Plastic Really Is Fantastic, and So Are the People Working in this Industry
Two employees working on manufacturing medical equipmentPlastic really is fantastic, and so are the people working in this industry. During the last few weeks, a deluge of press releases were released from plastic processors telling about the time and resources — both human and material — they are devoting to making PPEs and other plastic products for those on the front lines of this pandemic, as well as medical devices for patients. The stories shared are overwhelming; unfortunately, we can’t report on each initiative, but we do want to thank each and every one of you for your generous efforts to aid this country.

To mention a few, there is the sheet producer Spartech, which is supplying essential clear plastic materials to Duo Form, a Michigan-based company producing incubator boxes and safety shields.

Plastic Molding Manufacturing’s five locations are operating at full capacity supplying its major customers, including Boston Scientific and GE Healthcare, with the components these companies need to produce badly needed medical devices and supplies, keeping the supply pipelines filled on a daily basis.

Plastic Printers in Hastings, MN, announced it has “shifted efforts” to help alleviate the shortage of PPE face shields made from PET. Knightsbridge Plastics in Fremont, CA, is also making PET face shields. Mansfield, MA–based Lacerta Group is also making face shields from optical-grade PET to donate to frontline workers.

So many plastics processors are stepping up to the plate to help provide these items that show the true benefits of plastics in preventing disease that we don’t have room to name them all — but we offer our thanks!

Long supply chains are weak supply chains

One thing has become evident during this pandemic, and it is perhaps the most important lesson learned — we need to manufacture our own critical medical devices and pharmaceuticals here in the USA. Currently, the push to “buy American” is anecdotal. Lots of Facebook postings are urging people to spend their stimulus on American-made goods. We’ve certainly experienced the problems with supply chains that are half-way around the world, not only for medical supplies but for all types of components required to make many types of devices that are important to the health and well-being of our country.

Harry Moser, founder and President of the Reshoring Initiative, commented on this to PlasticsToday, noting that “long supply chains are weak supply chains.” Moser’s ideas for coming back stronger after the shutdown include offering his free online Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Estimator to help companies make better sourcing decisions about offshore vs. domestic sourcing.

Moser also offers an Import Substitution Program (ISP) that helps identify major importers of what U.S. manufacturers produce — molds, for example — who can then use the TCO Estimator to convince these potential customers to reshore and source from a U.S. manufacturer. The Supply Chain Gaps Program helps manufacturers identify products with a high rate of imports and no domestic sources, allowing a U.S. manufacturer to become the only U.S. producer.

Since the labor cost savings of manufacturing in China have fallen and the logistics costs have increased due to a container shortage, U.S. manufacturers can now realize an advantage in moving work back to the United States. For more labor-intensive work, Mexico is a good alternative. Many plastics processors have established molding facilities in Mexico through programs such as the former North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which is now the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

While putting manufacturing plants in foreign countries is good for meeting the needs of consumers in that country, the United States should be prepared to meet its needs especially for critical medical and pharmaceutical products.

All of the plastics processors, material suppliers, mold makers and others in the plastics industry who’ve stepped up to help in this time of supply shortages for frontline workers are to be congratulated for their extraordinary level of participation in this emergency. We hope that the medical device OEMs remember this effort when they make their next sourcing decisions.

Plastic really is fantastic — and so are the many people in the plastics industry!


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