Reducing Cost and Waste When Purchasing Composites

Pre-kitted materials save time, storage space and salaries

By Pacific Coast Composites and Lightweighting World Staff

Ordering more material than you need for your production? Is your material expiring before you can use it? Does your material reach its maximum out time before you have completed the processing? Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), sub-contractors and repair centers plan their inventory based on the manufacturer lead times, logistics and shelf life to meet their production schedule. They want to reduce the cost associated with waste, in turn reducing their cost of business.

There are many things to consider when buying time- and temperature-sensitive goods. Typically, OEMs or sub-contractors will purchase materials directly from a material manufacturers for large volumes and repair centers. The smaller users will usually purchase from a distributor for small volumes.

If your production calls for 500 yards of an item every three months for one year, within that one year, you would consume a total of 2,000 yards. The manufacturing lead time for what you are purchasing is also three months. You will need to submit a purchase order three months prior to start of production.    The plan is for 2,000 yards to last you the entire year based on your production schedule. Now, when material is received, it is brought to your attention that the material ordered only has a six-month shelf life. This means that half your inventory will expire before it gets used. It will go to waste and need to be disposed of properly. The material should only be purchased twice. One thousand yards should be purchased three months prior to the start of production and the other 1,000 yards three months into production for the order to arrive on time.

You also want to confirm that adequate storage space is available. So often customers say they just don’t have the freezer space. It’s easy to assume that 50 rolls should fit into a particular space, but the reality is that the shipment could be on 10 pallets, each measuring 5 feet wide by 5 feet tall depending on the material and the supplier.

Wide Range of Delivery Times

Different manufacturers all have different lead times for specific items, with specific specifications. With some having a 30- day lead time and others having a year, depending on the material in question. These advanced composite materials are made to order due to the time/temperature and shelf-life requirements.

Another major factor is the minimum order quantities (MOQ) associated with the manufacturing process of most materials. Some manufacturers will have a 50-yard MOQ, while others a 500-yard MOQ, again depending on the MFG and the material in question.

Although the manufacturers’ MOQ does not typically change, their lead times do. They need to adjust to the growth in the composite industry, and we all know that when dealing with the production of any product, we sometimes have the unforeseen happen, such as equipment failure, raw material shortages or complex process failures.

Adjust for Scrap Rate

There might be situations in large manufacturing operations where you have to scrap a few parts due to manufacturing defects or any unexpected events. It is always a good measure to account for a 15-percent scrap rate when purchasing in large volumes. This will ensure that you do not run out of material during production. However, if you do not account for a 15-percent scrap rate or you scrapped more parts than anticipated, there is always the option of purchasing from a distributor. A distributor will typically have the material that you need in stock and ready to ship. Instead of purchasing another large volume from the manufacturer, you may be able to purchase 150 yards from a distributor and receive it the next day. You may pay more from a distributor, but you won’t have as long a lead time as compared to purchasing directly from the manufacturer.

Composite materials are most commonly supplied in a roll. Most material rolls measure anywhere from 20 to 60 inches in width and 25 to 125 yards in length.

More times than not, the materials must be thawed first to room temperature to verify that there is no evidence of moisture in the bag prior to exposing the material to the ambient temperature and the environment in which the fabrication will take place. The thaw time of a full roll of material can take up to eight hours, but it is essential to minimize any moisture ingestion prior to its application.

Cutting Shapes

Next, the material must be cut into specific shapes before it can be placed on the tool for the fabrication process. Cutting the material into the required shape is usually done one of two ways:

  • Physically—Shaping the material with scissors or a utility knife can be extremely labor intensive with possible negative impact to the mechanic’s health from long-term exposure to the daily repetitive process—not to mention the amount of wasted material from not getting the best yield with the number of plies and the orientation in which they are being cut.
  • Mechanically—Mechanically cutting the material is usually done using a computer-controlled cutting table that has been designed to use every bit of material possible for the best yield. The cutting machine can cut several layers of material at the same time with precision. Many ply-cutting machines on the market today will also label the individual plies with part or serial numbers if required for tracking purposes and future identification.

The value of purchasing your composites pre-kitted is becoming more evident with the rising cost of labor and the increase of production demands. Getting the material kitted to your specifications means that you can receive the product into your facility and put it to use in your application or processes immediately.

Kitting Promotes Efficiency, Minimizes Waste

Kitting your material for your specific application saves you valuable thaw time and many hours rolling out the material to cut the patterns for the job at hand. Not to mention the waste associated with the scrap material that is created when the user is unable to get the best yield from the amount of product purchased. Depending on how you use the products and the quality in which you use them, Pacific Coast Composites can support you with recommendations that will increase your production and reduce your cost of business.

When kitting composites into specific shapes or widths, it is best that the purchaser looks at bundling materials within the kits or the shipping package. This, too, will reduce operating and shipping expenses. Not to mention the duplication of dry ice and temperature recorders.

In addition to kitting and special packaging requirements, there is a wide range of customized material-slitting services.

Why should you order and receive material that is not in line with your application? A 36-inch wide by 50-yard long roll of material can be turned into 6-inch wide rolls. This reduces your labor cost, thaw time and the amount of out-time for the entire roll of material. This will allow the user to consume the material that is needed as it is needed and not before.

All slitted material should be labeled and packaged to meet the manufacturer’s specification and stringent compliancy requirements.

After all, some purchasers may need to buy direct from the manufacturers and some may need to buy from distributors. But to reduce waste when purchasing composites, you should consider everything previously mentioned.

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