JÄGER Busi­ness Blog

How to secure your spare parts sup­ply
in the plas­tics and rub­ber sector

25.02.2023   |  Christoph Gähler

Fließband für Personalcomputer, Herstellungsprozess. Blog Popup blog/what-are-the-advantages-of-installation-ready-assemblies-in-the-rubber-and-plastics-sector/


Secure the Start of Production

Find out which fac­tors influ­ence your SOP!

Every com­po­nent wears out over time. This is in the nature of things. The smooth oper­a­tion of a machine there­fore requires that spare parts for all impor­tant com­po­nents are avail­able at all times. In some indus­tries, it is com­mon prac­tice to con­trac­tu­al­ly stip­u­late the sup­ply of spare parts as part of after-sales agree­ments. In the rub­ber and plas­tics sec­tor, how­ev­er, this is not the norm. Many com­pa­nies rely on receiv­ing sup­plies quick­ly from their sup­pli­ers in case of doubt. But there are a num­ber of pit­falls lurk­ing here. 

What is the situation?

In addi­tion to stan­dard com­pounds, spe­cial com­pounds are also used in the rub­ber and plas­tics sec­tor to opti­mal­ly meet the respec­tive appli­ca­tion require­ments. Con­se­quent­ly, regard­less of the geom­e­try of the com­po­nent, com­pa­nies can­not always sim­ply order cat­a­log goods from any sup­pli­er. For spare parts sup­ply, this can be a challenge.

When a rub­ber or plas­tic com­po­nent fails or is in dan­ger of fail­ing, the com­pa­ny should first ask itself a few ques­tions to iden­ti­fy the best pos­si­ble solu­tion approach:

Are ser­vice­able spare parts in stock in your own ware­house or that of a supplier?

Depend­ing on their chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion, rub­ber and plas­tic parts can­not always be stored indef­i­nite­ly. Due to the dura­tion of stor­age and exter­nal influ­ences such as tem­per­a­ture fluc­tu­a­tions and unfa­vor­able light con­di­tions, parts can become brit­tle, lose some of their mate­r­i­al prop­er­ties and thus become unus­able. In addi­tion, cap­i­tal com­mit­ment plays an impor­tant role, as both cus­tomer and sup­pli­er try to keep their inven­to­ries low for cost rea­sons. Par­tic­u­lar­ly in the case of long-life machines, the sup­ply of spare parts from stock is there­fore only fea­si­ble to a lim­it­ed extent. 

Does the sup­pli­er still exist?

If the orig­i­nal sup­pli­er of the com­po­nent is no longer avail­able, Pur­chas­ing must look for an alter­na­tive. This can be prob­lem­at­ic if the com­po­nent is a cus­tom devel­op­ment or tool-bound. Depend­ing on the nature or geom­e­try of the required spare part, a new tool may be required if the old one is no longer avail­able. The avail­abil­i­ty of the com­pound used to date for the com­po­nent must also not be lost sight of. If nec­es­sary, alter­na­tive com­pounds or sub­sti­tutes should be examined.

Is a tool required for the pro­duc­tion of the component?

Spare parts are more dif­fi­cult to obtain if the pro­duc­tion of the com­po­nent requires a tool. The rea­son for this is that tool­ing involves costs that are amor­tized over the num­ber of units. Depend­ing on the own­er­ship rela­tion­ship, the cus­tomer only has the right to use the tool, for exam­ple. In this case, a short-term relo­ca­tion of the tool to anoth­er sup­pli­er may well cause difficulties. 

Is the tool still ready for use?

In the case of tool-bound com­po­nents, the ques­tion aris­es as to whether sub­se­quent pro­duc­tion is tech­ni­cal­ly pos­si­ble. It can­not gen­er­al­ly be ruled out that sup­pli­ers may dis­pose of or scrap tools that are in their full own­er­ship and have not been used for decades for eco­nom­ic or oper­a­tional rea­sons. Wear effects also play a role, such as rust, cor­ro­sion or mechan­i­cal wear. In addi­tion, if the tool was built a long time ago, it is not cer­tain whether it is com­pat­i­ble with cur­rent machines. It may have to be adapt­ed or man­u­fac­tured anew. 

Is the mate­r­i­al still available?

Mate­ri­als sci­ence is con­stant­ly mak­ing progress. For old­er com­po­nents, it is there­fore uncer­tain whether the mate­r­i­al orig­i­nal­ly used is now obso­lete. It may be nec­es­sary to select an alter­na­tive mate­r­i­al with sim­i­lar prop­er­ties. Depend­ing on the sit­u­a­tion, this may take some time; espe­cial­ly if re-sam­pling and approval is required. 

Stock with spare parts

Per­form cost-ben­e­fit analysis

The sit­u­a­tion analy­sis pro­vides an overview of the chal­lenges involved in procur­ing spare parts. The next step is to com­pare the effort with the expect­ed added value.

