We Are a Fully RoHS-Compliant American Company

Any North American company that wishes to be competitive in the early 21st century would do well to adopt RoHS compliancy. Now… just what, exactly, is “RoHS”? Good question. It’s an acronym that stands for “Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive”, a regulation adopted into law by the European Union in mid-2006. The resolution bans six “hazardous” substances in the manufacturing of various industrial products. More specifically, it bans the use of lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, ploybrominated biphenyls, and polybrominated diphenyl ether (the last two are flame retardant compounds that have a long history of application in plastics-making). Any company thinking about manufacturing and/or supplying products carrying these toxic substances – at least any company wishing to do business in the European Union, the world’s largest single consumer market – will have to think twice.
What are the sorts of electronic items that RoHS standards apply to specifically? The list runs the gamut from the low-tech to the cutting-edge. Lead-based or cadmium-based paints and pigments, power cords, USB cables, solders, printed circuit board finishes, metal parts, lamps, light-bulbs, and batteries of all different costs and performance levels are among the primary items cited for regulation. Being that much of our business at PMI comes from Europe and/or from North American companies doing extensive business with Europe, our company has rolled with the various restrictions in order to insure that safety comes above all else. We can supply both mainstream and customized components that meet most industry compliances from any angle. In today’s increasingly globalized supply chain network, where a single application can swap continents multiple times before it is completed, RoHS compliance is a wise – and potentially profitable – measure to adhere to.

When the Levee Didn’t Break: Preventative Planning for Hurricane Isaac

Everyone who watched on TV as Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans will have these images forever seared in their memory: polluted water overflowing the banks of levees, aerial shots of flooded residential districts, desperate reports of hospitals operating on emergency generators – the list goes on and on.  This summer, when Hurricane Isaac barreled its way into Louisiana, people were naturally worried that another disaster was in the making. Fortunately, this didn’t happen. The new $15B U.S. Army Corps of Engineers levee system, put into place post-Katrina, stood its ground. The levees didn’t break. New Orleans endured days of severe weather, but came out of them strong and intact.

It could have been a different story, of course. If emergency electrical generators hadn’t ensured that power and pumping stations stayed operational throughout the downpour and 80 mph winds, the waters could have done a lot more damage. A LOT more damage. Americans might have woken to a new natural disaster inflicted on a state that has already seen far too many.

Production Materials was part of the emergency effort to sustain New Orleans’ levee system during Hurricane Isaac. Time and again during the days-long storm, we delivered rush-job components for power generator sub-assemblies. Our timely delivery of components allowed for new generators to be built to meet the escalating demand. If we and other companies hadn’t put our collective shoulder to the wheel when it counted most, this might never have been the case…

Our fast turnaround time and our ability to stock critical components have proven their value yet again. We are proud to help out people in times of need: our work during Hurricane Isaac speaks for itself. Here’s hoping we never have to do it again.

Working to Help Build the Next Generation of Fuel-Efficient Tractors and Combines

It is September already, which means that the bulk of America’s harvesting season is just about upon us. For some, the end of 2012 can’t come too soon. It’s been a rough ride this year for a lot of farmers and manufacturers who make their living off agriculture. As discussed in another blog, drought struck a slight majority of the nation’s counties – including many of its “breadbaskets” – causing irreparable harm to corn, wheat, and soy crops, along with many others.

But there’s a silver lining to the cloudlessness of 2012: namely, 2013. Tractor and combine harvester companies are re-tooling their platforms to reflect the new realities on the ground: the need for greater energy-efficiency and cost-cutting savings for farmers looking to buy their next agricultural vehicle. Gasoline certainly isn’t about to get any less expensive anytime soon, barring a miracle, which – coupled with lower profit margins than usual – has led to a demand from farmers for vehicles that perform all the tasks they’re already so good at – but with a higher ROI as far as long-term fuel savings.

