Supply Chain: More Resilient Post-COVID-19

Supply Chain: More Resilient Post-COVID-19

Supply Chain: More Resilient and Agile After COVID-19

COVID-19 put a kink in the global supply chain. And it exposed weaknesses with the power to halt the flow of business. Now, as the world takes steps to define a new business-as-usual post-pandemic, manufacturers are rethinking their supply chain.

As a result, instead of relying on overseas suppliers, companies are exploring opportunities to create a more robust and sustainable supply chain closer to home. One with the flexibility to meet changing production needs, and the accessibility to do so with greater reliability.

To facilitate the process of establishing a more resilient supply chain that can endure the unexpected and continue to thrive during times of uncertainty, manufacturers must begin the process for establishing a more resilient supply chain that can endure the unexpected and continue to thrive during times of uncertainty.

To build such a supply chain, a manufacturer’s plan should include three essential components:

  1. Improve supply chain visibility
  2. Partner with suppliers that can quickly scale production
  3. Prepare an action plan for transforming to a more digital ecosystem

Gain Real-time Supply Chain Visibility 

Real-time visibility is one of the most sought-after ideals for optimizing the flow of goods and services. For one, it enables supply chain managers to track products from the source of raw materials to the final destination. Also, it empowers companies to seamlessly adapt to disruptions and serve customers with greater confidence.

For example, Forbes published a recent Oxford Economics survey of 1,000 supply chain executives. It found that 49% of Supply Chain Leaders can capture real-time data insights and act on them immediately. 51% use AI and predictive analytics to capture insights. This enables Supply Chain Leaders to react in real time to changing conditions. From widescale disruptions to individual customer complaints.[1]

Of course, achieving this degree of end-to-end visibility has always been a challenge—long before COVID-19. Now, faced with the reality of critical vulnerabilities brought to light by the pandemic, learning how to restructure relationships with suppliers will help companies to better understand the impact of disruptions and react accordingly.

Build A Transparent Supply Network: Top 3 Tactics 

Whether you opt to reshore or rely on overseas suppliers, approaching venders as part of a supply network rather than a chain can help to increase visibility. Networking will help to build collaborative, transparent relationships to facilitate proactive decision-making.

Therefore, to help increase visibility with your suppliers, consider these three tactics:

  1. Understand the pain points of your customers, internal teams, and suppliers.
    Prepare a process for gathering pain points that impact your customers, internal teams, and suppliers. For example, set a cadence for distributing a quarterly survey to establish an open line of communications. By understanding specific pain points, you can react quicker and more effectively to mitigate risk to your supply chain.
  2. Invest in technology and systems to optimize communications and provide easy access to critical assets.
    COVID-19 served as a catalyst for many businesses to rethink their supply chain and relationships with suppliers. For example, optimize methods for communicating critical assets and intel between suppliers, internal teams, and critical stakeholders. Invest in technology and systems to create greater transparency and make it easier to communicate essential information.
  3. Set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for success.
    Define terms and conditions of a successful vendor relationship. First, identify key suppliers. Then, set clear KPIs to enable real-time tracking of inventory, services, and production capabilities. Measure them on a regular basis. This will provide a more transparent view of suppliers’ flexibility to scale production as needed.

For more information about supply chain KPIs, visit Logistic Bureau’s blog, KPI Key Performance Indicators in Supply Chain & Logistics. You’ll learn best practices for setting KPIs, tips for implementing a hierarchy structure, and additional resources.

Partner With Suppliers That Can Quickly Scale Production

Headlines announcing crisis-level disruption to the heart of electronics manufacturing in China due to the Coronavirus surfaced on CNBC as early as February. Leaders in the industry explained that many consumer goods manufacturers in the U.S. could miss holiday deadlines. Because with factories closed in China, they could not manufacture prototypes, complete testing, or ramp up to full production. As a result, the pandemic created a great deal of market uncertainty that individuals and industries are still struggling to navigate.

For example, many consumers are already experiencing decreased disposable income. Which makes it difficult for consumer goods and electronics manufacturers to predict with confidence production volumes needed to meet the upcoming holiday season.

Design Challenges?

Need help optimizing your design for injection molding? Contact Xcentric’s consultants. We’re here to help!

Therefore, manufacturers must consider suppliers that can quickly scale production as market demands change.

Minimize costs with a flexible production model

Choose suppliers who can help minimize initial costs with an economical, flexible production model. This can help get back on schedule for the holiday season while minimizing the risk of uncertain demand. Look for suppliers who have the ability to quickly ramp up if demand surges and support lower volumes at price points that don’t damage profits if demand does not return to normal.

For example, consider Xcentric, a leading rapid manufacturer in the U.S. We provide first parts within a few short weeks and can quickly scale up to supply hundreds of thousands of parts per year. We can also bridge the gap to millions of parts per year to help mitigate risk.

