Mar, 22 2019

What SSP Learned at the GFA Spring 2019 Meeting



What SSP Learned at the GFA Spring 2019 Meeting

Specialty Silicone Products (SSP) recently attended the Spring 2019 Meeting of the Gasket Fabricators Association (GFA), a leading trade group for companies that provide custom-fabricated components like seals, gaskets, tapes and adhesives. From March 12 to 14, SSP joined scores of other manufacturers and service providers at the Saddlebrook Resort in sunny Tampa, Florida. The GFA holds two meetings each year, but this event was different because of its focus on plant management.   

Holding a winter event in Florida can attract some cold-weather companies, but climate alone isn’t enough of a draw. As SSP learned in Tampa, many of the GFA’s fabrication members haven’t been attending the trade group’s semi-annual meetings. Simply put, these companies didn’t think that the GFA’s events provided enough value to warrant spending several days away from the office. To its credit, the trade association increased the value proposition for the Spring 2019 Meeting. 

Plant Management and Gasket Fabrication 

The Plant Management Program that the GFA unveiled in Tampa provided a valuable learning opportunity for production personnel in leadership roles. Plant and Operations Managers learned best practices from experts and also shared ideas and solved problems with industry peers. Bruce Hamilton, the President of the Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership, delivered the keynote address. There were also four workshops, a roundtable discussion, a Supplier Expo, and plenty of networking opportunities.    

Clearly, the GFA’s strategy increased industry engagement. Event participants included many first-time attendees with job titles such as Plant Manager, Supervisor, Lead Hand, or Director of Engineering. Importantly, many of the presentations at the GFA’s Spring 2019 Meeting addressed the daily struggles of custom die cutters and specialty material manufacturers. For example, attendees learned how to set standards at companies where there are many custom products and part numbers. 

Value-Added Manufacturing and Continuous Improvement 

Gasket fabricators who attended the GFA’s Spring 2019 meeting also learned how to eliminate steps that don’t add value to their business processes. The lessons learned weren’t limited to fabrication either. From taking the order to receiving final payment, GFA members discovered actionable ideas for continuous improvement. Participants also learned how better visual communications can help operators and plant personnel while reducing the number of non-conformities per machine. 

At the GFA Spring 2019 Meeting, gasket fabricators also discussed how skilled labor is increasingly hard to find and keep. Adding and retaining second-shift employees can be especially challenging. There were also some important lessons learned about pricing. In higher-end markets such as medical devices and aerospace, price is less important then lead times, speed to market, and customer experience. Ultimately, fabricators need high-value materials that aren’t overly dependent upon volume and price point.

Ask SSP for More Information 

Spending a few days away from the office can be challenging – even when your destination is a winter event in sunny Florida. For the companies who attended the GFA Spring 2019 Meeting, however, getting away to learn how to “work smarter” will be worth it in the long run. If you’d like to discuss what else SSP learned from the GFA’s Plant Management Program, please contact SSP on-line or email Dominic Testo.