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Volume 7   Issue 3               March 2006

Machinations


Always Ask Questions
It Could Make or Break Your Operation 
by Mike Biffl

It became apparent that although this fabricator could absolutely benefit from a more modern approach to the manufacturing process, several improvements could have been made in the interim which would have helped them make a better product. Their equipment supplier never pointed out where the opportunities were.  

As window fabricators gain more experience in the manufacture of their product, opportunities inevitably arise to make a better product. Most start-up window fabricators get going with a minimal investment in plant and equipment, and rightly so. As they grow and begin to have success, these companies often continue doing things the same way they have always done them, without any attention to how they might make things better, and in many cases, easier. This is where a solid equipment supplier can be a major asset to the fabricator. 

Case in Point

I met with a plant manager recently who has reached this point. He has a great deal of equipment that has allowed the company to enjoy a level of success. For many years they have kept on plugging away without any major problems. Now that their equipment is aging, and itís time to consider replacing some items, they are looking for ways to make their process better. As a result, they are considering investing in more modern machinery that will help to eliminate some of the problems they face due to a very manual operation. What they have surreptitiously discovered is that their current equipment supplier has not offered the type of input a fabricator deserves.

In a very short period of time during our meeting, it became apparent that although this fabricator could absolutely benefit from a more modern approach to the manufacturing process, several improvements could have been made in the interim which would have helped them to make a better product. Their equipment supplier never pointed out where the opportunities were. Now of course, they are eager to supply new equipment to the window fabricator. This is not the type of relationship a window fabricator should expect from a vital player in the success of their organization. Rather, their equipment supplier should be there to consult and help along the way with the small steps toward process and product improvement.

Donít Let it Happen to You

It occurred to me that this type of scenario arises frequently for window fabricators. The important thing to remember is that equipment suppliers are not just manufacturers of machines. We are in the business of helping our customers to be successful so there can be a mutually beneficial long-term relationship between the companies. That means we owe it to you, our customers, to provide input into how you can improve operations. That means you need to ask the questions.

I do not know if the plant manager I met with asked all the right questions of his equipment supplier. If he did and he was not given the input he needed then his supplier is not holding up his end of the bargain. You need to challenge your equipment suppliers. It makes us better companies and provides the impetus for us to improve what we do. The beneficiaries of this improvement are our customers. When you see an issue in your plant that you believe could be improved, whether its glass, vinyl, screens or some other area of the plant, talk to your vendors. Find out what they know and use it to your advantage. There are a number of salespeople in this industry who truly are experts in plant layout, window manufacturing, equipment technology and other areas that can benefit you. Always give your suppliers the benefit of the doubt that they might just know something that can help you.

Remember, we are not just here to build equipment. We are here to work with you so we both may be successful. Your equipment vendors are a resource to turn to whenever a question arises. We may not have all the answers but we might have more than you expect.

Mike Biffl serves as national sales manager for Sturtz Machinery Inc. in Solon, Ohio. He may be reached at mbiffl@sturtz.com


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