A global supply chain is attractive to many manufacturers. Years of lower costs, lower wages, and profitable final product price points lured many American manufacturers into what consulting firm A.T. Kearney dubbed “offshoring inertia.”1 Manufacturing and supply chain decisions were not necessarily prioritized, and offshore production continued.
Then, the turmoil of 2020 took hold. The escalation of the pandemic and global trade tensions exposed inherent risk by disrupting the once-comfortable global manufacturing and supply chain dynamic. Offshoring inertia quickly gave way to strategic reshoring initiatives for at least 69% of American manufacturing and industrial companies.2 Nearly 60% of industrial leaders surveyed by Gartner indicated expedited plans to maximize their supply chain resiliency within three years.2 About one-third of those same respondents noted new emphasis on moving business out of China and other countries.3
When it comes to injection molding partners, OEMs have two options: commodity or custom. In essence, the choice is that of pared-down services or comprehensive problem-solving. Both approaches have their merits, and the application often drives the decision.
However, if framed as a value-add for an OEM beyond immediate project need, custom injection molders often win the day. Their advanced capabilities and in-house services streamline supply chains — a quality and cost management win for OEMs — but there’s more. When a sophisticated process like plastic injection molding assembly is called for, custom injection molders are instrumental in buying down risk.
International trade tensions and pandemic-related developments have brought heightened awareness to reshoring. US-China decoupling has American manufacturers reviewing all of their overseas relationships, and 69% of respondents to a recent Thomas Industrial survey indicated they “are likely to bring manufacturing production and sourcing back to North America.”1
Given the unstable political and public health environments, it’s hardly a surprise that the majority of American companies in the manufacturing and industrial sectors are considering decoupling. In fact, about one-third of company leadership teams have already moved manufacturing out of China, or have action plans in place to do so within the next two to three years.1
Outsourcing has long been a practical solution for manufacturers looking to keep budgets in check. Low-cost countries generally provide attractive price points for labor and products, especially when compared against those charged in North America. The lower the cost, the higher the competitive advantage.
The past several weeks have seen a whirlwind of collective emotion. The impact of COVID-19 is challenging all of us to reassess our priorities, appreciate things we tend to otherwise take for granted, and do our parts to protect each other by staying safer at home.
What does 2020 hold for the plastics industry? Several trends that emerged in 2019 continue to be refined and amplified:
The quality of plastic components is, in part, determined by the injection molder you choose. Properly vetting new, different, or specialized vendors involves qualifying a pool of potential injection molding partners.
Medical plastic parts are among the most nuanced applications produced by custom injection molders. The complex nature of medical devices present unique design and engineering challenges, often starting with appropriate plastic selection.
Whether a medical device is used every day or only in emergency situations, it needs to function reliably when it’s called upon — every time. There is simply no room for error.
In the age of increasingly complex medical plastic parts, devices and equipment, that means designers and engineers need to pay even closer attention to detail to ensure precision performance.