As UP&R rings in the new year, we would like to highlight some of our achievements from 2018. We’ll also present the exciting opportunities we’re anticipating for 2019 and beyond.
An Overview of 2018 at UP&R
2018 was another successful and productive year for us at UP&R. We attended a number of industry trade shows, including AAPEX/SEMA, The Precast Show, the Mid America Trucking Show, and the American Concrete Pipe Association (ACPA) Annual Convention.
We used these shows as opportunities to network with customers and industry peers, as well as to gain insights about the technological advances happening in the automotive, precast, rubber, and trucking industries. Attending these events enables us to be informed about the latest industrial trends so that we can continue innovating for our customers’ success.
One of our biggest highlights from 2018 was our acquisition of Gasko Fabricated Products, which solidified our position as one of the leading American non-mixing polymer fabricators. To date, we’ve made five acquisitions, and this was our third within four years. This acquisition brings a host of benefits for both UP&R and our valued customers, including enhanced production capabilities and increased product volumes.
Finally, our signature GOLDLINE® and other Made in USA tarp straps continued to achieve record-breaking success. The GOLDLINE® straps are the most recognizable tarp strap brand in the US, valued by customers for their strength and durability in all weather conditions.
Looking Ahead to 2019 at UP&R
Since 2005, UP&R has been consistently growing. As a result of the valuable tools and experience we’ve gained along the way, we’re expecting to break further barriers in terms of growth in 2019 and beyond. UP&R has a lot of exciting developments in the works for next year, and we’re looking forward to sharing them with you soon.
We appreciate each and every one of our customers, and we will continue to maintain the high standards of quality and service that we’ve exhibited.
To stay updated on the latest happenings at UP&R, connect with us on our Twitter and LinkedIn, or check out our blog.
National Manufacturing Day® was created as a movement of the modern manufacturing industry, meant to motivate the next generation of new manufacturers. Taking place on the first Friday of every October, manufacturers around the country will open their doors to inspire students and encourage their perusal of manufacturing careers.
In order to generate a much larger career interest, industry authorities work annually to change the public’s perception of the industry. Each year, participants continue to correct the “old factory” image.
With the change in industry dynamic comes a new manufacturing image: modern manufacturing. In reality, today’s manufacturing jobs are exciting, harnessing the latest in technological innovation, and require highly skilled workers familiar with using such state-of-the-art technologies. 2018 manufacturing facilities are contemporary, stimulating, and inventive work environments. With current technology, trade workers might be placed in an office or lab, beyond the factory floor. Today, automation plays a huge role in the industry and we need the right players to assist with the functions and continual development of manufacturing throughout the U.S.
Embracing Technology and Innovation
Over the past few decades, American manufacturing has embraced technology and other revolutionary concepts.
National Manufacturing Day undertakings include the promotion of STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, and math – to bridge the skills gap and reshore jobs back to the U.S. Scholarships are available.
UPR and other manufacturing businesses continue the efforts of pushing this movement forward throughout each year.
Beneficial for the Economy and Local Business
Universal Polymer & Rubber supports the significant strides that National Manufacturing Day participants have created to grow the U.S. manufacturing industry.
Reshoring is currently generating new job totals as many major producers choose to keep manufacturing facilities in the United States. Local businesses and the overall economy are benefiting as a result.
UP&R’s American-Made Tarp Straps
As an Ohio-based company, UPR proudly offers the AMERIPRIDE line of tarp straps that are U.S. made. The AMERIPRIDE tarp strap is available at an affordable price for use in the trucking, transportation, recreational vehicle, and marine industries. These UV-resistant straps are secured with S hooks that are manufactured from in-house wire coils.
Keep in Touch
By recognizing National Manufacturing Day, UPR supports the proud contributions of everyone in the manufacturing industry.
To learn more about how we support American manufacturing, follow us on our blog, Twitter, and LinkedIn. For more information on our products and services, contact us today.
WEFTEC, The Water Environment Federation (WEF), brings together water quality control experts from around the world to provide the best water quality education and training in the field today. It stands apart from the rest, as the largest conference of its class in North America.
Taking place at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center, the exhibition is recognized as the greatest annual water quality exposition in the world. Their showcase delivers unique access to the most cutting-edge technologies on the market and creates networking opportunities for domestic and international business relations. You never know who you will have the chance to meet at the forum, as a large number of experts from many fields tend to appear.
