Green, Ohio, manufacturers of recycled PET material with FDA Food Contact Approval, made of post-consumer flakes. On the half-hour journey we encounter some curious sights. At one moment, we are faced with driving snow which a strong crosswind blasts down the street, next moment we are confronted by shops stocked with umbrellas and beach chairs, decorated with artificial palm trees in a white snowy landscape. O, for some warm weather!

The next day is reserved for PTI Plastic Technologies Inc.. Here we visit two sites in Swanton and Holland, Ohio. The company has long been involved in the development of plastic packaging particularly in the PET sector, and produces, for the preform sector, PET preform technology and containers for special applications on behalf of customers. For the next appointment, we need to move on and we stay that evening in a new hotel in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The hotel is actually a motel and on opening the door we find ourselves in the snow and the cold. The thermometer is heading steadily in the direction of minus 20, and lingering any longer at the threshold lets freezing cold air into the room, so we need to keep the door firmly closed.

The next morning starts with satnav programming problems. The satnav obstinately refuses to accept the address of our next appointment, Amcor Rigid Plastics in Manchester, Michigan. After fiddling with the device for a while, we eventually get it going and we can get on our way. After driving about 30 miles we have “reached your destination” according to the satnav. Helpfully, the satnav announces that the location we are seeking is on the left, which mystifies us completely as all around us are endless fields with no sign of any factory. The onward journey to the little town of Manchester ought to clear things up, and at a petrol station we are duly pointed in the right direction. Thus it was that we arrived on time at Amcor, to be welcomed by the packaging specialists and their high-powered team. They showed us the company’s technological developments, including their latest innovation, Liquiform.

We spend the weekend in Chicago. Despite the numbing cold and icy wind we enjoy the city centre on Lake Michigan in the winter sunshine. Even in winter, the city retains its charm. This is an unmissable opportunity to take photos, particularly of Anish Kapoor’s celebrated sculpture “Cloud Gate” otherwise known as the “bean” with its unique reflective properties. The photos will be eventually included in the North America Roadshow brochure.

On Tuesday we go directly to Logoplaste USA in Plainfield, Illinois. The company’s business model is known as “the hole in the wall” in which Logoplaste actually integrates its production lines in the customer’s own factory, an interesting concept indeed. After a tour of the factory, we continue on our journey and make our next temporary halt in Bolingbrook, Illinois. The next few days are fully occupied in and around Wisconsin and we always return to our quarters in Bolingbrook. We visit Monarch Plastics in Kenosha, WI, a manufacturer of plastic packaging for a local customer network. For this journey, we went for the “avoid toll roads” option on the satnav and quickly discovered that the journey would take two and a half hours rather than the planned one and a half (we immediately changed back the satnav settings again). Our slightly belated arrival was no great tragedy, because Monarch was not exactly expecting us anyway. However, we manage to improvise a bit, and ended up having a very informative discussion about a successfully launched wide-neck design as well as learning more about the positioning of the company in the market. On the way back to the hotel, we take the Interstate toll road, thereby saving more than an hour.

The Thursday weather forecast makes for gloomy reading. A freezing blizzard is sweeping in from the East, so we are in for some low temperatures. Three or four inches of snow are expected, and we have two appointments, one nearby in Downers Grove, with Heuft USA and in the afternoon in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with ALPS. Both companies manufacture leak inspection systems, one mainly for full bottles, the other for empty. Road conditions were better than expected and so, despite the 6 hour drive, we had enough time on our hands to pay a visit to the famous Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, a must-see for aficionados of the iconic motorcycles.

Meanwhile from Halifax comes some good news at last. The entry formalities for the Editourmobil have all been resolved and our colleague Rolf can now get to grips with the vehicle so as to hand it over to us at our next stop, in Dayton, Ohio. Rolf has vowed to cover the 2,500 km in three days.

To conclude, here is the interim balance sheet for the tour so far: since leaving Toronto we have covered 3,200 kilometres and visited 10 companies.