Tech­ni­cal article

Opti­miz­ing rub­ber and plas­tic parts:
How much poten­tial is there?

01.12.2021   |   Jäger Gum­mi und Kun­st­stoff GmbH

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Few com­pa­nies exploit the full opti­miza­tion poten­tial of rub­ber and plas­tic parts. As a rule, they tend to devote their atten­tion to met­al com­po­nents or their man­u­fac­tur­ing process­es. Yet it is worth pay­ing more atten­tion to elas­tomers and plas­tics. They often hold the poten­tial to cut costs, reduce man­u­fac­tur­ing times, min­i­mize scrap rates, reduce the car­bon foot­print and, ulti­mate­ly, increase cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion. In par­tic­u­lar, the fol­low­ing key areas offer oppor­tu­ni­ties for improve­ment with regard to rub­ber and plastics: 
Com­pa­nies that want to real­ize opti­miza­tion poten­tial in these fields must deal with the sub­ject mat­ter in detail and seek dia­log with their sup­pli­ers. This arti­cle will help you to avoid typ­i­cal mis­takes and to cor­rect­ly clas­si­fy the val­ue of the func­tions of rub­ber and plas­tics. Among oth­er things, you will learn: 

Poten­tial for opti­miza­tion in design

In design, opti­miza­tion poten­tials arise main­ly from a flex­i­ble, pro­duc­tion-ori­ent­ed design of the com­po­nents as well as the prod­uct itself. One chal­lenge here is that design­ers often come from the met­al sec­tor and align their focus accord­ing­ly. Since they have only lim­it­ed knowl­edge of elas­tomers and plas­tics, they con­cen­trate on opti­miz­ing the met­al design, their core com­pe­tence. Over­com­ing this tun­nel vision is the first chal­lenge in opti­miz­ing rub­ber and plas­tic com­po­nents in design. 

Choos­ing oth­er materials

There is great poten­tial for opti­miza­tion in mate­r­i­al selec­tion and, relat­ed to this, in prod­uct design. It often makes sense to put the mate­r­i­al used for a mold­ed part to the test and crit­i­cal­ly exam­ine whether an alter­na­tive mate­r­i­al might not bet­ter meet the require­ments. On the one hand, mate­ri­als man­age­ment is con­stant­ly evolv­ing, and on the oth­er, com­pa­nies some­times make deci­sions when devel­op­ing a new com­po­nent that turn out to be wrong in ret­ro­spect. In both cas­es, it is worth ques­tion­ing the choice of mate­r­i­al and, if nec­es­sary, chang­ing the mate­r­i­al.

It often also makes sense to rethink the design of a com­po­nent in par­al­lel. Mate­r­i­al selec­tion and prod­uct design go hand in hand. In some sce­nar­ios, for exam­ple, it is pos­si­ble to reduce the weight of a com­po­nent through a design change that pro­vides for less mate­r­i­al while using a more robust plas­tic. Mate­r­i­al costs, the ser­vice life of the mold­ed part or its car­bon foot­print can also be sig­nif­i­cant­ly improved by such changes.

Prac­ti­cal example 

Some time ago, a cus­tomer approached us with the order to opti­mize the pres­sure rollers of his con­vey­or belts. These were rel­a­tive­ly ener­gy-inten­sive and cost­ly to man­u­fac­ture. Our tech­ni­cal experts replaced the part with a core made of lighter polypropy­lene encased in a vul­can­ized rub­ber com­po­nent. This reduced man­u­fac­tur­ing costs as well as mate­r­i­al and ener­gy con­sump­tion. You can read the details in our Case Study.