The mixture of market realism and venture optimism can both be felt here at Production Materials, where we are heavily involved in supplying parts for the agriculture industry. We’re looking into ways of providing cost-savings to farm equipment manufacturers so that they have the necessary R & D funds to improve their overall performance efficiency. We’re helping companies reduce in number the varieties of metal and plastic nuts and bolts that go into making their machinery, thereby standardizing their production process and imparting it with maximum efficiency. In turn, we’ve seen major agricultural machine manufacturers bring their supply chains closer to home in order to scale back unforeseeable overseas costs. This, in turn, is definitely helping American manufacturing recover from its long decade of slump and outsourcing.

In short, it’s a mixed bag for a mixed year, with some parts of the economy hard-hit, and other sectors beginning to flourish for the first time in many years. Here’s to believing that 2013 will prove a beneficial year for all parties involved. Production Materials intends to play a key part in that!

Drought and the Agricultural Industry: How Production Materials Can Help

As anyone who’s made it outdoors these past few months is likely aware of, this summer has proved a scorcher. In fact, the summer of 2012 is breaking record after record in terms of overall heat, producing the hottest summer in American history, or at least since weather has been kept track of on the national level. 55% of counties across the U.S. have been declared “natural disaster regions” by state and federal authorities. Crops are withering, cattle are being forced to adopt imported feed, and wildfires rage unchecked in many “hard-to-reach” corners of the country. In short, it’s looking to go down in the books as yet another, all-American, 21st century-style summer. Who knows what records remain to be broken?

Already economic forecasters indicate the price of cereals will go up in 2013 on account of the drought. For the average consumer, that means a higher price-tag on their breakfast cereal. But for those in the agricultural industry, it means a lot of belt-tightening needs to be performed. Like it or not, the weather is the weather, and every farmer since the days of the Fertile Crescent in Mesopotamia knows there are ways and means of keeping down the cost of drought on his or her livelihood.

One way that those in the farming sector are reducing their costs is by making due with tractors and combines they already possess, rather than purchasing new ones. At Production Materials, we’ve definitely noticed an uptick in the frequency of rush requirements in providing spare parts for tractor suppliers. That’s a strong indicator that farmers are investing in replacing individual broken-down parts. We’ve also noticed a faster need for replacement, which is in all likelihood an indication of how the soil is affecting the performance of the farming equipment.

We know it’s been a hot one for those in agriculture this year. But we at Production Materials are trying to do our share to help our farm implement suppliers fight the drought. If you need new parts for your tractor or combine, and you need them in a hurry, we are part of the team that will be there to help. That’s a promise from one Midwestern company to all others: we won’t let you down in good times, and certainly not in hard times.

Enough about Us for One Minute… Tell Us What You Are Working On

First of all, we like to thank our readership, those who have been taking time to read our posts in the midst of a hard work-day. We hope you’ve found our posts helpful in letting you know more about our company, as well helping you out in your own business. That being said, a blog doesn’t have to be a one-sided conversation. We’d like to take a moment and just listen to you and hear what you have to say about what’s going on at your company.

For instance, what are the kinds of the products you find yourself building these days? As you know from our blog, we’ve been seeing increasing business for more specialized hardware. What sorts of industries have you been seeing a lot of work from? Do you have any particular projects challenging you in one way or another?

 Obviously, we at PMI would like to help you out in getting the job done in a way that works best for both you and for your customer. Or maybe you’ve been running into challenges as far as managing your inventory. Well, Production Materials can certainly help you out with that; we’ve been running highly successful vendor management inventory systems for more than 20 years. 

But we aren’t necessarily asking you just for the sake of business. We want to show people who’ve been taking the time to read this blog over the last year that we’re here to listen to you, and not just sit back and do all the talking ourselves. Who wants that?

Feel free to drop us a line on our blog, or if you’d prefer to email us in private, feel free to do so by contacting sales@productionmaterials.com

We know we have a lot to say. But we’re all ears and ready to listen to what you have to say.