If equip­ment and mate­ri­als are still avail­able on the sup­pli­er side, pur­chas­ing can sim­ply reorder the com­po­nent. Oth­er­wise, the com­pa­ny must ana­lyze what costs will be incurred by ramp­ing up pro­duc­tion capac­i­ties again.

If the mate­r­i­al is no longer avail­able on the mar­ket, a new selec­tion is due. Although this process involves costs, it also offers the oppor­tu­ni­ty to real­ize opti­miza­tion potential.

Old­er mate­ri­als may no longer meet applic­a­ble spec­i­fi­ca­tions and require­ments or the cur­rent state of the art. Replac­ing them with more mod­ern vari­ants can make a com­po­nent lighter, more resis­tant and less sen­si­tive to envi­ron­men­tal influ­ences. Of course, such a mate­r­i­al change requires that the tool be com­pat­i­ble with the new material.

If the tool is dam­aged or incom­pat­i­ble with cur­rent machin­ery, the com­pa­ny must decide whether it wants to incur the adap­ta­tion costs. On the one hand, this increas­es the unit cost of the replace­ment part. On the oth­er hand, a new devel­op­ment of the com­po­nent is con­sid­er­ably more expen­sive, but also holds opti­miza­tion pos­si­bil­i­ties. Both the mate­r­i­al and the geom­e­try can be put to the test on this occasion.

For Info: 

In some cas­es it is pos­si­ble to pro­duce spare parts and also tools for small series by 3D print­ing. How­ev­er, not all mate­ri­als and geome­tries are suit­able for this process. Ask your pro­duc­tion part­ner whether 3D print­ing is an option for you! 

Anoth­er option for the cus­tomer is to rethink the pro­duc­tion process or to replace the pos­si­bly out­dat­ed machine, also from the point of view of effi­cien­cy. This makes sense espe­cial­ly for old­er equip­ment whose spare parts are indi­vid­ual devel­op­ments. If the alter­na­tive is to retender a com­po­nent, it may be cheap­er to switch to a new machine whose spare parts are eas­i­er to obtain. How­ev­er, this deci­sion depends on the situation. 

Opti­mize sup­pli­er management

The linch­pin of a robust spare parts sup­ply is sup­ply chain man­age­ment. Trans­par­ent com­mu­ni­ca­tion is essen­tial here. As soon as the stock of a com­po­nent is near­ing its end, the com­pa­ny should inform its sup­pli­ers and order spare parts. At the same time, the cus­tomer should be informed as soon as prob­lems arise on the sup­pli­er side.

Build­ing redun­dan­cies with­in the sup­pli­er net­work makes sense, but is not always prac­ti­cal. Non-tool com­po­nents, for exam­ple, can eas­i­ly be sourced from sev­er­al sup­pli­ers in par­al­lel, because the equip­ment need­ed to man­u­fac­ture them is wide­ly available.

How­ev­er, the sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent for tool-based com­po­nents. Since invest­ments in tools are asso­ci­at­ed with high costs, only one tool is ordered per com­po­nent. For this rea­son, com­pa­nies may also pur­chase their spare parts from only one sup­pli­er. In such cas­es, pur­chas­ing usu­al­ly relies on a con­trac­tu­al solu­tion to ensure the sup­ply of spare parts (e.g. an after-sales agree­ment or a frame­work agree­ment).

If a sup­pli­er of tool-relat­ed spare parts announces that it will cease oper­a­tions, the com­pa­ny should secure the tools for its com­po­nents as quick­ly as pos­si­ble. If the cus­tomer owns the tool­ing, it should with­draw it and make it avail­able to anoth­er sup­pli­er. If the tool belongs to the sup­pli­er, it is advis­able to buy it up so that spare parts can con­tin­ue to be produced.


The low lev­el of stan­dard­iza­tion and the depen­dence on tools make the sup­ply of spare parts in the rub­ber and plas­tics sec­tor a chal­lenge. For­ward-look­ing sup­pli­er man­age­ment is there­fore essen­tial. Com­pa­nies should always keep an eye on where there will be demand in the future and how this can be cov­ered. If a spare part can no longer be eas­i­ly reordered, the mate­r­i­al, geom­e­try and process­es must be put to the test. This oppor­tu­ni­ty often reveals unimag­ined opti­miza­tion poten­tial that can be exploit­ed with com­par­a­tive­ly lit­tle effort.


Secure the Start of Production 

Learn which fac­tors influ­ence your SOP!

Author: Christoph Gähler

Christoph Gäh­ler is a group leader in the inter­nal sales depart­ment at Jäger. With a degree in busi­ness admin­is­tra­tion (focus on sales and mar­ket­ing), he has been sup­port­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies in the pur­chas­ing of rub­ber and plas­tic com­po­nents since July 2017. 

Share post now!


Fur­ther contributions

Covid-19 Contents