Pres­sure roller with plas­tic construction
Pres­sure roller with sol­id rub­ber sheathing
Before: Pres­sure roller with sol­id rub­ber sheathing
After: Pres­sure roller with plas­tic construction

Design­ing com­po­nents for production

Some­times com­pa­nies approach rub­ber and plas­tics man­u­fac­tur­ers with design draw­ings that are not suit­able for pro­duc­tion. In some cas­es, for exam­ple, recess­es for seals are miss­ing — or a mold­ed rub­ber part is designed in such a way that it is dif­fi­cult to remove it from the mold after vul­can­iza­tion. Such design errors lead to delays in the prod­uct devel­op­ment process because they have to be rec­ti­fied before the pro­duc­tion can start. The poten­tial for opti­miza­tion lies in tak­ing rub­ber and plas­tic com­po­nents into account at an ear­ly stage of pro­duc­tion and, if nec­es­sary, bring­ing in tech­ni­cal experts who have more expe­ri­ence with these materials. 

Sim­u­lat­ing the flow behav­ior of the compound

Flow defects are uneven­ness in the mate­r­i­al struc­ture result­ing from sub­op­ti­mal flow behav­ior of the rub­ber or plas­tic com­pound with­in the mold. If the design draw­ings are not designed for pro­duc­tion, the raw mate­r­i­al will flow into the mold in a man­ner that results in folds or uneven­ness in the final prod­uct. Flow defects are not only unsight­ly, but can also affect the sta­bil­i­ty of the com­po­nent, for exam­ple, by form­ing fractures. 
FEM cal­cu­la­tion to avoid flow errors
On the one hand, pre­vent­ing flow defects is a mat­ter of expe­ri­ence. Expe­ri­enced design­ers devel­op a feel­ing for the flow behav­ior of a rub­ber or plas­tic com­pound over time and can esti­mate it well, at least for sim­ple geome­tries. For more com­plex shapes, it is advis­able to sim­u­late the flow behav­ior of the mate­r­i­al with the aid of the finite ele­ment method (FEM) and spe­cial soft­ware. In case of doubt, it also makes sense to con­sult experts. 

Avoid­ing unnec­es­sary complexity

Some­times com­pa­nies design mold­ed parts that are too com­plex for the appli­ca­tion. The rea­son for this is usu­al­ly that the rub­ber or plas­tic design has to be aligned with the met­al design. This results in effi­cient and inex­pen­sive met­al com­po­nents whose cost advan­tage is negat­ed by com­plex rub­ber or plas­tic parts that are dif­fi­cult to man­u­fac­ture. A bet­ter approach is to design to keep all com­po­nents as sim­ple as pos­si­ble, regard­less of material. 

Stan­dard­ize mold­ed parts

Com­pa­nies that man­u­fac­ture mul­ti­ple prod­ucts or prod­uct lines should con­sid­er stan­dard­iz­ing their rub­ber and plas­tic com­po­nents. This way, they can sup­ply their entire line with the same mold­ed parts instead of hav­ing to keep start­ing new devel­op­ment projects. This plat­form design is com­mon­place in the auto­mo­tive indus­try, but oth­er indus­tries can ben­e­fit as well.

On the one hand, the mod­u­lar design of rub­ber and plas­tic mold­ed parts low­ers devel­op­ment costs because the design depart­ment can more eas­i­ly use stan­dard com­po­nents and pur­chas­ing can real­ize economies of scale by order­ing larg­er quan­ti­ties of uni­form items. On the oth­er hand, devel­op­ment times are reduced because the design of cor­re­spond­ing rub­ber or plas­tic parts is no longer necessary.

Tip: Get mate­r­i­al experts on board as ear­ly as possible 

In order to exploit the poten­tial described here, mate­r­i­al exper­tise in the field of rub­ber and plas­tics is required. Com­pa­nies that lack this knowl­edge should there­fore work togeth­er with a spe­cial­ist devel­op­ment part­ner as ear­ly as pos­si­ble and involve the lat­ter’s experts in the devel­op­ment team right from the start. This makes it eas­i­er to design com­po­nents cor­rect­ly right from the start. Expe­ri­ence shows that the ear­li­er this part­ner receives all the rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion in the form of a spec­i­fi­ca­tion sheet, the more effi­cient the devel­op­ment project will be. 

