Category Archive: Manufacturing Growth

What’s Holding US Manufacturing Back?

In the United States, the manufacturing industry is very important as it creates jobs for millions of people, as well as provides the products and goods the country needs.  Our previous blogs have looked at how the economy has fared since President Trump took office and the importance of the American Manufacturing industry and Manufacturing Day.  While there have been positive signs that the manufacturing industry is growing, it is still not at the peak levels of the past.


3 Obstacles Holding US Manufacturing Back

  • Securing Talent: The majority of American Manufacturing is based in mid-western states, and in areas that are more rural than city.   Many manufacturing companies in these areas have jobs available for qualified candidates but have trouble convincing people to relocate to these areas.  By being based far away from high population cities, long commutes could keep candidates from accepting offers.  To grow a business, quality employees are needed, and this can be difficult for Midwestern manufacturing companies.
  • Lack of Modernization: While technology has advanced significantly over the last decade, not all manufacturing companies have taken advantage of this.  Many are still running their operations on old computer systems and software, and are still doing business by fax.  Reasons for this range from the potentially high cost of updating these systems, to not wanting to change a system that has been in place for years due to a high level of comfort.   By not updating this technology companies are missing out on opportunities to be more efficient which could lead to additional profit and revenue.  It also could prevent talented employees from joining the team who would not want to work with outdated systems.
  • The “Old School Culture”: Many Midwestern manufacturing companies are family owned and operated, and are made up of employees who have been with the company for decades.  While their loyalty and experience is necessary and important, many times this can create a culture that is resistant to change, and unwelcoming to new employees and ideas.  By not staying up with the latest industry innovations, and welcoming new viewpoints and ideas from new employees, it will be hard for these companies to be competitive and successful long term.

By embracing new ideas and technology, manufacturing companies across the United States will be able to improve their efficiency and production and set themselves up for long-term success.  At Universal Polymer & Rubber we are proud to be a Midwestern manufacturing company and are always looking for the best way we can serve our customers.  For more information on our products and capabilities, please contact us.

The Sales Development Process Isn’t As Quick As You Think

To be a successful business it is important to develop new customers while still providing excellent service to your existing customers.  At Universal Polymer & Rubber we are a manufacturer of rubber molded parts, rubber extruded parts and plastic extruded parts, along with tarp straps for the trucking industry.  We are regularly meeting with new potential clients to review their needs and requirements and discuss how we might be able to assist them.  This sales development process is not quick like some businesses might think, but requires due diligence done on both sides to make sure the fit is right.  Below is an outline of the sales development process.

Business meeting

The Sales Development Process:

Creating the Relationship – The first and one of the most important steps of the process is creating the initial relationship with a potential new client.  Getting your foot in the door isn’t always easy and can take time to build trust and understanding regarding the services your company can provide them.  This can require much follow up and persistence and usually isn’t as simple as calling up and offering to be the company’s new supplier.

Providing Samples – Once the initial relationship is made, the next step is providing samples or porotypes to show the company you can meet their requirements.  This can require multiple meetings to learn the exact specs of what they need, and once that is obtained more time will be used to make the samples to present to them.

Testing of Products and Materials –   When the sample or prototype is presented to the client, they will then need to perform testing to make sure it actually meets all their requirements and will fulfil all their qualifications.  Many times there can be back and forth at this step as changes are required.  By creating a good relationship in the initial step, this can be an easier operation as both sides are looking to develop a successful working partnership.

Ramp Inventory Down from Old Supplier – All the specs have been met, the customer is happy with the product. Is the customer immediately able to buy in bulk from you?  Not so fast!  Most likely they have a large amount of inventory still on hand, or possibly even on order from their old supplier.  More waiting time will be spent as they finish up this entire inventory and then are ready to receive the items you will be providing.

While the sales development process can take a long time, it can be worth it for both sides at the end as a successful partnership has been created.  For more information on the products and services Universal Polymer & Rubber can provide for you, please contact us here.

How Is the Economy Doing Since President Trump Took Office?

