Top 5 Things to Consider When Selecting a Custom Extruder
Finding the right custom plastics company to manufacture and provide a key custom component to yourend-product needs can often seem a daunting task. With an abundance of responses to a Google query or a review of trade publications, the effort can be a great example of the so-called paradox of choice.
Here are a few helpful indicators for companies to consider when searching for a reliable plastics extrusion-processing business partner.
1. Processor Stability. You might think this characteristic anobvious one, but given the economic reality the last several years,one cannot be too sure. After investing time in product development,testing, and rollout, the last thing any business wishes for is a keypartner or development program to languish due to supplierdifficulties and instability, financial or otherwise. So consider thesize, scale, breadth and depth of the operation, and importantly thesubstance behind the numbers. When gauging stability, the numberof manufacturing sites a company has may be a positive indicator,though it can also be a possible liability. What is essential is a combination of multiple sites and broad market segment support.A stable processor will feature diverse market reach and balance, which function as a good hedge to various industry business cycles, in addition to maintaining a large number of customers. Beware of the old adage “all the eggs in one basket.” And a good rule of thumb is that the top 5 to 10 customers ought not to yield over 60% of annual processor revenue. Surprisingly, processor overreliance on and liability with a handful of customers is far more pervasive than you might think.
2. Technical Expertise. Working with a processor to provide you with a “custom” part and/or innovation by definition requires that it feature extensive technical expertise and experience, for the effort is one of taking an idea and converting it into a new material reality. But what might ‘extensive technical expertise’ truly mean? To start, often the variety of materials that a processor converts into finished component parts is a good indicator, covering the range of materials from commodity resins to engineering to specialty blends. You want a trusted technical partner, somebody who can both provide recommendations to the project at hand and speak to a diversity of applications – been there, tried that, the saying goes. Even if the performance of the finished part demands only commodity resin characteristics, a processor with broad experience at the other end of the material spectrum can bring insight into material blends and/or select material grades that may help impact cost, sustainability, and even intellectual property considerations for your end-product market. Technical expertise can also be measured when reviewing a company’s experience with co-, tri- or multilumen extrusion, internal tool and die capabilities, sizing technology, and even the number of company processing and material engineers.
3. Value-added Engineering. This concept goes hand-in-hand with both Technical Expertise and our first consideration, Company Stability, for it speaks not only to downstream value-added capabilities but also company scale, investment, and thus overall stability. Whether a processor can take the first thing you intend to do with the component extrusion and perform it for you – welding, routing, drilling, embossing, kitting, in- line printing, or lamination – may have significant cost, efficiency, and value savings for realizing your own end-products. The extent of capability in this area also speaks to the line where a plastics extruder supersedes mere “converter-processor” and is able to act as a true plastics partner for your business. For combined with value-added, post extrusion engineering and fabrication, custom extrusion and extruders themselves, as a process choice by customers, may more successfully supply parts that otherwise would be biased by end-users to only molded process opportunities, often with substantial upfront cost savings for small batch production in particular. The range of product opportunities is significantly expanded.
4. Program Management. When considering a custom plastics extruder, be sure to ask “what’s your development process,” or “how might this program be managed between our two organizations?” Often overlooked as a criterion, a processor with a proven program management process and development protocol within its organization can save crippling headaches and second-guesses later. The company program can speak to its development team(s); sales- engineering coordination; site coordination if multisite/national rollout is a factor; die and sample turnaround time; rapid prototyping capabilities; fast quoting and cost estimation; and finally, product launch. A formal, yet flexible, program management process can confirm in advance an extruder’s overall sophistication as well as customer friendliness.
5. Past Examples. Published participating markets and applications provide a general overview of where a company “plays” in the world of plastics, and where it has had commercial success. Yet the details or idiosyncrasies of these given applications may be foreign to you or your business industry. These unknown specifics are often incredibly relevant and important to your specific project or component extrusion needs, because within the examples are revelations of capabilities and experience that could give your project a leg-up on time and cost. So take the time and invest in a thorough questioning of past experience and importantly, past failures. A good custom extruder will be honest upfront about its capabilities and inabilities. Request a series of case study examples, from which the lessons of a company’s successes AND failures can help you find the right plastics extruder partner.
Based in Atlanta, Georgia with several manufacturing plants across the United States and Mexico, Pexco is a North American leader in the design and fabrication of specialty plastics products. It provides standard and custom products and components to manufacturers and end-users for a broad range of market applications, including the Aerospace, Medical, Filtration, Lighting, and other Industrial sectors. Pexco offers a full range of design, engineering and fabrication services. It operates six Class 7 & Class 8 medical clean rooms. Pexco meets the requirements of ISO 9001:2008, and holds ISO 14001, ISO 13485, 21 CFR 820, OHSAS 18001, GMP, AS9100C, ITAR and other registrations and/or certifications for its manufacturing operations. Pexco is your trusted plastics advisor for specialty plastic products and solutions. For more information, visit www.pexco.com or contact 404-564-8560.
Closed thinking about specific product lines is susceptible to “marketing myopia” and tunnel vision. Companies now need vendors who may not be tied to a specific product widget or to a specific material category alone, but feature flexibility and broad market, or better, application knowledge, even for product arenas typically thought as well-established.