The Strouse Corporation details some of the strategies and tactics that have made them a successful converter for a wide range of clients. At the top of their list: Involving key players, such as engineers and product designers, early in the converting manufacturing process.
Full disclosure: Strouse Corporation has been a long-time customer of ours. But what they revealed in a recent edition of Label & Narrow Web explains why the converter has been in business since 1986.
Based out of Westminster, MD, Strouse has been using pressure-sensitive adhesives to create products for multiple industries, including medical, aerospace, defense, and more. They’ve always been focused on helping companies create design solutions that use converted adhesive materials in the most efficient manner possible.
Some of the biggest takeaways from the article apply to anyone in converting industry, or anyone undertaking a converting design project. Here are our top six:
1. Spend time collaborating early in the R&D process. It may sound like cliche, but it’s really about understanding what the end customer needs, and the goal of the project. That requires the client spending time with contract converter and machine manufacturer – early on in the R&D process if necessary – to craft the right solution.
2. Understand the nuances. This is a business of materials and machines, but it’s the engineering and product design minds that make solutions possible. To really let their creativity flourish, this team needs to understand the “details and nuances of every product.” It allows the team to inject what is referred to as “the art component” by Mark Cheatham, Director of Engineering at Strouse Corporation.
3. Ensure machines and people interface well. In the L&NW article, Cheatham also talks about the feedback from Delta ModTech’s Human Machine Interface (HMI). This interface is critical, because the tolerances demanded in this business are so tight, that adjustments are inevitable.
4. Provide training, training and more training. An exceptional HMI is one thing. Understanding how to use it, and use it well, is another. Ongoing training is a must for your people – before the project begins, during the project and after it’s underway. Efficiency occurs when people understand their job and think of ways to do things better. That only comes by thoroughly learning the machine and the process it performs.
5. Strive for flexibility. We just wrote a post about how serialization is going to profoundly impact the medical device industry. It legitimately has the potential to knock contract converters out of business. You must work with partners and equipment that is flexible, and can handle continuous change.
6. Focus on performance over price. Any time you’re dealing with the types of clients Strouse works with, price is a factor, but it’s not the driving force. It’s performance. And performance is always tied to your processes. How well are they defined? Are they built so that innovation and machine uptime occur early in the process, not after the fact?
“Buyers are naturally concerned about cost. However, when our customers understand that we can do more to a part in one pass, more closely match their needs, and often solve a problem they didn’t know they had, they then understand the value,” Cheatham said.
These lessons all sound straight-forward and simple enough. But putting them into practice is entirely another matter. The key to any of them is what Cheatham refers to as “going deep.”
“Any converter can claim the right adhesive and say they can cut accurately with tight tolerances,” Cheatham said in the article. “Those are the basics. But what really matters is whether they can go deep into an application and understand its use and purpose.”