Opti­miza­tion poten­tial in process technology

The sec­ond major opti­miza­tion block con­cerns the pro­duc­tion process­es, i.e. every­thing that hap­pens after the raw mate­r­i­al is pur­chased and before it is shipped from the logis­tics cen­ter. The main aim here is to reduce through­put times, down­times, the reject rate and the use of resources. The most impor­tant levers are pro­duc­tion plan­ning and tool design.

In con­trast to the oth­er opti­miza­tion areas, process tech­nol­o­gy is almost exclu­sive­ly the domain of the rub­ber or plas­tics sup­pli­er. Cus­tomers have rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle influ­ence on the actu­al pro­duc­tion of mold­ed parts. If they nev­er­the­less want to real­ize opti­miza­tion poten­tial in this area, they must take care to select sup­pli­ers who demon­strate the appro­pri­ate com­pe­ten­cies.

A pre­req­ui­site for all opti­miza­tion mea­sures in process tech­nol­o­gy is a thor­ough analy­sis of the arti­cles to be man­u­fac­tured and the gen­er­al con­di­tions with regard to pro­duc­tion on the cus­tomer side. This includes the fol­low­ing questions:

Here, too, man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies should seek an exchange with a devel­op­ment part­ner in advance. Their know-how makes it eas­i­er to devel­op process­es that can be ide­al­ly inte­grat­ed into the pro­duc­tion plan. 

Plan­ning tool­mak­ing sensibly

There is great poten­tial for improve­ment in the cre­ation of mold con­cepts. Whether rub­ber or plas­tic, injec­tion molds are pre­ci­sion tools whose geom­e­try must match the design spec­i­fi­ca­tions exact­ly. Even the small­est devi­a­tions from these spec­i­fi­ca­tions can jeop­ar­dize the func­tion­al­i­ty of the com­po­nent. Accord­ing­ly, detailed prepa­ra­tion and expe­ri­ence are need­ed to effec­tive­ly rule out errors that jeop­ar­dize on-time project com­ple­tion.

In elas­tomer and plas­tics pro­duc­tion, tool­mak­ing is a major project-inter­nal con­struc­tion site that includes all process steps com­mon in pro­duc­tion and requires, among oth­er things, con­cepts for design, man­u­fac­tur­ing, and trans­port. This com­plex process can­not sim­ply be short­ened or accel­er­at­ed. Instead, com­pa­nies should allow suf­fi­cient time for mold construction.

Prac­ti­cal example 

Pro­tec­fire, a fire pro­tec­tion spe­cial­ist based in Lue­beck, Ger­many, approached Jäger with an inquiry for an extin­guish­ing sys­tem to fight engine fires in bus­es. The require­ment was for a rub­ber blad­der that would press extin­guish­ing liq­uid into the lines in an emer­gency. Jäger devel­oped a cor­re­spond­ing elas­tomer com­po­nent for the cus­tomer and cre­at­ed a mold con­cept that guar­an­tees reli­able core cen­ter­ing and thus high qual­i­ty. More details about this project can be found in our Case Study.

Rethink­ing the num­ber of cav­i­ties in the mold

The pro­duc­tion time of injec­tion mold­ed parts depends, among oth­er things, on how quick­ly the raw mass is dis­trib­uted with­in the mold. The speed of dis­tri­b­u­tion, in turn, depends on the design of the mold, in par­tic­u­lar the num­ber of cav­i­ties. The more cav­i­ties there are, the more raw mate­r­i­al can be inject­ed into the molds at the same time and the less mate­r­i­al has to be dis­trib­uted via chan­nels. At the same time, sprue-relat­ed mate­r­i­al loss­es decrease, since less rub­ber or plas­tic remains in the chan­nels.

