Geist Plastics Provides Personalized Service

Geist Plastics Provides Personalized Service

We have customers who treat us like a partner.

Contributor – Brian Havlat, Production Manager

In March Brian celebrates his two-year anniversary with Geist Plastics. His primary responsibility is handling our agriculture customers.

It all starts with a guy in the field saying, ‘I’ve got to water this…’. I understand what farmers worry about because I was raised on a farm. My father even bought center pivots for irrigation that were made by Geist, though he didn’t know it at the time. So I know the urgencies that our agriculture customers – companies that resell our products to farmers – experience. Because of this urgency, I want to make myself as accessible as possible to our customers. I’m in our plant much of the day, away from my desk. I carry my cell phone and provide the number to my contacts. If they can’t reach me by phone, they send me an email. I can respond faster if they call my cell.

Every customer I handle, even though they are from the same industry, operates differently. For example, one places 5-10 orders a day; one places 4-5 large orders a year; another one places several orders a week.

Our customers often change their forecasts so we need to be prepared to respond quickly. One customer gives me an updated forecast by phone every three months. She might indicate that they need 25% more product than they needed one year ago at that time. Regardless of the order quantities, we still try to have product on the shelf for customers whose forecasts may be conservative. On occasion an agriculture customer will ask why we can’t ship product the day after they place an order. They think we make the same product all day long and have plenty of inventory. But we explain that we use different plastics to make different pipes of different weights holding different fittings… more than 300 different products in total. Still, our standard turnaround time is two weeks, but sometimes a customer needs product in 10 days or even the next day. Several customers increased their orders so significantly last year that last August we added a third shift. We even had a Saturday shift working through December.

We cater to the way each customer prefers to do business. If a customer prefers to send 50 orders a month, that’s fine. If a customer wants us to manage their inventory, we provide this service. One customer places a blanket order for the year and twice a week provides an inventory report so we can manage their inventory. We know how to interpret their inventory usage to ensure we deliver the right amount of product as need so they can keep their production line moving. They set minimums and maximums of the quantity they want to keep on hand – for instance, a minimum of 4,000 pieces, a maximum of 9,000 pieces – and we make sure their ongoing needs are met. We always work out the best way to make each customer comfortable.

There are times when I’ve thought, “There’s no way we can get that product out the door that quickly!” But on-time delivery is part of our ISO certification program. Our goal is 98% deliverability. During the last 12 months we’ve delivered 97% of orders on time. When  we couldn’t it was because our customer moved up the ship date – not because we made a scheduling mistake.

We have customers who treat us like a partner. One customer invites us to attend a day-long Supplier Summit each year with about 25 other vendors. They present an overview of their financial picture, bring in a motivational speaker to encourage all of us to work as a team, and they even invite us to play golf with their purchasing agents. They view their vendors as important parts in the supply chain. It’s nice to be treated equally.