Like other contract manufacturers, plastic injection molders and toolmakers have unique challenges when it comes to obtaining comprehensive, affordable product liability insurance. First, we serve a wide variety of markets, from medical to electronics to consumer products, and cannot predict what type of products we will be making from one month to the next. Second, we usually make only a single component part of our customer’s product, and thus may not know how the completed product will be used or what its risks are. These two factors alone make it hard for an insurer to properly evaluate its exposure for the products of a typical contract manufacturer.
Suppose you make a plastic “clip.” A diligent insurer will ask where that clip is going - on a pen, in a car, on a blood vessel? An insurer may refuse to cover a risk it does not understand, or may only cover it to a very limited degree and at a very high price. Not disclosing or mischaracterizing to your insurer what you know about the nature of your product could be a big problem in the event of a claim. On the other hand, if you have disclosed it and the insurer then declines to cover you, how would you like to tell your customer that? If the coverage is available but the premium is astronomical, can you add that cost into your quoted price and still be competitive? These questions may not have easy or pleasant answers, we’ve found. But simply ignoring them could have far more unpleasant consequences, so we think these are things every contract manufacturer needs to ask.
For anyone in manufacturing today, we have had the luxury of being handed a rich tradition in how to make things. For over 125-years, the United States has honed its skills as a manufacturing destination for making products sold world wide. Add in the knowledge gained by being thrown into two World Wars, where many businesses were asked to support the military effort. These wars required a rapid response and high volume production from our existing manufacturing plants, it was truly a national effort to support our military.
Today, we are faced with global competition that has a younger work force, one willing to work at greatly lower wages, and they are using the same equipment and software that we use. While this seems to be a competitive threat that would be tough to beat, we have one huge advantage over them. Our legacy of making world class products here is something significant, and not to be squandered. Much of China's manufacturing base in high end products is less than twenty years old. Having the latest and greatest equipment gets you just so far. The ability to win an endurance race such as the Indy 500 is more about the best and brightest technicians building an engine that not only performs well, but does it under the most grueling circumstances. While a stock engine might make it thru the race, someone committed to winning will only accept the best. And the fact remains that the best tooling comes from countries with long traditions of making things. Not the most populous regions with large groups of young people using the latest technology.
We have a duty to continue the legacy of manufacturing that was handed to us. What was passed on to us must be passed on to the next generation. We absolutely must invest in our youth, in our infrastructure and equipment. If not, the one huge advantage we currently enjoy will be gone. And once it's gone, playing catch up will be tougher than anything we've faced in the way of competition thus far.
Matrix combines a variety of conservation efforts in our goal to be environmentally responsible. Currently, our company-wide recycling program includes: plastic beverage bottles & food containers; glass bottles & jars; metal cans; paper, including newspapers, magazines, office scrap, junk mail and cardboard boxes.
Designated bins have been set up in multiple locations for the collection of these items, making it easy for all employees to participate. The recyclables are deposited into a separate recycling dumpster provided by Groot Industries, our waste management contractor. Adopting this simple system has allowed us to reduce a significant amount of our waste by diverting it for recycling.
Our “waste not” mindset even carries over to the used coffee grounds which a few employees take home on their own to use in their garden compost.
We also address the recycling and/or proper disposal of materials that are not included in our general curbside program. Electronics including printers, cartridges, desktops, monitors, battery backups and cell phones are collected. Every 6 to 12 months, arrangements are made with an electronics recycling company that donates any usable items to Chicago Public Schools.
With respect to our manufacturing waste stream, we contract with Safety-Kleen, a leading re-refiner, to recycle our cutting and lubricating fluids. While plastic re-grind can be used in specified amounts on select projects, excess scrap plastics and metals are sold for use by other manufacturing facilities when possible.
In addition to diverting waste, we are always looking for new ways to conserve our resources upfront. Paper consumption is reduced in the office by electronic billing and storage of documents, and electronic data models nearly eliminate prints in the shop. Our company news and some of our training records have also gone paperless.
In recent years, we have replaced energy inefficient metal halide lighting with high output T-5 HO fluorescent lighting. This has resulted in better quality lighting with lower energy usage and longer bulb life. Other energy saving lighting upgrades continue.
Carpooling has also increased with several employees riding to and from work together on various days of the week, reducing both fuel consumption and auto emissions.
Put simply, Matrix is committed to a daily awareness of our impact on the environment and our continual efforts to reduce it. New ideas for how to improve in this area are always welcome! The smaller footprint we leave, the better.