In the manufacturing sector, and in particular with plastic injection molding projects, the COVID-19 pandemic threw everyone on a roller-coaster of supply and demand.

Call it the perfect storm. In 2020 and the beginning of 2021, production went down as companies were operating with fewer people. In addition, a labor shortage has stretched the workforce even thinner. At the same time, demand has gone way up as people are spending more time at home and investing in a variety of plastic-containing products, causing quite the strain on the supply chain

What Happened?

The pandemic sparked logistical issues across the globe with fewer workers available in shipping and raw material processing industries. This contributed to a drop in supply as material shortages brought supply chain fulfillments to a crawl. Then in February 2021, the Texas Deep Freeze hit, causing major disruptions in several industries, including plastic manufacturing.

The majority of plastic manufacturing begins in Texas with raw materials processed through the southern ports. During the Deep Freeze, typical delays from COVID-19 were compounded when plastic manufacturing companies’ equipment froze, cracked, or broke. In an already sensitive ecosystem, the event caused major upheaval.

Resin shortages have become even more of an issue as the industry recovers. This is not a typical circumstance; resins are usually not as difficult to come by as they are currently. But there are ways companies can protect themselves so that their business can run as smoothly as possible during the resin shortage.

Plan with Contingencies

If you’re in the design phase, it’s always best practice to consider having multiple resins approved in your drawings. Though a little more investment is usually necessary to do this (especially if you need certain approvals), it is well worth it when there’s volatility in material availability. By having multiple resins approved, you minimize the risk of significant disruption should one of your materials not be available.

Our network of material suppliers have noted that completely different polymer families of materials can provide the same benefits, so exploring different polymers to satisfy your requirements will give you added flexibility during material shortages. You have to be willing to think outside the box to identify polymer families that meet your requirements.

Look on the Secondary Market

We encourage all of our clients to actively go on the secondary market to find larger buys of material. A lot of the major companies that buy resins are actually distributors that buy big positions of materials, but if demand is down from what it should be, they have extra material that they’re willing to sell.

Proactively going to the secondary market may help you find the resin you’re looking for. If not, you may be able to find an alternative material that will help you meet your requirements.

Not every resin is exactly alike, so depending on your program requirements, there can be risk that you buy what you think is a comparative material, but then you find out that the shrink rate is different or the UL package isn’t the same. It is important to take time to review the material characteristics and find a resin that is as close to the current resin as possible.

Pre- or Mid-Project Material Shortages

If you can’t get the resin identified in your design, there really is nothing you can do to get that material. The very first step is finding out if there are alternatives. While Thogus can’t select materials for you, we are here to communicate, encourage and introduce you to material vendors that can get you back on track.

When something like this occurs, we expedite the sampling of your parts so that you can accelerate validation of the parts made with the new resins.

To do this, identifying the project-critical requirements is step #1. Then work with one of our experts here at Thogus to determine which resins can meet those needs.

As material shortages and volatility in the supply chain continues, keeping alternate resins in mind during the design phase is a good defense tactic against interruptions.

Let’s talk about how we can best meet your changing needs and be there for you.