We have some advantages – Let’s use them!

We have some advantages – Let’s use them!

Commentary, by Larry Floyd, for SBT
At Plastic Molded Concepts Inc., our motto has always been, "We do crazy jobs no one else will do." This has caused us to become a knowledge-based company.
We pride ourselves in having strong education programs for on-the-job training, as well as professional and skill trade continuous education. We are ISO-9001-2000 certified.
A lot of us are complaining about competition from places around the globe, such as Mexico and China. Three years ago, we started to see our business decline, like many others. We realized the need to cut back our workforce to accommodate the obvious.
There were times that we couldn’t cut cost fast enough to stay profitable. We came up with a plan to alternate the layoff of our people, hoping to reduce any chance of losing valuable teammates.
We also had to do our scheduling and labor planning more meticulously. We developed a computerized financial model of the entire business and shared it with a manufacturing management team every week.
We made it through the first year of revenue decline of over 20% without losing more than a couple of people. The second year, our revenue declined less than 5%, and the last year we gained back 3.5%.
We began the year 2003 with 92 people and began hiring again in April and are now on our way up, with more than 113 employees.
During 2002, we decided that we needed more sales people. When the business did turn around, we were not going to get caught without having had face time with potential customers.
If you don’t keep your name out there in bad times as well as good times, you will soon be forgotten. Marketing 101.
Well, there’s no use in complaining about China or Mexico. You don’t really expect them to play fair, do you? Those countries are now getting a taste of what we found from the 1930s through the 1970s.
The quality of some of the products coming from those countries is no laughing matter.
We have a whole generation of young people that wouldn’t even think about buying an American automobile.
We are simply going to have to become more creative and develop a new manufacturing structure that grows through innovation, automation and thorough knowledge of our businesses.
Our plan at PMC is to specialize in doing things for our customer that these countries will never be able to do effectively.
I don’t like to shop. When I must shop, I like to find what I’m looking for and take it home. I don’t like to have to order something and wait for it to either appear at my front door or worse yet, go back and pick it up later.
I believe that many a sale has been lost, perhaps forever, to another store that carries the product in stock. We carry inventory for our customers, and this gives us our own internal scheduling advantage.
We are prepared to deliver product on a moment’s notice and schedule the replacement of those products in an orderly and timely manner. We will continue to write our own software and use real time, activity-based cost accounting methods that tell us of our cost on a shift-by-shift time line. Knowing our cost is paramount.
I suggest to you that today, even in our own country, the playing field is not level. In the sole interest of corporate stock values, many US corporations are looking for any excuse to send work to cheap labor countries and then bring it back to America to sell to the buying public.
Does that make the root cause for our manufacturing problem the buying public? Or is it unfair foreign competition? Or just the corporate drive for stock value? Have we really squeezed all we can out of ourselves for our customers? Perhaps we can find new ways of serving our customers that a 10,000-mile journey will never match.
Finally, and toughest of all – we must never, never give up!

Larry Floyd is president, chief executive officer and founder of Plastic Molded Concepts Inc., in Eagle.

Oct. 3, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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