Managing the Plastic Injection Molding Supply Chain

  • Working with expert engineers using top-of-the-line plastic injection molding equipment is important, but neither will make a difference if the supply chain breaks down and you can’t receive materials, services, or package shipments on time. The plastic injection molding supply chain begins with raw material and component suppliers and moves through manufacturers, distributors, and retailers before a product reaches the end user.

Working with an experienced, U.S.-based manufacturer with proven supply chain management skills will help you efficiently monitor supply chains to maintain consistency, cost-effectiveness, and on-time delivery in your business. Since 1953, Port Erie Plastics has specialized in plastic injection molding, mold design, tooling transfer, and turnkey manufacturing solutions. With the breadth of our service offerings, our team is well-positioned to help optimize your supply chain to provide unparalleled plastic processing solutions.

When the pandemic-induced supply chain squeeze hit all of us, Port Erie did two key things to help our customers. For products where there was only one specified resin, our engineering and purchasing folks rolled up their sleeves and got to work qualifying alternative materials. For components that come from overseas, we worked with our customers to buy safety stock. We have a strong balance sheet and ample warehouse space. We just needed a commitment from our customers to use what we bought.

Overview of the Plastic Injection Molding Supply Chain

The plastic injection molding supply chain is a series of interconnected processes that see a product through from its start as raw materials to a finished component in the hands of consumers or businesses. The supply chain begins with sourcing raw materials — primarily plastic resins — carefully selected based on quality, availability, and cost. Working with regional and trusted suppliers helps minimize supply chain risks.

Once a manufacturer acquires the raw materials, the plastic injection molding process begins. This involves melting plastic resin and injecting it into molds with the desired shape. As the molten plastic cools, it hardens, taking on the shape of the mold. Quality control and assurance throughout the production process help ensure products meet expected specifications and manufacturing processes are on point. Once products are complete, they then require packaging, distribution, and order fulfillment to complete the chain.

All of this requires careful logistical planning. Manufacturers must prioritize efficient production and scheduling to consistently meet demand and minimize supply chain delays.

Steps Port Erie Plastics Takes to Address Supply Chain Challenges

A well-managed supply chain is necessary to ensure the timely delivery of plastic parts and products for the diverse industries that need them. Port Erie offers a variety of single-source supply chain solutions through strategic partnerships, optimized logistics, in-house services, and more.

Risk Management

First and foremost, Port Erie identifies and assesses potential supply chain risks, such as natural disasters, pandemics, geopolitical instability, and supplier bankruptcy. We then develop contingency plans to minimize the impact of these risks on our operations should they occur, allowing us to pivot and provide consistent, quality service.

Supplier Selection

Raw material availability is a major challenge in plastic injection molding, especially given worldwide supply chain disruptions and the reduced availability of plastic resins. Good supplier relationship management is key. This comprises solid partnerships, clear communication, and monitoring supplier performance.

Port Erie has diversified our material suppliers to remain agile and alleviate the impact of material shortages. By exploring alternative materials that match the needed specifications as well as new supplier opportunities, we avoid dependency on a single supplier and provide consistent production even when unforeseen supply shortages happen.

Tooling Transfer

If you’d like to have an outside manufacturer take on your internal plastic injection molding program, or if you’ve decided to change service providers, Port Erie can help get you up and running with minimal downtime. We offer a convenient tooling transfer program that covers:

  • Facilitating the transfer of raw materials, tooling, and all relevant information to our facility
  • Completing an inspection of your tooling and making repairs as needed
  • Carrying out full verification testing

In as little as 48 hours after tooling arrival, we can begin production runs with your tooling to minimize delays in your supply chain. The molds remain yours, and we provide storage and maintenance.

In-House Capabilities

At Port Erie, we also shorten your supply chain by offering comprehensive services in-house. We aim to be your one-stop shop, with capabilities for:

  • CNC milling
  • CNC turning
  • Electrical discharge machining (EDM)
  • Cutting
  • Drilling
  • Welding and assembly
  • Grinding
  • Sandblasting
  • Mold design and build (single and multi-cavity molds, stack molds, and hot runners)

We specialize in managing large programs, but we also work with small and medium-sized businesses with scalable growth. Working out of 615,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehousing space, Port Erie has invested over $1 million in recent years to enhance our tool room. We operate approximately 90 injection molding machines, ranging from 55 to 1,650 tons of clamping force, to make finished components between 4 grams and 24 pounds in weight from virtually any thermoplastic material. Our goal is to deliver high-quality molded products at competitive prices.

Automation Integration

Labor shortages are a nationwide problem, particularly in finding skilled manufacturing employees. Automation not only helps supplement the human workforce, but it also increases throughput and production speeds, enhances accuracy, and reduces costs and material waste.

To facilitate a streamlined supply chain, Port Erie integrates automation into our processes. We’ve invested in 13 cobots and have a strong automation staff. This enables us to quickly and efficiently generate high volumes of uniform precision components, supporting you through faster order fulfillment.

Logistics and Support

Logistics management coordinates all portions of the supply chain through real-time data to carefully plan all stages, reduce lead times, minimize costs, and ensure on-time delivery of the right parts, every time. Our team uses the latest logistics technology to provide you with reports, lot control, inventory management, shipment monitoring, and electronic data interchange (EDI) capabilities.

When you work with Port Erie, we’ll assign you a chief technical liaison for maximum engineering support. This project engineer can help with procuring alternative, more cost-effective materials; make suggestions to enhance efficiency in the manufacturing process; provide advice on automation opportunities and tooling alterations; and more. Port Erie also values collaboration and open communication, and we work closely with customers and suppliers to minimize production delays and operate with transparency.

Quality Control

By investing in quality control, Port Erie Plastics can ensure efficiency and monitor our processes to identify and address any areas of concern before they can affect your supply chain or customer satisfaction. We’ve implemented robust quality control measures and adhere to ASTM standards, conducting regular inspections and tests in our in-house, ISO 9000-compliant inspection laboratory and QA department.

In addition to round-the-clock in-process audits, we operate three coordinate measuring machines (CMMs), spectrophotometer color inspection equipment, and an ROI vision inspection system. We carry out oxidation index tests (OITs), crosslink testing, level-three production part approval processes (PPAPs), and more. We also offer a full warranty on all the molds we make.

Distribution and Warehousing

To provide you with single-source solutions, we also offer distribution and warehousing services. Our team carries out packaging and order fulfillment, drop-shipping to big-box retailers or making just-in-time (JIT) deliveries to your facility. This not only positively impacts your supply chain but also reduces costs for your business.

Our facility space includes two warehouses at 100,000 square feet each, in addition to a 75,000-square-foot space designated for order fulfillment and seasonal, short-, and long-term storage. We also maintain ISO-compliant inventory management practices. Without needing to outsource distribution and warehousing to separate providers, we save you a few more steps in your supply chain.

Exceptional Supply Chain Management Solutions at Port Erie Plastics

The team at Port Erie delivers a seamless customer experience for your plastic injection molding program. We’re committed to continuous improvement in all our processes, including supply chain management. Our company regularly reviews and evaluates our internal procedures to identify areas for improvement and innovation, simplifying your supply chain through vetted supplier partnerships, efficient in-house services, value-added capabilities, and single-source distribution and warehousing.

For more information on Port Erie Plastics’ injection molding services and how we can help manage your supply chain, contact us today, or request a quote to start your molding program.