JÄGER Busi­ness Blog

Why it pays to reg­u­lar­ly upgrade
rub­ber and plas­tic components

22.09.2021   |   Thomas Dyckrup

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Mate­ri­als sci­ence is con­stant­ly evolv­ing. Every year, new mate­ri­als come onto the mar­ket that are lighter, more robust and more envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly than the pre­vi­ous ones. So it makes sense for man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies to reg­u­lar­ly check whether there is a bet­ter alter­na­tive for the com­po­nents they use. In prac­tice, how­ev­er, this hap­pens rel­a­tive­ly rarely. Many deci­sion-mak­ers do not con­sid­er the opti­miza­tion poten­tial offered by rub­ber and plas­tic parts. In doing so, they forego a pos­si­ble com­pet­i­tive advantage.

Mod­ern­iza­tion of rub­ber and plas­tic com­po­nents cre­ates com­pet­i­tive advantages

Man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies usu­al­ly only replace com­po­nents when there is a defect or the prod­uct require­ments are no longer met. How­ev­er, it can also be worth­while to put installed rub­ber and plas­tic parts to the test with­out a spe­cif­ic rea­son, because more mod­ern alter­na­tives often offer a num­ber of advantages.

The pur­chase price is lower

The man­u­fac­tur­ing process­es for rub­ber and plas­tics are con­stant­ly evolv­ing. In the course of this, prod­ucts can be man­u­fac­tured more robust­ly and with less mate­r­i­al input through the tar­get­ed adap­ta­tion of mate­ri­als. For exam­ple, a rub­ber hose seal needs to be less thick because it does not crack as quick­ly and has less wear and tear. It also hap­pens that com­pa­nies have select­ed an expen­sive mate­r­i­al that sig­nif­i­cant­ly exceeds prod­uct require­ments. In view of ris­ing raw mate­r­i­al prices, it may be worth­while in such a case to switch to a less expen­sive mate­r­i­al with sim­i­lar properties

after
before

The fol­low-up costs decrease

Prod­ucts made of more up-to-date mate­ri­als have a longer ser­vice life and there­fore require less fre­quent main­te­nance or replace­ment, which reduces the bur­den on ser­vice. Their tech­ni­cal assem­bly is also eas­i­er. For exam­ple, parts that are mount­ed over­head may include an adhe­sive film that allows tem­po­rary attach­ment dur­ing lock­ing. Alter­na­tive­ly, the com­pa­ny can pur­chase its rub­ber or plas­tic com­po­nents direct­ly as fin­ished assem­blies from its pro­duc­tion partner.

The prod­uct becomes more envi­ron­men­tal­ly friendly

Anoth­er impor­tant point is the issue of sus­tain­abil­i­ty. New­er com­po­nents are often more envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly because they con­tain few­er pol­lu­tants and are even biodegrad­able in some cas­es. They also have less of an impact on the envi­ron­ment dur­ing pro­duc­tion, as their man­u­fac­ture requires less ener­gy and mate­r­i­al input. This is a major advan­tage for com­pa­nies that face strict legal require­ments in their indus­try, want to improve their image, or gen­er­al­ly want to become greener.

Pro­cure­ment secu­ri­ty increases

Mate­ri­als that con­tain sub­stances that are harm­ful to the envi­ron­ment or health are repeat­ed­ly the focus of the reg­u­la­to­ry author­i­ties. If they are banned or the man­u­fac­tur­er with­draws them from the mar­ket for oth­er rea­sons, there is no longer any sup­ply avail­able for some com­po­nents. In this case, it makes sense for man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies to rework these parts and switch to future-proof materials.

Dif­fer­ent mod­ern­iza­tion approaches

If a com­pa­ny decides to mod­ern­ize a rub­ber or plas­tic com­po­nent, there are basi­cal­ly two start­ing points: the man­u­fac­tur­ing process and the prod­uct con­fig­u­ra­tion.

Opti­miza­tion of the man­u­fac­tur­ing process

Dur­ing the pro­duc­tion of a rub­ber or plas­tic prod­uct, there is always mate­r­i­al loss. If the part is milled or turned, mate­r­i­al is lost in the form of chips or cut­ting waste. In injec­tion mold­ing, the loss is less, but even here some mate­r­i­al always remains as sprue.

