A Chat on Logistics and Warehouse Automation Among US Manufacturers

#USAMfgHour recap for January 30, 2020

This week’s #USAMfgHour chat was hosted by DCSC Inc. (@DCSCInc.) and focused on logistics and warehouse automation.  After brief housekeeping related to the flow of the chat, we got down to the nitty gritty.

DCSC Inc. started off the chat by asking what each participant produces.  Since the chat was well-attended (a fact we’re very happy about!), we got a lot of responses.  

  • @CVTPlastics said that they are a specialty contract manufacturer and also manufacture and distribute a line of battery boxes and trays under the Volt Protector label.  
  • @AxisNJ responded that it distributes automation products, as well as electrical, lighting, pumps, motors, sensors, HVAC supplies, and more. 
  • @SpecialTaps said “North American Tool manufacturers Special Taps (custom), dies, gages and thread mills.  If you need a thread in a piece of metal, we can make the non standard tools and get them out in a hurry.”
  • @rutlandproducts said, “We manufacture a variety of products for hearth and home maintenance/repair including cements, high-temp paints & sealants, chimney brushes, rods, fire starters, creosote removers, gasketing, and more!”
  • @GraphicProducts said, “We manufacture the DuraLabel brand of industrial label and sign printers and their supplies.”
  • @envmtfilter said, “Pleated Dust Collector Cartridges for many industries and applications!”
  • @SERVICECASTER said casters and wheels.
  • @SpaceGuard chimed in with a long list of products (4 tweets full!).  A few of them are listed here: Security Cages, Modular Fence/Fencing, Server Cages, Data Center Cage Mesh, Colocation Cages DEA/Pharmaceutical Cages Cannabis & Medical Marijuana (Dry) Cages, Tool Cribs, Inventory Control Cages, Bonded Warehouse Cages, Guarding, Machine Guarding, Military Cages.”

However, it was @DiamondServLLP that had the most original response with, “ We manufacture outstanding and long lasting relationships with our customers!”   (We can’t disagree with that!)

The next question was whether participants ship parcel packages, palletized shipments, or both.  The responses were just about even between parcels and pallets and segwayed nicely into the next question, which asked whether participants ship domestically, internationally, or both.  Most everyone who responded said that they ship both domestically and internationally. @DCSCInc. then provided a great blog post on international shipping as a resource for participants to review.  (See: https://www.dcsccorp.com/blog/lets-talk-international-shipping/)  And, @MfrsNews chimed in with this great statistic on international shipping among USA manufacturers, “99,331 of the nearly 400,000 U.S. manufacturers profiled in our database indicate they distribute internationally. That’s about 27% of all U.S. manufacturers.”

After a quick trivia question on who participants thought was the biggest US-based shipping carrier (UPS!) we dug into the second half of the chat, which covered automation and technology in participants’ warehouses.  

Question four asked participants, “Are your manufacturing or distribution processes manual or do you utilize wireless technology?”  The overwhelming response was that process are still largely manual. As a side note, many of the participants said that they still have actual people answering phone calls during open hours, which seems to be a big hit with their customers in the age of automated voicemail systems.  @NJMEP lauded that, saying, “There’s nothing better than being able to speak to a real person when calling a company!”

The next question addressed automation tools and @SpaceGuard gave a great suggestion, stating, “We currently have what’s called, Beast Builder,  https://beastwiremesh.com/beastbuilder/, It’s an online tool where you can give instant quotes before you leave your meeting with a contractor.” @DCSCInc. later said it’s customers use a lot of its tools for rate shopping automation, wireless technology for real-time scanning, and KPI reports.  When asked what they would love to integrate into their operations in the future, a few participants said ERP systems and autonomous transport robots.

The chat closed out with a question on what recent investments participants have made in upgrading their technology or warehouse equipment.  @ProTapes said, “We’ve only just begun putting our G&A FA300 to use, but it’s already helped us work smarter by minimizing waste, reducing costs and setting new sales records in 2019.”  @WMPaintingInc_ said, “Not yet, but we have talked a lot about mixing our own paint in shop. Equipment for this could be quite costly. Maybe this will be an option in the future. I do think this would minimize our material costs over time.”  @SERVICECASTER shouted out its cardboard shredder, which helps reduce waste by using the cardboard boxes from incoming shipments as fill for outgoing ones. Several companies said to stay tuned because they have upgrades in the works, but they can’t talk about them just yet.

Next week the #USAMfgHour chat will be addressing facility signage requirements with @GraphicProducts leading the discussion. In the meantime, you can view DCSC Inc.’s valuable content at https://www.dcsccorp.com/supplychain_shipping_blog/ and keep in touch in between chats by connecting with us at the links below.

