Injection Molding Prototyping is Invaluable Survey Shows

Injection Molding Prototyping is Invaluable Survey Shows

Engineers have a multitude of reasons for creating physical prototypes. They need to get approval for their idea, ensure their concept meets their customers’ needs, and make sure their concept can sustain its integrity under use. They also need to verify that their concept can, in fact, be manufactured. Injection molding prototypes, 3D printed prototypes, and even cast urethane prototypes all prove valuable in product development.

Over the past year, Xcentric has conducted a number of surveys to get a view of how prototyping is impacting our customers’ product development. Our findings, while in some cases obvious, also revealed some surprises. Read on to see what we learned.

The Obvious

Some of our questions simply validated common knowledge.

In the course of moving a product through prototyping to production:

The uses for prototyping are mostly obvious.
  • 92% of our respondents say they need to provide an initial, low-cost physical prototype for approval from marketing, their Board of Directors, or other approval body
  • 58% say they need a physical prototype for stress testing including drop testing, hot/cold cycling, UV testing, and other testing requirements

While it may be a little surprising that more stress testing wasn’t required, it’s no surprise that nearly everyone requires a physical prototype at some point during product development. The composition of those prototypes has changed over time as technology has advanced. When asked, 95% use 3D printing/additive manufacturing for prototyping and 58% use injection molding prototyping. But only 26% have used cast urethane for prototyping. Our assessment is that cast urethane prototyping is not well known and, therefore, not often considered as a low-cost alternative to injection molding prototyping when 3D printed prototypes just won’t meet the engineer’s needs.

Also, and not surprising, changes to features within design are common. Any engineer who has worked on more than one project knows this to be true. Whether driven by added requirements, market testing, or manufacturability requirements, design changes come with the job. Our survey respondents told us:

  • 76% make frequent changes to features within their design and prototyping helps prove these out
  • 52% leverage prototyping to scale from low volume to high volume over time

The Not-So-Obvious

We also identified practices that make sense when you think about it but are so often missed by companies in product development that they aren’t obvious.

When to use each kind of prototyping isn't always obvious

50% of respondents acknowledge there are limitations and strengths for each prototyping process and they need to be more aware of when to leverage each. 54% say they need to look at immediate, midterm, and long-term requirements when evaluating how and when to use each type of prototyping. However, these acknowledgements happened only after learning use cases which show when and for what purpose different types of prototyping are used. Over 87% polled say they’ve had a project that might be a fit for multiple prototyping processes, leaving them unsure how to proceed.

We’ve all heard about, or even experienced, projects where production tooling has required changes. And, everyone knows about the factor of 10 for cost and timing – changes cost 10x as much and require 10x the time to execute in each successive step in product development. This logarithmic reality is why we try to keep changes early in development. And while everyone in product development knows this, the statistics are still surprising.

  • 83% of respondents say they’ve had to make changes to their tooling after it’s been built
  • 37% say they’ve had to completely scrap their tooling and start over

Both scenarios result in delayed product launch and significant cost increases.

The Head Scratchers

And, then there are the things that should be common sense but aren’t and leave us scratching our head.

  • 58% need a prototype for testing
  • 51% mainly or only do 3D printing for prototyping
  • 35% say their company has attempted to eliminate injection molding prototyping for all projects by using only 3D printing
  • 12% say their company had eliminated injection molding prototyping in favor of 3D printing for a few projects
  • Over 97% acknowledge product changes in pre-production or production resulting in cost and timing increases.
Eliminating certain types of prototyping just to save budget rarely makes sense.

Production delays often begin with strategy about prototyping. 3D Printed prototypes are rarely suitable for validation testing and NEVER provide lessons usable by the production mold maker. We learned that 87% of respondents begin thinking about Design for Manufacturability during CAD development. Yet too often the transition from CAD to Manufacturing omits the injection molding prototyping process where significant learning takes place that can be applied to full-scale manufacturing.

With so much failure to launch, something more needs to be done to ensure parts meet user requirements AND can be manufactured with efficiency and efficacy.

What Do We Make of All This?

Over 82% of our respondents said if they could save 4 to 6 weeks on their development cycle, they would get to market faster with a higher quality product. Yet nearly all respondents said they are unable to get to market on time, let alone shave time from launch, because of changes required in production that were missed earlier in the development process.