This waste is par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant in rub­ber pro­duc­tion, since the vul­can­iza­tion process is irre­versible and mate­r­i­al waste can­not be returned to pro­duc­tion. Such mate­r­i­al loss­es can be reduced by a more effi­cient mold and pro­duc­tion concept.

Fur­ther­more, it is pos­si­ble to reduce cycle times by adjust­ing the prod­uct con­fig­u­ra­tion. The more sol­id or thick-walled a pro­duc­tion part is, the longer heat­ing or cool­ing takes. How­ev­er, if the part is designed so that the walls are thin­ner, these times are reduced and pro­duc­tion is accel­er­at­ed. At the same time, ener­gy con­sump­tion and mate­r­i­al usage are reduced, mak­ing the com­po­nent cheap­er and more envi­ron­men­tal­ly friendly.

Tip 

At first glance, the opti­miza­tion of the man­u­fac­tur­ing process seems to be the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the pro­duc­tion part­ner. How­ev­er, the spec­i­fi­ca­tion of the rub­ber or plas­tic com­po­nent usu­al­ly comes from the cus­tomer. If the cus­tomer designs a part in such a way that it can be man­u­fac­tured more eas­i­ly, he also ben­e­fits from short­er deliv­ery times and low­er costs. 

Opti­miza­tion of the product

Old­er rub­ber and plas­tic parts in par­tic­u­lar often con­sist of mate­ri­als that are no longer state of the art. Putting them to the test and redesign­ing them is usu­al­ly worth­while. A sim­ple change in mate­r­i­al can make a com­po­nent lighter, more robust and less sen­si­tive. Rework­ing the geom­e­try can also be worth­while, often in con­junc­tion with a dif­fer­ent mate­r­i­al. For exam­ple, if a more robust mate­r­i­al is used, the out­er walls of a com­po­nent can be made thin­ner while main­tain­ing the same lev­el of resis­tance. This reduces both mate­r­i­al and ener­gy consumption.

Even with more mod­ern com­po­nents, it can be worth con­sid­er­ing a change of mate­r­i­al, espe­cial­ly for expen­sive mate­ri­als. Some­times design­ers use brand names syn­ony­mous­ly with the mate­r­i­al des­ig­na­tion and thus unin­ten­tion­al­ly install pre­mi­um parts, even though the cus­tomer has not explic­it­ly request­ed this. In such a case, it is often advis­able to switch to a cheap­er alter­na­tive that more accu­rate­ly meets the real requirements.

Case Study: Rub­ber pres­sure rollers for con­vey­or belts

In our Case Study, you will learn how to achieve enor­mous sav­ings poten­tial through method­i­cal opti­miza­tion of rub­ber pres­sure rollers. 

In sum­ma­ry

Mod­ern­iza­tion mea­sures in man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies are usu­al­ly lim­it­ed to process­es and infra­struc­ture. Only a few deci­sion-mak­ers have the installed com­po­nents on their radar. Yet it can be worth­while to reg­u­lar­ly put rub­ber and plas­tic parts to the test and see if a bet­ter solu­tion can be found. Alter­na­tive mate­ri­als as well as more mod­ern tool­ing con­cepts and man­u­fac­tur­ing process­es ensure that com­po­nents are becom­ing ever more afford­able, robust, effi­cient and envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly. Those who update them at reg­u­lar inter­vals can often real­ize com­pet­i­tive advantages.

Whitepa­per:
Secure the Start of Production 

Learn which fac­tors influ­ence your SOP! 

Author: Thomas Dyckrup

Thomas Dyck­rup has been with Jäger since 2007. The qual­i­fied whole­sale & for­eign trade mer­chant has been head of the Old­en­burg site since 2019, fol­low­ing posi­tions in inter­nal sales and key account management.

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Mate­ri­als sci­ence is con­stant­ly evolv­ing. Every year, new mate­ri­als come onto the mar­ket that are lighter, more robust and more envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly than the pre­vi­ous ones. So it makes sense for man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies to reg­u­lar­ly check whether there is a bet­ter alter­na­tive for the com­po­nents they use. In prac­tice, how­ev­er, this hap­pens rel­a­tive­ly rarely. Many deci­sion-mak­ers do not con­sid­er the opti­miza­tion poten­tial offered by rub­ber and plas­tic parts. In doing so, they forego a pos­si­ble com­pet­i­tive advantage. 

