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Monday, August 21, 2017

How Well Do You Really Know Your Customers?

Did you know that the average business-to-business (B2B) buyer reviews 10.4 sources in a typical buying situation?

Or that, according to recent research, most customers are 57% of the way down the path to a decision before even performing an action on a website?

These and more revealing stats help make up what Advance Ohio’s Digital Marketing Strategist Jason Plavic, writing for Metalforming Matters in late 2016, calls “The Evolution of B2B Marketing.” The new normal: Buyers are more empowered, and more knowledgeable, than ever before.

And now that buyers have upped the ante, it’s imperative for sellers to do the same. Sales and marketing departments in the manufacturing realm must evolve and embrace the changing, increasingly digital landscape in order to survive and thrive.

One way to do just that is to embrace the most ubiquitous buzzword in all of business: data. A recent survey of metalformers conducted by the Precision Metalforming Association (2017 Sales & Marketing Report) found that about half (49%) utilize some form of formal market research (34% conduct their own research in-house, while 15% purchase market research).

Strategic incorporation of data into sales and marketing operations can allow for smarter application of company initiatives. The success of marketing plans can be evaluated objectively, and the same mass-informational analysis that customers now are applying to purchasing can be used to understand the root causes of customer behavior. Utilization of data can help you know your customers better than they know themselves!

Want to know more about the changing landscape of manufacturing sales and marketing? Attend PMA’s Sales & Marketing Summit in Milwaukee, WI, September 26-27. Expert speakers will present on the ways that technology and other trends are changing the “industrial buying process,” and how you can respond. To register or find more information, visit www.pma.org/salessummit.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Evolution of Sales & Marketing for Manufacturing

The original format of marketing existed in a straightforward, clear progression: consumers saw an ad, developed an interest in the advertised product and made plans to purchase it.  Unfortunately, that simple path is no longer common anymore.  Now, buyers find information through external sources and their own research to make decisions, meaning that a manufacturer’s approach to marketing must evolve.

This evolution flips the entire order of manufacturing sales on its head: instead of sales representatives approaching potential customers, buyers are coming to sales reps with their extensive research in hand. To stay relevant and in demand, manufacturers must consider the minds of their customers and how they can find the right products during their search for a solution to their problem.

Below are two areas to consider when updating your sales and marketing strategies for the new age:

Search Engine Optimization:  93% of online experiences begin with a search engine, and these searches bring more people to business websites than all other online channels combined. Search engines like Google and Bing use intricate, exclusive algorithms to determine which websites are most relevant to the words that users type into a search box.  Organizing your website’s homepage so that it contains phrases that describe your product (e.g. “metal stamping,” “medical,” etc.) as well as qualifying buzzwords (e.g. “reliable,” “premium,” etc.) will help draw the eye of the researching buyer.

Social Media: Most manufacturers think of social media as a platform best suited for B2C, but B2B marketing can benefit from this area, as well. Social media should be used to stoke the promotional fire by delivering content to the masses and engaging with potential buyers. Having one’s company social media accounts open to questions also streamlines the research process for the consumer: if they are interested in doing business with you, sending a quick question over the platform’s messaging system gives you the opportunity to engage and build rapport.

With these strategies in mind, manufacturers will have a leg up on their competition in the marketing space.  For more tips and insights into the future of manufacturing marketing and sales from experts in the field, join PMA in Milwaukee, WI, for the Manufacturing Sales & Marketing Summit on September 26 and 27.  More information and registration details can be found here.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Nearly Half of Metalformers Think Their Website Is “Just Okay”—That’s Not Okay!

Way back in 2009, before cars were driving themselves and quinoa was a word you had to know, Michael Bleau, writing for MetalForming magazine, noted that despite the importance of company websites, most “industrial manufacturers lag behind in having professionally produced sites.”

Today, most metalformers have caught up in the web-design department: A quick company search turns up sleek websites with strong colors and evident corporate branding. Yet problems remain, namely in what metalformers feel they’re getting out of their websites. 

According to the Precision Metalforming Association’s (PMA) 2017 Sales & Marketing Report, 86 percent of surveyed companies present their manufacturing capabilities through their website and 70 percent want their website to generate RFQ leads. Yet 42 percent of them say their company website is “just okay” when it comes to helping to develop new business. Eleven percent say their website is “poor” or “very poor.”   

That’s not okay! 

Your company’s digital presence is too important for a shrug and a “meh, it’s just okay.” As sales and marketing increasingly go digital, technology continues to move at breakneck speeds and digital natives move into leadership positions, it’s important to keep pace. It’s not hard to imagine a future where most of your business is conducted online.

