Category Archives: Lean Manufacturing

Universal Polymer & Rubber: Examining our Acquisition Strategy

Who Did We Recently Acquire?

UP&R is proud to announce that we have just completed our fifth overall acquisition, and third in the last four years. Our continuous acquisition strategy has cemented our position as one of the largest non-mixing polymer fabricators in the United States. At UPR, we are always actively looking for additional polymer parts manufacturers that fit our perpetual approach.

Who did we acquire this time? Gasko Fabricated Products of Medina, OH! Gasko is a high-volume, die-cutting converter of polymer and hybrid materials for gaskets, seals, and diaphragms. Such modules are used for power take-off and transmission, and engine management/fuel delivery system applications in the automotive, marine, and outdoor power equipment markets.

Over time, the Medina facility will transition to our Tallmadge, OH facility, attaining synergies, economies, and shared die-cut expertise.

John Zielinski, our Executive Vice President, commented, “Customers and prospects have been asking for a wider variety in our converting, and through this acquisition, we will now be able to provide for the market’s need.”

What Sets Us Apart from the Competition

 With about two handfuls of competitors within a 50-mile radius, we unremittingly set our self apart from the many other polymer companies in Northeast Ohio. Acquisition numbers from our wide-range of capabilities allow us to achieve a high-level stature. Our competitors include other rubber molders who tackle tarp straps, but similar manufacturers have limited capabilities that lead to our success as a business. At UPR, we have four different types of tarp straps including our own brands, and multiple layers to each brand.

Through our assortment of brands comes a fluctuation in price point too. Businesses, both small and large, will be able to find an answer that fits their needs.

Additional competitors include extrusion and molding, but the competition only supports one focal point – either, or – not both. Here, at Universal Polymer, we have the support to focus on rubber molding, rubber extrusions, plastic extrusions, tarp straps and gaskets, because of the diversity of our qualified, in-house, team experts. We are a one-stop-shop for all of your polymer solutions for the transportation and cargo control market, construction and pipe manufacturers market, automotive OE supply chain as a Tier II and Tier III, and the general industrial market that comprises several well-known global manufacturers.

Our one-stop-shop doesn’t only serve the end product of a tarp strap, a pipe gasket, window gasket, tire or more. When we say everything is done in-house, we mean it. From die-cutting to fabrication, both your polymers and rubbers start and end with us. UPR beats out the multiple stops that you would have to take to buy extrusions from one manufacturer and your required molded parts from another.

As a robust and elite manufacturer, there’s no worry, no wasted downtime, no hassle. All of our different parts are preplanned, engineered, designed, and already taken care of with you in mind. Every piece you need already fits perfectly together. With UP&R, you get all of the aspects of a small business manufacturer with the quality of a big manufacturer, meaning all of your bases–quality AND quantity, are covered “under one roof.”

With the Gasko acquisition, we continue to supply and have increased supplies for the automotive, marine, and outdoor power equipment industries, plus further industrial markets too.

Immediate customer-facing benefits include:

  • Both locations, Medina and Tallmadge, have historically specialized in fast turn-around, high-mix, high volume production, making them highly complementary. Plans include the move of Medina’s manufacturing into our Tallmadge location, an IATF-16949 and ISO-9001 certified production facility.
  • A Stronger Product Line for Customers – The Gasko product line, when added to our already broad product line, will enhance the total basket of goods that UP&R offers to our current customer base, and further, to market.
  • Enhanced Capabilities – While UP&R and Gasko have shared similar historical focus’, each excels in specific, but complementary areas. We look to offer Gasko customers a more full range of offerings – molded and extruded rubber parts, and die-cut parts, from IATF16949 certified facilities – that will provide vendor consolidation opportunities in a lean manufacturing world.

Our Ideology at UP&R

Because we put continuous improvement into our day-to-day, we get better each day. Started in 1970, we have continuously operated since inception. In 2018, our staff is proud to say that we are wiser today then we were just yesterday. And with additional resources now onboard, we’ll be able to continue forward with our successful business model.