Skimping on, or skipping prototyping altogether, is proven costly. The cost and time saved by doing so is minified by the cost and time lost making changes at the production stage.

Understanding your prototyping options at each stage of product development is the first important step to gaining control over costly changes downstream. Each step can require a different level of physical evaluation, thus requiring a different type of prototype. Initial board approval and market tests may require a simple 3D printed part while full-scale testing will require a part that is manufactured with the same process and polymers that will be used in production. And, beyond part testing and evaluation, the lessons learned about the mold and molding process during injection molding prototyping are invaluable to the production team as they design, build, and run your production molds.

We had over 72% of our respondents tell us their molding projects require 50000 parts or fewer annually. Most do not realize that the aluminum tooling used for prototyping can support that annual volume for most polymers if built with the understanding that the mold will be used for both prototyping and production.

Once they understood that prototyping options vary depending on when in the product development process they fall, 32% felt they need to find a manufacturing partner who can better support them throughout the product development process. Xcentric’s technical account managers are trained and skilled at working with our clients from ideation through production. If you have a project you’d like to discuss, click the button below to request a consultation.

New Year, New Project | 2021 Rapid Manufacturing

New Year, New Project | 2021 Rapid Manufacturing

New Year, New Project! 

Xcentric is ready to help you make 2021 great—starting with competitive quotes for your new projects! Simply click below to request a custom quote for plastic injection molding, CNC machining, or 3D printing.

The process is fast and easy with custom quotes delivered within 1 business day.

Get A Custom Quote

Streamline your design process! Xcentric’s guided design tool will help you quote your project and move forward in the design process. Learn how we can accelerate your time to market.

Need Help Getting Started? Request a Consultation!

It’s never too early to get Xcentric involved! Our on-site experts are available to support your project from idea through production (and beyond). Contact an application engineers to request a consultation for your project.

Want To Mold Better Parts? Check Out Xcentric’s Resource Center!

We have a library of design guides to help you as you work on your design. You’ll find them on our website here: Design Guides

Plastic Injection Molding Parts Clinic – Winter 2021

It’s time to register for one of Xcentric’s most popular webinars! Join Xcentric’s John Sidorowicz, Director of Operations, and Glen MillerTooling Engineer and Quality Control Specialist, to learn common design challenges and tips for avoiding them in your part design. 

Working on a project?

Let us help you get that first prototype underway and have that part in your hands in as few as five days. Our engineers help you through the design process. Get your project started now!

Custom Injection Molding Company For Your Design

Custom Injection Molding Company For Your Design

Choose An Agile Injection Molding Company, Bring YOUR Designs to Market, Faster than Ever

In a world accustom to instant gratification, the urgency for rapid manufacturers to help customers bring plastic injection-molded products to market faster and cheaper is more competitive than ever.

There’s no question about it—speed is critical. But so is achieving your design intent.

Otherwise, “faster and cheaper” loses its appeal.

Like most product designers and engineers, you don’t just want plastic parts fast. You want your custom injection-molded products produced to exact requirements. On time and on budget.

However, when speed is the singular focus, your design intent becomes an afterthought. This is perhaps most evident in a transaction-based approach to plastic injection molding projects.

Pitfalls of a transaction-based plastic injection molding company

According to an adage, in business we are fortunate if we can choose any two of the following: speed, quality, or value.

When it comes to plastic injection molding, this model fails to deliver. In part, because it lacks investment in your overall success.

The goal is to get products to market as quickly as possible. Period. Therefore, customers are often asked to change their designs to fit a process. Which can result in:

  • Compromising the quality of material 
  • Changing the design to accommodate pre-defined requirements
  • Skipping quality control steps in the product development process

 

As you can imagine, compromising in these critical areas can result in:

  • Poor functionality and missed design intent
  • Reduced part integrity
  • Expensive product recalls

This lack of customer focus has prompted a growing demand for more personalized service and support.

Relationship-based, custom injection molding company. Your design, on time and on budget

The customer experience with Xcentric is different. It is a personalized and highly collaborative relationship. One that enables us to understand goals and achieve design intent.

