Eight Ways Manufacturers Can Attract & Retain Customers – Part 3
Plastic processors need to go beyond sales and marketing to gain new customers and retain existing ones. They also must keep improving on the shop floor. Therefore, sustainability, transparency with quality data, and offering short-notice production runs are critical to building customer relationships. Let’s examine these shop floor strategies in this last of three posts on how to attract and retain customers.
Go all-in on sustainability: Among global consumers, 73% say they would change their consumption behavior to reduce their environmental impact, according to a NielsenIQ Global Corporate Sustainability Report. Increasingly, these consumer demands are impacting business-to-business (B2B) purchasing and partnering decisions. For example, in a recent survey by FleishmanHillard, 50% of businesses say that improving their own environmental, governance and social (ESG) profile is the top factor in looking for a new supplier.
In manufacturing, sustainability efforts may focus on a plant’s operations, such as running energy efficient smart machines and heating/cooling systems or committing to zero waste. Additionally, some plastics processors are building parts and products that use new compostable materials or incorporate a higher percentage of scrap or recycled content versus virgin plastic. Beyond implementing sustainability, it’s also important to track and document these practices when business partners ask for proof.
Processors that are “all-in” on environmentally friendly sustainability practices could see an uptick in their business.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Make production and quality audit data available: Competition is fierce between manufacturers providing plastic components for consumer durables and automotive manufacturing. For instance, one prominent Midwest plastics manufacturer was initially required to provide production and quality audit data before winning business with a leading durable goods manufacturer.
Plastics manufacturers can readily offer every customer the opportunity to receive production and quality audit data if the process is automated through integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP), manufacturing execution system (MES), and quality management software. Offering this data provides a competitive edge in gaining customer trust through hard data.
Offer short-notice production runs: One of the most compelling reasons for improving shop floor efficiency is to compete for business by opening up more shifts for short-notice production runs to customers. For example, a specialty plastics manufacturer in the US has become so effective at scheduling small, short-notice production runs that customers can bring molds in by 10:00 a.m. and have their orders completed by 6:00 p.m. the same day. The service started as a favor to customers. Since then, the ability to integrate data on machine idle times into real-time scheduling has enabled the plastics processor to transform this service into a competitive offering that the company actively promotes.
By combining strategic shop floor improvements with investments in enhanced service and support, and more effective sales and marketing, plastics processors can put into place a well-rounded strategy for winning more new business and growing the life-time value of all customers.
About the Author: Louis Columbus is principal of DELMIAWorks. Previous positions include product management at Ingram Cloud, product marketing at iBASEt, Plex Systems, senior analyst at AMR Research (now Gartner), marketing and business development at Cincom Systems, Ingram Micro, a SaaS start-up and at hardware companies. He’s also a member of the Enterprise Irregulars. Professional experience includes marketing, product management, sales and industry analyst roles in the enterprise software and IT industries. He teaches MBA courses in international business, global competitive strategies, international market research, and capstone courses in strategic planning and market research. Contact: @LouisColumbus on Twitter.