Jun 16 2015

What 15 Years Running Factories in China Tells You


What 15 Years Running Factories in China Tells You

Last week I had lunch with Richard Ellert from Onshore Advisory Group.  Richard spent 15 years running factories in China both in the apparel and toy industries.  About 2 years ago, he saw changes happening and decided to move back to the US so he could help local companies bring manufacturing back home.  Richard is currently working with one of our customers that is rapidly growing and desperately wants to keep manufacturing local.  While I probably visited China a dozen times over the years, it is nothing like living there.  Here is what I learned: Quality is still an issue While I was working at Staples, we insisted all of our suppliers pay for initial product testing as well as random testing.  We used a third party lab to test to our specifications and if there was an issue, production was shut down.  This was helpful, but Chinese culture being what it was, there were ways to avoid getting shut down.  Running a Chinese factory, Richard knew all the ways to pass third party testing and how it would ultimately hurt his company’s reputation.  He ended up putting in his own quality team that pulled random samples directly from the production line to ensure on-going adherence to product specification.  Too many China custom metal fab outsourcing novices expect quality to stay the same and get burned. Standard of Living is increasing and so are labor costs One of the things that surprised me the most when I first traveled to China was that most factories had their own dormitories.  Labor was already scarce in southern China, so kids from central China would travel to the south for work, but needed a place to live.  During Richard’s tenure, conditions improved from 16 people per room to 8 people per room.  The Taiwanese owners were angry at doubling the overhead costs until Richard’s customers praised the improved standard of living.  Unfortunately, workers are traveling home during Chinese New Year’s, learning from their friends about places with better standards and not returning to their previous employer.  To quickly replace the folks that don’t return, some employers are forced to pay a higher wage. World Class manufacturing requires world class managers Lean, Six Sigma, Digital Manufacturing have all migrated to China and the best Chinese factories can compete with the best factories from around the world.  When Richard tours local manufacturers in New England he knows their lean program is nowhere near as strong as the lean programs he had in his Chinese factories.  American workers are not as hungry to learn and improve as a Chinese migrant worker.  Great factories need great managers, not matter where they are located in the world.  Richard’s focus with US companies on-shoring is to work with the managers, improve their leadership skills, and their employees will find the motivation to improve that works for them. My lunch with Richard was a great trip down memory lane and it re-affirmed that our competition everywhere is always improving.  There is no time to wait.  I think the custom metal fab work we have done at ETM Manufacturing to improve customer service, delivery and quality is admirable, but we need to get better.  Stay tuned for some exciting announcements in the next few weeks regarding are commitment to improvement.

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Jun 03 2015

What Would You Tell Your Boss About ETM?


What Would You Tell Your Boss About ETM?

This week we are shipping the final parts for a $475K project to Jennifer, the project manager for the job. Jennifer took over for Steve when he retired after almost 40 years working on these projects. Needless to say, Jennifer had a lot to learn quickly and she did a great job. We got to know her when other sub-contractors on her project messed up and she needed ETM to make changes quickly. Our business development manager, Greg Smith, asked Jennifer what she thought of ETM and her answer surprised us.

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May 27 2015

Partner Versus Competitor


Partner Versus Competitor

I have been away from the blog for a while dealing with a family health issue, but we sure have been busy. In the coming weeks we will have several exciting announcements, including several new customers. The one thing we get asked about during almost every new customer meeting is how much capacity we have available. The answer always depends on if they view ETM Manufacturing as a partner or a competitor.

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Apr 22 2015

What I Learned During My First Visit to UL


What I Learned During My First Visit to UL

Last week I had a chance to visit one of the many UL test labs with a one of our young engineers, Julia, and we both learned a lot. Originally the custom aluminum NEMA enclosure was to ship out and get tested, but a call 2 weeks ago from our customer changed that. They asked for a change in the lock, which meant a change in the door. In true ETM quick response fashion, we overnight expressed in the new lock and built a new door, then overnight expressed a 5 ft x 5 ft door to UL. Julia and I helped uncrate the door as soon as it arrived and installed it on the enclosure that was there already, waiting for its new door. The next bit surprised us.

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Apr 02 2015

My Challenge With Pedro


My Challenge With Pedro

I visited one of our platers today for the third time in 24 hours. Not only were they late, but we got the parts back and they were silkscreened incorrectly. The first time I visited them, I discovered that their manager was on vacation and the owner was nowhere to be found. The silk-screener, Pedro, showed me an image of the part on a fancy job control screen and confirmed the part was silkscreened wrong. “No problem, I will fix this right after I finish the job I am working on.”

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Mar 09 2015

Are You an Optimist, Pessimist or Pragmatist?


Are You an Optimist, Pessimist or Pragmatist?

Last week with 20 degree days we couldn’t stand it anymore. Enough was enough and we had to find some way to look forward to spring. The best idea we could think of was betting on the first time we would see the grass around the flagpole in front our building. Mike Houston, our materials manager, bet his money on next week! I bet on the first week of April and others bet on late April. What would you bet on? More importantly, who would you want to work with – the optimist, the pragmatist or the pessimist?

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Feb 25 2015

Only 25 Days to Spring!


Only 25 Days to Spring!

These days I look out my office window and all I see is a 5 foot pile of snow covering most of my window – only at the very top of the window can I see the clear blue sky. It is hard to think that spring is only about 25 days away (March 20th). As a sheet metal buyer, there are some spring related things you need to be aware of with your sheet metal fabricators in New England.

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Feb 06 2015

Frames, Frames Every Where You Look


Frames, Frames Every Where You Look

Jim called last week; they love our engineering and our quality, but he was behind schedule and needed us to catch up. Then, we did something unexpected – we offered to help him find another supplier to help him catch up. No one could meet his quality, capacity and engineering requirements. So, we staffed up; doubling our welding capacity and significantly increasing our throughput in the rest of the shop. This month we will ship over 100 frames (and corresponding panels). Next month we will ship over 140 frames with panels. And, Jim is starting to get caught up.

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Jan 21 2015

What “Above & Beyond” Means to ETM Manufacturing


What “Above & Beyond” Means to ETM Manufacturing

Last year we got a call from Steve out in the midwest; he had a problem. His company won a contract to outfit the interior of an airport but the spec called for parts made of steel, stainless and wood. His wood shops didn’t want to touch the metal and his metal fabricators didn’t want to touch the wood, so he came to ETM Manufacturing. He needed 30 of this assembly and 12 of another assembly – a simple job that just needed some MDF added to the sheet metal. Boy, were we wrong.

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Jan 13 2015

New Year, New Improvements


New Year, New Improvements

They say the biggest month in the fitness industry is January. All of us with our new year’s resolutions hit the gyms to reach our target weight that much faster. The same applies to sheet metal fabricators, like us, wanting to reach their growth goals. At the end of last year, many of our customers told us that they expect to grow their sheet metal business with ETM. In return for their confidence in our abilities, we need to invest to assure we can ramp up to meet their needs. We are doing this in three areas: equipment, capacity and productivity.

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