When you partner with Xcentric for rapid manufacturing, you’ll work directly with our on-site SMEs. And you’ll have access to our high-performance manufacturing services and facilities

An agile process to achieve your intended fit, form, and function

We do not force designs to fit predefined parameters. We collaborate with customers and their internal teams to fully understand the scope of the project.

Often, the competition only meets with customers at the prototype stage. In contrast, Xcentric gets involved early in the product development process. And then we place an SME at every step from concept through production.

This transparency and early involvement in the product development process enables us to:

  • Optimize designs for manufacturability
  • Provide advice on material selection
  • Mitigate risk – during product development and in the supply chain
  • Eliminate unnecessary costs
  • Reduce product launch delays

As a result, our customer-first approach helps us to achieve design intent while maintaining quality, speed, and cost-efficiency.

First, we provide an amazing customer experience. Second, our team gets involved early in the product development process. And finally, we place on-site SMEs at every step from concept to delvery.

Xcentric: your injection molding company

In conclusion, don’t compromise your design intent. Partner with an agile injection molding company to:

  • Optimize designs for manufacturability
  • Bring products to market on time and on budget
  • Mitigate supply chain risk
  • Stay current with ongoing touch points to provide design resources and design tips

We would like the opportunity to earn your trust as an approved vendor for rapid manufacturing. Please consider Xcentric when quoting your next project. Get us invovled early so we can help reduce risk and bring products to market fast. 

Contact an Xcentric Application Engineer at 248-598-4636 or sales@xcentricmold.com.  You can also upload a part to request a custom quote. 

Working on a project?

Let us help you get that first prototype underway and have that part in your hands in as few as five days. Our engineers help you through the design process. Get your project started now!

Xcentric: Approved Vendor for Rapid Manufacturing

Xcentric: Approved Vendor for Rapid Manufacturing

10 Reasons to Add Xcentric as an Approved Vendor for Rapid Manufacturing

Instead of choosing the same three vendors for your next quote, give Xcentric a try! We’re the #2 rapid manufacturing company in the USA. And we’d like the opportunity to earn your trust for rapid manufacturing services.

Here are 10 reasons to consider Xcentric for plastic injection molding, CNC machining, and 3D printing.

1. We achieve your design intent – Practically no Geometry Limits

We will not force your design to fit our process.

Like most product designers and engineers, you don’t just want plastic parts fast. Instead, you want your custom plastic injection-molded products produced to exact requirements, on time and on budget.

Xcentric is not a transactional plastic injection molding company. We take a relationship-based approach to fully understand your expectations. This enables us to determine the most cost- and time-efficient method for achieving your design intent. We will never force your design to fit our process.

As your preferred vendor for rapid manufacturing, we’ll collaborate with you, your team, and third-party vendors you are working with to bring your concepts to life.

The first job was fast, accurate and met all of our expectations enabling us to go to market on time!

Gordon Sturm

Director, Operations, Mirion Technologies

2. Domestic vendor for plastic injection molding

Made and located entirely in the USA, Since 1997

The pandemic of 2020 exposed the fragility of the global supply chain. It showed us the risk of relying too heavily on overseas vendors. And it left businesses scrambling to find domestic suppliers with capacity to help keep their doors open.

 

Two Michigan-based facilities for plastic injection molding

Building a sustainable supply chain for rapid manufacturing is more important than ever. Adding a domestic vendor like Xcentric can help mitigate the risk of unexpected events.

Xcentric is headquartered in Clinton Township, Michigan with a second facility in Shelby Township, Michigan.

Supply Chain: More Sustainable & Agile After COVID-19

To build a sustainable supply chain, manufacturers should include these three essential components in their plan. READ MORE

3. Rapid Manufacturing, Rapid Results

A fast, cost-effective, and agile vendor

Xcentric has earned a reputation as a trusted supplier of time-critical rapid manufacturing. We are one of the fastest suppliers of  complex, custom injection-molded parts delivering prototypes in as few as 5 days and standard projects in as few as 13. We owe this speed-to-market to our amazing team of subject matter experts, modern systems, and streamlined processes.

4. Capacity: We Quickly Scale Production to meet unpredicatable demand

Post-COVID-19 we are faced with uncertainties in the market. Rapid digital manufacturing enables us to quickly scale production to help you build a more sustainable supply chain and meet market demand with prototype, bridge, and production tooling.