So what can you do to get the most out of your online presence? One option is PMA’s 2017 Manufacturing Sales & Marketing Summit in Milwaukee, WI. Over the course of two days (September 26-27) experienced speakers will present on the biggest trends in sales and marketing—specific to the metalforming industry. The event even includes a digital sales profile workshop, to help you maximize your company’s online presence and break out of the “just okay” web malaise. 

For more information, visit http://www.pma.org/salessummit.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Introducing PMA’s New President, Roy Hardy




Roy Hardy
President, Precision Metalforming Association 

With a pedigree steeped in engineering, manufacturing and our industry’s workpiece metals of choice, Roy Hardy assumed the leadership position at PMA as its new president on May 15, 2017. He succeeds Bill Gaskin, who retired at the end of May after 40 years of service to the metalforming industry.

A self-described third-generation metals man–his grandfather worked in a ductile iron foundry for 35 years and his father’s career was spent as a metallurgist at Huntington Alloys–Hardy has had a lifelong fascination with this type of work.

“As a kid on plant tours where my dad worked, I watched metal being poured, twisted, bended, recycled to be used again…I’ve always wanted to be a metals guy,” he says.

Graduating from the University of Cincinnati with a bachelor’s degree in Metallurgical Engineering, Hardy worked his way through nearly every link of the metal-parts supply chain, then owned a company supplying steel mills, the heat-treating industry and forging companies. For the past eight years, he served as president of the Forging Industry Association.

“PMA’s mission is to assist members in being more competitive in the global economy, and I know we can compete if it’s on a level-playing field,” Hardy says, “so we will continue to be active in government advocacy telling the PMA story.”

Recognizing that PMA’s effectiveness as an advocate is directly related to its size and strength, Hardy seeks an increase in membership in coming years and more engaged members.

“If we can grow PMA membership to 30 percent of the metalforming industry, we can increase PMA’s clout in Washington, D.C., giving us a bigger voice for the industry. In addition, we need to continue bringing our people together through networking opportunities. Part of that involves empowering and energizing our local districts, the backbone of PMA. Future leaders are found in the districts, and they serve as our first line of communication as to what’s going on, what’s new and what are the concerns.”

Key to competitiveness is linking members to the latest, most effective technology, making PMA “a matchmaker for members and technology,” as Hardy says. “We want to expose members to what’s going on related to technology. International conferences and tradeshows are ideal for technology transfer, so PMA will continue to be active in these areas.”

To address the industry’s challenge of finding and retaining qualified associates, Hardy stresses the need for workforce-development programs “to develop the talent we already have, and train managers as future company leaders.”

And, he sees PMA’s Educational Foundation as instrumental in helping address the skills shortage by raising awareness among the general public, and assisting and funding PMA’s efforts to deliver training via an online learning-management system as well as workshops and seminars.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Predicting Electricity Price Trends


Guest Blogger: Kathy Kiernan
Senior Vice President & Managing Partner, APPI Energy

Retail electricity prices are largely driven by natural gas prices. Even though your system operator (PJM, ERCOT, MISO, NEPOOL) is procuring power from a variety of sources—hydroelectric, wind, solar, nuclear, coal, gas—the way system operators pay generating plants is based on the last fuel used to meet demand, which is almost always natural gas. Therefore, the amount you pay per kWh is determined primarily by the current price of natural gas in your region. 

Retail electricity prices tend to follow trends in natural gas prices. Gas prices, however, are significantly more volatile than electricity prices. For example, when we see gas prices fluctuate by as much as 70% in a single month, corresponding electricity prices will generally move in the same direction, but by only around 10%. The change in electricity prices will also typically lag behind gas prices by a couple of weeks.

In the financial sector, the “volatility index” of a stock, commodity, or asset is a statistical measure of the uncertainty or risk associated with rapid and/or dramatic changes in the security’s value or price. Over the past 12 months (Feb 2016 – Feb 2017) the volatility index for NYMEX natural gas futures was 5.7%, and 7.0% for Henry Hub spot prices. The volatility index for the national average benchmark price of retail electricity during this same timeframe was only 1.4%.


What does this mean? The use of gas prices in short-term forecasting often overestimates the extent of change in electricity prices. Gas prices are therefore a better indicator of longer-term electricity price trends than they are predictors of short-term price shifts. Rule of thumb, for a 10% shift in gas prices anticipate electricity prices will move in the same direction by only 2-3%.