Today, UPR stands ready to help your company compete and grow. At UP&R, we are committed to providing you first-rate service, timely service, and quality – every single time!

How We’ve Grown Since the Beginning

 Universal Polymer & Rubber started out as a tarp strap and pipe gasket manufacturer. We have remained true to our roots by building upon that initial foundation. Starting off as a smaller size business, we leveraged our expertise in pipe gasket development and manufacturing, to gain business in other interwoven product applications including window gaskets, tote gaskets, and tires. Currently, we have branched out into other markets, and through our market diversity and versatility, we have been able to learn from all markets to apply best practices from each market application to the next.

To this day, we remain one of the largest suppliers of pipe gaskets in North America.

Look for more information on the many industries that we cover by following our blog, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages. We update them almost daily!

For any questions on our wide array of gaskets, moldings, extrusions, or company in general, simply contact us today. We look forward to connecting with you soon!

Made in America, Built to Last: Universal Polymer & Rubber Ltd. Is Featured in “Construction in Focus Magazine”

This month UPR received a rewarding validation of our efforts, being recognized by one of the most widely read publications in the world of manufacturing and construction– Construction in Focus. Universal Polymer & Rubber Ltd. is pleased to be seen as a “Made in America” success story in the July 2017 issue.

We would like to thank the magazine for the opportunity and to tip the hat to everyone who has been involved in helping us earn that spotlight.

A Made in America Success Story” (pages 114-117), is a candid look at the legacy of Universal Polymer & Rubber Ltd and dives deep into the secrets of our longevity. The write-up digs through our accomplishments during such uncertain economic times, highlighting our efforts to avoid reliance on exports for revenue. Contrasting companies are especially glaring because many rubber manufacturers and suppliers in the Midwest have been forced to closed their doors in the past decade.

Still, we remain confident in our diverse product line and our commitment to quality conscious, lean production. In the next five years, we look to expand our footprint in North America and aim to increase the volume of trade with international clients.

What Sets UP&R Apart?

Hendley talks to a few of our company’s captivating factors:

  1. Our ability to custom create products from client supplied designs – models and blueprints. Standard units like tarp straps are good sellers. But our expertise isn’t restricted to these “bought off the shelf” items. UP&R customers depend on our prowess when it comes to crafting parts from customer designs.
  2. Our diverse product pool and market base. We aren’t just an automotive seller or a pipe gasket company. We have the skill to manufacture tarp straps and items that require finely honed rubber and plastic extrusion capabilities as well.
  3. Our dedication to quality. UP&R team members are the best at what they do. We possess the ISO 9001:2008 certification (without design) and also the ISO/TS 16949 certification across all facilities.

Also mentioned are snippets about the ‘5 S’ program that will help with all future facilities, whether expanded or acquired.

Finely peppered with quotes from our Executive Vice President, John Zielinski, we find that the engaging article both informs and inspires like-minded companies and future business prospects.

Contacting UP&R

If you are interested in staying up-to-date on the latest in manufacturing, construction, and the plastic and rubber industries, please follow our blog, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Need a quote? Get in touch with us today.

Competitive Manufacturing: A Delicate Balancing Act

Today’s business environment is unique and highly competitive. As manufacturing comes back in a big way, and American manufacturing, specifically, is reaching new heights, companies must find the right balance to stay ahead.

Take, for example, the role of a senior manager in a medium-sized manufacturing company. This person must wear many hats. After all, most companies don’t have the full amount of personnel—especially in these times of fewer skilled workers—to have someone handle short-term strategies and another to handle long-term.

The senior manager, therefore, has multiple responsibilities, and must juggle them all well, focusing on both the short and long term. He or she must also be able to switch these multiple hats many times throughout the course of a day. This is especially true when the company focuses on lean operation.

A major factor is to isolate each customer and his or her industry, looking at them all as individuals and focusing on their specific needs. For auto industry customers, for instance, parts are typically shipped out a year or two after the initial quote, and the prices of raw materials and gas can change in this time period. This needs to be taken into account and monitored closely along the way. For other industry clients, the factors will differ and should always be considered.