How­ev­er, as the num­ber of cav­i­ties increas­es, so does the size of the mold, which increas­es its cost. At the same time, the mold must also fit into the injec­tion mold­ing machine and can­not be arbi­trar­i­ly large. Both fac­tors must be care­ful­ly con­sid­ered. Build­ing a larg­er mold is not always the best solution.

Reduce scrap

Mate­r­i­al that remains in the chan­nels of the mold after the mold­ed parts are fin­ished must either be recy­cled or dis­posed of. This increas­es unit costs, espe­cial­ly in the pro­duc­tion of rub­ber com­po­nents, because the vul­can­iza­tion process is irre­versible. For this rea­son, reduc­ing sprue loss­es is an impor­tant opti­miza­tion approach in process tech­nol­o­gy.

In par­tic­u­lar, hot and cold run­ner tech­nol­o­gy should be men­tioned at this point. Both tem­per the sprue sys­tem sep­a­rate­ly and thus pre­vent the mate­r­i­al from hard­en­ing pre­ma­ture­ly. In the case of plas­tics pro­cess­ing, the chan­nels are heat­ed so that the com­pound first solid­i­fies in the molds. In the case of elas­tomer prod­ucts, on the oth­er hand, the chan­nels are cooled.

Bet­ter con­trol of pro­duc­tion parameters

Down­times are always a prob­lem in pro­duc­tion, because if a machine or sys­tem is not run­ning, it does not gen­er­ate any prof­it. There­fore, it is also impor­tant to opti­mize down­times in the rub­ber and plas­tics sec­tor.

The pri­ma­ry con­trol levers for this in the injec­tion mold­ing process are the tem­per­a­ture, the injec­tion pres­sure and the cool­ing or heat­ing dura­tion of the mold, which in turn influ­ences the cycle times. Added to this are the selec­tion of the appro­pri­ate mate­r­i­al and intel­li­gent mold design. The lack of cus­tomer influ­ence is par­tic­u­lar­ly notice­able in these areas. There­fore, when look­ing for sup­pli­ers, com­pa­nies should make sure to choose pro­duc­tion part­ners who have the appro­pri­ate competencies.

Use elec­tric­i­ty from renew­able ener­gy sources

In terms of the car­bon foot­print, it is worth­while to use elec­tric­i­ty from renew­able ener­gy sources. Ide­al­ly, com­pa­nies pro­duce this them­selves, for exam­ple, through solar cells on the roof. In this way, they can simul­ta­ne­ous­ly reduce their ener­gy costs (at least in the long term). 
Pho­to­volta­ic sys­tems in industry
How­ev­er, it is not always pos­si­ble or eco­nom­i­cal to pro­vide your own capac­i­ty for ener­gy gen­er­a­tion. For exam­ple, if there is too lit­tle roof space avail­able or the build­ing is unfa­vor­ably designed for solar cells, this option is not avail­able. In this case, com­pa­nies should at least make sure to book a tar­iff with their ener­gy sup­pli­er that includes as much green elec­tric­i­ty as possible. 

Opti­miza­tion poten­tial in mate­r­i­al selection

The chal­lenge in mate­r­i­al selec­tion is to find a mate­r­i­al mix that is best suit­ed to the intend­ed use of the prod­uct. This not only has a pos­i­tive effect on the qual­i­ty of the prod­uct being devel­oped. Smart mate­r­i­al selec­tion deci­sions can help reduce the over­all cost of the prod­uct (e.g., by reduc­ing mate­r­i­al usage) and improve the com­pa­ny’s car­bon foot­print (e.g., by reduc­ing process-relat­ed waste). Wrong deci­sions, on the oth­er hand, dete­ri­o­rate the func­tion­al­i­ty and reli­a­bil­i­ty of the com­po­nent — and thus of the machine or plant.