Historically when there is a change in presidential administrations, there is a sense of hesitancy in the business and manufacturing world as people wait to see what changes will be made.  This year with the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency, that hesitancy does not seem to exist.  A key part of President Trump’s campaign platform, and his first months in office has been the goal of bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States and increasing the amount of American made products and goods.  This has led to a positive feeling in the manufacturing industry as companies look to take advantage of this new presidential direction.

Economy and Manufacturing in USA

Job Creation and the Economy:

One of the best ways to track how the economy is doing is with job creation numbers.  In February, reports from ADP and Moody’s Analytics reported that jobs were added at an impressive pace, much more than was predicted. Employment in the private sector increased by 298,000 in February, and goods producers added another 106,000 jobs on top of that.  Construction and the manufacturing industries also added 66,000 and 32,000 jobs respectively as well.  These are enormous numbers and show that businesses believe the economy is going to continue to grow under President Trump.

Manufacturing Growth:

Manufacturing growth has also been up significantly since President Trump has been in office.  According to the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) monthly Manufacturing Report on Business, the February PMI came in at 57.7.  The PMI is the index used by ISM to measure growth, and this February reading is the highest monthly PMI reading since August 2014.  Many manufacturing sectors contributed to the growth including transportation equipment, computer & electronic products, fabricated metal products, and wood products among many others.  New orders, which are a huge factor when calculating the health of the manufacturing industry was up 4.7% to 65.1, matching the previous record high that was last seen in December 2013.  Overall almost every reading was up in the latest report, showing that the platform of the new administration is enhancing the economy and manufacturing industry.

At Universal Polymer & Rubber we are proud to be an American manufacturing company.  Our GOLDLINE, SILVERLINE, and AMERIPRIDE tarp straps are American made and used throughout the trucking industry.  This positive trend for the economy and manufacturing industry has been great to see after years of stagnation, and we look forward to seeing it continue.  For more information on products and services, please contact us.

American Automobile Sales are Up in 2016 – What That Really Means

The automotive industry in America is huge, with more people traveling by car than any other mode of transport.  In 2016, automotive sales are growing at the fastest pace since 2000.  Most companies are beating their sales expectations and automakers posted a 6.9% sales increase in February, compared with a year earlier.   While these numbers are positive, they are not sharing the full story on the state of the American automotive industry.

While sales numbers are up, North American production is only up 4% on the year.  Production is being supplemented by imports coming in from Europe and Japan.  This hurts the idea that an increase in sales means an increase in the production of vehicles by American automotive companies.   Also contributing to the high sales numbers are the large number of SUVs that are being purchased as opposed to smaller sedans.  SUVs are hugely profitable for automotive companies compared to smaller sedans.  Sales numbers are also up in 2016 due to lower price of gas.  As gas prices keep dropping across the nation, automobiles become more affordable for the average American, but this could change if gas prices begin to rise again.

Though the numbers for automobile sales have been positive in 2016, there have also been a few news stories that have the potential to tarnish this good news.  Volkswagen is still dealing with the fallout of its diesel emissions scandal, and other diesel car companies are having their emissions numbers scrutinized as well.  Testing is becoming stricter as the European Commission works to make sure small diesel car models are not producing more pollution than allowed.  Also, Fiat Chrysler is facing a lawsuit from auto dealerships alleging that its U.S. unit was offering money to falsify sales.  These stories are contributing to the idea that those American automobile sales may not be as healthy as they look.

As a manufacturer of rubber molded parts, rubber extruded parts and plastic extruded parts, UP&R works with many different industries including the automotive industry.  Take a look at our website for all our products and services.

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.

The Global Manufacturing Business

Universal Polymer & Rubber Ltd also known as UP&R by its customers and vendors is a part of the Cypress Companies of Akron, OH. Since its inception in 1970, UP&R has reached out to customers across the globe. It has helped its customers to grow by providing a wide range of polymer solutions. UP&R focuses on manufacturing rubber and plastic extruded parts as well as rubber molded parts. These are manufactured in the manufacturing plants in Middlefield, OH and Tallmadge, OH as well as through partnerships and relationships with other manufactures in Asia, thus showing its global presence.