Mod­ern­iza­tion of rub­ber and plas­tic com­po­nents cre­ates com­pet­i­tive advantages

Man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies usu­al­ly only replace com­po­nents when there is a defect or the prod­uct require­ments are no longer met. How­ev­er, it can also be worth­while to put installed rub­ber and plas­tic parts to the test with­out a spe­cif­ic rea­son, because more mod­ern alter­na­tives often offer a num­ber of advantages. 

The pur­chase price is lower

The man­u­fac­tur­ing process­es for rub­ber and plas­tics are con­stant­ly evolv­ing. In the course of this, prod­ucts can be man­u­fac­tured more robust­ly and with less mate­r­i­al input through the tar­get­ed adap­ta­tion of mate­ri­als. For exam­ple, a rub­ber hose seal needs to be less thick because it does not crack as quick­ly and has less wear and tear. It also hap­pens that com­pa­nies have select­ed an expen­sive mate­r­i­al that sig­nif­i­cant­ly exceeds prod­uct require­ments. In view of ris­ing raw mate­r­i­al prices, it may be worth­while in such a case to switch to a less expen­sive mate­r­i­al with sim­i­lar properties 

The fol­low-up costs decrease

Prod­ucts made of more up-to-date mate­ri­als have a longer ser­vice life and there­fore require less fre­quent main­te­nance or replace­ment, which reduces the bur­den on ser­vice. Their tech­ni­cal assem­bly is also eas­i­er. For exam­ple, parts that are mount­ed over­head may include an adhe­sive film that allows tem­po­rary attach­ment dur­ing lock­ing. Alter­na­tive­ly, the com­pa­ny can pur­chase its rub­ber or plas­tic com­po­nents direct­ly as fin­ished assem­blies from its pro­duc­tion partner.

The prod­uct becomes more envi­ron­men­tal­ly friendly

Anoth­er impor­tant point is the issue of sus­tain­abil­i­ty. New­er com­po­nents are often more envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly because they con­tain few­er pol­lu­tants and are even biodegrad­able in some cas­es. They also have less of an impact on the envi­ron­ment dur­ing pro­duc­tion, as their man­u­fac­ture requires less ener­gy and mate­r­i­al input. This is a major advan­tage for com­pa­nies that face strict legal require­ments in their indus­try, want to improve their image, or gen­er­al­ly want to become greener. 

Pro­cure­ment secu­ri­ty increases

Mate­ri­als that con­tain sub­stances that are harm­ful to the envi­ron­ment or health are repeat­ed­ly the focus of the reg­u­la­to­ry author­i­ties. If they are banned or the man­u­fac­tur­er with­draws them from the mar­ket for oth­er rea­sons, there is no longer any sup­ply avail­able for some com­po­nents. In this case, it makes sense for man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies to rework these parts and switch to future-proof materials. 

Dif­fer­ent mod­ern­iza­tion approaches

If a com­pa­ny decides to mod­ern­ize a rub­ber or plas­tic com­po­nent, there are basi­cal­ly two start­ing points: the man­u­fac­tur­ing process and the prod­uct configuration.

Opti­miza­tion of the man­u­fac­tur­ing process

Dur­ing the pro­duc­tion of a rub­ber or plas­tic prod­uct, there is always mate­r­i­al loss. If the part is milled or turned, mate­r­i­al is lost in the form of chips or cut­ting waste. In injec­tion mold­ing, the loss is less, but even here some mate­r­i­al always remains as sprue. 

This waste is par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant in rub­ber pro­duc­tion, since the vul­can­iza­tion process is irre­versible and mate­r­i­al waste can­not be returned to pro­duc­tion. Such mate­r­i­al loss­es can be reduced by a more effi­cient mold and pro­duc­tion con­cept. 

Fur­ther­more, it is pos­si­ble to reduce cycle times by adjust­ing the prod­uct con­fig­u­ra­tion. The more sol­id or thick-walled a pro­duc­tion part is, the longer heat­ing or cool­ing takes. How­ev­er, if the part is designed so that the walls are thin­ner, these times are reduced and pro­duc­tion is accel­er­at­ed. At the same time, ener­gy con­sump­tion and mate­r­i­al usage are reduced, mak­ing the com­po­nent cheap­er and more envi­ron­men­tal­ly friendly.

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