LinkedIn Page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/usamfghour-twitter-chat/

LinkedIn Group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12334688/

Twitter for Highlights: @USAMfgHourChat

Instagram: @usamfghourchat

If You Market It, They Will Come: Best Practices in Manufacturing Marketing

#USAMfgHour Twitter Chat Recap – January 23, 2020

This week’s #USAMfgHour Twitter chat was guest hosted by Ruby Rusine (@SocialSMkg) and covered a topic near and dear to every manufacturer’s heart – marketing.  After all, one has to market in order to sell, right?

The chat started off asking participants about the typical goals of a manufacturing company.  We had a lot of great responses, including brand awareness, building new business relationships (a.k.a. generating qualified leads), and customer service.  Bill Garland (@BillGarlandSpkr) elaborated, stating, “Build an online presence and a community. Showcase existing and future goods/services. Educate potential customers while giving existing customers more reasons to place the next order. Handle / resolve complaints or at least get them on the phone.”  However, it was First Source Cabinet Doors (@FSCabinetDoors) who summed up manufacturing marketing goals well, “Manufacturing companies want to present the best versions of themselves to potential customers, while earning sales from new and returning customers.”

After concurring and adding that website traffic is a typical goal of marketing for manufacturers, Ruby asked how participants market their manufacturing goods and services.  Videos, photos, testimonials, articles, and other written content made up the lion’s share of responses. However, Axis NJ (@AxisNJ) summarized the topic nicely with, “We find that digital marketing (e-mail campaigns, website promotion, social media, etc.) as well as events are the best ways to reach the most people. Our sales team and channel partners are also valuable in spreading the word about our products and services.”  

Question three asked, “How do you get your customer’s attention online?”  The overwhelming answer was, “By providing valuable content.” Participants chimed in, stating that video, articles, and user-generated content do well.  Indy Home Pros Team’s (@IndyHomePros) addition of, “By being consistent, having fun, and posting quality content. Social media is a fun and highly effective way to market. Use gifs and memes, post articles and videos, run polls. Just have fun with it!” hit the right note with participants, many of whom love to share GIF’s.  However, Ruby and others cautioned that it is important to ensure the GIFs used are within the context of the message a manufacturer wants to convey and are culturally appropropriate. Ruby then reminded everyone to ensure they add CTA’s (calls to action) to their content so their audiences know what to do. Popular CTA’s include:  Like, Share, Follow, Learn More, Sign Up, Subscribe, Comment, Visit, and Buy.

Ultimately, content is everything, especially when you create and publish it yourself versus sharing other people’s.  Why? Because driving traffic to your media is always the end goal. However, relevant and useful curated content is beneficial to the audience and a social strategy, per NJ MEP (@NJMEP).  North American Tool (@SpecialTaps) and Rutland Products (@rutlandproducts) elaborated by stating that self-published content establishes you as experts in your field and creates trust that hopefully leads them to buy down the road while curated content helps keep them engaged.  When asked how they develop content, participants said to make sure to have a strategy regarding the message you want to convey to the world (@FSCabinetDoors); to listen to your customers and pulse what is trending in the news (@GraphicProducts); pay attention to social listening and analytics (@amatrol); rely on internal and external experts on your product or service for ideas (@AxisNJ and @SpecialTaps); and to ensure that your content appeals to customers in different stages of the buyer journey (@EstesGroup).  Service Caster Corporation (@SERVICECASTER) suggested creating a content library with evergreen staples so that you can beat the “I don’t know what to post,” and the “I don’t have time to post,” excuses for being inconsistent in content marketing. Ruby stressed the importance of taking stock of the content you already have, cataloging it, and then repurposing it into multiple formats to get the biggest bang for your buck. (Check out Ruby’s tips for repurposing content here: https://socialsuccessmarketing.com/72-genius-ideas-to-repurpose-content-and-grow-traffic/)

Once content has been developed, however, it has to be “warehoused.”  First Source Cabinet Doors (@FSCabinetDoors) recommended backing up your content in multiple places such as a local computer, portable drive, and cloud drive.  Some great suggestions for warehousing content included Microsoft Office, Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, Airtable, Asana, pCloud, Plutio, and Trello. Ruby cautioned, however, to ensure team buy-in and ease of use for any method that is chosen.

