The only way for these suppliers to make it in this economy is to hold on to or increase an existing customer base and increase productivity.
"Everything we do is in response to the customer," says Daniel Sedor, president and CEO of Voss Industries, a manufacturer of parts for the automotive, aircraft and aerospace industries. "You have to be competitive in price ... so you ask yourself what you can change internally to be competitive."
Every business wants to increase productivity without increasing cost, but in manufacturing, it is a do or die proposition.
"We saw it as an opportunity," says Sedor. "The pie got smaller, and we asked what we had to do to get more of it."
Voss' first step was to create a real-time recording of jobs in-house, allowing for immediate visibility throughout the entire process.
"The question we asked: How do we shorten the process?" says Sedor. "When you really look at it, and we did, we realized that (one product) traveled 1.8 miles through the building ... now we have it within 150 feet."
Each department averages two PCs, and shop supervisors are provided with e-mail notifications of job or engineering changes, job routings, material availability and job progress.
Voss also moved from hard copy engineering drawings to Web-based PDF files, accessible in real time to authorized personnel and easily e-mailed to customers. The system increased the efficiency of processing orders through engineering by 25 percent.
"The increase in revenue is there as well," says Sedor. "When you reduce lead times, you affect the bottom line. There is more potential work. And (the technology) changes have attracted new business."
Even with a company like Voss, which is 75 percent employee-owned, management and leadership play a big part in the implementation of any technology.
"I haven't made any parts today, and I won't," says Sedor. "My job is to make it easier for the employees to do their jobs." HOW TO REACH: Voss Industries Inc., (216) 771-7655 or www.vossind.com