Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

IHS Economist: Patience Key to Emerging Market Success

Nariman Behravesh, IHS’ chief economist, doesn’t mince words about where companies can expect to find growth in the coming years, or even decades. “The emerging market is still the future,” he said.

Nariman Behravesh, IHS Chief Economist

Nariman Behravesh, IHS Chief Economist

Lately, however, the economies that comprise what’s considered the emerging market have looked a little worse for wear, rattling investors and making exporters anxious. “The outlook for the emerging world is shaky,” Behravesh said. “Commodity prices and export revenues are hurting, and separately both their stock markets and currencies are getting hit pretty badly.” This has created a situation where finances have become much more problematic for the region; credit conditions have tightened, adding another hurdle that these economies will have to vault over on their way to relative stability.

“Over the last four years there’s been a significant deceleration in emerging market growth. They’re growing at about half the rate they were four years ago,” Behravesh said. “What you’re seeing in the developed world—the U.S., Europe, Japan—is just a very gradual acceleration of growth, so that’s not where the threat is coming from; the threat is from the emerging markets.”

Despite the risks, according to Behravesh, it’s important to differentiate between short-term volatility and long-term growth prospects. “The emerging market is going through a process of catching up with the developed economy,” he said. “For them to realize that future, it’s going to take a while longer. Companies that want to do business in the emerging world and make that a part of their growth strategy will have to be patient because it’s going to take a while.”

“This has to be a long-term strategy. This is not a short-term strategy for growth,” Behravesh added.

For the short-term what companies are doing to hedge their bets is bringing business back to where growth is fastest, namely Europe and particularly the U.S. “That’s what we’re seeing now,” Behravesh said, noting that companies shouldn’t expect this reshoring of business back to familiar shores to carry on in perpetuity.

“This is temporary,” Behravesh said. “The question is how temporary.”

For more insights from Behravesh and a host of other plastics and petrochemical industry experts, register today for the Global Plastics Summit, Oct. 28-30 in Chicago.


Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

Plastics Reaches Out on Manufacturing Day 2015

The skills gap is a challenge facing manufacturing, and this year the plastics industry opened its doors and made its innovative voice heard to inspire the next generation of manufacturing all-stars to remember that creating things is always cool.

Toshiba Machine

Toshiba Machine

This year was the most plastics-centric Manufacturing Day ever. 35 plastics facilities hosted tours and educational events across SPI’s four regions. More than 600 people passed through the facilities of the Rodon Group, AMA Plastics, Parkinson Technologies, Inc., Toshiba Machine, Yushin America, Wittmann-Battenfeld and MR Mold.  Attendees ranged from young professionals and job seekers to school-age children who got an early chance to see what a career in manufacturing looks like in today’s world.

The Rodon Group

The Rodon Group

For more photos, visit SPI’s Facebook Page here.

Friday, September 4th, 2015

So Much Water, So Close to Home: With In-Person Meetings, How Far You Travel is Less Important than the Simple Fact that You Traveled at All

At any given time, business travel is a relatively reliable indicator of economic health. Sure, it’s an oversimplification, and more of a reflection of economic solidity and optimism than a cause of either, but the truth is that businesses send their employees to travel when times are good, and they cut back when times aren’t. For instance, according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), business travel spending declined sharply during the recession in 2008 and 2009, and improved with the overall economic outlook, reflecting the fact that companies spend more to make face-to-face meetings happen in times of plenty than they do in times of famine.


Attendees at the 2014 SPI South Regional Networking Reception.

That’s a shame though, because it’s through face-to-face meetings that good business gets done. A 2013 report by the U.S. Travel Association found that, when asked about the effects of business travel budget cutbacks, only four percent of respondents whose companies reduced business travel spending since 2007 stated that those cutback aided company performance, while 57 percent said that those reductions in business travel hurt their company’s performance. The same report found that business travelers believe 42 percent of their customers would eventually be lost without in-person meetings, and that prospects are nearly twice as likely to become customers with an in-person meeting than without one.

The point is that how far you travel matters less than the fact that you traveled, and that’s as true for visits to existing customers as it is to visits of prospects and even fellow industry colleagues. The face-to-face meeting is still the best way to connect with other professionals in business, whether the aim is developing a new lead, a new resource, a new supplier or simply a new contact with whom to trade ideas and strategies. Events that bring together industry professionals in such a way are like members-only events that everyone’s invited to; everyone who attends has something in common with everyone else in the room, because all of them understand that it’s only through in-person meetings that you can start to build the trust necessary for a lasting, mutually-beneficial  business relationship.

