Manufacturing can be a tough business. It seems we’re always hearing about factory closings, skilled labor shortages, offshore competition and quality control issues. When everyone along the supply chain is affected by the same difficulties, it’s often frustrating and easy to say that the industry is on a decline. But, when we break the problems down and work on solutions as manufacturing partners, the challenges may be overcome more easily.
Finding reliable, skilled employees is often tricky business. Let’s face it, it’s tough to find employees who will show up to work every day and stick to the task at hand for every shift. According to a recent article in Inc. magazine, four in ten U.S. employers said they were having difficulty filling jobs. Human resources professionals suggest that manufacturers start (or expand) training programs, pay competitive wages and work with governments and community colleges. Another way to offset labor deficiencies is to work with a manufacturing partner whose strengths can complement your own. Try outsourcing some pieces of your products to niche manufacturers instead of keeping the entire production line in-house.
Removing inefficiencies in the manufacturing process has become a gold standard for our industry. Many companies go through the waste-reduction process first outlined by Toyota on their production lines by analyzing these categories: overproduction; waiting; inventory; transportation; over-processing; motion; and defects. Utilizing manufacturing partners to help control one or more of those issues is a best practice. For example, if your work-in-progress inventories are too high or not high enough, engage your nonwovens partner to work with you to manage some of that inventory. Engage them sooner (or later) in the process and ensure that the inventory is manageable.
Many manufacturers think that increasing sales significantly is the best way to increase profits. However, that is often easier said than done and, in reality, often the best way to be more profitable is to increase the profit margins. Negotiate with your suppliers and see if they’ll give you better terms if you pay your invoices faster. Another word of advice is don’t compete on price in the market; differentiate your company by manufacturing good quality products with extraordinary customer service.
Manufacturing can be a tough business. The key to our joint success, however, is that we all must work together to find solutions to these common challenges that we all face. Viewing converting companies and nonwoven manufacturers as partners is a great way for us to do everything we can to move our entire industry forward.
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