Key suc­cess fac­tors in select­ing the right mate­r­i­al are exper­tise and expe­ri­ence. Com­pa­nies achieve the best results when they inte­grate mate­r­i­al experts into their devel­op­ment team right from the start. This not only enables fast, tar­get­ed selec­tion of the right plas­tic or rub­ber com­pound, but also close inte­gra­tion of com­pound devel­op­ment, com­pound pro­duc­tion and analy­sis of phys­i­cal prop­er­ties. The num­ber of devel­op­ment cycles can thus be kept to a minimum.

Using stan­dard materials

Com­pa­nies that use spe­cial­ly man­u­fac­tured mate­r­i­al com­pounds for their rub­ber and plas­tic com­po­nents often suf­fer from high pur­chase prices. The rea­son for this is that the mate­r­i­al sup­pli­ers’ knead­ing machines require a min­i­mum quan­ti­ty of raw mate­ri­als to oper­ate. This is usu­al­ly also the con­trac­tu­al min­i­mum pur­chase quan­ti­ty for the cus­tomer. In the case of spe­cial mix­es, it is sim­ply not pos­si­ble to pur­chase accord­ing to demand. For exam­ple, if the sup­pli­er pro­duces five tons, the cus­tomer must also pur­chase five tons, even if he only needs one ton. Oth­er­wise, the sup­pli­er would not get rid of the remain­ing four tons, because they are indi­vid­u­al­ly adapt­ed to the spe­cif­ic require­ments of a com­pa­ny.

The sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent when com­pa­nies order stan­dard blends. There are so many cus­tomers for these that indi­vid­ual cus­tomers can also order small­er quan­ti­ties than the capac­i­ty of a vat. This means that orders can be placed in line with demand.

Tai­lor­ing the mate­r­i­al to the application

When it comes to mate­r­i­al selec­tion, two extremes can often be observed. Some com­pa­nies focus on price and choose a mate­r­i­al that is as inex­pen­sive as pos­si­ble. Oth­ers opt for the pre­mi­um option and use a mate­r­i­al that far exceeds their require­ments. Both can have neg­a­tive con­se­quences.

Min­i­miz­ing the price often results in the rub­ber or plas­tic com­po­nent being of low qual­i­ty and hav­ing to be replaced fre­quent­ly. This results in fol­low-up costs that quick­ly put the low pur­chase price into per­spec­tive and lead to unde­sir­able delays. In addi­tion, there is a risk that cheap parts will have a neg­a­tive impact on the com­pa­ny’s car­bon foot­print from a process and mate­r­i­al per­spec­tive.

The oth­er extreme, the unnec­es­sary selec­tion of pre­mi­um mate­ri­als, increas­es pro­duc­tion costs with­out offer­ing any real coun­ter­val­ue. In some cas­es, the increased prop­er­ties do not even play a role for the end prod­uct. “A lot helps a lot” is not always the right solu­tion in the rub­ber and plas­tics sec­tor.

It is bet­ter to tai­lor the mate­r­i­al pre­cise­ly to the require­ments of the appli­ca­tion sce­nario. Out­liers in the direc­tion of price or prac­ti­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics are rarely helpful.

Pay atten­tion to secu­ri­ty of supply

Sup­ply prob­lems in the mate­r­i­al area often have an impact on the entire val­ue chain, as the lack of indi­vid­ual com­po­nents affects the man­u­fac­ture of oth­er prod­ucts. Com­pa­nies whose rub­ber and plas­tic com­po­nents are reg­u­lar­ly unavail­able should there­fore con­sid­er switch­ing mate­ri­als. There are often alter­na­tive mate­ri­als that have com­pa­ra­ble prop­er­ties and are sig­nif­i­cant­ly eas­i­er to pro­cure.

It is also worth keep­ing an eye on the raw mate­ri­als mar­kets. Sup­ply prob­lems of cer­tain mate­ri­als are often the result of fore­see­able devel­op­ments. Those who rec­og­nize these can take coun­ter­mea­sures at an ear­ly stage. If in doubt, it makes sense to seek exchanges with rub­ber or plas­tics pro­duc­ers who know the mar­ket better.

