Category Archive: Rubber Industry

Help Celebrate National Manufacturing Day Friday, October 6th!

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.

Remember to read our informative blogs and to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay up to date. Should you be interested in our many products or services, feel free to contact us directly by calling (440) 632-1691 or by requesting a quote.

Happy National Manufacturing Day 2017 from Universal Polymer & Rubber! And remember to support initiatives like STEM education, bridging the skills gap, and reshoring year round!

 

Small Manufacturing Updates Under the New Administration

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.

 

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.

Mixing the Right Batch – The Importance of Rubber Chemists

Manufacturing rubber compounds is a lot like baking a cake: it all comes down to having the right recipe. And just like any good recipe comes from a good chef, a high quality rubber compound is devised by a skilled rubber chemist.

A rubber chemist’s job starts when they receive an ASTM specification from a manufacturer. That spec dictates the needs of the finished rubber compound, from required hardness, strength and elongation, to necessary ozone and temperature change resistance. From there, the rubber chemist sets about crafting a compound that meets three challenges:

  1. Design for Application: The compound must satisfy the requirements of the ASTM spec.
  2. Design for Manufacturability: The compound must retain its desired characteristics after being processed in the manufacturer’s facility.
  3. Design for Market: The compound must be the lowest cost possible while still achieving 1 and 2.

Creating a compound that meets the necessary requirements on paper is different than creating one that satisfies real world conditions. Ensuring the manufacturability of a rubber compound means walking it through the manufacturing process it will undergo—be that extrusion, molding or some other process—and seeing how the compound reacts in use. A skilled rubber chemist understands compounds, chemical interactions and end use applications—in short, they understand the process of turning raw rubber into a finished part.

To begin their work, a rubber chemist will mix rubber in one or two pound batches, testing each until they hit upon a compound that satisfies all three design challenges. From there, they’ll typically move up to a full batch, then continue to scale up. As they do they’ll make sure that the proper mixing time, mixing temperature and weigh ups (the weights and percentages of each component of the rubber compound) are observed. A rubber chemist will follow their compound through the mixing process,  and often through the rubber manufacturer’s own trial process as well.

Rubber chemists play an integral role in the manufacturing world. Wherever a rubber part is involved, the process of manufacturing that part began with a rubber chemist. Right now there is a shortage of skilled chemists in the rubber industry. The ones who have reached retirement age are often paid to stay longer as anxiety builds about a shortage of new chemists entering the field. As we discussed in a past blog, the task of motivating the next generation falls to all of us currently working in manufacturing. Spurring students to pursue  careers in rubber chemistry will ensure that the rubber manufacturing industry stays strong for years to come.

History of Rubber – The Magic of Northeast Ohio

Akron, Ohio is about 40 miles south of Cleveland, and seventy years ago it became the rubber capital of the world. You can think of the array of businesses that developed in Northeast Ohio as different branches on one big rubber tree, and the seeds of that tree were Harvey Firestone and Charles Goodyear, names you probably recognize from your tires. Harvey and Charles each started their businesses in Akron and the industry grew around them. Chemists in Akron made a number of rubber breakthroughs, and pretty soon every major tire company other than Michelin had business in Ohio.

 

The overflow of rubber expertise gave rise to a host of rubber ancillaries. Guys working at the major tire plants would say “I can do this myself” and start up their own mold shops and extrusion shops. Eventually the spinoffs had spinoffs. There was one company by the name of Mantaline. Today, there are probably seven business owners / managers in Northeast Ohio who can say they got their start at Mantaline.

 

The guys who started these shops were all owner/operators. But as they got older, in most instances their children had no interest in taking over the family business, and many of these guys were left without continuation plans. Over the past few years, many of these businesses have come to us looking for acquisition advice. At UP&R we maintain an aggressive stance towards future growth through acquisition. This is made possible by our corporate management, The Cypress Companies. They have tremendous relationships with lending institutions, and a reputation for long term business strategy, fiscal vigilance and expert management. Through their knowledge and our experience with acquisitions, we’ve become a resource for the rubber owner/operators in Northeast Ohio.

 

While the number of rubber businesses in the area isn’t quite as high as it used to be, that same rubber expertise lives on. Northeast Ohio’s proud tradition in rubber manufacturing continues today, and we’re proud to be a part of it.