Digitize Your Supply Network

Digitizing your supply chain and transitioning from a traditional, enterprise-focused operating model to a digital ecosystem is a major initiative. It will require substantial investment and restrucutring of your organization. We are including it, because the potential benefits to your supply chain merit sharing the information.

Managing a multi-tiered supply chain will always present a challenge. Still, in a world that runs on technology, preparing an action plan for creating a digital ecosystem and digitizing your supply network can help to build a more robust supply chain.

A traditional business operating system (BOS) functions at the enterprise level. It is a hardwired business model of processes and methods of communication. Alternatively, a network BOS is fully digital. Agile and flexible, it provides an optimized, fully accessible digital ecosystem.

What is a digital ecosystem?

A digital ecosystem uses technology to connect your supply chain. Suppliers, customers, stakeholders, internal teams, applications, third-party data providers, and digital assets. All connected via a network-based system to ensure your supply chain function in any global climate.

Digitizing your supply network helps to create a more resilient supply chain by:

  • Optimizing all members of the ecosystem with real-time visibility and flexibility to connect with all suppliers on the network
  • Providing a single point-of-contact and version of the truth; everyone connected has access to the same information

If you would like to learn more about digitizing your network, please visit Supply & Demand Chain Executive’s post, Intelligent Digital Ecosystems: How to Digitize Your Supply Network. The post does a great job explaining each component of a networked business operating system.

Conclusion and Key Points 

COVID-19 revealed a shockingly fragile global economy. And, it served as a catalyst for many businesses to rethink their supply chain. The unexpected disruption impacted businesses of all sizes in nearly every industry and country. In fact, Fortune reported that 94% of Fortune 1000 companies felt the disruption caused by the Coronavirus. [2] Conversely, the pandemic also showed us how quickly we can adapt to a virtual environment.

Go beyond COVID-19 with a more resilient supply chain. One that can sustain unexpected disruption and thrive in uncertainty. Consider implementing these tactics:

  • Increase real-time visibility into your supply chain. Take time to understand pain points of your customers, internal team, and suppliers
  • Set KPIs you can measure on a regular basis
  • Invest in technology to optimize communications and provide easy access to critical assets
  • Partner with suppliers that can quickly scale production. A flexible, agile supply chain will respond quickly to fluctuations in market demand
  • Digitize your supplier network. Create a digital ecosystem that connects customers, suppliers, and critical stakeholders

 

Mold Flow Analysis For Injection Molding

Mold Flow Analysis For Injection Molding

Designing Plastic Parts For Injection Molding? Run Mold Flow Analysis Before Cutting The Mold

Mold flow analysis is not required for the injection molding process. But maybe it should be, especially considering it can help to predict manufacturing issues before production starts.

Mold flow analysis software* simulates an injection molding cycle using a specific plastic and part design. It evaluates the design for manufacturability before cutting the mold. This allows designers to identify design flaws that would otherwise result in expensive redesign and time delays.

This post will explore the basics of mold flow software, identify how it helps to optimize the injection molding process, and look at sample data generated by the analysis.

First, let’s briefly review three key components that are critical to the injection molding process: design, mold, and material.

Injection Molding Manufacturing

Injection molding is the most widely used method for mass-producing plastic parts. It’s economical, efficient, and can produce simple to complex parts with low waste. For details about the 6 stages included in the process, visit Xcentric’s injection molding process page.

Mold 

The injection molding process requires a mold, or tool, to produce plastic parts. Mold design engineers design a custom injection mold and then expert mold makers build the mold for production.

Even if the mold is designed and built to exact specifications of the part, issues could still arise during the injection molding process if the part itself isn’t optimized for injection molding or if gate locations aren’t placed in optimal positions for material flow. For example, the plastic may not completely fill the mold cavities resulting in voids, or part defects. Mold flow analysis helps to determine how a given plastic will perform in the mold.

The “plastic” in plastic injection molding

Not all plastics flow, heat, or cool the same. In fact, there are more than 85K polymers to choose from when designing for plastic injection molding. The vast polymer options can make material selection a challenge.

Mold flow analysis enables designers to evaluate the material for variables such as material shrink rate, cooling properties, ability to fill cavities, and potential for aesthetic flaws.

Mold flow analysis: optimize the injection molding process 

Mitigate risk before production begins

Mold flow analysis helps to mitigate risk and create a successful mold from the start. It helps designers to:

  • correct potential cosmetic and structural problems
  • determine the appropriate wall thickness
  • troubleshoot potential problem areas of the mold
  • identify optimal gate locations
  • adjust for ample corner radius
  • create even and clean edges
  • identify the best material for the desired outcome
  • create a successful mold from the start

Design Challenges?

