For almost half a century Universal Polymer and Rubber has been a market leader in the domain of rubber and plastic extrusions and custom created products. During that time the business has placed a great emphasis on client satisfaction and in 2017, when most production units in Ohio are struggling to stay afloat, we have not only managed to expand our operations but have also been recognized as a “Made in USA” success story by the renowned publication Construction in Focus.
5 Golden Rules from Those Who Have Braved It All:
Manufacturing may be the lifeblood of the nation, but that doesn’t render businesses in the industry immune to the cycles of supply and demand.
There are challenges to be circumvented. And brands that can’t establish themselves as purveyors of quality items falter and fail.
Companies that set themselves apart from the competition do so on the dint of hard work, a desire to learn and evolve an insightful understanding of industry dynamics.
Here are 5 hard won lessons from the veterans at Universal Polymer & Rubber Ltd. to help you ace running a manufacturing company:
1. Be Practical and Rooted in Facts: It is easy to get carried away by the avalanche of rumors and fallacies saturating the industry grapevine. Hyperventilating over a future scenario that may or may not transpire isn’t the best use of time or resources. Projections, estimates and market predictions are handy tools to have, but only when they resonate with the take and understanding of your company and client base. Instead of chasing “what ifs,” manufacturing businesses must address known issues like the growing skill gap in the industry and the dwindling interest in core manufacturing as a career choice for graduates with well thought out, strategic actions like participation in and promotion of Manufacturing Day.
2. Be Discerning when it Comes to Staffing: Talent shouldn’t be hoarded – even in manufacturing where there is a real absence of qualified candidates. Benched employees lose their finesses and also suffer from disengagement. They negatively impact the morale of the rest of the workforce. However, rapid expansion is a possibility given the trend of reshoring over the years. A fine balance between staffing and the business level is required. It is the worth the investment to create a pipeline of “just in time” recruitment possibilities to ensure the best utilization of labor.
3. Understand that Acquisitions Take Time to Produce Results: Acquiring assets is a great way to rapidly increase sales. How?
A. The acquired assets transfer their goodwill and clients to the parent company.
B. The acquired assets may possess complementary skills that help companies penetrate a whole new market full of possibilities.
Universal Polymer & Rubber has made multiple acquisitions and learnt from each undertaking. The most important take-away is the fact that all good things need time to mature. Acquisitions are no different. They have to be assimilated and worked on before they can positively influence bottom-line numbers.
4. Pay Attention to Details: Manufacturing is a highly competitive industry. Maintaining a legacy of quality is essential. To this effect companies must constantly improve following the principles of Kaizen. Certifications like ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 16949 offer benchmarks of excellence and provide guidelines that reduce waste, bring down defects and boost customer satisfaction.
5. Balance Long Term & Short-Term Goals: While it is great to have a 50,000-foot view of the business operations, it’s the day-to-day activities and meticulousness in executing them which keep a company strong and profitable. A game changing business not only stays abreast of latest technological breakthroughs, it incorporates the insights in everyday activities for tangible results.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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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.”