Onshoring your Medical Injection Molding is the RIGHT thing to do. The economic financial crisis of 2008 gave cause for American Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to take a deeper look into their business models.
They studied alliances with business partners & suppliers, looking for ways to streamline processes, lessen expenses and re-gain profitability for stakeholders.

With uncertainty came the shift of outsourcing medical injection molding and assembly processes to overseas manufacturing companies in an effort to reduce costs, assets and overhead. China, India, Mexico and Brazil were the top four that benefited from this trend. China was the largest recipient despite their reputation for lower quality and dirty, unsafe work environments in their medical injection molding facilities. As a result U.S. manufacturing lost jobs, some plants closed, and angst was felt amongst suppliers that had projects pulled from their factories simply based on cheaper pricing.

It only took OEM’s a few years to figure out that their decisions to follow the trend meant something other than obtaining positive results. Serious issues began to plague their businesses in other ways unforeseen:

Lead Times = the length of time it took from purchase order placement to product receipt ended up being much longer than originally anticipated. Lengthy transportation time by cargo ships and even air transport took its toll – each with its own exhaustive international paperwork and shipping procedures.

Intellectual Property (IP) Issues = everyone knows that patent/copyright infringement & reverse engineering is rampant overseas. Stolen product designs later sold in a medical device market are cause for high concern. Device failure from a product that appears to have been manufactured from a global device maker, but indeed was not, could ruin that company’s reputation and cause millions of dollars in financial damage. As a contract manufacturer, Polymer Conversions Inc. signs non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) as well as confidentiality agreements, before they work with product designs, to exemplify their commitment to the customer’s right to privacy.

Cultural differences, language barriers & lack of technology = unless these overseas suppliers have English speaking employees or the OEM hires a translator to make sure their critical specifications are met for medical injection molding, the supplier has little chance at keeping the business it just pulled from the U.S. manufacturing sector.Medical device manufacturing must have complete document & process/design control, and full understanding of what the customers’ expectations are for their final products and its end users. Any misinterpretation of critical specifications at any point in the manufacturing process, and it could mean costly mistakes that could also impede time-to-market. A lack of robotics, in-house tooling and engineering expertise, as well as a lack of scientific injection molding knowledge, makes for an unattractive long-term partnership. Polymer Conversions, however, thrives in these specialized areas and has a no-risk, comprehensive and fully documented transfer tooling program to keep your products on-track for market entry.

Quick flexibility = for an American-based company to outsource its processes outside of the United States, it must deal with the challenge of slow reaction times to changes in production requirements or tool revision changes during early stage validations. Polymer is incredibly flexible and quick to respond when it comes to a customer’s increased production runs, tooling/part dimensional changes, or emergency pull-in requests. Everything is handled by a highly skilled, cross-functional team so that no detail is left untouched.

Strict Quality Management System (QMS) = some overseas suppliers tout that they use a QMS and follow procedures, but most are found to be quite inadequate once an OEM has visited them to do an in-house audit of their medical injection molding facility. To keep costs low, they cut corners and have poor record retention and document control, which is unacceptable to the medical device industry in the U.S. Any OEM that does not do its due diligence to audit a new foreign supplier (or even a domestic one) and keep vigilant during the entire length of their business together, is risking product quality/safety, a visit from the FDA, a failure in the field, and a ruined reputation.

This just scratches the surface of the extensive list of issues facing OEM’s today. Although China’s economy and medical device quality has seen a bit of an uptick, there are still many issues to be addressed before they can be considered a true solution to bottom-line profitability. Mexico will always be used for low cost labor but their volatile environment, lower quality and lack of ability to keep up with the expertise and technology of the U.S., will still keep them as a less-than optimal selection. Polymer Conversions, Inc. believes Western New York lends itself to an ideal manufacturing corridor. It’s close to the Canadian border, Eastern seaboard, Buffalo/Niagara Int’l. airport, can easily service the entire country, and as of 2014 is 15 minutes away from a new medical innovation center located at the University of Buffalo (UB). There are no tsunamis, hurricanes, typhoons, mudslides, floods, earthquakes, etc. that effect the Orchard Park, NY location. They also have a formal written Disaster Plan should anything out of the ordinary occur.

The OEM’s focus should now be shifted to supplier consolidation, reducing the base to only a select strategic few. Only those manufacturers, like Polymer with true full-service capabilities, the ability to stay technologically advanced, and who are highly committed to the strict standards of the FDA and ISO, will win new business returning to the States.

Polymer Conversions, Inc. is a world-class, full service contract manufacturer that focuses on medical injection molding, tooling, engineering and value-added post-molding services. Their Validated Product & Process Monitoring System linked to every injection molding machine captures real-time SPC & provides accurate & retrievable document control for each batch produced, proving highly repeatable and reproducible throughout the product’s life cycle.