Musings of the month...

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The warmer weather tends to bring out the contemplative part of my personality. Here are some of my most recent musings:


•Did you ever notice that the people and companies who have been successful in this business sound the same way? And by that I mean they say the same kind of things…like they invest for future growth, look beyond today’s P&L, try to work seamlessly with both their suppliers and customers in product and process development, use technology to wring out costs, train and develop their people.


•Does anyone really believe that, as young people enter the workforce, they can flourish without attending functions such as ANTEC, the Society of the Plastics Engineers’ Annual Technical Conference? If they do they are being shortsighted. I was delighted to see students from Penn State, the University of Akron, and the University of Massachusetts Lowell mingle with some of us older folks at the exhibit and papers. Granted, people today, young and old, have more options than ever before to obtain information, but nothing beats face-to-face time with colleagues at events such as this. ANTEC was held in Boston the first week in May, and drew more than 2000 people, up 31% from last year’s event in Orlando, Fla. In my opinion, the folks who come to ANTEC are still by and large the cream of the industry’s crop. And an attaboy goes to incoming SPE President Russell Broome, strategic accounts manager at PolyOne Corp., for pledging to pull out all the stops in his efforts to encourage more young people to join SPE.

Speaking of ANTEC, kudos to my friend Bill Kramer of American Kuhne for his touching tribute to his long-time friend and colleague Ed Steward, who died at the much too young age of 61 a few months ago. Bill eulogized Ed during the SPE Extrusion Division’s awards presentation in an emotional talk that moved everyone there.


•Do you think this is a good time to be a consultant? I do. Downsizing at many supplier companies has forced quite a few people who have made major contributions to this field to hang out their own shingle. Years ago, one of my mentors told me a consultant was just “a guy between jobs.” I don’t think that applies as much anymore. Most plastics consultants today are busier than ever, mainly because processing companies need their services in light of their own downsizing efforts.


•Don’t you think it’s time we started to really understand the difference between cost and price? One gentleman who has been in this business for years told me he knows OEMs that budget extra time and money for moldmaking projects because they know the tool won’t be built right the first go-round. So why do they give those moldmakers the job in the first place, I naively asked? Because the price was right, I was told. Huh?


•Does it exasperate you, like it does me, the extent to which value has been minimized? The value of people, the value of their experience, the value of their contributions to a company or an industry. What about the value of the things that we buy? Hey, I like a bargain like the next guy, but I really don’t want to have to buy a new coffee pot every two years. I will even pay a few bucks more to have it made right. Is it just me?


•Are we convinced that print publications are still viable sources of information for folks in the manufacturing space? Of course I know that with the internet, e-newsletters, online blogs, social media, etc., people digging for info have more choices than ever. I know because I use the internet, blog, read (and write) e-newsletters, host webinars, and even tweet a bit. But guess what? People still like trade magazines, too. Our parent company, Gardner Publications Inc., recently did a study among the audiences of its manufacturing titles. It got nearly 1900 replies. And 90% of the respondents said they still rely on print magazines to obtain new product and process information. And these aren’t old fuddy-duddies either; 90% of the respondents also use search engines, supplier websites, or industry websites to find such information. This is not an either/or proposition. Clearly people avail themselves of whatever options they have to obtain information.