Many people who have been fortunate enough to keep their jobs during the pandemic have a workplace that looks a lot different than the one they left. Whether this change in the dynamic of the workplace is temporary or permanent remains to be seen, but many people find themselves working from home or remotely from different locations. In fact, many big companies like Google have announced that they have no intention of returning to in-office work routines any time in the near future. Amazon has delayed the return of non-essential workers at least through 2021. Given this change, the need for online security has never been greater. With millions more working from their computers, this means millions more are vulnerable to: identify theft, ransomware, malware, theft of financial information such as credit cards or bank accounts. In addition, social media accounts are also vulnerable to hacking. The need for better online security and firewall protection has never been greater.
Our nation and the world have begun the process of reopening their economies. A critical part of the recovery will be the restoration of jobs that will support consumer spending. Prior to the pandemic there was much discussion about the need for billions of dollars in infrastructure improvements covering such areas as: bridges, rail facilities, trackage, airports, bus stations, roads, electrical grids, water and sewer systems, and ports. The onset of the pandemic underscored other areas requiring more pressing infrastructure type investments and the resulting increase in employment. These include: the expansion of storage facilities to accommodate the rapid growth of online purchases, sanitation tools/dispensers required to protect workers and consumers, and audio/video devices as more people work remotely. All of us here at Production Materials, Inc. are proud to provide products and services to our customers who build the equipment that supports the aforementioned shifts in infrastructure demand.
As the world battles the current coronavirus pandemic, Production Materials Inc. salute the many thousands of courageous men and women working to protect us on the front lines. Our employees wish a speedy recovery for everyone affected. Given the increased need for critical infrastructure, we are continuing to provide parts and services for our customers who build products that support these needs. These include: storage facilities for medical and food supplies, audio and video equipment, disinfectant spray devices, hand tools for construction, after market parts for agricultural machines, new carriage assemblies for trucks and measuring instruments for food processing, power transmission, and medical device monitoring. Our country is strong and has overcome many seemingly insurmountable challenges. We will accomplish the same with this one.
With spring getting close, it is easy to think of good times ahead. With so many current and potential disruptions to supply chain flows, it is critical to have backup plans in place to protect your customers. Such things as: disease epidemics, trade disputes, embargoes, labor strikes, wars, political events, severe weather destruction, equipment failures, economic downturns, ransomware, and poor product quality, can cause substantial harm to established product production and delivery channels. The establishment of an approved second source can help to minimize the length of the supply interruption as well as the total cost associated with production downtime, expedite fees, and the possible loss of a customer. The establishment of a backup source of supply for critical (non-standard) components is an essential part of any successful procurement strategy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Since we’ve established our presence online, we’ve noticed a number of interesting trends as far as our new customer base. Not only have we observed how the web has improved our ability to reach out to and supply the needs of businesses operating further away from us than ever before, but we’ve also increased our exposure to a growing number of small- to mid-sized businesses that want to work with us. Since many of these businesses don’t necessarily have the same commercial capital as some of our larger customers, we’ve decided to make our company’s services more accessible and affordable, by offering the option of making their purchases via credit card.
Additionally, we’ve decided to expand our sales force this April. We will be adding an experienced person in our industry, a consummate professional with business contacts domestically and overseas. With this new member of our staff, we’ll enhance our ability to provide a wider range of product and service requests (both interstate and overseas). We’ll be able to offer more options to better fit our customers’ changing needs for simpler, all the while retaining our capacity to take on the traditional tough assignments we’ve always taken on. Our exposure to both domestic and international supply opportunities will be greatly increased.
With these new resources in place, we continue to expand our ability to help our customers build their businesses through lower costs, shorter delivery times, and consistently excellent service and quality.
It began several decades ago, when big box vendors such as Wal-Mart found themselves running into difficulty when it came to stocking their entire inventory, not on account of a lack of goods, but rather on account of there being simply too many. The solution they pioneered, the vendor management system, revolutionized the way a distributor sold consumer goods: the manufacturers who produced the excess number of goods would hold onto a certain number at their own facilities. If and when the distributor needed more of a certain item, all the distributor would have to do was notify the manufacturer to supply them with more of those products. That way floor-space was saved without disrupting the supply chain.
What once was considered to be a bold experiment in redefining the relationship between manufacturer and vendor has steadily become an accepted norm. Vendor management programs, where affiliated manufacturers are responsible for maintaining a certain previously agreed-upon number of parts or products for a particular distributor or higher-tier manufacturer, have become one of the chief models for doing business in this country.
At Production Materials, we offer vendor managed inventory programs tailored to our customers’ needs. For example, a valued client of ours, a leader in the grooming industry, wanted to cut down on some of the carrying-costs of the inventory we supplied them with, as well as improve their production efficiency. We performed a trial run for them where we supplied specific inventory parts for a robotic production system manufacturing cell. The initial program was a success, and now they’ve added an additional 15 parts to the program.
When our inventory is running low on a certain part, our own tracking software program alerts us to this fact. We are then able to replenish our stock in timing with future bin rotation. The “symbiotic relationship” between our two companies continues to grow; we’re now at a point where we are working with new potential clients to build vendor managed inventory programs.