Being in the rubber business for nearly five decades, we’re accustomed to evaluating new materials, evolving engineering techniques, and adapting to meet our customers’ needs for lathe cut gaskets, pail gaskets, and belts for many market segments, including oil filters, transformer, agriculture, plumbing and many more. (This is a long read, but we promise it’s worth it!)
In other words, this isn’t our first rodeo, but it is our first pandemic. For the past two (or has it been three?) years, like everyone else, we’ve managed through supply chain disruptions and changing regulations while relying on a workforce that’s constantly under pressure from all sides.
Fortunately, at Grand River, we had no layoffs in these COVID times. Throughout the year we have been hosting regular job fairs, complete with factory tours, proficiency testing, and drug testing. Success in advertising for employees was achieved with such tactics as radio ads, billboards, social media, and commercials running at our local movie theater. We’d rather not deal with any more pandemic challenges, but we can say we are proud of our accomplishments.
In the first quarter of 2021, we opened the Grand Life Clinic, providing our employees (and their spouses) with convenient primary medical care. Since last summer, we’ve welcomed a new Technical Services Manager and in October, we celebrated 10 years as an Employee Owned Company.
Thanks to our dedicated employee owners, we’ve maintained high-quality volume production at our Ashtabula facility, manufacturing more than two million items a day.
Consistent Quality, Production Standards
Focusing on quality, maintaining our equipment for optimal operation, cross-training our employees, and keeping good communication flowing - both internally and with our vendors and customers – has kept our Northeast Ohio manufacturing facility on track and shipping orders since 1976. We intend to keep at it!
We appreciate our customers more than ever. They have been understanding of the supply chain disruptions that are out of our control. Because they’ve been flexible whenever possible and transparent about their needs, we have been able to work together very well to make the most of available materials.
For example, if samples of new material are available, some customers are able to consider substitutions. However, in some cases, a specification doesn’t allow for any changes. We can then work with our engineering staff to suggest changes in layout that may increase yield.
Good communication helps set the right expectations. We are continually working to improve communication and implementing ways to better connect with customers. Feedback is important to us and we strive to implement new ideas and suggestions from our customers. Our goal is to keep them informed of changes happening not only at Grand River Rubber but our industry as a whole.
Having years of experience in rubber manufacturing helps, too. When Technical Services Manager Laura Boniface joined Grand River in April 2021, she said, “I’ll be ‘new’ here forever, because we have employees who have been here 40 years.”
Because we serve diverse markets and customers, we use a wide variety of different materials that respond differently to various pressures, temperatures, and even electromagnetic pulses. That gives us a broad base of knowledge, experience, and vendor relations.
Emerging from 2021 Challenges
Having a diverse customer and supplier base has added to our challenges in some ways during the past few years, but it has also given us a better understanding of applications and materials and improved our technical expertise.
Our experienced staff has continued to focus on quality production (shipping millions of parts per day) and improving communication with our customers has served us well. We look forward to a successful 2022!
What We Expect in 2022
A continuing focus on automating processes in both manufacturing and business operations can be expected this year. That’s a global trend, and one we see underway in NE Ohio and throughout the Midwest.
We expect material prices to continue to rise and we will continue to focus on value for our customers.
Manufacturers around the world are focusing on making better use of data to evaluate every process for improvement. Grand River’s dedicated staff is similarly committed to process improvement to help mitigate challenges caused by the pandemic. Because they are employee owners, they know their input and suggestions are needed, expected, and taken seriously. Grand River management knows their experience provides the most valuable ideas for improvement.
How can we help you meet or exceed your manufacturing and sales goals this year? Let us know! Contact us today.