Learn more about PMA and APPI Energy’s partnership here.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

PMA 75th Anniversary Interview with Bill Gaskin

PMA President, Bill Gaskin, shares his memories and experiences as PMA celebrates our 75th anniversary.

Q: How long have you been at PMA?

A: I am closing in on 40 years. Jon Jenson, who was president of American Metal Stamping Association (AMSA) from December 1975 through August 2000, hired me in February 1977 with an official “start date” of March 1, 1977.  (See below for more on this) 

Q: What is your current role? Have you held any other positions at PMA previously?

A: My current role includes being President of three separate, but related entities:

(1) Precision Metalforming Association, which is a 501 (c) (6) not-for-profit trade association

(2) PMA Educational Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit charitable organization supporting training and education·      

(3) PMA Services, Inc., a for-profit company (owned equally by PMA and PMAEF) engaged primarily in publishing and management of other associations, such as Women in Manufacturing (WiM). 

My first job title was Staff Representative; then succeeding ones: District & Government Relations Coordinator, Government Relations Manager, Vice President, Executive Vice President, and in 2000, President.  (The next one is likely to be President Emeritus.)

Q: What is the best part of working at PMA?

A: The people I work for and the people I work with. One of the great things about PMA and many similar trade associations and/or professional societies, is that you can make a significant and positive impact on an entire industry (or profession) and help it succeed.  In turn, this affects our larger economy and overall success of our country. The volunteer leadership of PMA is comprised of motivated, hardworking individuals who are very busy in their own companies, yet they take time to work on PMA, to help us be successful as an organization and an overall industry. In turn, my fellow PMA employees invest their time and energy to provide information, services and benefits that help our member companies succeed. It is this synergy of dedicated members and a dedicated team of co-workers that has allowed us to help the metalforming industry be stronger, more innovative and more successful.

Q: What was the first PMA event/meeting that you worked on? 

A: A meeting of the Government Affairs Committee, in Washington, D.C. My first unofficial day on the job (I was actually a volunteer that day) was Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1977, two weeks before my actual start-date as an employee. During my final interview, Jon asked if I could take two days of vacation from the job I was leaving to participate in an AMSA Government Relations Committee meeting being held in Washington, D.C.  It was a very useful meeting, because I had a chance to meet about a dozen active members, who believed strongly in the importance of “telling the industry story” to our elected representatives and employees of government agencies. I also started to learn about some serious industry issues caused when the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), which had been established just six years earlier, had taken voluntary industry safety standards, and overnight made them the “law of the land.” The metal stamping industry was really struggling to comply with these new requirements, and AMSA was indeed the “voice” of the industry then, as PMA is today. 

As a side note, that trip to Washington, D.C. was the first time I was ever on an airplane.

Q: What PMA event is your favorite? 

A: Forming Our Future, which we used to call the “Annual Meeting.” It is a multi-day event in a very nice location, with great speakers, small group meetings, larger assembly sessions and plenty of opportunities for participants to meet new people, share-interesting ideas, learn new things, and take some time to relax and have some fun. While the locations, hotels and speakers are amazing, the people from our member companies are what really make the event worth every minute. 

Q: What is your favorite PMA memory? 

A: Being among a group of PMA members who spent their personal time and company money to travel to Washington, D.C. to help end the 201 Steel Tariff, that very negatively impacted steel consumers with an overnight 36% duty applied to all imports of flat rolled metals.  Jim McGregor from Morgal Machine Tool, at his company’s expense, loaded an operational metal stamping line (uncoiler, feed, stamping press complete with tool and a parts bin) on a flatbed truck, then parked it outside the U.S. Capitol Building. This was part of a press event to bring attention to the harm caused to steel-consuming companies while steel-producing companies were being protected from low-priced Chinese steel imports by a tariff that artificially raised the price they received for their steel. Our large group of members in D.C., some of them standing on the truck, held their “stop the tariff” signs, to help make the point to Congress that while steel producers were benefiting from the tariff, steel consumers were being impacted negatively.


An economic study we commissioned determined that 71 steel-consuming industry jobs would be lost for each steel-producing job saved. PMA and our allies were successful in ending the steel tariff 20 months early, likely saving tens of thousands of jobs in our industry.

Q: What makes you proud to work at PMA?

A: A combination of things: 

(1) Our employees and their remarkable dedication to the association, our members and the metalforming industry, which motivates them to perform outstanding and challenging work to provide leadership, important and useful information, personal service, outstanding products, publications, and events to our members and the entire metalforming industry. 