Your link to the global supply chain

  • Reduce time to market
  • Labor overhead and asset utilization
  • Increase quality control and inventory management

5. Product Development Process and On-Site Subject Matter Experts

Xcentric is powered by an amazing team of subject matter experts (SMEs) with experience in engineering, design consultation, mold-making, and customer service.

We follow a streamlined product development process and place on-site SMEs at every step of the process. SMEs review designs and provide a manufacturability analysis for each order.

6. Custom Quote in less then 24 hours

A Tool Built For Designers

Our new quoting tool simplifies the design and iteration process to get your product to market. On time. On budget. Right here at home. Simply upload a CAD file to get started. Our guided design tool will help you quote your project and move forward in the design process. Check out the online quote tool!

7. Plastic Material Selection

Material selection is critical to the success of your injection molding project. We carry more than 40 resins in stock. And, our on-site material experts will assist you with sourcing non-stock material, custom colors, and specialty plastics.

FREE 8-Piece Sample Kit

Choosing the optimal surface finish for your material is critical when designing plastic parts for injection molding. Our 8-piece surface finish plaques can help you to make more informed decisions early in the process.

Yes! Send My Free Samples!

8. Custom Plastic Parts in as few as 5 days

Xcentric Process Engine

As a preferred vendor, you’ll benefit from Xcentric’s proprietary process engine. The process engine is an expert software system that predicts the appropriate process parameters for each project. These parameters are based on years of process data and collective team experience. It is our scientrific approach to the injection molding process that helps to differentiate us in the marketplace.

9. Design Resource Center for plastic injection molding

Our Design Resource Center provides easy access to our full library of design guides. Now you can leverage our decades of experience to optimize your plastic part designs.

Each guide provides expert advice, tips, and best practices to help keep projects on track for budget, time, and performance.

.

10. Lifetime Guarantee on all molds and certifications

At Xcentric, you own the mold – and Xcentric will maintain it for as long as you need parts. We are proud to be your one-stop supplier for plastic injection molding. We are here to meet your production needs – whether you need prototype, bridge, or production parts.

Certifications

Xcentric also holds industry certifications that include:

ISO 9001: 2015, ITAR/UL

Add Xcentric as an approved vendor for rapid manufacturing

Mitigate supply chian risk and bring products to market faster than ever!

We are the #2 rapid manufacturing company located in the USA. Please consider requesting a custom quote from Xcentric for your next project. Our team is eager to learn about your projects and start a conversation about how we can help bring your concepts to life faster than ever.

To get started, please request a custom quote or reach out to one of our Account Executives at sales@xcentricmold.com or 586-598-4636.

Aluminum Molds Vs. Steel Molds | Plastic Injection Molding

Aluminum Molds Vs. Steel Molds | Plastic Injection Molding

Aluminum Molds vs. Steel Molds: Five Critical Points of Comparison for Product Designers and Engineers 

Choosing between steel and aluminum tooling is a critical decision for product designers. This is because the tool impacts part quality, cycle time, cost, and even time-to-market.

Therefore, understanding how each material will perform during the injection molding process will help you to make more informed decisions—for today and future needs.

In this blog we provide a critical comparison between P20 Steel and QC-10 Aluminum for five key areas:

  • USA vs China: Where you quote tooling impacts the cost/time to create and change molds
  • Tool life comparison: how many parts can be produced with steel vs. aluminum molds?
  • Thermal conductivity and the ability to control the temperature of each mold type can influence fill, form, and cycle time
  • Part size and complexity by mold type
  • Material and surface finish options for aluminum and steel

Where you quote tooling matters: USA vs. China

Deciding between an overseas and domestic supplier for tooling can influence your entire injection molding project—from supply chain management and production cost to the time it takes to build and change your mold.

For one, vast discrepancies in material cost between the USA and other countries, notably for this discussion, between aluminum and steel as raw material.*

 

In the USA, for example, aluminum is the default material used to create molds because it is cheaper than steel. Conversely, in China raw steel is used as the default material because it is cheaper than aluminum. One country uses a soft material while the other uses a hard material.

Therefore, if you quote tooling in different locations, chances are you will not be looking at an apples-to-apples comparison. This is because soft and hard materials perform differently during the injection molding process. Which can impact cycle time, cost, and time-to-market.

