Can't Spare A Square? A Supply Chain Issue

Can’t Spare a Square

(2013 Seinfeld Episode)

Back in 2014, Tom Peters profoundly stated “But when you go to war, you need to have both toilet paper and bullets, at the right place at the right time” – little did he realize how apropos that statement would be during the 2020 pandemic (gun and toilet paper sales at a record). Certainly, as we look back in history, maybe 10-15 years from today, we will get a good laugh regarding our propensity to hoard paper products. But just like that Seinfeld episode, there are certain supply chain logistical issues that simply can’t be ignored or overlooked.

Just this week, in a more serious vein Marshall Mohr, Intuitive Surgical’s CFO stated, “The environment as it relates to supply chain has deteriorated, gotten more difficult over time”. Also, Robert Funck, CFO of Abbott reiterated “The global supply chains have not been able to keep up with the strong demand out there.” If our premier medical device manufacturing base is struggling with existing circumstances it is incumbent of us all to take a step back and survey our strategies and look for ways to reinforce our logistic and supply chain efforts.

Black Swan events happen, but what about the constant more normative stresses placed upon your existing supply chain? As businesses around the world have embraced world trade, with the associated emphasis on lean sourcing strategies, the risk of being impacted by even more typical changes in consumer behavior, such as an unexpected uptick in demand. Interconnectivity has its efficiencies but when unexpected and sometimes innocuous events happen, suddenly we can find ourselves with production lines slowing or stopped for lack of components – forced to cancel medical procedures or push past due orders to the point of no return.

If your supply chain zig-zags halfway around the world, is it even possible to get to your existing supplier(s) location to make on-site appraisals or aid in relieving any embedded constraint? Does your supply chain provider have the engineering prowess and ingenuity to be able to adapt, create or offer technologically suitable substitutes to keep you up and running? Mitigating risk requires a well-thought-out strategy based on aligning solutions that can be advanced and articulated before being shut down or faced with a crisis in your supply of materials. At APP we speak to the world of MIM, however, most of these aspects are universally true.

Are you partnering with MIM technology experts?

Who wrote the book on MIM*…we did! One sure way to lower overall risk, while simultaneously improving value, is to partner with someone who understands MIM. At APP our foundation is built upon a proven record of technology and sound engineering disciplines which is what we call “Realization Thru Innovation™.” From start to finish we cover every application with the expertise that assures not only a precision MIM part but making sure the process is always repeatable making perfect parts every time.

Our actions do speak louder than words as we have been credited as being the fastest-growing MIM company in America*. We live by our slogan which is Metallurgy Reimagined™ – bringing high tech and the latest processing methodologies to our clients. We have customer testimonials to support our claim of being the world’s leading authority on MIM. Why not see if you can challenge us with a vexing MIM problem or technical application.


Does your MIM part require a passport? What is the risk of an offshore supplier?

Join the Army and see the world might be a great enlistment tool for the arm services but not so much if your MIM part is traveling halfway around the world to your doorstep. World trade is a great thing, but it also comes with inherent and unnecessary risks. If you are a US-based MIM consumer you can rest assured knowing that starting with our raw materials and flowing through to our production equipment – it is all domestic.

Traveling the world is fantastic, as well as exciting, but everything from a shortage of shipping containers to unanticipated political upheaval or even bad weather can impact the precise availability of critical components – do we even need to mention the pandemic again. Reducing your supply chain risk can be your new reality by partnering with APP.


Does your MIM partner have raw material and feedstock flexibility?

A real advantage, to any component provider, is the ability to have flexibility with respect to feedstocks and raw materials. Being a technology leader in both processing and raw material supply facilitates options and having options always lowers risk. In simplistic terms – we own our processes. At APP we do not simply use off-the-shelf alloys - we engineer, design, and compound them in the same facility that produces your parts. If something in the raw material supply chain becomes problematic, we can shift constituents to keep the process up and running not being dependent upon any prepackaged ingredient – while still maintaining constituent regulatory specifications.

This ability is often overlooked when evaluating new suppliers – the proverbial “what’s behind the curtain” is critical. At APP we have our own blenders and extruders compounding the most robust supply chain in the world of MIM – not just a warehouse filled with materials provided by some third party. Being able to say “We have alternative suppliers.” is not adequate living in a world where complex supply chain logistics exist. Real risk mitigation means being able to functionally transition within the context of fully understanding the ramifications of such substitutionary elements. Not fully evaluating real risk, in a world of potential substitutionary options, just might surface later from a forced product recall which creates the genesis for liability issues.


Does your MIM partner have a proven scientific qualification process?

Because we wrote The Book on MIM* (literally) it only makes sense that everything we do is built around a solid and proven scientific qualification process. Assuming that the part is a good candidate for MIM the typical approach immediately shifts to – does it fit our existing equipment, historical expertise, or similar processing constraints. At APP we incorporate a holistic scientific approach which is engineering in orientation and focused on the ultimate design characteristics required.

We have a proven process model that provides a detailed analysis of not just the finished part but incorporates a strenuous understanding of how the part needs to function in your total and complete product envelope. Each processing step is analyzed to ensure the highest performance criteria are not simply met but exceeded. Sometimes this takes additional time but, in the end, it always yields the highest quality and the best value. The scientific qualification process is predicated upon the adage – take the time and do it right the first time.


Does your MIM partner have a proven in-process inspection control?

Ok, everyone talks about quality. Simply existing and surviving in today’s competitive world requires some competency in executing quality – especially in the context of process control. MIM is somewhat unique in that the ingredients going into the process flow impact the quality and performance of any finished part. Those MIM providers that “own their processes” have an inherent edge in providing risk and defect-free components.

The world’s great chefs rise about the rest because they exercise care and control over their ingredients. The analogy proves apropos when thinking in terms of MIM suppliers. Does your existing MIM provider use prepackaged alloy compounds and formulas or do they control the entire process flow? Molding, de-binding, and secondary fabrication all happen at any MIM provider but not so much when it comes to feedstock density auditing or formulation process controls. Intimacy with the entire MIM process flow requires a state-of-the-art inspection system – which coincidentally we developed on our own. We even dictate how our autoclave furnaces are designed and built because our process controls demand it – nothing is left to chance.

We wrote The Book on MIM* which includes a chapter on process control both in situ and post-molding. Such things as understanding and monitoring cavity pressure and de-binding weight loss analysis are terms we understand because we engineer those elements in, right from the beginning. It is a natural outgrowth of our scientific qualification process.

Elaine wouldn’t spare a square and neither should you if you’re a MIM component consumer. By the way, we also serve the Defense Industry but not the bullets – Give APP a call today!