A Leading Source in Water Quality:
WEFTEC lends insight as a leading source of water quality, as the following contemporary water and wastewater issues and solutions will be addressed:
As a producer of polymer solutions towards concrete pipe gaskets, manhole gaskets, pipe specifications, and sealing solutions, our enthusiastic and bright staff attends WEFTEC to learn about the latest industry trends and developments to apply to our current and future in-house manufacturing. Our industry focuses include construction, drainage piping, sewer piping, concrete piping, and marine.
Each year, we look forward to networking prospects with water quality control experts, as our aim is to solve problems and create solutions for the sealing of gaskets, pipes, and more. Our ultimate effort is to make your joint systems run smoothly, with the highest level of quality and efficiency. From customer’s joint details to extrusion die development, splice mold manufacturing, and finally finished spliced gaskets, all aspects of the process are contained within UP&R to ensure proper process and strict quality control. Our flexibility also extends to other water and sewer piping markets.
As a polymer business in operation since 1971, we continue to reinvent ourselves in an endlessly changing market. Remaining true to our roots, we continue to build upon our ever-growing foundation. Through our diversity and versatility, we reliably service customer needs across a wide variety of polymer compounds, designs, and specifications, all at competitive pricing.
Although we produce domestically, we maintain international partnerships. This flexibility enables us to learn from a variety of markets and to apply best practices from market to market. All of our UP&R concrete pipes and manhole gaskets meet ASTM C-443 and ASTM C-361 standards depending on your project specification.
UP&R is also a proud member of the American Concrete Pipe Association (ACPA), as well as the National Precast Association (NPCA). Today, we remain one of the largest pipe gasket suppliers in the U.S.
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.
With the morale running high, it is a golden time for all providers to grow, evolve and get equipped for the spike in demand that may follow soon.
And what better way to learn, network and be seen than at some of the most popular, progressive and authoritative trade shows in the country?
Universal Polymer & Rubber Ltd. Is on the Road
February and March will see us rubbing shoulders with manufacturing luminaries – sharing insights, presenting innovations and probing areas that rubber and plastic moldings and custom extrusions fall short in.
These occasions always spark fresh activity at Universal Polymer & Rubber as we return to the drawing board to brainstorm and improve industry solutions.
This year will be no different.
We are looking to not only foster relationships but also a deeper understanding of what we can do to serve client industries that much more efficiently.
The first stop is the Precast Show, held over February 22nd & 24th at the Colorado Convention Center. It is an endeavor by the Precast Organization to bring together contributors and stakeholders who regulate and disrupt this key market. Precast and rubber may seem to belong to different worlds, but the strength of the former often relies on the flexibility of the latter as rubber is the sealing element of choice that maintains the integrity of complex precast structures.
We will be at booth 521, ready to engage with precast aficionados.
Next, from March 22nd to 24th we’ll be at the Kentucky Exposition Centre participating in the largest annual heavy-duty trucking event in the world – The Mid America Trucking Show. The perception of trucking has transformed rapidly over the past decade and it is in part to shows like the MATS where educational seminars and live product demonstrations infuse the raw power of trucks with the cutting edge technological strides made in the fields of AI & Big Data.
The outlook for truck sales is optimistic for the next several years and we look to be right in the middle of the upsurge.
When the demand for one rises or falls – the other is impacted, either directly or indirectly. The debacle of 2007 and 2008 brought the economy to a screeching halt and rubber product manufacturers all over the country felt the pinch.
But now cautious optimism is in the air. The Dow Jones has shown promising signs since August 2017. Even though small and medium businesses are uncertain about reaping the expected rewards with the administration change – the morale of the country is up.
It’s estimated that the US will see rubber revenue stretch to touch the 20 billion dollar mark before the year is up.
Automobile, Construction, Supply Chain & More:
Custom rubber parts and extrusions are indispensable.
The automobile industry has grown at a telling rate and it alone is set to consume about $28.6 million worth of transfer coating rubber coated fabrics. Despite the widespread penetration of foreign tire brands, U.S. based businesses are still holding on to the lion’s share of the dollars pie. These two factors will work synergistically to boost rubber demand in the very near future.