Ruby closed out the chat by asking how participants measure their marketing success.  Google Analytics and social media platform analytics were the overwhelming responses for measuring ROI, but North American Tool’s (@SpecialTaps) response tapped into the power of the lurker when it comes to brand awareness, stating, “Mostly by the feedback we get at industry shows.  Sometimes it feels like we have no audience, then people tell us they share our content with their staff or their customers. Not scientific, but we don’t do e-commerce, so it is a little tougher to get results.” Ruby’s closing remarks on success were, “If you haven’t identified the metrics yet, get everyone on board and ask them what success looks like. Lay out all expectations. Then identify metrics. This is called KPI but I call it the success metrics.  If awareness is your goal, then for the first year look at mentions, opens, views, site. Then for the second year you can look at shares, subscriptions, downloads, and inquiries.”

Next week, Kirsten Austin of DCSC Inc. (@DCSCInc.) will be leading a discussion on logistics and warehouse automation.  In the meantime, check out all of Ruby’s valuable content at www.socialsuccessmarketing.com and keep in touch in between chats by connecting with us at the links below.

LinkedIn Page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/usamfghour-twitter-chat/

LinkedIn Group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12334688/

Twitter for Highlights: @USAMfgHourChat

Instagram: @usamfghourchat

Safety on the Brain

#USAMfgHour Recap for January 16, 2020

This week’s #USAMfgHour Twitter chat was led by Phil Mendelowitz (@witzshared) and covered a topic of great importance to manufacturers across the country: safety.

After brief introductions by this week’s participants, Phil kicked off the discussion by asking “Does your company currently have an active safety committee?”  The responses were varied, with only a few people saying “Yes” and many sharing that they have another safety structure in place. Several participants mentioned having an employee in charge of managing safety, but that it is generally up to everyone to work as a team to see that policies are adhered to.  Some companies on the chat even bring their policies to life by giving their employee’s hands on experiences working fire extinguishers and following other safety protocols.

Phil’s second question asked participants how often they hold safety meetings.  Some participants said they’ve never or rarely met about safety while others shared about their consistent meetings.  One participant, SecoTools (@SecoToolsUS) chimed in and stated that it has regular safety meetings plus one safety overview before every corporate meeting to ensure everyone knows evacuation procedures and is mentally able to participate.  In the end, Phil stated, “Monthly is the best to have a full in-depth meeting. You can pick one topic like LOTO or Confined space. Then follow up with a weekly tailgate and on really busy days start with a huddle. Communication is the best way to know everyone is on the same page.”

Communication really is key, as is, it seems, company culture.  Damon Pistulka (@dpistulka) emphasized that, “Creating a culture where others feel comfortable tapping you on the shoulder and helping is necessary.”  This comment received resounding accolades from the participants, who agreed wholeheartedly that safety is in the hands of everyone at the company and that people shouldn’t be afraid to offer their help in promoting it or in reporting violations of safety policies.  And, when management doesn’t fix concerns, that calling OSHA at 1-800-321-6742 is an option.

Question three asked how often participants have emergency evacuation or fire drills.  Sadly the responses were essentially, “Not as often as we should.” Some people admitted to not having one in years while others stated they’ve only had them from time to time.  A few participants mentioned not being a part of safety drills because they work from home. However, Phil responded that they should still have procedures in place for an emergency evacuation and to practice them frequently.  As NJMEP (@NJMEP) states, “Safety is vital, everywhere. At home, visiting a manufacturing facility, or working on the shop floor, safety needs to be considered.”

The final question of the chat asked for participant’s opinions on the use of headphones while on the shop floor or operating machinery such as forklifts.  Unlike the last three questions, there was no variation in responses, with a resounding “NO!” being the overall consensus of the participants. While many people stated they are too much of a distraction to be safe, Luis Montalvo (@mont610) from Service Caster Corporation (@SERVICECASTER) mentioned that OSHA actually discourages their use because they prevent the wearer from receiving auditory cues about the environment and can cause hearing damage.  The mention about auditory cues resulted in side discussion among several participants about being mindful in their workplaces in order to help promote safety, as people often go about their days on autopilot, not thinking about potential dangers.

Overall, Nesbit Marketing (@NesbitMarketing) summed up this week’s chat nicely, stating the big takeaways were “Make those #safety meetings a priority, run drills, and no headphones in #industrial or #manufacturing environments.” 

Next week’s #USAMfgHour chat will feature Ruby Rusine (@SocialSMktg) and her take on marketing a manufacturing services or goods business.  The chat will take place on Thursday 1/23 at 2 pm Eastern / 1 pm Central over on Twitter. In the meantime, be sure to visit Phil’s website (www.warehouseflow.com) and connect with us on LinkedIn to network and discuss all things manufacturing.  

