The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses in all sectors to adapt, not only procedurally, but also structurally. At the beginning of COVID-19, labor shortages due to sickness and quarantine presented the most prominent hurdle. Two years into the pandemic, the labor shortage is just one of myriad challenges businesses must successfully navigate to survive.
As the global economy struggles to fully recover, supply chain bottlenecks are causing record shortages of many products consumers are used to buying on demand. Although most industries are affected by supply chain issues to some extent, certain sectors are under increased pressure, including the rubber industry.
If you own a company that depends on industrial rubber parts, there’s a good chance you ran into supply chain issues in 2021. RPM Industrial Rubber Parts is here to help you meet those challenges and avoid delays in 2022. Keep reading to learn what’s causing bottlenecks, as well as how to avoid delays in the new year.
Rubber Supply Chain Issues in 2022
Rubber is a hugely important commodity found in more than 40,000 products. Like most critical raw materials, there isn’t an endless, instantly accessible supply of natural rubber. Harvested primarily from one tree, natural rubber takes time to cultivate and harvest. This means that any spike in demand can be problematic.
Throughout the pandemic, rubber manufacturers have been faced with supply disruptions, steel shortages, the unavailability of certain elastomers, chemicals and more. Although numerous economic and pandemic-related factors underlie the global supply chain disruptions, the rubber industry faces a few unique obstacles:
- Lack of production, which is due to quarantine protocols, furloughs and hesitancy to return to work. Unlike jobs in other industries, there is no remote option for harvesting natural rubber or the key ingredients used in synthetic rubbers like EPDM and silicone.
- Increased demand. After a steep decline in 2020, global demand for natural rubber was expected to increase by nearly 7.4% in 2021.
- Raw material prices. Due to geopolitical and pandemic-related factors, as well as increased demand, the price for many rubber materials is on the rise. Additionally, transportation costs have increased dramatically in the pandemic-era, which not only impacts the price of rubber, but also increases rubber delivery time.
- Higher input prices, including prices for raw materials, transportation, labor, etc., force rubber manufacturers to raise their output prices.
Despite significant challenges within the rubber industry, your company can avoid unnecessary delays by being proactive now. The four tips outlined below explain how to maximize your chance for getting the parts you need within your desired time frame.
1. Adjust Your Demand Forecast
Forecasting demand has never been more important. As a long-time business owner, you may already be an expert in anticipating demand for your product. However, times have changed. If you haven’t adjusted your forecast to reflect the latest pandemic-era factors, that’s a problem.
Experts say that rather than changing consumer behavior, the pandemic has merely accelerated existing trends. That means an increase in remote work, online purchasing and teleservices, as well as a preference for home-based activities. In creating your 2022 forecast, it will be important to identify which of your rubber-based products align with these trends.
Even if you don’t have your forecast totally figured out yet, it’s important to start a conversation with us. That way we can get an idea of your volume needs and timeline. It’s not uncommon for rubber parts production to take three times as long as it did prior to the pandemic, so you should plan accordingly.
2. Create a Plan to Fill Future Orders
Many companies rely on just-in-time manufacturing in order to keep minimal inventory. Heading into 2022, that’s unlikely to be a successful strategy, even if you’re ordering standard rubber parts. Creating a plan to fill future orders not only helps you avoid delays, but also protects you from future price fluctuations. Here are some tips for ordering with RPM:
- Even if you don’t have a complete forecast, start a conversation with us NOW.
- Consider placing a blanket order with multiple delivery dates.
- Prioritize safety stock on critical need items.
- Talk with an RPM representative about storing large advance orders.
The rubber experts at RPM realize that placing larger orders presents its own obstacles, including physical storage space. RPM has warehouses in both Ontario, Canada and New York, USA to help minimize delays, as well as to offset the burden of storage. We’re happy to talk with you about storing your rubber parts until you can receive them.
3. Consider Alternative Rubbers
Although supply chain issues impact production for both natural rubber and synthetic rubber (especially EPDM and silicone), not all rubbers are equally affected by lack of production and delays. If your part can be successfully manufactured using a rubber that is less affected by supply chain issues, you may want to explore that option.
Synthetic rubbers are made through gas and oil production, and they are generally easier and more economical to produce than natural rubber. Many are more malleable than natural rubber, and as such, can be used in a variety of applications. Popular alternatives include acrylic, butyl, neoprene, nitrile, isoprene, polysulfide and styrene-butadiene rubbers.
Choosing the right type of rubber to manufacture your part isn’t as easy as choosing whatever’s in stock and affordable. There are several factors to consider, including end-use environment, manufacturability, compression set, tensile properties, chemical compatibility and more. Luckily, our engineers can help you through every step of the selection process.
Not sure which rubber is best for your product? The professional rubber manufacturers at RPM can review your material options according to the technical demands of your product. Give us a call at (888) 842-5668 to discuss details.
4. Reach out to RPM Today
At RPM Industrial Rubber Parts, we know that global supply chain challenges have been hard on businesses, and we’re here to help. The best way to avoid delays is by communicating with us early and often. With an accurate forecast and enough lead time, we’ll likely be able to accommodate your needs.
The engineers at RPM love helping customers take their custom parts from ideas to realities. If you’re ordering custom rubber parts, just remember that they take a little longer than standard parts. Prototypes, design changes and crafting the optimal mold all take time. The best way to avoid delays is to reach out as soon as possible.
Ready to get started? Visit us online to place your order, or give us a call at (888) 842-5668 to discuss any ideas or questions. With a little flexibility and a lot of communication, we’re confident that together we can navigate any supply chain issues that come our way.