Need help optimizing your design for injection molding? Contact Xcentric’s consultants. We’re here to help!

Mold flow analysis diagnostic reports

The analysis generates color-coded reports to illustrate how the plastic would perform in the mold. Reports include Fiber Orientation, Average Temperature, Knit Lines, Air Traps, Confidence of Fill, Sink and Warp, and Fill Time Result.

We’ll examine elements of two reports: Fill Time Result and Confidence of Fill.

Fill Time Result

The Fill Time Result report presents the position of the flow front at regular intervals as the mold cavity fills. A balanced flow of plastic pattern indicates the plastic part has a good fill time.

The report provides the result in a color-coded diagram. For example, note the contrast between diagram 1, a good fill time, and diagram 2, poor fill time.

Diagram 1

Diagram 2

How to read the results

The designer evaluates the image for flow paths that finish and reach the edges at the same time. Evenly spaced contours indicate the speed at which the plastic is flowing. Widely spaced contours indicate rapid flow; narrow contours indicate the part is filling slowly. 

Things to look for

The Fill Time Result report provides insight into the following:

  • Short shot: A part is short shot when the flow of plastic does not completely fill the mold cavity, thereby resulting in an incomplete part
  • Hesitation: Hesitation occurs when the flow of plastic stops or slows down resulting in asymmetrical and unpredictable flow patterns
  • Overpacking: The result of one flow path finishing before others. Overpacking can result in high part weight, warp, and non-uniform density distribution
  • Weld lines: Also known as knit lines, these are molding defects that occur when two flow fronts meet without the ability to “weld”
  • Air traps: A bubble of air trapped when plastic flow fronts coincide. Air traps can cause structural and visual defects
  • Racetrack effect: Occurs when the flow races through the thick areas of a mold cavity before the thin sections have filled

Mold Flow Analysis Guide

Download our guide to help interpret results generated by mold flow analysis.

Confidence of Fill Result

Confidence of Fill Result report addresses the probability of the plastic filling the mold cavity. 

The colors displayed in the Confidence of Fill indicate:

  1. All green: Plastic fills the part easily and the part quality will likely be acceptable.
  2. Some yellow: The part can be difficult to mold, or quality is probably not acceptable. As the percentage of yellow increases, the difficulty in molding the part increases, and the part quality decreases.
  3. Some yellow and red: The part is difficult to fill, or quality is probably unacceptable. As the percentages of yellow and red increase, the difficulty in molding the part increase, and the part quality decreases.
  4. Any translucent: The part cannot be molded because a short shot will occur.

Results help to determine the probability of molding a quality part

One way to use the results to determine whether you can mold a quality part is to consider how much of each color is displayed. The results could indicate a need to:

  • change the design to better balance flow paths
  • choose a different injection location to ensure the part is completely filled
  • re-evaluate the material selection
  • change the processing conditions

Mold flow analysis: optimize the design before cutting the mold

An accurate mold is critical to producing high-quality, repeatable plastic parts. Mold flow analysis software can help to optimize the process before cutting the mold.

Xcentric is a trusted partner for injection molding solutions. Contact our team to discuss design challenges and upcoming projects.

*Moldflow, owned by Autodesk, produces simulation software for high-end plastic injection molding. All information and diagrams for Fill Time Results and Confidence of Fill in this blog courtesy of Autodesk.

COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 Update

Xcentric Preparing for Return to Full Operations

Dear Valued Customers,

I am writing to update you on the Xcentric plan to return to full manufacturing operations. The State of Michigan “Stay Home” order is currently set to expire on April 30, 2020. Therefore, Xcentric is preparing to return to normal operations on May 1st with two fully staffed state-of-the art manufacturing plants in Michigan to fulfill our customers’ needs. We are continuing to monitor the ongoing situation and will make adjustments to comply with government mandates, process essential projects, and do our utmost to protect our team members.

Customer Projects and Communications

Like many of you, we are doing what we can to help our customers and the larger community navigate this challenging time. Xcentric has prioritized medical orders to get critical COVID-19 components manufactured and delivered to the front lines as quickly as possible. We are working with our customers to accelerate the production of personal protective equipment, face shields, ventilator components, and lab equipment parts. We are in this together.  We’re doing everything we can to help.

Ramp Up to Full Operation

Since March 26th, Xcentric has been running with modified manufacturing operations. After May 1st we will return to our maximum production pace as quickly as possible. Our focus will be on completing active and scheduled projects with top priority. Our team will be communicating updated timelines for all existing orders.   New projects will be quoted in our standard 24-hour timeframe, and delivery timelines will be communicated on a project by project basis.

In parallel, we continue to work with customers on their future projects to help them prepare to accelerate as the business world returns to normalcy. Our sales engineers are here to provide manufacturability assessments or budgetary information for your next product designs. To get started, submit an online quote request or reach out to your Xcentric sales professional. We are ready and available to assist.

