How to Protect Your Plastic Parts Supply Chain!

Plastic Parts

Robust supply chains are crucial to your business operations.  Equipment failures, natural disasters, logistical problems, or injection molding defects in the plastic parts Supply Chain often cause business-critical delays or last-minute adjustments.

Eliminating weak points in your plastic parts supply chain is the best way to avoid costly setbacks.

Here we’ll explore some optimal approaches to assess your supply chain and identify safeguards to keep your deliveries running like clockwork.

Understand Your Plastic Parts Critical Path

The first step in identifying vulnerabilities in your supply chain is to understand your critical path.  The critical path is each step in the supply chain process.

Let’s work through the critical path of your plastic parts:

  1. Ordering: Do you have a fixed manufacturing time for your parts? Is there a process in place (automated or manual), which triggers a new order when stocks fall below a certain threshold?
  2. Production: Are you reliant on one sole supplier to produce your plastic parts? Is there a capacity for expedited orders? Can you commission a second supplier as a contingency?
  3. Logistics: How are your plastic parts dispatched? Is your supplier dependent on one shipping route, or could they investigate the viability of an alternative pathway?
  4. Reverse Logistics: How are your plastics recycled? How do you manage microplastics?

Supply chains are the foundation of business efficiency, with Reuters reporting in March 2021 that 40% of companies experienced supply chain failures during the Coronavirus pandemic. That statistic demonstrates the vital importance of having a reliable supply chain – and backup options when problems hit.

Assessing your critical path evaluates your delivery timelines. Then, working backwards, you can identify the time frames required for ordering and manufacturing.  You can quickly see whether there are any roadblocks in the process that require attention.

Fixing Supply Chain Challenges

Once you’ve created a critical path, the next step is to risk-assess each element in the ordering, production, and delivery network.

There are two primary ways to deal with potential pitfalls:

  1. Improve supply chain efficiency by reducing time frames.
  2. Reconfigure your parts management process through lean manufacturing.

1. Improving Plastic Parts Supply Chain Efficiency

Each step of the supply chain is equally important in assessing how to protect it from disaster.  One bottleneck can overturn the entire system.

There are many ways to improve efficiency, and the right solutions will depend on the key risks you have identified. For example, perhaps you struggle to order parts in time for urgent client orders. 

In that situation, having a minimum stock level could solve the problem. Another example might be when shipping time frames are in constant flux due to customs delays or late vessels. 

Here, you could consider partnering with domestic businesses who specialize in clearing international products through customs faster.

2. How To Implement An Agile Manufacturing Approach

Lean, or agile, manufacturing is another way to mitigate supply chain risks. This option can be an excellent technique to drive overall operational efficiencies, meet environmental targets to reduce wastage, and cut back on overheads.

In essence, a lean manufacturing system matches production to forecast requirements, so it might work like this:

  • Management teams create forecasts or predicted plastic parts estimates ahead of time, perhaps monthly or quarterly.
  • The business creates a supplier agreement, where orders are produced based on those predictions and held in stock.
  • As soon as you require a new batch of plastic parts, the consignment is dispatched without additional manufacturing time.

Similar to a consignment stock system, lean manufacturing ensures you won’t be left with surplus parts, can rely on fast transit times, and protects against costly delays.

The Value Of Supply Chain Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting potential errors before they occur is a great way to tighten up ordering controls, evaluate your essential stock holdings, and create strong business relationships with your suppliers.

Those relationships are pivotal since a plastic parts supplier may have suggestions to alleviate potential problems.

They might ask for contractual assurance, such as:

  • An agreed minimum spending amount or production volume per annum.
  • Upfront payments for initial production batches.
  • A certain period of trading before they implement a lean manufacturing agreement.

You must trust your suppliers to deliver quality parts on time.  If you aren’t confident that your existing supply chain could incorporate a lean production approach, it may be worth assessing alternatives.

Benefits Of Contingent Plastic Parts Suppliers

One of the most compelling reasons to have dual suppliers for the same plastic parts is that you have in-built protection.

If a supplier in China struggles to fulfill an order due to shipping problems, it’s improbable your second supplier in the US will have a similar situation.

Likewise, you have the challenge of dealing with national holidays and peak production periods, where it can be tough to place an urgent order and expect fast fulfillment.

Other potential pitfalls include:

  • Regulatory changes
  • Company closures
  • Natural disasters
  • Labor shortages
  • Political instabilities

The key to managing these risks is to track supplier performance and monitor any recurring issues.  That includes drops in quality, delays, and manufacturing disruptions.

While building relationships with more than one supplier requires an investment of time, it can offer you a key safety net by ensuring that if one company cannot meet your requirements, the other can seamlessly step in.

A reliable supply chain is crucial to keeping your business running smoothly. Take the time to identify the weak points in your plastic parts supply chain and put in the effort to fix them. 

That way, when a big order comes in, you will be glad you did!

Plastic parts Supply Chain article and permission to publish here provided by Pat Guevara. Originally written for Supply Chain Game Changer and published on August 2, 2021.

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