Our LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/usamfghour-twitter-chat/

Our LinkedIn group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12334688/

A Discussion on Employee Recruitment and Engagement in the Manufacturing Industry

This week’s #USAMfgHour Twitter Chat, held on January 9, 2020, focused on two subjects near and dear to manufacturer’s hearts:  recruiting and retaining employees and keeping them engaged.

@SERVICECASTER moderated the discussion, which included co-hosts @DCSCInc., @witzshared, @BillGarlandSpkr, @CVT_Plastics, as well as many new participants who had a lot to say about the subject.

With @NJMEP as a special contributor to both the questions and answers, we dug right in, seeking insights on both subjects.

When asked what their biggest challenge is in recruiting new employees, the most popular response was related to finding candidates with the necessary skills and education, as well as finding people willing to do the “hard work” required in some trades and manufacturing positions.

One unique response, however, related to getting them on board with the company culture, which was something that really got the discussion going in an interesting direction.  

Our second question asked, if someone is hired, what’s the most difficult part in retaining those employees?  Some responses we got included:

  • Getting them on board with company culture
  • Keeping them loyal to the company
  • Making them feel like they are part of the team and valued
  • Taking care of them (benefits) when the job is physically demanding

However, on the flip side, participants mentioned concern in dealing with high turnaround levels in entry level positions as well as limited opportunities for growth being a hindrance, especially in smaller businesses.

The third and final question addressing employee recruitment was “Would you ever hire and individual because of their attitude with plans on training that person to cultivate your own talent pipeline?”  Overwhelmingly, chat participants responded with a willingness to train candidates who have a positive attitude, especially since skills can be learned but attitude can’t. A few participants mentioned utilizing a temp-to-hire strategy as being a good way to field candidates before bringing them on permanently.

After this question, we switched to employee engagement.  Before jumping into the discussion on this topic, we posed two mini questions:  “What does employee engagement look like to you? And, why does it matter?” We got a plethora of responses covering the following:

  • Engaged employees are eager to help the team and anticipate ways to assist in projects. This is really powerful and it resonate throughout the team (and it makes the atmosphere a lot more enjoyable!) @UPA4YOU
  • Engagement helps a team work together and grow together. Employers should keep employees informed of what’s next and employees should stay up-to-date on their business and industry.  #USAMfgHour @NJ_BAC
  • Engaged Employees are happy, relaxed and motivated. By being around engaged people the workforce engagement will continue to climb. Success breeds success. @EstesGroup
  • 1) On time, doesn’t make their own work hours (eg leaves when they want) willing to take initiative, doesn’t need to be told what to do at all hours, happy to be at work. 2) More productivity, happier workplace, overall better atmosphere @BearPlumbing
  • 1)They are seeking out additional responsibility and training. 2) It shows ambition, an important quality for promotable leadership @NesbitMarketing
  • 1. Someone who is appreciative of the opportunity that is given to them. Someone who feels they are treated equally. Someone who feels equal to the rest of the staff. 2 Everyone has a different perspective on things, by engaging with them you can learn something new. @SpaceGuard

(Which one do you agree with the most?  Let us know below!)

Next, we got back into the discussion, asking how participants’ businesses are currently engaging employees.  Answers included, open board meetings, group meetings with leadership, 1:1 meetings with leadership, and more.  On the other hand, one participant posed the question: What do you do when, despite your efforts to engage employees, they don’t want to participate?  In response, participants said that an examination is needed as to WHY they aren’t engaging. Is it simply about maintaining work/life boundaries or is there more going on behind the scenes?

Question five asked “Have any employee engagement strategies failed in the past? If so, why do you think it happened?”  Responses were:

  • Suggestion boxes where none of the suggestions were considered
  • Lack of clarity
  • Unclear expectations
  • Lack of training when it comes to new positions w/in companies

Our final question asked participants to share their most successful employee engagement tips with us.  Responses centered around maintaining regular contact with employees and actually seriously considering employee’s suggestions.  @NJMEP said “When employees feel as though they can make a difference, they are much more likely to continue working harder while becoming more efficient and productive!”

The overall feedback from this week’s chat was that participants’ all seem to have similar challenges in these areas but that they are working on them and can use some of the ideas shared in the #USAMfgHour chat to help do that.

Next week, we’ll be discussing warehouse and workplace safety for manufacturers with the incomparable @witzshared leading the discussion.  We hope you can make it!

And keep up with us in between chats on LinkedIn by connecting with us there at the links below.

Our page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/usamfghour-twitter-chat/

Our group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12334688/