The Rise of Customization: It’s Coming to America Like We’ve Never Seen It Before

We live in an age where – so long as the money is right – a customer has unprecedented levels of flexibility in their ability to personalize the product they buy. For a few dollars added on to your purchase, you can get an iPhone or iPad engraved with a customized message that says pretty much anything you want it to. For a few dollars extra, you can have that same iPhone delivered to your doorstep overnight. With the rise of fast-moving supply chains that can accommodate every whim of the consumer as never before, a corresponding inevitability occurs: the line between consumer and manufacturer gets slightly blurry. With so many consumers asking for “customized” or “personalized” product experiences, the consumer has begun gradually to play more and more of an active role in the physical process of production itself.

We at Production Materials couldn’t be happier about this industry trend, since customization and personalization have always been (apart from quality itself) our special focus. For example, we are truly excited about the new 2013 Dodge Dart from Chrysler Group LLC, a car that offers “five different basic styles, 12 different exterior colors and up to 14 different interior color schemes, including ‘black and ruby red’ and ‘diesel gray and citrus.’ Buyers will pick from up to seven different wheel choices and can get a dashboard they can personalize to either show digital performance data, or virtual analog gauges.” The total number of potential combinations of Dodge Dart that can be produced is estimated to be over 100,000.

To live in the “Global Village” means to exist in the Global Market. Gone is the mass-produced mentality of Henry Ford and his Model T. The future belongs to the artisans and specialists. It will increasingly become the role of companies like PMI to aid consumers in making smart personal choices as far as buying the “right fit” of product for them, whether that’s a car or a computer. Companies like ours with a history of personalizing and tailor-making the consumer experience will be at a marked advantage over companies who’ve only ever known the way of the assembly line.

The Ins and Outs of Insourcing and Outsourcing

There was a time not long ago when it seemed that every factory in the United States was doggedly determined to set itself up anew in China. After all, the price of labor was astronomically cheap; there were no OSHA requirements. As a result, our manufacturing sector took a monumental hit from which it is still recovering. That being said, there’s good news to all this: while not all of the factory jobs that powered this nation in the 50s – 70s are ever coming back, a lot of them have already returned, or been “insourced,” as the terminology goes.

Part of the reasoning behind this decision of American companies to insource manufacturing jobs back to the States is because of the shorter, more cost-effective “lots” involved. It’s beginning to make better sense for “higher-end” lots to be sourced locally – say, an order of 500 units where the overall material and workmanship quality is higher, and the shipping costs remain astronomically lower. In the meantime, if a cheap product requires a larger production run with less costly materials (say 10,000), then it makes good sense to outsource the lot to an overseas company where the overall labor costs match the larger, less customized volume required.

The fact is that at PMI, we’re masters at both insourcing and outsourcing, certainly when it comes to reducing a client’s costs while still maintaining the quality of product. Recently, we were bidding with a competitor for a contract with an agricultural client. The client originally wanted their product to be made from grade-5 steel – something both our company and our competitor were able to deliver on – but that particular material proved too costly. This might have been the end of it for some companies. But instead, we sorted through our supply chain, taking a look at other materials that would cost less and still provide the necessary workmanship required.  We found a supplier who could provide us with SAE 1541 steel, a cheaper material and one that would still meet all client specifications. Once we discovered that loophole solution, the rest was easy: the client ordered from us, and we provided them with exactly what they needed.

Navigating the ins and outs of insourcing and outsourcing is never an easy proposition in today’s marketplace. It requires experience, savvy intuitions, and a long-time list of connections. At PMI, we bring all of these to the fore when going to bat for any given customer of ours.

