The medical device market is booming now. That’s a good thing, right? Not if you’re having trouble sourcing a larger volume of parts that are used in the equipment you sell.
Many North American injection molders have been experiencing capacity issues and are struggling to meet their customers’ needs. Others can’t hire enough workers to ramp up production. Some are faced with tough decisions – deciding which customers they should prioritize and which ones they can no longer serve.
What if your molder isn’t able to meet your increased production needs? Or if they’re causing unacceptable lead time or quality issues? What are your options?
Medical Devices Are in the Spotlight
Demand for medical devices is booming like never before, driven by a confluence of factors:
- The aging population
- The growing number of patients with chronic diseases
- The rapid growth of in-home care
- The growing popularity of wearable devices for patient monitoring
In addition, increased market demand plus growing government regulation and global competition are forcing medical device manufacturers to innovate faster. Product life cycles are shrinking, making it critical for manufacturers to adopt streamlined product development and launch processes. They also need to partner with rock-solid suppliers that are as agile as they are.
Why Expand Your Supplier Base?
Making a decision to add a new plastic injection molder isn’t one that OEMs take lightly. But because of today’s highly dynamic market conditions, it may become necessary to do so. Here are some of the circumstances that may make such a move necessary:
- Your current molder is having quality issues.
- They aren’t able to scale up production to meet your growing needs – either because of capacity or labor constraints.
- Your molder has made a change in strategic direction, which means it has de-prioritized your business.
- Your overseas supply chain has become unreliable – which means you need to dual-source critical parts.
- Your current molder’s values and objectives are no longer aligned with yours.
Qualities to Look for in a Plastic Injection Molding Partner
If you need additional injection molding capacity, here are some qualities you ought to consider in a potential partner:
1. Room to Grow with You
New Berlin Plastics recently announced the purchase of a new building that will roughly double our square footage and allow us to scale our manufacturing operation. We did this so we can stay one step ahead of our existing customers’ growing needs – and meet the needs of new customers who need more production capacity. This approximately 100,000 sq. ft. building will house around 20 presses, plus a warehouse area for storing resins and other inventory. It will also house our shipping and receiving operations for New Berlin Plastics.
2. Engineering Expertise
“There’s a lot more to manufacturing a plastic part than creating the perfect design for it. Both the part and the tool need to be optimized for manufacturing, so the finished parts meet the tolerances and level of quality the customer requires,” explains business development manager Karl Held.
The engineering team also looks closely at the application – the conditions where the part is going to “live” – and often makes recommendations that will provide the best balance of cost and performance.
“For example, the plastic used in a housing for an in-home, portable monitoring device may need excellent impact resistance, because it’s likely to be dropped from time to time,” Held explains.
Because NBP has worked across many industries, it has a wealth of experience with many types of resins. This enables us to provide advice on which material will work best for a specific application. In some cases, these materials may be ones the manufacturer hadn’t previously considered.
“Sometimes, industries tend to become siloed in their material selection. They may not be aware of the full range of options that are available to them,” Held adds.
NBP’s engineering team also looks for opportunities to reduce production costs and eliminate potential failure modes. The result is a part that is optimized for cost-effective, consistent-quality manufacturing while meeting end-use requirements.
3. Speed and Agility
NBP’s engineering team prefers to get involved early in the product development process because that can save OEMs a lot of time and money later. “Once they’re ‘pencils down’ on a design, it’s hard to make any significant changes. But earlier in the process, we can usually do more to optimize the part design, mold design and material selection,” advises Joseph Mechery, Vice President of Sales.
“The manufacturers we work with are trying to get new products to market quickly. They don’t have the tolerance for time-consuming, expensive dead ends or do-over loops. Everything needs to be designed right the first time,” he adds.
This methodical approach also helps to ensure that new part designs can be qualified for production quickly, without unnecessary delays. “For most of our customers, delays at that stage of the game can be very costly. That’s why we’ve devoted a lot of effort to streamline our project launch process,” Mechery points out. It has achieved a 95%+ on-time track record with over 100 consecutive launches being managed in parallel.
4. Documentation and Traceability
Medical device manufacturers require their vendors to maintain documentation and traceability of resins and components. Thanks to its work in the automotive industry, New Berlin Plastics has plenty of experience in this area. “We’re able to trace resins used on a job to a specific lot. We also keep records of all processing and quality data for each job, so can verify that it was run within specifications,” Mechery emphasizes.
5. A High-Performance Culture
NBP is committed to providing all our customers with high-quality parts and predictable outcomes. It’s our passion. For years, we’ve been making continuing investments in people, process, and technology so that we can be a financially stable, high-performance supplier of exceptional quality parts — a “safe” place for manufacturers to put their business.
“Regardless of changing market conditions, we’ll always be here for you,” Mechery concludes.