Supply Chain headaches (and how to prevent them)

Published On: September 30th, 2021|Categories: Blog|

It is a common theme across the business community, whether you are ordering plastic forks, garage doors or yes, composite resins.

PlastiCert has always been very proactive when we see possible disruptions. In our case we don’t have many offshore sourcing issues. Plastic resins are manufactured domestically. Our disruptions occur when the gulf coast gets hit by hurricanes.

Plastics 101 (simplified for brevity) – plastic is primarily based in natural gas or oil processing off gases. Those gases are refined into ethane and propane. Ethane and propane are treated with high heat, in a process known as cracking. This is how they’re converted into monomers such as ethylene and propylene. The monomers ethylene and propylene are combined with a catalyst to create a polymer “fluff,” which looks like powdered laundry detergent. The polymer is fed into an extruder, where it is melted and fed into a pipe and pushed out a small orifice. The plastic forms a long solid tube as it cools. That tube is cut into small pellets. Pellets are shipped to either processors like us, OR, to compounders that melt it again and include additives, like flame retardant, UV inhibitors, fiber glass or carbon fiber, etc. These COMPOSITES are then shipped to processors like PlastiCert to make into high end products.

When the Gulf Coast petroleum plants, the cracking plants, the resin plants (they are often co-located to improve logistics) are shut down or worse, damaged by storms, the supply gets disrupted.

This past year we have seen numerous hurricanes.  We also had the hard freeze in Texas that damaged not just power plants, but many processing plants that also were not fortified for those kinds of temperatures.

So here we are seven months later trying to recover from several meteorological events that hobbled our industries.

Throw in a few supply issues for offshore sourced hardware (used in our insert molding operations) and we have some manufacturing headaches.

As stated in the opening, we often anticipate these seasonal issues. The hard freeze in Texas caught everyone by surprise. Not the weather but the lack of preparation or preparedness for cold weather.

What can OEMs do to try and prevent delays in getting their much-needed components?

One huge advantage is to dual source ALL your materials whenever possible. Alternate resins, whether virgin or composites, will increase odds of finding a supply in a warehouse.

Need help? We are materials experts. Our engineers come from the ONLY four-year composites material engineering major in the country. Material knowledge and sourcing is one of our specialties. We can offer up numerous alternatives for you to consider, evaluate, test, to allow yourself to hedge against possible disruptions and delays. Oh, and it may have pricing advantages to it as well. As any supply chain professional knows, being sole sourced is never a good negotiating position.

So, as you develop your next product, or evaluate what went wrong on your released products, visit us online or give us a call to talk about not just injection molding, but what RESINS (plural) to qualify for that product.

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