How PMI Helped Save an Industry on the Brink of Disaster

It’s not like we’ll ever go around wearing superhero capes here at our company, nor will we ever take principal credit for keeping the American RV industry from the edge of bankruptcy. But it has to be said, and accurately so, that when the Great Recession hit our shores in 2008, we played our part in making sure things stayed afloat. The Great Recession sent shockwaves rippling through every sector of the country. One of those regions most impacted was the already hard-pressed Midwestern Rust Belt, which had lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs due to outsourcing and automation throughout the first years of the decade. In the course of a few years, Midwestern cities had eroded noticeably. Huge sections of Detroit lay abandoned to the weeds and spray-paint. And small, one-industry towns across Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and western Pennsylvania went up for sale seemingly overnight once their factories shut down.

One industry powerfully affected by the downturn was the RV industry. With the widespread devaluation of real estate across America, it suddenly didn’t seem like a great idea to go out and buy an RV, especially when one’s home was up for foreclosure. The RV industry – much of it based in South-Central Michigan as well as Elkhart and South Bend, Indiana – turned to PMI to help keep its costs down. Since we’d already provided considerable numbers of parts for the RV industry, it was only natural for them to look to us for some leeway during hard times.

When times got tough, we didn’t let them down. Our company went into overdrive in making sure that our loyal customers were provided for in hard times as well as boom times. We cut the costs of our parts and services, and strategized many hours of the day to insure that a down-on-its-luck industry would rise to its feet again.

The RV industry is already making a comeback. Sales and rentals are up across the board, profits are being made, and RV industry towns that hovered on the brink of vacancy are finding new ways for life to go on. It’s not as though we bailed out the Big Three or anything, but from our standpoint, we’re glad to say that when the going got tough, we didn’t flag or fail our trusted clientele.

Our Vendor Management Program – an Update

Sometimes a blog entry requires its sequel. People don’t like to leave things hanging in mid-air; they want to know conclusively how a particular initiative, job, or market is now progressing. People want status updates. 
Several months ago, we were given approval to expand a vendor management program for a major company in the grooming industry. At that point, we’d just established our reputation with the company, having performed well in Phase One, where we kept in stock four significant parts for their production cells. Anytime they needed a certain new number of parts for their factory, we supplied them with a bin rotation system. Meanwhile, we tracked the number and types of parts we handled. We did our job so well that the company decided to let us handle even more of its “inventory supermarket”, assigning us with storing, tracking, and providing 15 additional parts.
As time goes by, our client has grown ever more attuned to the advantages offered by our part management services. We started out handling the specific parts of a specific robotic cell, but now they’re adding on new facets to the program never originally conceived of. The quality of our services have been such that the grooming company has recently decided to add electrical wire parts, rubber components, and plastic items to the list of resources we manage for them. Our computerized inventory management and timely delivery have served our client well, adding significantly to their overall profit.
We’ve begun preliminary fact-finding with other companies to implement our “inventory supermarket” program with. As the year ticks along, more vendors seem to be climbing onboard. I guess they know a good thing when they see it.

Chicago’s Hospital Building Boom Presents Fresh Opportunities for Industry

Across the Windy City and its outlying suburbs, a massive building boom is underway. New hospitals, university hospitals, and medical centers are sprouting up to meet the demands of an aging Baby Boomer population. Rush University Medical Center recently put the finishing touches on a $654 million hospital. The Children’s Memorial Hospital is replacing its aging Lincoln Park facility with a state-of-the-art $855 million behemoth in Streeterville. Not to be outdone, the University of Chicago’s Medical Center has opened a new $700 million hospital campus on Chicago’s South Side. The demand for medical care has never been so lucrative, and the construction of new floor-space for the medical industry is at an absolute premium, with billions more dollars expected to be spent in the Greater Chicago Metropolitan Area alone.

Being that we are an Illinois company, we are following these “building boom for Baby Boomer” developments with more than a passing interest. As a supplier of anchoring systems, special high-strength bolts and nuts, and corrosion-resistant coatings, we are aptly suited to support this demand. As Illinois steps further into the new millennium and new healthcare construction continues its rise, we anticipate pulling our fair share of the weight in helping Chicago’s medical centers answer the challenge of meeting the largest care costs ever seen in United States history.