Min­i­miz­ing envi­ron­men­tal and health impact

Sub­stances that are harm­ful to the envi­ron­ment or health have long since become a busi­ness risk. In addi­tion to author­i­ties and reg­u­la­to­ry bod­ies, cus­tomers are also pay­ing increas­ing atten­tion to sus­tain­abil­i­ty aspects and reject­ing prod­ucts that are poten­tial­ly harm­ful to the envi­ron­ment or their health. It is there­fore worth­while to pay close atten­tion to such aspects in man­u­fac­tur­ing, both in the selec­tion of mate­ri­als and in the man­u­fac­tur­ing process. Exam­ples include the use of biodegrad­able mate­ri­als, the avoid­ance of microplas­tics and a reduc­tion in CO2 emissions. 
Tip: Plan mate­r­i­al selec­tion sufficiently 

When devel­op­ing a new mold­ed part, the selec­tion of the mate­r­i­al is one of the fun­da­men­tal steps. Par­tic­u­lar­ly when it comes to com­pounds that are devel­oped specif­i­cal­ly for a prod­uct or com­po­nent, com­pa­nies must cal­cu­late a cor­re­spond­ing lead time for this, because the com­pound must be test­ed exten­sive­ly in the lab­o­ra­to­ry with regard to its prop­er­ties. This process takes time, which must be planned in good time to avoid delays in the prod­uct devel­op­ment process. 

Opti­miza­tion poten­tial in sup­ply chain management

The Coro­na pan­dem­ic has demon­strat­ed just how vul­ner­a­ble glob­al sup­ply chains real­ly are in times of cri­sis in all sec­tors of indus­try. One impor­tant area for opti­miza­tion is there­fore the resilience of the com­pa­ny’s own sup­ply chain. To date, many pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies have based their sup­ply chain man­age­ment pure­ly on price, sourc­ing their plas­tic and elas­tomer mold­ed parts main­ly from Asia. How­ev­er, the low­er pur­chase price offered by these man­u­fac­tur­ers can also have downsides: 
For these rea­sons, switch­ing sup­ply chains to Euro­pean sup­pli­ers holds great poten­tial for opti­miza­tion — cur­rent­ly more than ever. 

Switch­ing sup­ply chains to region­al suppliers

Region­al pro­duc­ers of rub­ber and plas­tic mold­ed parts may be some­what less expen­sive than their com­peti­tors from low-wage coun­tries. On the oth­er hand, they offer a num­ber of advan­tages that are par­tic­u­lar­ly notice­able in times of cri­sis. For exam­ple, their basic deliv­ery times are short­er because they are geo­graph­i­cal­ly clos­er to the cus­tomer and the inner-Euro­pean rail and high­way net­work does not con­tain any seri­ous bot­tle­necks. In addi­tion, all bor­der con­trols are elim­i­nat­ed with­in the Schen­gen area. As a result, the deliv­ery reli­a­bil­i­ty of Euro­pean rub­ber and plas­tics sup­pli­ers is cor­re­spond­ing­ly high. In addi­tion, there are few­er approval dif­fi­cul­ties because the cus­tomer and sup­pli­er are locat­ed with­in the same legal area and fol­low the same regulations. 

Build­ing a strate­gic sup­pli­er network

Redun­dan­cy is an impor­tant opti­miza­tion fac­tor in sup­ply chain man­age­ment. If you source all your rub­ber and plas­tic com­po­nents from one sup­pli­er, you cre­ate an arti­fi­cial bot­tle­neck, whose fail­ure can have seri­ous con­se­quences. It is there­fore advis­able to build up a strate­gic sup­pli­er net­work in order to be able to switch quick­ly to anoth­er sup­pli­er if nec­es­sary. It should also be borne in mind that some rub­ber and plas­tics pro­duc­ers have their own sup­pli­er net­works and there­fore have a cer­tain basic redun­dan­cy. It is there­fore not absolute­ly nec­es­sary for the cus­tomer to coor­di­nate all sup­pli­ers him­self. More­over, in this case, the terms of the part­ner­ship can be laid down in frame­work agree­ments to pro­vide addi­tion­al security.