UP&R sells its products across three continents and into four major markets – transportation and cargo control, construction and pipe manufactures, automotive supply chain and general industrial market. 7-8% of businesses done by UP&R are exported with its major customers in China and Singapore.

If companies are to survive, then they must think globally. This is because the customers are located across the globe and they expect support globally. Another important aspect in doing business globally is the ability to provide consistency across the products. No matter which part of the globe UP&R’s products are manufactured, they have to be of the same quality. In order to achieve this, UP&R has greater control over the quality of the products that are manufactured. The management of UP&R has come up with a long distance supply chain for some products and this has turned out to be a model for manufacturers of UP&R’s size (with a sales range of $20-50 million).

Contact us to learn more about our products and services.


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.

America’s Auto Industry Today: Behind the Numbers

If you look at the news and numbers focused around America’s auto industry, what you see, at first, is that it’s in a recovery phase, and that production is up.

This is true—July production was up by 10%, and overall production is up by about 7.5%.[1] However, as with anything, to get the full picture, you must really scratch beneath the surface. Major auto makers, such as Nissan and Chrysler, are seeing booming sales and therefore booming production. Likewise, if you’re a supplier working with them, then your business is booming accordingly.

But the fact is, these two companies make up a large part of the overall auto production, but they aren’t the only ones in existence. While their numbers contribute significantly to the statistics, there are plenty of other auto makers and suppliers that haven’t launched new models and seen sales skyrocket, and therefore are still in for a longer, slower recovery.

Articles such as this one point out that while Nissan is currently in the process of expanding its North American facilities, “the auto industry is in another, long-term disruptive phase” that can bring new opportunities, but other challenges as well. Mexico’s auto expansion, for instance, has “raised alarm bells.”

Additionally, while the auto suppliers, who are serving the needs of the few, highly successful auto makers, are therefore expanding, many others are “investing in new products and technological capabilities, not new bricks and mortar,” and are remaining cautious, as “history tells us that global political unrest or a sudden spike in fuel prices can put the brakes on sales momentum in a heartbeat.”[2]

The fact is, America’s auto industry is a great one, as are the numerous suppliers that keep it going. But while some can’t keep up with demand, plenty of others are still struggling, and it’s important to look beyond the surface numbers. It’s critical to examine all the facts and not assume that a few great success stories mean that everyone’s business is surging.

The hope is that we will all see continued recovery and success in the future, but we must also remain cautious and realistic, and not take everything at face value.




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.

How is Manufacturing a Player in the World Cup?

Goaaaaallllllllll! Does this sound familiar? In the past few weeks, the world has been captured by the World Cup, an international soccer (or football, depending where you come from) tournament that is played once every four years. If you’ve been busy keeping up with all of the scores and trying to catch games on your phone, you’re not alone—so has the manufacturing industry.

When you think about how the World Cup affects manufacturing, it goes beyond the makers of the athletes’ uniforms and the materials of the soccer equipment. In fact, it directly affects the manufacturing production process as a whole more than you may think. Especially true of areas where soccer is the leading sport, manufacturing plants will be shutting down and ceasing production on their team’s game days. Why? Because the sport is huge and so important to the people, many employees will take time off to watch the games; this has become so prevalent that manufacturers are now working their production schedules around the games.

Here at Universal Polymer, we have found the subject of the World Cup to be a prevalent one with many of our customers and suppliers. Some plants we know are planning their schedules around the games; this is especially true if they work with some of the major auto makers who have plants in Brazil, the host country. In some cases, manufacturing has been benched in favor of the exciting tournament.

World CupWhether you’re rooting for the U.S., Brazil, Germany, Italy, or one of the other thirty-two qualifying countries, you should know that manufacturing hasn’t picked a favorite—all of the industry is celebrating the whole World Cup.