In this way, the senior manager is responsible for being involved on many levels, while balancing so many tasks: new business growth, sales input trackables, industry forecasts, company projects, and, of course, each customer and industry.

By achieving this delicate balance, the short and long term will correlate, and a lean operation will stay lean but effective. A good business—with a very good senior manager—can make this all work. At Universal Polymer & Rubber, we’re proud of every member of our hardworking, dedicated staff, including our senior management, and believe we effectively achieve all our goals while putting our customers first.

Benchmarking and Continuous Improvement: An Ongoing Road to Success

American manufacturing is most definitely back in a big way—and it’s also definitely one of the most competitive and innovative manufacturing industries in the world. In order to remain competitive, American companies must continuously improve and focus on bettering their operations and products on a minute-to-minute basis.

This extreme focus on continuous improvement is something we take very seriously, and very personally. We realize the level of trust our clients put in us, and we’ll never sit back and rest on past success. We know that no matter how good a business is, there’s always room for improvement, and in order to continue to improve internally and remain profitable, this method must be implemented, maintained, and tracked throughout every aspect of the business.

We do this in a number of ways. One of them is through benchmarking, a practice that goes hand-in-hand with our continuous improvement efforts. Just as coaches of successful sports teams look at what other teams are doing effectively, and then use those principles and practices, we, as a manufacturer, do the same.

We often find the best use of benchmarking is by looking at our customers, for whom we have great respect. We will visit customers’ manufacturing facilities and see how they perform certain operations, picking and choosing what’s successful and relevant to our own facilities.

One customer of ours, a Tier 1 supplier, demonstrated an innovative inventory storage system, showing what was last produced and what stock was oldest. We subsequently implemented the same method with great success.

Another Tier 1 client of ours was holding daily meetings to track action items—now we use the same practice in our Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP).

Using benchmarking along with our other practices in continuous improvement allows us to achieve across-the-board progress, while setting a baseline and tracking our growth along the way. While not every change occurs overnight, but rather is a constant work in progress with consistent forward momentum, it all leads to noticeable success.

5S Principles: Our Commitment to Continuous Improvement

If you are familiar with the 5S methodology, you’ll know how useful it is in manufacturing. And if you know how truly useful it is, you’ll understand how pleased we are at Universal Polymer & Rubber to be implementing the 5S principles, and to be seeing it all come together so well for us.

5S is a Japanese workplace organizational discipline that specifically stands for 5 words—seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke. They refer to neatness, sorting, and disciplined organization, and the principle was first brought to the U.S. in the 1980s when Japanese automakers began establishing a presence in America. Since then, 5S has spread beyond automaking to encompass all of manufacturing, and it has become part of the mantra of successful manufacturing.

In essence, the idea of 5S is continuous improvement through a disciplined way of organizing and keeping order. Everything has a place, and there is a place for everything. Nothing should be carelessly or haphazardly thrown or stored anywhere; everything should be kept neatly in its proper area.

In this way, everyone within the organization gets into a routine, and things are kept neat. But beyond that, when everything is kept neat and the clutter is gone, it becomes easier for each person to look clearly at his or her work zone and see the areas for improvement. It ensures a clear picture and, in the end, a quality of work.

Additionally, maintaining the 5S method presents the right picture to customers who visit a facility; when clients visit suppliers whose warehouses are exceptionally organized and efficient, they feel assured that everything is in order and quality is consistently achieved.

For a long time, we have been very interested in implementing 5S practices, but weren’t physically able to given the lack of space at our facilities. Now, having recently finished our warehouse upgrades/renovations, we have been able to accomplish this, and we’re very pleased with the results already.

Of course, 5S is a work in progress, a never-ending quest for improvement; our facilities look significantly better than they did six weeks ago, and not as good as they will look six weeks from now. It’s all part of our plan to continue delivering the quality we always have, but never being satisfied with “good enough.”