Cost and time to create or change steel molds vs. aluminum molds

When quoting tooling there are two critical costs to consider. First, the initial cost to create the mold. And second, the cost to make changes to the mold. Below is a comparison of cost and time for steel vs. aluminum tooling.

 

Cost  to create or change steel molds vs. aluminum molds

The cost to create an aluminum mold is about ¼ to ½ the cost of creating a steel mold. In general, aluminum tooling will prove to be the most cost-effective option even when comparing a quote from a China-based vendor for steel tooling to a USA aluminum quote.

The type of mold you choose can also impact the cost of making changes. For example, aluminum tooling is roughly 1/10 the cost of changing a steel tool—regardless of where it is manufactured. This is because it takes much longer and is harder to machine steel versus aluminum.

Time to create or change steel molds vs. aluminum molds 

The time required to create an aluminum tool, on average, is about 15-25 business days. In contrast, the average time required to create a steel tool is about 35-60 business days.

On average, the time required to change an aluminum tool is about 5 business days. Compared to an average of 20 business days required to change a steel tool. 

What is the tool life of P20 Steel Tooling vs. QC-10 Aluminum Tooling?

(And how much volume can I produce with each tool before investing more money to keep it running?)

Please note, the estimated volume for steel and aluminum molds will depend on material selection for use during the injection molding process:

  • P20 Steel tooling, average life of 50,000-100,000 parts
  • QC-10 Aluminum tooling, average life of 10,000-25,000 parts

According to Taylor Foster, Account Executive at Xcentric, quantity often determines whether to choose steel or aluminum tooling.

“Simply put, steel tooling will always offer a longer tool life than aluminum tooling,” Taylor said. “This means, it can produce a higher volume of parts before the mold requires maintenance due to wear and tear, or total replacement.”

Therefore, if you are going to need hundreds of thousands—or millions of parts in a year, steel tooling is likely going to be the best option.

Alternatively, Taylor said “if you do not anticipate this level of production volume, and instead plan to stay in the 10s of thousands over the next year or so, then aluminum will be the best option.”

Aluminum Molds vs. Steel Molds: A Comparison

Video Presentation - Featuring Taylor Foster, Account Executive at Xcentric

When moving parts to production, product designers are faced with a choice: steel or aluminum tooling? Watch the webinar to learn common misconceptions between the two along with a side-by-side comparison that will help you to make more informed decisions. 

WATCH NOW

Thermal Conductivity of Aluminum is 5 times greater than Steel

Thermal conductivity is a material’s intrinsic ability to transfer heat. The thermal conductivity of aluminum is about five times greater than steel. This is important because it directly impacts the fill, flow, and cycle time of aluminum molds.

Fill, flow, and cycle time: benefits of aluminum molds

  • Material fills the mold faster and more evenly than steel molds
  • Plastic can flow longer distances with less injection pressure in aluminum
  • Cycle time is less due to quicker heating and cooling, meaning faster creation of your parts using aluminum molds
  • Parts have minimal warp and much better dimensional stability – giving a higher acceptance rate on parts

Aluminum molds’ superior thermal control can reduce cycle time up to 40%

In an article published in Moldmaking Technology1, Douglas Bryce provides details about an IBM tooling study of aluminum molds for high-volume production. The five-year study used identical steel and aluminum molds to produce identical plastic parts.

According to the study, the aluminum molds cost up to 50% less to build than steel molds and produced higher-quality parts. Further, the aluminum molds’ superior thermal control made it easier to manipulate areas of the tooling which resulted in cycle times up to 25-40% less than the steel molds.

Achieve better temperature control with aluminum molds, reduce cost and cycle time

Controlling the temperature of a mold is often a challenge because it depends on variables such as the material, design, ejection process, and other issues within the tool.

Still, achieving better temperature control can help to optimize cost and reduce cycle time. This has been tested and proven in studies like the one featured in Flow Front by Claudia Zironi2. (Table 1)

QC-10 Aluminum vs. P20 Steel; Polystyrene vs. Nylon

In this study, Claudia Zironi conducted a side-by-side comparison of two materials, polystyrene and nylon, being injected into a QC-10 aluminum mold and a P20 steel mold.

Both materials were run in the same process to showcase a completed part within the same spiral tool design. When completed, the overall cycle time for QC-10 Aluminum was much faster than that of the P20 Steel.

