The plastics industry continues to slowly expand since the tragedies of Sept. 11. Customer demands and their expectations are increasing due to growing competition and demands of higher short-term company shareholder gains.
Many challenges lie in our path. These include key component suppliers with specific low-price (international) capability, improved global component-supply capability, continuously faster original equipment manufacturer product-development cycles and part quality becoming a baseline customer expectation.
The business environment for plastic part suppliers has never been tougher. Yet, more and more suppliers continue to gain strength in this environment of both increased domestic and international competition!
What can we all do to provide a brighter future? Many of the more-successful suppliers have one common approach to meet and surpass their customers' needs. This single factor that the supply community can directly address to increase business and surpass customer needs is to provide clear, tangible, overt benefits.
A few examples include:
* Speeding the product-development cycle to help OEMs deliver their product faster to retailers and distributors.
* Offering OEM customers new product designs through combinations of innovative processes and materials with which they are sometimes unfamiliar
* Learning the manufacturing systems and processes of industrial customers and proposing new components to address manufacturing-line obstacles and common component designs across multiple product lines
* Offering truly new multiple-material-component designs utilizing modern composites, engineered thermoplastics and thermoplastic elastomers, executed by leading-edge extrusion, molding and, most recently, blow molding, using established thermoplastic processes. Often these new designs offer an immediate means for OEM finished-product differentiation - thereby delighting customers.
* Using leading-edge process technologies to lower component costs. Excellent examples include foamed coextrusions, two- and three-shot shot injection molding, modern multilayer blown films and in-mold label techniques.
What is the common thread in those examples? Providing clear, concise overt benefits. Too often we describe only capabilities. While the United States can never control the factors outside our borders, we can win more contracts by delivering benefits.
Rob Banning is founder and managing partner of Trimax LLC, a consulting firm to the plastics industry based in St. Louis.