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Single Supplier Success

Most molding operations subscribe to the multiple-material-supplier strategy—one that allows for leverage and negotiation. In fact, management consultants often recommend this approach. So what happens when a molder decides to consolidate its supply base and go with just one resin vendor? In the case of Plastic Components Inc. (PCI), the results are reduced cost, improved service, and more customized solutions.

PCI’s mission statement is bold and to the point: “To produce high-quality injection molded plastic parts at the lowest possible cost. Period.” Its fully automated, 40-press plant in Germantown, WI is focused on improving efficiency and keeping costs down. During its search for a strategic supplier, the company conveyed these goals to its largest material vendors, and then invited their proposals, ultimately choosing PolyOne Distribution (Avon Lake, OH) three years ago.

Although PCI competes on a global scale, “we are not the largest molder in the marketplace,” says Wendy Jepson, customer relations manager. “We don’t buy truckloads of resin at a time, but PolyOne accommodates our needs with a customized approach that serves us well.” Jepson buys more than 65 different plastic compounds in bags or gaylords, including PA, acetal, PBT, PET, PS, and PE. PolyOne’s Chicago warehouse routinely ships products to PCI three times a week, and fills special requests for nextday delivery on an as-needed basis.

This service helps PCI optimize its manufacturing capacity and reduce the proportion of capital tied up in resin inventory. Jepson notes that PCI has sharply reduced warehouse and operating costs. “Velocity is critically important to us,” she says. “What comes in here as material goes out as finished product in four to seven days. Our goal is to avoid carrying inventory. So it helps that our chosen supplier always has our top 25 materials in stock, and that we can call today and get what we need tomorrow. And we can get assured morning delivery, which means we know material is available and we have time to set up a press on second shift.

“If the alliance with our distributor did not exist, our operations would be less efficient, our ability to capitalize on cost reduction opportunities would be less effective, our operating costs would be higher, and our profitability would likely be lower,” says Jepson. “Our customers’ prices would be higher, too.”

To illustrate her point, Jepson recalls when a customer was struggling with a material. Although PolyOne was not the supplier, “they supported us in sampling and testing new materials for the customer, and showed us an alternate, comparable engineered material that was better for processing,” Jepson says. “The result was a better-quality part at an annual savings of $10,000 for the customer.”

In another case, a customer suspected contamination of a supply of polypro-pylene from PolyOne. “It took Jason all of 27 minutes to arrive at our building with an answer,” Jepson says. PolyOne’s Jason Piunti had sent a sample of the material to his laboratory, which confirmed that the translucent flecks the customer had detected in the thin-walled material were not indicators of a flaw. PolyOne provided written documentation of its finding, “which was critical because, without it, the customer would have rejected 60,000 pieces,” Jepson says. using DuPont material from PolyOne. Each application illustrates a critical material issue solved.

Originally published in the Injection Molding publication.

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