Construction and housing also happen to be large and thriving rubber markets. Vendors and workers in the sector are looking forward to 2018 because the running year has seen a record number of building permits fly from the local municipality offices. This can only mean one thing – large hauls of channels, connectors, display components, door gaskets, door seals, edgings, face plates, finned tubes, furniture parts, gaskets, insulation, sealants, seals, spliced gaskets, signs, toy parts, tubes and tubing delivered to the chugging housing engine.
Supply chain & transportation do not lag far behind. Their cumulative share is an impressive 8% of the GDP and providers in this market look to rubber manufacturers for component parts, tie downs, and durable tarps.
Serving Beyond Expectations:
Universal Polymer & Rubber Ltd. operates from a place of integrity. We have strategically expanded our production capacity and our ability to fulfil custom design demands with an eye to this inevitable surge in the rubber industry.
We are already positioned – both in terms of reputation and equipment sophistication – to be a reliable partner to vendors who will soon need to order larger shipments of rubber molding and extrusion items than ever before.
To keep up with the changes and to ride the surf when the wave finally arrives, please follow us on Twitter & LinkedIn.
What is the state of manufacturing in America? This question has been on our minds for some time now, and after reading articles and reports on the subject, we decided to take a closer look by talking to some of the men and women on the front lines of the industry. The following interview with John Zielinski, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Universal Polymer & Rubber, is the first in our “Manufacturing in America” series. The goal of this series is to highlight some of the manufacturing challenges and triumphs that are occurring right here in our backyards.
For context, Universal Polymer & Rubber is a privately-held company that was started in Middlefield, Ohio in 1970. Universal Polymer manufactures rubber molded parts, rubber extruded parts, and plastic extruded parts, and supplies them to a range of industries around the world. We sat down with John last month to talk about the past, present, and future of Universal Polymer. Here’s what we learned.
To start things off, can you tell me a little bit about who you are and how you got to be where you are today?
Sure. I’ve always been in manufacturing. I’ve been in a number of different industries: on the metal side of things, metal stamping, the foundry business, forging, and part fabrication. I actually ran a company that made wheels and mounted tires for off-road applications as well as trailer applications. Then, in the late 90s, early 2000s, I got into the rubber side of business, ran a compounder, and actually had my own business as an independent rep, and then in 2005, Universal was one of my principals, and their president came to me and asked me to take over their sales. We did that in 2005, and in the last 12 years, we’ve tripled our sales, both organically and through acquisitions.
That’s incredible growth! I saw your recent acquisition of Crest on your website—congrats to you.
When it comes to Universal Polymer, you’re definitely on an upswing. I’m trying to reconcile this happy success story with some of what I was reading. This Economist article from the other day talks about a shortage of skilled workers. Is Universal Polymer facing any challenges in that department?
Yes we are. We face the same challenges at various levels as some of the companies probably cited in The Economist. Some of our skilled and experienced workers are rubber extrusion operators, press operators, and even in general labor, there’s a shortage of workers because there are so many jobs open. Our press room, for example, is hard work, and it can get very warm in the summer. People who are looking for a cushy position or an easy job simply don’t last in that environment. There’s definitely a shortage of labor. We’re a group of six manufacturing companies, part of the Cypress Companies, and every company within Cypress is hurting for good people to fill in positions.
Is Universal Polymer embracing automation, or have things pretty much stayed the same in recent years?
We’re getting more automation, but we are far from an automated factory. For instance, we’re going more and more into injection, more automated presses, if you will, faster presses. But the rubber industry itself—it’s a big concentration around northeast Ohio—tends to be full of owner/operators who will often patch up equipment to get by. That’s how it’s always been, and these are the companies we tend to acquire. So what I’m saying is that we’re in a very mature industry, and there’s not as much automation. But in the last three years, we’ve added more of what I would call modern equipment and we have plans over the next five years to add further.
Right now, we’re looking for a visual inspection machine, which will rapidly speed up our visual inspection process (this is something that humans currently do). It’s a tedious and costly process, but some parts we make have to be looked at for excess flash or certain defects, and it’s a visual inspection. We’re looking to bring on a visual machine, which will be a nice investment.
It seems to me like today’s manufacturers understand the need to embrace innovation. Can you provide an example of an innovative solution that your company has devised in order to solve a common industry problem?
Absolutely. This past summer we launched a new mobile unit initiative as a way to better serve our customers. Basically, we designed a specially-equipped trailer that we could take on the road to provide on-the-spot hydrostatic testing and modification to customers who have purchased our pipe and manhole products. That’s an example of innovation in action, and it also shows our commitment to customer satisfaction.
