There’s No Place Like Home

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Admiral Metals in Woburn, MA has published a newsletter that should be of interest to all manufacturers in the United States.

We thought their message was powerful because it points out the tremendous opportunity manufacturers have to once again regain their position as a true backbone of our economy.

Here is the article:

There’s No Place Like Home

After 60 years in business, we at Admiral have witnessed industry trends come and go.  We have experienced times when mass production has been lauded as the key to efficiency and times when specialization and customization are highly valued, and we are fully aware of the impact that comes with often long cycles of raw material scarcity and oversupply, high prices and then low prices.  Once again, we find ourselves in the midst of another longstanding trend that is perhaps reversing its course.  Where once globalization and the shape of the world’s economy pushed American companies – manufacturing and service providers alike – to look overseas for lower cost labor, these same trends may now be driving employers to consider the U.S. once again.  According to Harold Sirkin, a partner at Boston Consulting Group and one of the co-authors of a recent in-depth study, Made in America – Again, “There’s a pendulum that swings all the time, and now it is swinging back.”

Call it “insourcing,” “onshoring,” or “reshoring”, this relatively recent phenomenon has come to embody a sense of rebirth for American manufacturing.  Over the next decade, BCG forecasts that $100 billion in goods production can return to U.S. shores, and that the creation, or re-creation, of hundreds of thousands of jobs will help reduce the unemployment rate by 1.5 percent. Manufacturing has been growing in the U.S. after falling every year since 1998.  In fact, the number of manufacturing jobs rose in the U.S. in both 2010 and 2011.  Since December 2009, the sector has added 300,000 jobs. Manufacturers added 50,000 people to their payrolls in January 2013 alone, which makes it the biggest monthly increase in a year.

Companies such as Apple, Lenovo, Ford, Honda and Otis Elevator have insourced jobs in recent years.  GE opened new assembly lines in Kentucky to begin manufacturing appliances and Wal-Mart has pledged to spend $50 billion in U.S. goods over the next decade.  These are just a few examples.  What manufacturers are coming to realize is that the offshoring model does not always work in today’s business environment.  Where once Asia was a source of cheap, productive labor, U.S. productivity is now 3.4 times higher than it is in China, according to Sirkin, and a more flexible workforce  making the U.S. a more cost-efficient option.  Manufacturers are finding that onshoring reduces lead times and thus inventory carrying costs, transportations costs (oil prices have tripled since 2000), and the hassle of regulatory red tape. In addition, onshoring reduces the threat of intellectual property theft, and improves quality and consistency.  There’s a human cost, too – working conditions at many overseas manufacturing plants are known to be far below American standards, as we witnessed recently with the tragedy in Bangladesh where over 1000 workers died in a building collapse.

However, there are challenges that come with the trend in onshoring.  Capital investment in new assembly lines and in training new workers in more current operational skill sets will be required.  That’s because manufacturing has changed dramatically since it left American shores in the 1990’s, replacing workers with machines and reducing the number of jobs that people could get right out of high school.  And the trend is slow to progress; although many companies are moving manufacturing back to the United States, it is often only a small part of their larger global operations that is coming back.

The metals industry is responding positively to the trend in onshoring.  A study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers states that chemicals, primary metals and heavy equipment manufacturing industries stand to benefit most from onshoring. 

According to TD Economics, relatively capital-intensive recently-offshored manufacturing industries – computers and electronics, machinery, fabricated metals, electrical equipment, and plastics and rubber – are likely to lead the onshoring trend.  Metal Service Center Institute President and CEO Bob Weidner tells us the future looks bright: “Our industry is gaining strength – jobs are coming back and manufacturers are bringing operations back home to the United States.”

At Admiral, we know the importance of monitoring global trends that affect our industry, shedding light on growth-sustaining opportunities for your business as well as for our own. It’s all part of Admiral Care, going the extra step to deliver you the very best in customer care.

Wishing you the very best in business,

(sources: Area Development, Huff Post Business, LA Times, PwC , TD Economics, Transportation Insight, Reshoring Mfg., Yahoo! Finance)

 Mayfield Plastics encourages you to write to Jim Burstein to tell him what you think of his article.  

Reprinted with permission of Admiral Metals

The Quest For Quality Thermoformed Plastic Parts

Filed in Manufacturing | Medical Devices | Plastics | Thermoforming Leave a comment

Thermoformers are more aware than ever of their customers’ quest for quality.   Mechanical engineers and designers are demanding that the thermoformed, vacuum formed, and pressure formed parts they order are manufactured by plastic forming companies that can provide quality with each and every part. It is not uncommon, for example, for a company that buys thermoformed plastic enclosures for their medical devices to have to meet the quality requirements mandated by governmental agencies, consumer agencies and other stakeholders.  Meet the quality requirements or count us out is often the demand today.

These new standards cause thermoformers  to re-examine their quality control methodology
in order to improve the quality their customers demand.  The mantra often voiced within a thermoforming company that, “our parts have the same fine quality now as they did 15 years ago” falls on deaf ears today.  Plastic forming companies have to understand that their quality processes need to be evaluated differently today because the quest for quality is now predicated not only on industry standards but also on the standards of their customers end users.  So what was “fine” years ago might be totally unacceptable today.

Sadly, many custom plastic part suppliers view quality as the quality manager’s job because it is often viewed as the purview of the quality team and not as the objective of the manufacturing process.  When the quality manager fails to approve a product, that rejection should serve as a signal that there is a flaw somewhere in the manufacturing process that needs to be corrected to satisfy the needs of the customer.  The quest for quality should resonate throughout the company. 

Years ago Ford Motor Company adopted a company-wide position that said “Quality is Job One”.  The quest for quality is not a fad.  It is not a momentary intrusion into the manufacturing process.  It is not short lived.  The quest for quality is really about the quest for a manufacturing company’s ability to survive in a new global economy.

If you would like to know more about Thermoforming process,  you can download our whitepaper “Intro to Thermoforming“.

intro to thermoforming