Per the study, the P20 steel molds retain more temperature during the molding process than the QC-10 aluminum molds.

Also, recovery after each shot does not come down as fast as the temperature in aluminum tooling. This is because thermal temperature releases out of aluminum faster than steel. Because of this, there was a 20-second freeze time in the P20 steel to ensure the part was cooled for ejection.

Table 1 Claudia Zironi, Flowfront Magazine, “Competitive Advantages of Aluminum Molds for Injection Molding Applications: Process Simulation Used to Evaluate Cycle Times,” April 2005.

Part size and complexity by mold type

Based on the data discussed so far, aluminum has more to offer than prototyping and low-volume production. Though it is softer than steel, aluminum molds can be a cost- and time-efficient option for high-volume production and larger parts.

Of course, there are applications where a steel mold would be a more optimal choice.

Will the type of tooling limit material selection, surface finish, or secondary operations? 

Choosing aluminum tooling instead of steel tooling will not drastically—if at all, compromise your options for material, finish, or secondary operations. Here is a brief overview when comparing P20 steel and QC-10 Aluminum tooling.

Plastic Material Selection

In general, you can expect the same material options for both steel and aluminum tooling. Please note two exceptions where steel tooling is likely to be the best option due to wear and tear:

  •  Exotic materials like Ultem which requires very high heat
  • Abrasive material such as glass fill or other ad

For more detailed information about materials, visit Xcentric’s plastic material selection guide.

Surface finish options

Whether using steel or aluminum, your options for surface finish will be the same. Please note, to achieve an SPI A-1 finish, you need special facilities and/or equipment.

Also, Finish and clarity are reliant on the material you choose; some materials are not capable of achieving an optically clear finish no matter the level of polish used.

FREE 8-Piece Sample Kit

Choosing the optimal surface finish for your material is critical when designing plastic parts for injection molding. Our 8-piece surface finish plaques can help you to make more informed decisions early in the process.

Yes! Send My Free Samples!

Aluminum molds advantage: flow and fill rates

Aluminum molds demonstrate better thermal conductivity, flow rate, and fill advantages over steel molds. Which makes aluminum a better option when you are producing long, large parts.

Also, considering the superior temperature control, aluminum is a better option for part designs with complex geometries that could cause fill issues.

Steel molds advantage: thin walls and complex features

In contrast to aluminum, steel tooling proves to be a more effective for injection-molded parts and tooling that require extremely thin walls. This is because of the increased hardness of the mold material. The thin features and areas in the tool will hold up much better to the pressure during the molding process when using steel.

Conclusion: Steel Molds vs. Aluminum Molds

In conclusion, aluminum molds provide value beyond prototyping. Instead of choosing steel molds for high-volume production, consider aluminum molds instead. They prove to be a cost- and time-effective solution for plastic injection molding.

Xcentric is located entirely in the USA with two production facilities in Michigan. Though we specialize in aluminum tooling, we also offer steel tooling. Our on-site material experts are eager to help you make the most informed decision for your next injection molding project. Please contact an Xcentric Application Engineer with questions or concerns. We are here to help bring your concept to market on time and on budget.

Taylor Foster is an Account Executive at Xcentric. He has a background in Mechanical Engineering and Business, attended the University of Kentucky, and has been working in the manufacturing industry, specializing in injection molding consultation and education as well as customer experience for the past 2 years. Get connected on LinkedIn with Taylor Foster

Working on a project?

Let us help you get that first prototype underway and have that part in your hands in as few as five days. Our engineers help you through the design process. Get your project started now!

References

  1. Douglas Bryce, Moldmaking Technology, “Why Offer Aluminum Molds for Production”, April 2002
  2. Claudia Zironi, Flowfront Magazine, “Competitive Advantages of Aluminum Molds for Injection Molding Applications: Process Simulation Used to Evaluate Cycle Times”, April 2005

* While steel as a raw material is cheaper than aluminum in both geographies, several other factors including market share, labor, and production costs must be factored into the material of choice in each country.

How To Build A Sustainable Supply Chain Post-COVID-19

How To Build A Sustainable Supply Chain Post-COVID-19

Supply Chain: More Sustainable 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.

Now, 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.

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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

 

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