That’s excellent. How would you say American manufacturing today stacks up against all the global competitors?
I would say American manufacturers are number one. When I say that, we’re talking the entire package you get for dealing with an American manufacturer. Obviously, when it comes to labor-intensive parts that are lesser engineered, we can’t really compete with the cheaper labor forces that other countries offer. So if it’s a lesser engineered commodity-type part, the American company probably won’t get the business. But for everything we offer, from sales and marketing through engineering support, through program management, to a willingness to get involved with your customers’ business as a supplier, I would say American manufacturers are the best.
National Manufacturing Day (NMD) is an annual day of recognition for the modern manufacturing industry. Established to highlight companies in the manufacturing sector and their many accomplishments, it is also designed to inspire and help secure the next generation of American industrial creators. Those firms interested in participating may register on the official site. Once listed, individual events can be marked as public or invitation-only.
NMD initiatives include the promotion of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects, bridging the skills gap and reshoring of industry back to the U.S.
On Friday, Oct 6, 2017, NMD will highlight more than 2,000 American manufacturers, with many opening their doors to the public to showcase this vital sector of our economy and inspire America’s youth to pursue careers in manufacturing and engineering. Manufacturers like UP&R understand how essential it is to motivate millennials to graduate in science, technology, engineering, and math, as these graduates hold the key to future American production and innovation. Industries’ goals are to help ensure that the manufacturing industry in America will continue to not only survive, but thrive.
A couple of proudly made-in-the-USA examples from UP&R’s product line are Goldline and AMERIPRIDE Tarp Straps. These straps are used by truckers to keep their tarps securely tied down and their cargo safe from weather or any other environmental hazards.
Based in Middlefield, Ohio, our company got our start in 1970 and has been in continuous operation as a premiere custom manufacturer of rubber extrusions, plastic extrusions and rubber moldings including compression moldings, transfer moldings and injection moldings that meet the needs of our many valued customers. In celebrating this day, we not only acknowledge our contributions but those of all our partners in industry.
With every presidential election comes change, and with a new administration in office both large and small business’ have been feeling the effects. The U.S. stock market saw a jolt of activity that hasn’t been seen since 2014. In August 2017 the Dow Jones set record highs, hitting an intraday peak of 22,179.11 on August 8th. Although the outlook seems optimistic, some of the numbers aren’t playing out as expected.
Although the Dow Jones is up, this is the first time numbers have been down in the manufacturing industry in a couple of years. As of July 2017, the monthly automotive light vehicle production in North America was off by about 13%. That’s a steep drop in an industry that has seen monthly increases (year on year) for two to three years. Here at Universal Polymer & Rubber, we understand how all industries can affect each other. For example, the housing industry has been flat and is down from just one year ago. All manufacturing companies that produce supplies for the housing industry will, in turn, feel the impact of the stagnant market. Although the outlook was good and indicators like the Dow Jones are up, small and medium sized manufacturing companies haven’t seen those positive effects.
What’s even more concerning is that the American manufacturing base sees more chaos than order. Take for example the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 40% of our automotive business, and a large percentage of original equipment parts and systems, comes from Mexico and Canada. A change of border control and / or a tariff will change the expectancy and function of our business and the millions of businesses like ours. It will also send cost models out of the window, in an industry that is extremely cost conscious, that negotiates over pennies as if life itself depended on it.
President-elect Donald Trump has also campaigned on getting rid of NAFTA, feeling America is getting the short end of the stick. Now, President Trump is in negotiations to better the deal for the U.S., although many don’t think Canada or Mexico will buy into much change, as it would hurt their own countries too.
Mexico may well consider President Trump’s dedication to building a wall between the two countries as counter-productive to their goals. So whether or not NAFTA survives is anyone’s guess at this point. Many small manufacturers are struggling with the uncertainty of the future and what it holds, and uncertainty is never good for manufacturers. Here at Universal Polymer & Rubber, we will continue to manufacture rubber extrusions, plastic extrusions and rubber moldings including compression moldings, transfer moldings and injection moldings for our customers, while we stay abreast of what’s impacting our industry.
To learn more, we invite you to read our blog, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and connect with us on LinkedIn. To learn more about how Universal Polymer & Rubber can help you, we invite you to contact us today.
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.