Canadian Plastics

Canadian plastics industry draws penalty minutes for poor Web sites

We all know that sports is a business. But if I could compare business to sports for a moment, I'd liken today's plastics industry to the National Hockey League, with the Canadian processors and manuf...

May 1, 2006   By Rebecca Reid, managing editor



We all know that sports is a business. But if I could compare business to sports for a moment, I’d liken today’s plastics industry to the National Hockey League, with the Canadian processors and manufacturers as the reliable, tradition-bound Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Chinese as the speedy, upstart Ottawa Senators, chipping away slowly at the older team’s status.

And as with the Leafs’ woes, there is no shortage of people demanding “Why isn’t somebody doing something?” about the challenges facing the Canadian plastics industry.

It’s easy to blame every lost dollar on OEMs moving manufacturing to China, high petrochemical prices and the high Canadian dollar, but many plastics processors and moldmakers need to stop crying “no fair” and take action to wrest business back from East Asia.

If you can’t win on price, you have to win on value and speed. Conducting business online can help processors communicate faster with customers, offer faster cycle times, and better customer service.

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Converting to e-business is a must for any processor or moldmaker hoping to survive in the long-term. Although Canadian shipments of plastic products continue to increase, it’s the large companies, not the SMEs, that are responsible.

Industry Canada says conversion to e-business can open up opportunities such as joining large networks of buyers to get volume discounts on machinery, for example, or joining forces with other small sub-contractors to fill large orders from automotive OEMs.

But I’m going to stop right there.

That’s because the lack of good Web sites, and the lack of understanding of Web sites, in the Canadian plastics industry is, frankly, embarrassing. With the exception of a very few, most processors’ and moldmakers’ Web sites need serious improvement. Some are outright travesties, while others are perenially “Under construction”.

Sloppy, out-of-date, badly designed and slow Web sites project the image of a sloppy, out-dated and unsophisticated company.

And if you’re not convinced about the importance of Web sites, listen to your peers. According to a recent survey conducted by Canadian Plastics, more than half research potential suppliers using the Web than by any other method. And the second most popular was contacting the company directly via e-mail.

Building a good Web site can take time and cost money, but even a basic Web site with a clean, professional design that provides the latest information about your expertise can be effective. Start small and build incrementally.

I spent three years writing for an IT magazine prior to joining Canadian Plastics and I can tell you that finding cost-effective IT solutions is a problem for SMEs across the board. But increasingly, service providers like Web-hosting companies and software firms are tailoring solutions and products for SMEs.

Competition is only going to increase, and Canadian processors and moldmakers need to act now before even less cash is available to make investments in technology.

Unlike the Leafs, you don’t have the luxury of saying “Wait ’til next year”.

e-mail: rreid@canplastics.com


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