Category Archive: Contract Manufacturing

5 Ways to Run a Thriving Manufacturing Company: Lessons from an American Success Story

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.

Universal Polymer & Rubber Ltd. has lived by each these five lessons and the results are evident.

If you want to learn more about succeeding in manufacturing, follow our blog and our LinkedIn and Twitter pages.

Need a custom quote? Contact us today.


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.

Can the US Manufacturing Sector Handle a Full Economic Recovery?

The manufacturing sector is on an upswing as our first quarter comes to a close. With the popular consensus being that the US economy will continue to improve, an important question comes to mind. Is there capacity in the US manufacturing sector to handle a full economic recovery?

The increase in manufacturing activity became readily apparent at Universal Polymer in December of 2014. In previous years, for every market we served there has been a downturn toward the end of the year. Traditionally, December is 60-70% of normal sales, with March and April being pretty consistent.

At the end of 2014, however, we noted at Universal Polymer a sizable boost in manufacturing activity. This trend is continuing now as we reach the end of our first quarter. The increase spreads across each of our major markets, from the automotive OE supply chain to the construction and pipe manufacturer’s market.

The increases in the manufacturing sector are at least partly due to the strength of the automotive market, with upwards of 17 million cars built in North America in 2014 alone. The forecast was for the auto market to continue to strengthen in 2015. However, the news is not all positive. There is a big looming question of whether the manufacturing sector can meet with the economic changes.

For example, consider the housing market. While it has incrementally risen over the last few years, if you compare the housing market today to 50 years ago, as was done by Wisconsin Real Estate Viewpoint, it is still in the lower 5% of that period. The capacity has been taken out of the housing market in every level. Housing starts are the lowest per capita that they have been since the Viewpoint study began collecting the monthly data in 1959.

What will the next 50 years hold for the manufacturing sector? Universal Polymer will continue to update you and consider the implications as they relate to the US economy.

The Manufacturing Climate at the End of the Year

Every year, we at Universal Polymer and Rubber see a downturn in manufacturing activity. With the holidays here, along with cold weather, many manufacturers are slowing down their production. This in turn means that we, too, have to slow our production down to reduce our inventory and lessen our payables. Some of this also comes thanks to the traditional end of the fiscal year, when companies are putting off on ordering more until they have their financial information completed.

While some manufacturers may see a slowing of production at the end of the year manufacturing climate as a bad thing, we see it as an opportunity. It allows us to accomplish a number of tasks such as:

  • Perform preventative maintenance throughout our plant to reduce the likelihood of problems through our busy times.
  • Review our yearly performance and develop long-term plans for moving forward.
  • Work with our staff to find areas where improvements can be made, in processes, as well as equipment being used on a daily basis.
  • Develop plans for further training of our workers to help them be up to date on the machines and processes.
  • Take a look at our capital expenditures throughout the previous year, and plan any for the upcoming year.
  • Take a look at the big picture and make sure that we are moving towards our goals.

By using our down time to develop and grow, we stay ahead of the curve for when manufacturing picks back up at the beginning of the New Year. This allows us to stay on the cutting edge of production, and continue to be a leading company in the area of polymers and rubber products.

Finding the Balance with Multiple Projects

As a contract manufacturer, we know it’s not uncommon to have multiple projects going on at once. The challenge comes with efficiently and promptly balancing the many moving parts while ensuring high quality and accuracy.

While we have the capabilities that allow us to work on many different types of projects for various clients at the same time, we understand the concern that sometimes goes along with it. For example, a potential customer in a non-auto industry may be curious about how much of our production time is dedicated to projects that are outside of the auto industry. As the auto industry works in an assembly-line type of production, and we greatly work with auto customers, the work is on tight deadlines. It is our duty, then, to ensure these customers that they will be treated with the highest regard.

Customers in the auto industry are very diligent about contract manufacturers they work with, as the auto industry has many stringent requirements due to national guidelines and safety laws. With these customers, it is important that we stress how efficiently we can work, and how familiar we are with the many automotive regulations, as we work on many auto projects.

For us, it is a matter of finding the right balance between assembly lines and lead times, as well as considering all of the customer requirements. We are constantly weighing the requirements as opposed to the assets in place. Additionally, we are continuously looking over our schedule and analyzing when orders are due. There are numerous variables that we are working with when evaluating production schedules to make sure that each project completed. The size, lead time, ship date, payment, and business reasons are some of the variables that we take into consideration when working on a project.

As a company, we are highly experienced at managing different projects in different industries. Our knowledgeable and dedicated team is here to assist you when your business requires a contract manufacturer.