Meeting Efficiency Challenge

Efficiency is the key to meeting demand, says Dru Kefalos, global supply chain manager for ExxonMobil, in a webinar hosted by the Tag & Label Mfrs. Inst. on July 28 for its members. Perhaps nothing truer has ever been said — particularly in the volatile market circumstances we've experienced these past few years.

The practice of being efficient may not represent anything new, but as the cost of materials — all materials — has risen to levels not experienced heretofore, efficiency has taken on a new dimension — not just in the workplace, but everywhere else as well.

About a week ago, I came back from vacation marveling — once again — at the “efficiencies” of airports and airlines. Some might argue with this observation, but remember the days when we walked up to the check-in counter with a paper ticket? Now we check in from the convenience of our smart phones or laptops and present a Quick Response code or our own printed boarding pass to a skycap or reservationist who checks our identification, and we're off to our gate. Well, almost. Now if we could simplify the security process!

The point, however, is that despite the complications imposed by airport procedures, the efficiencies provided by technology have allowed the airline industry, for the most part, to keep seating passengers on its planes at capacity.

Our converting industry — along with other manufacturing industries — is weathering some extraordinary price pressures. Being caught in the middle between material suppliers — that pass on continual price increases — and consumer product companies — that treat our converted materials as commodities — has made survival in this industry a true art form.

As I learned at the TLMI webinar, there are many dynamics in play that impact pricing well beyond “plastics and packaging markets,” says Kafalos. In fact, one can get lost in the various explanations impacting prices that include geo-political factors, unstable global economics (beginning right here at home), crude oil prices, supply and demand factors for particular markets, etc. If not for innovation, but especially the efficiencies our industry has uncovered and implemented, I have to wonder how anyone can succeed at this business.

On top of being efficient, be flexible with your suppliers, says Kathy Alaimo, president of Syracuse Label, not only to maintain materials costs but also to assure continuation of supply. Good advice, but lest you feel overwhelmed by such price talk, the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation released some encouraging news in its July 2011 Monthly Confidence Index for the Equipment Finance Industry (MCI-EFI), indicating that confidence in the equipment finance market is up 6.8% from its June index (visit While the deficit gridlock threatens recovery, 5% more than in June indicated business conditions will improve. Fingers crossed!

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