Protecting the Health and Safety of Our Employees and Their Families

As always, the safety and wellbeing of our team and their families is of utmost importance. Therefore, we will continue to take precautions per CDC guidelines including increased distancing, heightened disinfection protocols throughout our facilities, health screening, and other steps to minimize the risk to our colleagues as they return to work.

We thank you for your understanding and support during this difficult time. Although it will take some time for business to return to normal, rest assured that Xcentric will once again be able to deliver with the speed, quality, and customer support you’ve come to expect. It is our sincere hope that you and your loved ones remain safe and healthy.

Sincerely,
Michael Rynerson
CEO
Xcentric Mold & Engineering

COVID-19 Weekly Update: April 3, 2020

COVID-19 Weekly Update: April 3, 2020

Xcentric Supporting Essential Projects

During these uncertain times our thoughts remain with you and your families. We are monitoring the ongoing situation and are making real-time adjustments to balance the needs of customers, the safety of our team members, and the capacity of our operations. Like many of you, we continue to do what we can to help our customers and the larger community navigate this challenging time.

ESSENTIAL OPERATIONS Continue

Following the State of Michigan government mandated “Stay Home” order issued on March 23rd, Xcentric Mold & Engineering was designated by certain customers that are part of the essential “Critical Infrastructure” industries exemption as a “Critical Infrastructure” supply chain vendor. We began modified manufacturing operations on March 26th and continue working through essential projects to help keep our clients in the medical, defense, communications, transportation, and other designated Critical Infrastructure industries moving forward in these unprecedented times.

CUSTOMER PROJECTS AND COMMUNICATIONS

Xcentric team members are maintaining contact with our customers regarding active and pending essential projects. As stated in previous updates, we will communicate the timing for projects as soon as possible. We continue to support incoming projects that meet the state and federal guidelines for supply chain needs in the Critical Infrastructure industries to the best of our abilities during these rapidly changing times. Once the State of Michigan “Stay Home” order is lifted (which is currently effective until April 14), we will resume full operations immediately for all project types. The company is working on providing delivery times for all non-critical projects and we will communicate those as soon as possible.

PROTECTING THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF OUR EMPLOYEES AND THEIR FAMILIES

As always, the safety and wellbeing of our team and their families is of utmost importance. Therefore, we have taken additional precautions per CDC guidelines including increased distancing, heightened disinfection protocols throughout our facilities, health screening, and other steps to minimize the risk to our colleagues who have volunteered to return to work on these critical projects. Xcentric will add other precautions as government guidelines change.

We thank you for your understanding and support during this difficult time. It is our sincere hope that you and your loved ones remain safe and healthy. Together, we will get through this.

COVID-19 Weekly Update: April 3, 2020

COVID-19 Weekly Update: March 26, 2020

Xcentric Supporting Essential Projects

During these uncertain times our thoughts are with you and your families. We are continuing to monitor the ongoing situation and are making real-time adjustments to balance the needs of customers, the safety of our team members, and the capacity of our operations. Like many of you, we are trying to do what we can to help our customers and the larger community navigate this challenging time.

Essential Operations Have Resumed

Following the State of Michigan government mandated “Stay Home” order issued on March 23rd, Xcentric Mold & Engineering was designated by certain customers that are part of the essential “Critical Infrastructure” industries exemption as a “Critical Infrastructure” supply chain vendor. We have responded to the essential needs of these clients, and will resume modified manufacturing operations today, March 26th. Through these efforts we endeavor to help keep our clients in the medical, defense, communications, transportation, and other designated Critical Infrastructure industries moving forward in these unprecedented times.

Customer Projects and Communications

Xcentric team members are directly contacting customers regarding active and pending essential projects. We will communicate to you the timing for your project(s) as soon as possible. We will also be supporting incoming projects that meet the state and federal guidelines for supply chain needs in the Critical Infrastructure industries to the best of our abilities during these rapidly changing times. Once the State of Michigan “Stay Home” order is lifted (which is currently effective until April 14), we will resume full operations immediately for all project types. The company is working on providing delivery times for all non-critical projects and we will communicate those as soon as possible.

Protecting the Health and Safety of Our Employees and Their Families

As always, the safety and wellbeing of our team and their families is of utmost importance. Therefore, we are taking additional precautions per CDC guidelines including increased distancing, heightened disinfection protocols throughout our facilities, health screening, and other steps to minimize the risk to our colleagues who have volunteered to return to work on these critical projects.

We thank you for your understanding and support during this difficult time. It is our sincere hope that you and your loved ones remain safe and healthy. Together, we will get through this.

Sincerely,

Michael Rynerson

CEO

Xcentric Mold & Engineering