Are you a plastics manufacturer? How does tighter delivery schedules, increased profits, and real-time actionable visibility into plant and business operations sound to you? To maximize profit margins, leading manufacturers are re-engineering their core business processes, from sales to planning and production to warehousing, distribution and customer service and more. Plastics parts manufacturers are finding it more challenging than ever to stay competitive and grow their business. Limited visibility into plant performance, constant pressure to drive leaner and more efficient operations, regulatory requirements, and expanding into new global markets are just a few of the many challenges surrounding today’s rapidly changing manufacturing landscape.
Good news! Opportunities await plastics manufacturers who face these challenges head on by transforming operations with digital technologies – to stay competitive. Today’s plastics manufacturers are evolving from just a cost-effective tubing supplier or part molder into suppliers that add value for their customers. They’re offering anything from basic assembly tasks to complete contract manufacturing of finished products. Major competitive trends are having an impact on manufacturing performance control, emphasizing quality in every aspect of the operation to increase efficiency and reduce the overall cost of making products. When you look at the realities of the plastics industry, it becomes clear we are a global economy. Successful plastics manufacturers realize that the supply chain is global, the customers are global, and often the competitors are global. That’s a lot of competition! Virtually every plastics company, whether tooling a mold or manufacturing a high-volume medical device, strives to make products cheaply and quickly while maintaining quality. They are always looking for lower cost on materials and labor as well as reduced delivery time. In addition, today’s rubber and plastics manufacturers are seeking ways to compete with low-cost products that are made off-shore. Generally, challenges faced by today’s plastics manufactures include:
- Providing acceptable quality products at lower cost.
- Reducing delivery time.
- Competing against off-shore, lower-cost manufacturers.
- Increasing value-added operations.
- Providing support for innovation.
To face challenges in the plastics industry head on, plastics manufacturers need to find ways to provide increased value with added operations.
For example, offer your customer an added service by doing the next-step machining on parts you manufacture. In addition to increasing the amount you can charge your customer for the added processing steps, your customer realizes value in their own operations as well through cost and time savings, which they can then pass on to their customers. Or, another example, plan inventory to match predicted orders! If your customers don’t think far enough ahead, you can help them by suggesting a three-month supply over their usual one-month supply order at a reduced cost on volume. You and your customer can both save on the extra setup time. Continue to offer services to your customers that help reduce their costs.
Examples may include prep assembly, additional testing, documentation, sterilization, packaging, distribution, or inventory storage. Equipment manufacturers are trying to reduce overhead and reduce their own staff, so they are looking for ways to cut costs that you may be able to provide. Another example of adding value for end-product manufacturer customers is doing injection molding for multiple customers. Injection molders can take what they learn from one customer’s requirements and then provide that technology know-how to another customer. If you’re extruding for one industry and able to transfer that technology to another industry, the customer in that other industry gains from your expertise. These days, a lot of end-product manufacturers are moving toward downsizing their internal operations and relying more on outside experts to help improve their product. They’re looking outside for expertise on new technologies, knowledge of materials and how to process them, and better efficiencies.
The most successful plastics companies leverage the latest technologies needed to provide value with added operations – whether the specialty is molders, extruders, thermoformers, or heat sealers. Whether ultrasonic or laser welding to put parts together, more and more rubber and plastics manufacturers are pushing to offer greater value-added services down the supply chain – and they are leveraging real-time business intelligence to do it.
On the quest to offer products that are better, different, and newer than what is offered by competitors, plastics manufacturers can gain a real competitive advantage with the adoption of leading-edge digital technologies. For plastics manufacturers, staying committed to continuous improvement, understanding quality at all levels and investing in the newest technologies available are critical, yet necessary, measures. Sometimes even equipment is still good, a plastics manufacturer should strongly consider replacing with newer equipment – always using the best technology available to offer customers a cost-saving technology that will ultimately provide cost savings they can then pass on to their end-customers.
Today’s competitive rubber and plastics manufacturers need automated tools to succeed in order to streamline order processing while improving accuracy, promote improved collaboration throughout the supply chain for optimum results, improve bottom line revenues through greater visibility of front office, warehouse and manufacturing plant floor operations and optimize planning and scheduling for strong cost controls.