The Progression to Lean Manufacturing

If you were to travel back in time to manufacturing facilities from twenty years ago, you would notice the vast differences between those facilities and today’s facilities. Back then, each manufacturer focused on their own skills, and businesses had a larger amount of employees. Now, as we have seen even in our own business, small to medium sized manufacturers have a smaller group of employees who wear multiple hats within the business.

Since the recession hit in 2009, businesses, especially manufacturers, were forced to delegate business in a leaner manner. Lean manufacturing, as defined by the EPA, is “a business model and collection of tactical methods that emphasize eliminating non-value added activities while delivering quality products on time at least cost with greater efficiency.” Lean manufacturing, as stated in the article, has quickly been implemented by a plethora of industries in recent years.

Today, as more and more younger people are heading on different career paths and there is an increased use of automation and technology in the manufacturing process, businesses are learning to do more with less; we certainly have. However, we are hoping that as manufacturing continues to grow and come back, more college-educated people will see how other disciplines fit into the field and choose careers in the manufacturing world.

We know we aren’t the only ones faced with these challenges. Instead, lean manufacturing and the idea of working with you have has become widespread throughout the industry. Not only have businesses been forced into this survival mode because of the recent economy, but the introduction of new technologies has also lent itself to lean manufacturing. Together, we are all becoming more lean and adaptable to the quickly-changing industry.

Helping the Resurgence in Manufacturing, One Step at a Time

Across the world of manufacturing, businesses are beginning to rebound from the recent recession. Manufacturers in a variety of industries are experiencing growth for the first time in years and they are building up for a peak in orders. As there has been a resurgence in manufacturing, we have also seen more support for local customers and for American-made products.

As a company that persevered through the recession, we believe that manufacturers who endured the recession are currently doing it again, by integrating lean manufacturing into their processes, investing in automation and new technologies, and making the right adjustments. We have seen this on a personal note as well.

Our parent company, Cypress, hosts an annual corporate managers’ meeting for all of their companies and staff. Every year, the senior managers meet, make presentations, and discuss various initiatives they have worked on in their business. It is a good opportunity for us to present what we have been working on, see what the other companies are doing, and network within our parent company in order to achieve best practices.

Not only is it exciting for us to be a part of a company that continues to grow, but it is also important for us to share experiences and tips on how to be a successful manufacturer in today’s marketplace as well. We plan on making whatever adjustments necessary to progress in this manufacturing resurgence.

The Secret of Lean Manufacturing and Just-In-Time (JIT) Delivery

One of the buzzwords in manufacturing these days is “lean.” Lean manufacturing entails, at its heart, cutting out waste and increasing efficiency. Businesses work to increase yields and throughput, and cut down on scrap and excess inventory. Many of the businesses we work with employ lean manufacturing principles, either formally or informally.

At the same time, many of these same businesses offer just-in-time (JIT) delivery to their customers. JIT delivery is one of those principles that sounds wonderful on paper—parts delivered exactly when you need them so you’re not sitting on excess inventory. Back in the heyday of the Toyota Production System (TPS), JIT was easier to implement. Toyota were the masters of their production, and had their production schedule down pat. If they wanted to manufacture 300,000 gold four dour Camrys per year, they would need to build 6,000 per week, which would mean 1,200 per day. And they would hit those numbers. So they knew exactly how much of every part and every material they needed, and when they would need it. The TPS worked so well that Toyota sent teams out to teach it at to manufacturing facilities.

Today the Camry comes with a slew of options, both internal and external. As a result, the parts and supplies they’ll need can’t be as meticulously laid out, and this is true of most manufacturing efforts. But manufacturers still want parts delivered JIT, and they look for suppliers who will do that. The fact that JIT delivery isn’t as simple as it once was doesn’t make it any less attractive. What this means is that in reality, to make JIT delivery work, someone in the supply chain is sitting on inventory. In the case of our customers, that’s us. We stock excess parts, so that they can offer JIT delivery to their customers while at the same time fulfilling their own lean initiatives. This is just one of the ways that UP&R helps our customers stay competitive.