It’s no secret. In the world of plastic resins, the supply/demand balance has shifted dramatically toward short supply and higher prices. What can you do about it?
“Protect yourself by specifying more than one material for any part or application,” advises Jeff Somple, president of Mack Molding’s northern operations. “Availability and price are two good reasons to do that. When material suppliers are talking about allocating a resin that you’re locked into, you may not be able to get your product out the door. If that doesn’t send shivers down your spine, then consider dollars and cents. If you have sole-specified a material that falls victim to a shortage, you could be hit with a $.25/lb. increase, take it or leave it. You have no leverage; you can’t even negotiate.
“We’ve been lulled to sleep over the past decade by very stable raw material pricing, so sole-specifying has worked,” explains Somple. “That stability has now been replaced, however, by apparent material shortages and exploding prices. Customers who are locked into one material are paying the price…literally!”
Consider this scenario. You’ve spent months searching for the perfect material. You’ve done all sorts of trials. You’ve built tools and sampled a variety of resins. Finally, you get the part approved. “Yes! This is it! I like the way this looks! Get it into testing because we’re already a month late!” exclaims your manager. The part passes testing, and with a sigh of relief, you hasten it into production and don’t look back! Sound familiar?
“We strongly suggest you take that scenario one step further,” says Somple. “Once you move your part into production, do look back and quickly develop a second material for a back-up plan just in case something happens. Ideally, you should enter each new program with the mindset that you’re going to have two different materials pre-approved from two different suppliers. In fact, the smart OEM will draw both a material supplier and a processor into early design discussions to benefit from their years of experience in material development and processing.”
Bottom line? Don’t suffer the single-source sweats! Look at more than one material option, especially if your product has to pass regulatory and performance muster before it can reach the marketplace. You have to have a Plan B!