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Revisited: A Processor’s Checklist for When Business Is Slow

In this space in June, I ventured that because business had slowed, processors could use the extra time to dig deep into their operations and reevaluate what they can do to improve it. My point was that when business is running on all cylinders, many manufacturers tend to rightfully focus on getting quality product out the door to their customers on time, and push aside bigger-picture items.

So back in June, I talked about things such as reengaging with the outside world, revisiting your strategic plan, investigating new technologies, investigating training and do some housekeeping. Since writing that, I have done some reengaging myself, visiting a few processing plants and talking to numerous others, and thought

Develop a Sustainability Plan: Disabuse yourself of the notion that the only processing companies that need to worry about sustainability are those that make products for the single-serve packaging market. Brand owners/OEMs and big-box retailers are looking to do business with companies across the supply chain that are committed to sustainability … not just through words but actions. We report on one such company in this month’s Processor’s Edge article on p. 48. In the months ahead, we’ll continue to shine a light on companies that have put sustainability plans in action.

I for one was surprised to learn from my various contacts how many processors are still selling production scrap to recyclers rather than reutilizing it themselves. I recognize that for some applications reintroducing scrap to the process is either impractical or impermissible. But if it’s neither of those, that might be a place to start a sustainability initiative.

Automation in Manufacturing

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Think Like a Realtor: You know what that say about real estate: the three most important things about it are location, location and location. In processing, it’s automate, automate, automate. Many molders have not embraced even robot technology to the extent they should have. Many molders still are of the mindset that they are “too small” to appreciate its value. Maybe that mindset needs to be changed. My advice is to bring in an automation specialist to your plant — either a supplier or a trusted consultant — and have he or she evaluate what steps in your process are ripe for automation.

And this advice isn’t just for molders … and “automation” isn’t just about robots. In all processing, time is money, and anything that can facilitate product changeovers should be explored. You might be surprised at the payback.

Investigate Big Data: There have been a number of obstacles that have stood in the way of widespread acceptance of Industry 4.0. Network security has been one. One molder I have a tremendous amount of respect for had a more practical concern, telling me, “All this data is great, but someone needs to tell me how it’s going to make me more money.”

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I’d add to that list