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.

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

Millennials in Plastics

A guest post by Michael Stark, divisional manager, material handling and auxiliaries at Wittmann Battenfeld, Inc. and chairman of SPI’s Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP). Originally published on LinkedIn.

FLiP_logo-2Where did they go? With a decade of traveling for and working in the plastics industry under my own millennial belt, I must say, my peers are hard to find and I start to wonder why. Was it our upbringing and a bias towards an office job developing the next app for our phones? Or trading dollars and cents at some financial organization? Were those careers considered “sexier” for us? Did baby boomers raise us to turn our backs on manufacturing?

I look back at my own introduction into plastics—a summer internship through a family member at a plastics manufacturer. At the time I thought “it’s a job and the money is good.” I really had no idea what this industry was. On day one of this internship, I found myself standing in front of a sub-ten second cycling, over one thousand-ton machine, producing over one hundred parts per cycle. I will never forget the sound, the sight, and the feeling I had. The hair stood up on my arms; goose bumps from watching. It was tons of steel, moving fast, with complex automation and programming, an awe inspiring display of mechanics, chemistry, and thermodynamics. Since that day I have been addicted to this industry, in which I have spent over the last decade building my career, and what a great career it’s been.  If it were not for the family member that got me the internship, I would have never have had the exposure, never had this career.

I’ve asked the few millennial peers I’ve met in this industry and it’s the same story—it was a family member, a friend, or a family business that led them to plastics. I say thank you for those who got us into this industry, because we enjoy it. But in the same breath, your recruiting effort fell short by a long shot; it didn’t do enough.

Michael Stark, SPI FLiP Chairman

Michael Stark, SPI FLiP Chairman and Divisional Manager, Material Handling and Auxiliaries at Wittmann Battenfeld, Inc.

I just read an article about Millennials representing over one third our labor pool; overcoming Gen X’ers and the now retiring baby boomers. But in the plastics industry I just don’t see it. What I see is a significant labor shortage that is eminent in the next decade, and what’s to be done about it? Offshore our efforts even more? What ever happened to the excitement of making something tangible for a living in this country? Did our parents leave this out of our upbringing? If building and programming highly complex robotics is not “sexy”, if producing lifesaving medical components and devices, cutting edge light weight cars, biodegradable materials, or the next big consumer product is not “sexy” to at least some of us Millennials, then what is?

So where did all my fellow Millennials go? Why did you not consider this industry? Did you not know it existed? Because if so, we as an industry need to fix that and fast.

Trust me, it is not a dark and dingy industry. If that’s your reason, then you need to see it for yourself. Or perhaps I’ll film a movie “The Wolf of Plastics” to bring the sexy back. We need skilled people, technical people, business people, and everything in between. We need younger generations to bring the spirit back to making things. We need you.

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Arizona Plastic-Bag Bill a Necessary Step toward Limiting Needlessly Burdensome Regulatory Complexity

FPA_2012_winner-Hilex-Poly-KrogerLast year the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) estimated that the federal regulatory compliance burden for U.S. manufacturing companies exceeds $2 trillion on an annual basis. That’s a staggering figure on its own, but it pales in comparison to what the total eventually would be if every company had to comply with standards, laws and regulations that varied from locality to locality.

The last Census estimated that there were just over 77,000 local governments in the U.S. (excl. school districts). If the cost of compliance for manufacturers is $2 trillion now, what would it be if every one of those local governments grafted their own regulatory scheme on top of what’s already present at the state and federal levels?

Encouraging new opportunities for manufacturing growth in this country will require our legislators to think not merely of taxes, but of new regulations as well. “America’s regulatory framework is in need of a serious reboot,” SPI President and CEO William Carteaux said in the wake of the NAM report. “Comprehensive reform is necessary to allow the nation’s manufacturers to grow their businesses, hire more workers and keep America competitive abroad.”

“A modern regulatory regime based on scientific, technological and economic realities, rather than outdated facts, emotion and hearsay, will ensure the safety of workers, consumers and the environment while still fostering the innovation and job growth that manufacturing is poised to unleash,” he added.

Tailoring this regime to create adequate protections for individuals without overburdening manufacturers with redundancies, needless complications and laws based on bad science will require thoughtful analysis, enactment and implementation, not the broad-stroke, more-is-always-more approach that seems to be popular among so many activists. To this point, Arizona Senate Bill 1241, signed into law this week by Gov. Doug Ducey, is a small but meaningful victory in the battle against baseless overregulation and arbitrary statutes that make compliance a minefield for businesses.Bag2Bag-in-store-160w

By ensuring that the authority to regulate packaging and auxiliary containers rests in state capitols and not in the hands of local governments, SB 1241 certifies that businesses will have to comply with only one set of regulations in Arizona, rather than 432 different sets: one for each local government in the state (excl. school districts). It’s a pro-business bill that precludes the creation of a patchwork of new regulations. More than that, by heading off potential regulatory threats, businesses can plan for the future without worrying that new, increasingly segmented regulations could inhibit them. SB 1241 is a sign that Arizona understands how important that certainty is to business when making investments and moving forward. By providing that certainty, they’ve made it easier for companies to concentrate more on growing their business and creating jobs and less on future compliance challenges. Hopefully other states will follow in Arizona’s footsteps.