Attendees at an SPI Regional Event.

Attendees at an SPI Regional Event.

The fact that there’s no directly proportional relationship between miles flown and quality of visit means that whenever companies and plastics professionals have a chance to take advantage of an event in their neck of the woods, they should do so whenever the opportunity presents itself. That’s why SPI started hosting smaller meetings for members and plastics companies operating in each of its four regions (West, Midwest, South and Northeast). These programs are designed to make it easier for SPI members to benefit from the kind of quality that only face-to-face meetings can provide, without having to exhaust their travel budgets. And while the guest list at these events might be smaller, the programming that goes along with each of them still delivers a great deal of value, even beyond networking opportunities. Most regional lunches and dinners are hosted at the facilities of SPI member companies and many of them include plant tours, giving attendees the chance to learn more about their industry and the best practices employed by some of the biggest, most innovative names in plastics. Additionally, many regional meetings include a timely industry update from SPI President and CEO Bill Carteaux, as well as the chance to have a direct dialogue with Carteaux and other industry and SPI leaders. They give attendees the chance not just to develop new business relationships and their own professional network, but also to increase their involvement with their trade association: SPI listens intently to its members and it’s often through conversations at these regional programs where the organization acquires the vital insight it requires to drive its grassroots outreach and advocacy programs. As much as these programs offer attendees a chance to change their professional lives, they also offer them the chance to change the face of their industry by making their voice heard and empowering SPI’s efforts to support and promote the U.S. plastics industry.

The point is, even when the recession gave cash-strapped companies a reason to cut back on business travel, this strategy is pennywise and pound-foolish. This is even more the case now that the recession has ended and the U.S. plastics industry is thriving, not to mention the fact that SPI’s regional events make it possible for professionals to get big benefits right in their backyards. To learn more about SPI’s Fall slate of regional programming, click here.

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

How to Increase Capacity Without Adding Plants and Equipment

By Glenn Nowak, Vice President of Sales at IQMS

Glenn Nowak, IQMS

Glenn Nowak, IQMS

The theme of this year’s Global Plastics Summit, “On the Brink of New Capacity,” just happens to be a topic that we help our manufacturers solve frequently.  As the economy continues to experience an upturn, more and more manufacturers begin seeking ways to increase capacity without adding floor space, equipment or personnel.

There are two common routes manufacturers take when faced with a surge in demand. The first is to maintain status quo with current business processes and operations, while adding new work centers, employees and square footage to handle the increase. The alternate route is to dial up all existing resources as efficiently as possible first, prior to expanding. With the second option, the ultimate goal would be 100 percent utilization of what you already have, before adding on more.

To have as efficient an operation as possible, you need a shop floor with no downtime or waste – A finely tuned plant that finishes one job and immediately begins the next, with the proper tools, operators and materials prepped and ready to deploy. This is no small order. How can you make the right job, with the right tools and right quantities, all flow together at the right time?

The answer is a comprehensive ERP and MES solution capable of automating your shop floor. Comprehensive is the key word here. While integration of third-party programs into a core ERP system can work, it is fraught with challenges such as duplicate data entry, information delays and silos, interface issues and customization expenses.

The key to increasing capacity is to have an end-to-end solution that covers every aspect of your business, from ERP to MES, MRP, financials, order management, WMS, CRM and more. This single source solution is what makes every aspect of your business visible, traceable and incredibly efficient.

A few of the areas that a comprehensive ERP solution can help you increase capacity include:

  • A process monitoring module that links directly to work centers and high value production equipment at the PLC/sensor level to collect and relay process parameters immediately to an ERP solution for analysis, allowing you to greatly improve efficiency, productivity and accountability
  • Finite scheduling and dispatch list tools that automatically analyze which operators and work centers are the most efficient. By smart loading your work centers based on historical performance data, you ensure that you are optimally using your assets
  • Automated work order tools that create ideal production order batch quantities through minimum and maximum run sizes, multiples of designations and time fences to eliminate unnecessary teardowns and resets and optimize production runs
  • Manufacturing-specific BOMs and routing workflows that offer 30-plus different manufacturing types, with fields and features specific to each process. A software system that also offers multi-level BOMs, displays equipment and labor requirements and contains the flexibility to schedule processes that are work center, assembly line, application based or a combination of many types will also help you increase capacity
  • Intelligent material resource planning (MRP) tools, such as safety stock features that automatically generate purchase orders when common inventory items run low, increase your inventory turns rate and ensure you keep just the minimum quantity on-hand
  • A maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) module can help you avoid costly unscheduled downtime by first automatically gathering usage data and tracking where the tool or equipment is used throughout your shop floor. Then, based on automatic alerts that remind you of upcoming and pending maintenance, generate work orders and schedule labor and materials for planned maintenance when you have the parts and bandwidth to take the machine offline.

A need to increase in capacity is a good problem for any manufacturer to have. But rather than investing in new personnel, machines and floor space to handle the boost, manufacturers should first consider if automating their plants to 100 percent capacity with a comprehensive ERP and MES solution isn’t a less expensive and more flexible approach to adding capacity.

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

What You Missed at the 2015 Compounders Conference

Compounders1_PresentationRoomA vital, dynamic program filled with blockbuster speakers and keen regulatory insights drew a record-setting crowd to the 2015 Compounders Conference last month. From topics as broad as the current state of American politics to subjects as specific as diisononyl phthalate (DINP) in vinyl flooring products, the 26th Compounders Conference proved again why it’s the premier technical, regulatory and business development conference for the flexible vinyl industry. A suite of networking opportunities, including a scenic ride up the Potomac on a river boat, rounded out the program, ensuring that every attendee returned to the office with new knowledge, tools and contacts.

Here’s just a glimpse at what you missed at this year’s Compounders Conference:

-World-Class Economic and Political Keynote Speakers – Martin Regalia, senior vice president & chief economist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, opened the conference with an in-depth look at the global economy and America’s place in it, suggesting that a strong dollar and weak growth outside the U.S. could combine to pose a serious threat to American exports, among many other macro-level insights. Regalia’s presentation was followed by an insider’s look at American politics from Howard Fineman, a political analyst for MSNBC and global editorial director of The Huffington Post Media Group. Peppering his presentation with big picture predictions, real strategic political analysis and just the right amount of humor, Fineman offered frank insights about the American political landscape and how that landscape might shift between now and the next presidential election.

Howard Fineman

Howard Fineman

-Intense and Up-to-the-Minute Rundowns on Industry Regulations and Standards – From a presentation on Green Building standards delivered by Green Building Initiative Executive Director Vicki Worden, to an update from the Resilient Floor Covering Institute on California’s regulation of Diisononyl Phthalate (DINP) in vinyl flooring products, all the way to a discussion about the current state of play for an update to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) from SPI, the Compounders Conference was where industry professionals went to hear the latest information on relevant standards and regulations from the experts and organizations that know them best.

-Complimentary Professional-Grade Headshots – Unique to this year’s Compounders Conference, attendees were able to take advantage of the Headshot Lounge, where they could get their own professionally-taken headshots, complete with the aid of complimentary hair and makeup stylists, that they could take home and use as they see fit for their careers. While waiting for their turn, conference attendees could also mingle with one another while snacking on lite fare and enjoying a refreshing drink or complimentary glass of champagne.

-An Introduction to SPI’s Prop 65 Insurance Plan – Prop 65 in California isn’t merely the nation’s most stringently enforced product-labeling regulation; it’s also an invitation to certain lawyers (referred to at the conference and in the industry as “bounty hunters”) to file frivolous lawsuits against manufacturers, compounders an brand owners under the law in the hopes that the plaintiff will settle despite the absence of any public health risk. This regulation affects companies in California, but also stretches well beyond the state’s boundaries, all the way down the plastics supply chain. Attendees at the Compounders Conference got an in-depth preview of SPI’s forthcoming Prop 65 insurance program, that promises to mitigate the enormous fiscal risks this overzealous, unscientific regulation presents to plastics manufacturers, processors and brand owners. Learn more here.Compounders4_Riverboat

-Countless Other Relevant Sessions and Chances to Network with Fellow Industry Professionals – Be sure to mark your calendars for the 27th Compounders Conference next year, and in the meantime check out all the benefits SPI’s Flexible Vinyl Products Division (and SPI’s Materials Suppliers Council) has to offer your company.