What role does sus­tain­abil­i­ty play?

Indus­tri­al com­pa­nies bear a great respon­si­bil­i­ty in the imple­men­ta­tion of nation­al and glob­al sus­tain­abil­i­ty goals. This results in numer­ous oblig­a­tions, but also oppor­tu­ni­ties to bet­ter posi­tion one’s own orga­ni­za­tion for the future. This is illus­trat­ed again and again by the exam­ple of com­po­nents made of rub­ber and plas­tic. Their pro­duc­tion is fun­da­men­tal­ly ener­gy-inten­sive, how­ev­er, depend­ing on the sce­nario, there are oppor­tu­ni­ties to reduce ener­gy con­sump­tion and pol­lu­tant emis­sions to the bare min­i­mum when design­ing prod­ucts and process­es. The deci­sive fac­tor in this con­text is a sen­si­ble tri­ad of

Sus­tain­abil­i­ty tri­an­gle of pro­cure­ment, devel­op­ment and production
As ear­ly as the pro­cure­ment of mate­ri­als and pre­cur­sors, com­pa­nies should con­sid­er their sup­ply chain from eco­log­i­cal, eco­nom­ic and social per­spec­tives. Reli­able, trans­par­ent process­es and short sup­ply chain paths make it eas­i­er to imple­ment cor­po­rate social respon­si­bil­i­ty guide­lines. In turn, com­mu­ni­ca­tion char­ac­ter­ized by open­ness leads to low­er project costs and lead times. 
Jäger relies on Euro­pean partners 

About 96 per­cent of Jäger Gum­mi und Kun­st­stof­f’s sup­pli­ers are based with­in the Euro­pean Union, 80 per­cent of them in Ger­many. These sup­pli­ers are specif­i­cal­ly select­ed on the basis of their cer­ti­fi­ca­tion accord­ing to the envi­ron­men­tal stan­dard DIN EN ISO 14001 and (ide­al­ly) DIN EN 50001. Com­pa­nies that want to make their pro­cure­ment sus­tain­able there­fore have ide­al con­di­tions open to them. 

The devel­op­ment and design of a rub­ber or plas­tic prod­uct have a major influ­ence on the nec­es­sary use of raw mate­ri­als in pro­duc­tion and the prop­er­ties of the end prod­uct. Accord­ing­ly, it is impor­tant to iden­ti­fy and exploit poten­tial sav­ings in terms of mate­r­i­al and ener­gy use. The results are prod­ucts with low weight, a low reject rate, a longer ser­vice life and eas­i­er main­te­nance options. Process­es such as 3D pro­to­typ­ing and the finite ele­ment method (FEM) make it eas­i­er to real­ize even more com­plex prod­uct ideas quick­ly and efficiently. 

Con­clu­sion

There are numer­ous opti­miza­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties in the (new) devel­op­ment of com­po­nents made of rub­ber or plas­tic, from mate­r­i­al selec­tion and tool design to sup­ply chain man­age­ment. Com­pa­nies wish­ing to exploit these poten­tials should seek dia­log with their sup­pli­er in good time. Many improve­ments result from clos­er coop­er­a­tion between cus­tomer and sup­pli­er, espe­cial­ly in the area of process tech­nol­o­gy. It is also impor­tant to con­sid­er com­plete prod­uct devel­op­ment, not just design and man­u­fac­tur­ing. Sup­ply chain man­age­ment in par­tic­u­lar often holds poten­tial that has a major impact on ener­gy and mate­r­i­al con­sump­tion, pro­duc­tion costs and the car­bon footprint. 
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