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

NPE2015 Preview: A Sneak Peek at the Pursuing Zero Waste Fashion Show

Just one of the 13 different dress designs made from recycled plastics that will be displayed on the runway at the Pursuing Zero Waste Fashion Show at NPE2015.

Just one of the dress designs made from recycled, reused or repurposed plastics that will be modeled on the runway at the Pursuing Zero Waste Fashion Show at NPE2015.

Vinyl sheet protectors, yoga mats, plastic beads—not exactly the cashmeres, linens, silks and cottons one might normally think of when it comes to fashionable fabrics, but the results speak for themselves.

The Pursuing Zero Waste Fashion Show will kick off NPE: The International Plastics Showcase, produced by SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, later this month. This week the NPE and SPI teams happily offered a sneak preview of just one of the designs (see photo) that will be modeled on the runway during the Fashion Show, which will take place at 8:30 a.m. in West Hall C on Monday, March 23 at the start of the five-day NPE2015 exposition at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando, Fla.

Students of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) designed and created the garments (and their accessories) using recycled, reused or repurposed plastics as part of a partnership program with SPI. After they make their debut at the Fashion Show, the students’ creations will be on display in the Zero Waste Zone, a special sector of the NPE exhibit floor in the South Hall of the OCCC devoted to the plastics industry’s mandate to reduce, reuse or recycle its materials.

In addition to the garments created from previously-used plastics, the fashion show will also include a design created with 3D-printing technology by a SCAD student using bioplastics from Green Dot (located on NPE show floor, booth S19200 in the Sustainability Pavilion, part of the Zero Waste Zone). It will be one of 13 outfits shown, as well as a number of dazzling accessories also created with recycled, reused or repurposed plastics.

“We found the students at SCAD to be not only talented and creative but also very involved with environmental issues,” said Brad Williams, director of marketing and sales for SPI. “Their designs are vivid demonstrations that recycled plastics can gain new lives in many forms—both as purely utilitarian goods and as objects of beauty. The Pursuing Zero Waste Fashion Show at NPE2015 will add a new dimension to our industry mandate to reduce, reuse, and recycle the valuable materials that make up our products.”

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Referendum’s Success Shows APBA Doesn’t Stand Alone in Fight against SB 270

apba-logoEdgeSPI and the plastics industry have always supported the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA). Its efforts to educate lawmakers and the public about the economic and environmental dangers of plastic bag bans and taxes are vital to the continued success and growth of our industry. But we aren’t the only ones standing behind the APBA, as their recent success in qualifying a referendum to repeal California State Bill 270 shows.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced Tuesday that a measure to repeal SB 270 would appear on the ballot in November 2016, and that the law’s implementation would be delayed until voters have their say. According to county registrars, at least 555,236 valid signatures were needed to qualify the referendum by random sampling, and that threshold was exceeded Tuesday.

In addition to more than a half million Californians, a coalition of business and taxpayer groups has formed in support of the repeal measure, including:

  • Alliance of Contra Costa Taxpayers
  • American Forest & Paper Association
  • Calaveras County Taxpayers Association
  • California Taxpayer Protection Committee
  • Contra Costa Taxpayers Association
  • Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers
  • Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
  • Humboldt County Taxpayers League
  • Inland Empire Taxpayers Association
  • International Faith Based Coalition
  • National Federation of Independent Business
  • Orange County Taxpayers Association
  • Placer County Taxpayers Association
  • Retailers and Store Owners United to Rebuild California’s Economy
  • Sacramento Taxpayers Association
  • San Diego Tax Fighters
  • San Joaquin County Taxpayers Association, Inc.
  • So Cal Tax Revolt Coalition Inc.
  • Solano County Taxpayers Association
  • Sutter County Taxpayers Association
  • Ventura County Taxpayers Association

“SB 270 is a de facto multimillion dollar tax on California’s small businesses and shoppers. Voters should be thrilled to have the opportunity to reverse it,” said John Kabateck, California Executive Director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

In addition to suspending the law until after votes are cast in November 2016, qualifying the referendum will also save hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars that would otherwise be wasted on state administrative costs associated with implementation of the bill. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office over $700,000 would need to be allocated from the state budget to fund administrative positions from 2015-2018.

“SB 270 was never a bill about the environment. It was a backroom deal between the California Grocers Association and their union friends to scam consumers out of billions of dollars in bag fees—all under the guise of environmentalism,” said Lee Califf, Executive Director of the APBA. “California voters will now have the chance to vote down a terrible law that, if implemented, would kill 2,000 local manufacturing jobs and funnel obscene profits to big grocers without any money going to a public purpose or environmental initiative.“

“It’s outrageous that California legislators voted to kill California jobs just to line the pockets of big grocers and their labor union supporters. But the APBA is proud to defend these workers and we remain confident California voters will reject the bag ban scam at the ballot box in November 2016,” he added.