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The Impact of Flexible Materials Sourcing on Supply Chain Management

The Impact of Flexible Materials Sourcing on Supply Chain Management

In Brief

Getting from a raw material to a final product is a multifaceted process that is prone to errors, inefficiencies, and delays. In the advanced flexible materials, the supply chain necessary to realize that product will be highly complex and must be monitored closely to ensure that the product arrives at its destination­­­­ on time and in the correct condition. The success of a product launch begins in the early stages of the flexible materails supply chain. Identifying not only the appropriate materials but the origin of those materials is a key early step in bringing a product to market. 

The Importance of Evaluating Supply Chains

It is important to carefully consider and evaluate all steps of a supply chain to avoid problems that waste valuable resources. The beginning of the supply chain involving product conceptualization and flexible material sourcing is especially vital to ensure a smooth and efficient path down the supply chain later. A supply chain often starts with a material sourcing need, in which a product development or R&D team has come up with a concept for a new product and now needs to find the appropriate materials. Material sourcing can be a difficult and time-consuming task for R&D teams as it requires prospecting new suppliers, sampling materials, and extensive testing and validating until the right material is finally found. Any issues or concerns with the sourced materials must be addressed in the initial phase of the supply chain. Otherwise, those issues could easily escalate into larger problems that may jeopardize the entire supply chain and project.


For companies working in the US medical and life science industries, material sourcing can be a challenging task because of the increasing number of strict FDA regulations that must be met. As a result, the material not only needs to conform to all determined physical and chemical characteristics but also meet required standards such as biocompatibility or cytotoxicity. To add another layer of difficulty, international markets will often have their own quality and regulatory standards with varying levels of strictness. It is crucial for someone sourcing a material to keep this is mind as they explore international suppliers for their projects.


Finally, the location of the supplier and its proximity to the next step or steps in the supply chain (i.e. converter, OEM, sterilization facility, distribution center) is pertinent. The greater the distance, the longer the lead time will be for each step of the supply chain. Therefore, if it is possible, it can be beneficial to precisely determine the location of the supplier chosen for the project. For example, if an R&D team was sourcing a film that needed to be coated and sterilized afterward at separate facilities, the proximity of the location of the flexible film manufacturing plant to the coating and sterilization facilities is essential.  Ideally, the R&D team would want to find a film supplier that is relatively close to its coating and sterilization partners to decrease shipping costs and streamline the overall production timeline.

Common Roadblocks when Evaluating Supply Chains

While it is crucial to know the manufacturing locations of the flexible material manufacturers to improve supply chain management, it can often be a complicated process to accurately map out a supplier’s location – especially if they have more than one facility. For example, when sourcing a flexible film, it is possible that a supplier will have multiple manufacturing locations spread across several continents. Thus, even if they have manufacturing facilities close to you, the film grade specified may not be manufactured domestically. Furthermore, it is important to consider the resin supplier from which the film supplier is purchasing the original resin to manufacture their film. Having knowledge of the resin supplier is necessary to ensure an efficient process with no issues downstream in the supply chain. However, it can be a time-consuming task to track down all the relevant information to determine the resin supplier and the film manufacturers’ locations.

Sourcebook Material Sourcing & Evaluating Supply Chains

Understanding the importance of supply chain management, our Sourcebook engineering team has implemented a mapping feature that allows subscribers to better visualize their supplier locations and recently launched a unique feature that allows users to search for materials by location. This new feature gives premium users the ability to filter the materials database depending on which continent they would prefer the material to be manufactured in. For example, if the user is searching for a flexible film, but only wants suppliers located in Europe, this feature gives them the ability to perform that specific search. This tool gives the user transparency and visibility into the material sourcing process and helps them keep track of and control their supply chain early on. It allows them to choose suppliers of specific locations that will help expedite and streamline the subsequent supply chain.


Furthermore, our Sourcebook engineering team not only has experience with sourcing materials such as flexible films used in medical applications like wound care, but also with managing the resulting supply chain after a material has been approved. We have worked with many of our partners to source the correct flexible film or adhesive film with the appropriate quality and biocompatibility standards. Once that product has been approved, we then work with the purchasing department to determine manufacturing dimensions, volumes, pricing, and lead times and then begin our relationship with the supplier.  Once the product has been confirmed for a trial or commercial run, we can initiate and manage the logistics of purchasing the materials.

In Summary

Supply chain management is a complicated yet essential process that involves multiple steps, variables, and obstacles. From a material sourcing perspective, supply chain transparency is particularly important as any issues found early in the sourcing process may be magnified further downstream. Thus, the materials sourced must meet the necessary physical and chemical properties and fit well into the supply chain in terms of location and price. Using Sourcebook, material sourcing professionals have multiple options available to them to help choose and evaluate their material sources to ensure that they will fit smoothly into the supply chain.


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