Peter Bemis '69
2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award for Professional Achievement
Peter Bemis ’69 lived a life as forward-‐thinking pioneer who pushed the boundaries of technology.
Bemis started his career with the company shortly after his 1969 graduation from Carroll, where he was a member of the Phi Theta Pi fraternity. With his business and economics degree in hand, he followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, Al, and father, F.K. “Pete” Bemis. His first job as a clerk, processing time cards and job tickets, would prove short. He was soon promoted to manufacturing manager of the company’s seven-press injection molding operations.
He was instrumental in developing a mold to create innovative hinges for use on the company’s own, branded toilet seats. The company led the way in the development of all-plastic, injection molded toilet seats in the 1960s and remains a brand leader today.
During his career, Bemis earned 15 process patents for new part design and injection molding. He pioneered the use of coinjection molding, a process in which virgin resin is injected with scrap plastic. His use of coextrusion is one reason why his company is so well-‐known for its expertise in this processing technique.
He died in 2013 of cancer at age 66, leaving behind a legacy of innovation within the Bemis Manufacturing Company, which he helped to build as a third-generation family member. Today, the company generates more than $350 million in annual sales, with 1,800 employees in six locations worldwide.
Bemis Manufacturing, headquartered in Sheboygan Falls WI., is a 113-year-old manufacturer that started out as White Wagon Works, a maker of wooden wagons for children. It has grown into an international producer of private-label products and component parts for a wide variety of industries such as John Deere and Whirlpool Corporation but is best known for its toilet seat products.
"Peter made significant contributions to our industry, always willing to push the envelope and try different things — hence the coinjection that Bemis is so known for,” said Bill Carteaux, president and CEO for Society of the Plastics Industry, following Bemis’ death.
Bemis also introduced statistical process control throughout his company in 1975, years before it was widely employed by plastics processors. His work would lead to the formation of a strong alliance with the plastics machinery maker Milacron. Together the two firms developed and built the world’s largest horizontal co-injection molding machine with a clamping force of 6,600 tons. Bemis used the massive press to mold huge, 8-foot green hoods for John Deere tractors.
Bemis assumed the title of president and chief executive officer when his brother Richard retired. He was active in the company for nearly 45 years.
His company’s innovation was widely recognized, garnering numerous awards in recent years that include:
- 2012 - Bemis was among three finalists in the 16th Plastics News' Processor of the Year Award. Bemis Manufacring was nominated by Glenn Anderson of Milacron, a supplier of a 6,600 ton, 2,100-square-foot "monster" co-injection molding machine.
- 2011 - The Target shopping cart, molded by Bemis, was a finalist in the Industrial Design Excellence Awards (IDEA)
- 2009 ‐ Bemis Manufacturing won the 2009 International Plastics Design Competition Retail Award for the Target shopping cart.
- 2007 ‐ Bemis Manufacturing took top honors at the SPI 2007 Alliance of Plastics Processors Awards for a high-end close dryer door window.
- 2006 ‐ Bemis Manufacturing's Advance Technology Group (formally contract group) won a Judges award for the Sub Compact Utility Tractor and 9th Annual Industrial Designers Society of America/Plastics News Award for the John Deere Series 8000 Engine Enclosure.
He was not only an industry leader but a civic leader as well.
Bemis served on the national and Midwest boards of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. for many years, was past board chairman of the National Plastics Museum and was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame in 2006. He was named to head the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) technical advisory board. His firm was a finalist for Plastics News' Processor of the Year Award and won a 2011 PN Excellence Award for its industry and public service.
His philanthropic interests focused mainly on the Sheboygan area. He was the president of the F. K. Bemis Family Foundation, which is the corporate foundation funded by gifts from Bemis Manufacturing. He served on the boards of St. Nicholas Hospital, Lakeland College, Riveredge Nature Center Inc. and several professional organizations.