(2) Our members and their willingness to volunteer their time and company resources to collaborate with others, engaging through PMA to improve the metalforming industry, including learning from each other, and working with government officials and other associations to help the industry and our economy grow stronger.

(3) The resources we sometimes take for granted, such as our debt-free office facility, built in 1998, in Independence, OH, and our relationships with other associations, our suppliers and partners who make us better and help us strive to achieve our mission:  To shape the environment of the metalforming industry, leading innovative member companies toward superior competitiveness and profitability.

Q: What does PMA mean to you?

A: To me, PMA has meant having an opportunity to make a difference to our member companies and their employees, and to PMA’s team. I really believe that organizations such as PMA make a huge difference within an industry, and in turn contribute to the success of the overall U.S. economy, thereby enhancing our lifestyle, freedoms and long-term success. PMA means the opportunity to help an industry, which is essential to our daily well-being, succeed and serve their customers, and thereby contribute to the past, present and future of our families, communities and country. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

New Technologies to Address Die-Shop Challenges

Guest Blogger: Pat Saul
General Manager, RPS Quality Solutions Inc

Today the Die Industry faces multiple challenges. Die shops encounter high demands in both cost and time and must deal with continuously shifting technologies.  

New Materials, Drastic Designs and Late Form Changes, combined with Aggressive Prototype and Quotation Timelines -- all of these create significant issues for Sheet Metal Die Design and Development which are always on the critical path of automotive vehicle programs. Die Suppliers often contend with pressure to deliver Die Designs and Builds to very tightly compressed timelines. 

There are frequently delays in receiving quote packages and product data from the customer, while required delivery dates do not change, which results in reduced turnaround times. Die Suppliers have had to find creative and effective ways to adjust and be successful delivering on time quality dies that produce quality parts. 

Pat Saul, General Manager of RPS Quality Solutions, will illustrate some of the latest technologies that help overcome these challenges at PMA’s Metal Stamping Technology and Tool & Die Conference on December 6 -7, 2016 in Chicago, IL. 

Pat’s presentation will highlight the benefits and savings to be found with the use of cutting edge Morphing Software Solutions and Blue-Light Scanning Technologies -- and the further benefits and synergies realized by Combining and Integrating these two technologies

Their presentation will showcase utilization and applications revolving around the experience and expertise of two leading technology & process developers:

1. Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence 
and 
2. Rise-ES.

Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence (HMI) is a leading metrology and manufacturing solution specialist.  HMI’s expertise in Sensing, Thinking and Acting – the Collection, Analysis and Active Use of measurement data – enables customers to increase production speed and accelerate productivity while enhancing product quality.  In our presentation, Hexagon will describe the best known scanning techniques in order to optimize the die try out process and reduce the number of quality loops during the die tryout phase. 

Rise-ES was founded with the vision to develop Engineering Applications that are practical, effective, and easy to integrate into existing processes -- while at the same time improving those processes and the quality and speedy delivery of the process outputs. 

For the Die Industry, Rise-ES provides Omni Transformer -- software based on the Omnicad system for morphing product or manufacturing geometry based on inputs of analysis software tools or scans of actual physical properties. 

As Die Design Shops have successfully adopted simulation tools (such as Autoform, Dynaform, Pamstamp, etc.)  to predict springback, areas of cracking/thinning etc., and also to provide customer feedback for product concessions, these shops have been able to realize improved die and stamped part outputs. 

During the upfront design phase Tool & Die shops can use these simulation/analysis tools in conjunction with OmniTransformer Morphing Software to generate tight simulation loops and to run various “what-if” scenarios, to determine the optimum die face that will produce a stamped part that should mostly closely match the dimensional characteristics of the product design -- and thereby reduce the physical die tryout and tune-in time. 
In this scenario, the outputs of the simulation tools are the inputs for OmniTransformer. 

In addition to creating compensated surfaces based on Simulations, die shops also Combine OmniTransformer with Blue Light Scanning during the physical die tryout phase to rapidly generate CAM cutter paths to modify the die face to address any remaining dimensional deviations. In this scenario, the outputs of the Blue Light Scans are the inputs to the OmniTransformer Morphing Software. 

Pat’s presentation will emphasize these three different areas for the successful implementation of the latest set of technologies:

1) Morphing during Die Design Phase
2) Blue Light Scanning of physical properties once produced
3) Morphing and final refinement of dies based on scans of physical parts produced during tryout 


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