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Elasto Proxy

  • What Are Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE)?

    Doug Sharpe President of Elasto Proxy

    Supply Chain

    Buyers and seal designers want the best of both worlds. Some materials are too hard. Others are too soft. Then there are compounds that seem to have the right combination of properties, but that can’t handle cold temperatures or that cost too much. Material selection can be challenging. So when new compounds hit the market, it helps to have a supply chain partner in your corner.

    The Best of All Worlds

    Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) are a group of rubber-like materials that combine the processing strengths of thermoplastics with the best qualities of thermoset rubbers. As their name suggests, thermoplastics are temperature-sensitive plastics that become soft or even fluid when heated, and then harden when cooled. They can be molded into custom shapes ranging from check valves to coffee cups.

    Thermoset rubbers are elastomers, pliable materials that can resume their normal shape after being stretched, twisted, or distorted. Think of a rubber band and you’re thinking of an elastomeric product. For buyers and product designers who want the best of both worlds – or maybe the best of all worlds – TPEs or thermoplastic rubbers (TPR) may be the right choice.

    TPE vs. Rubber

    TPE has a higher material cost than other rubbers, but is cost-effective for small runs because it cures right away. Since thermoplastic elastomers are also 20% lighter than other types of rubber, TPE shipping costs are lower, too. If “cleaner and greener” is part of your company’s philosophy, you’ll like that scrap TPE is fully recyclable. This novel material has lower extruding temperatures, can produce profiles in any color, and is more elastic. TPE profiles such as window seals and door seals are also easier to install.

    TPE vs. Plastic

    Thermoplastic rubbers also offer advantages over polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a popular plastic that’s often used in place of metals or even wood in construction products. Flexible and pliable, TPE is less likely to break, especially in cold temperatures. In addition to its shape memory and lower thermal conductivity, TPE can be used in expansion joints. According to one supplier, TPE can expand to 800 times it original size within 48 hours.

    Potential Drawbacks

    Is TPE the right choice for every application? Of course not! There are issues with bendability in corners. There are also problems with form-curing TPE profiles, and excessive flash when welding frames.  Because of their higher material costs compared to other rubbers, thermoplastic elastomers might not cost-effective for some high-volume runs.

    So how can you tell if TPE is right for your application? For starters, choose a partner and not a provider. Ask your sealing supplier to listen to all of your requirements and to analyze all of your needs. Remember, too, that Elasto Proxy is here to help.

  • Doing Business in Brazil – Challenges and Opportunities

    Doing Business in Brazil Doing Business in Brazil

    Doug Sharpe

    President of Elasto Proxy

    Are you seeking new markets for your manufactured products? Does your company serve customers in mining, mass transit, or mobile specialty vehicles? Have you considered doing business with Brazil, a Latin American powerhouse that now boasts the world’s sixth largest economy? International trade offers incredible opportunities, but also poses serious challenges – especially for a small business.

    Small Business Insights for Doing Business in Brazil

    Recently, Donna Sharpe and I returned from our second trip to São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city. As co-founders and co-owners of Elasto Proxy, a growing supplier of sealing solutions with offices in Canada, the United States, and China, we’re drawn to Brazil’s boundless energy and incredible talent. Visiting the country a second time afforded us some additional insights we’d like to share with you.

    When Donna and I visited  São Paulo last November, we were part of a trade delegation from Elastomer Valley, a group of Québec-based businesses in search of new economic opportunities. Last month, we returned to São Paulo with SME Passport, another program that provides Québec’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with the keys to unlock international markets.

    Business Opportunities

    During our most recent trip, Donna and I met with several Brazilian businesses that would make ideal partners for our Canadian company. As an experienced custom-fabricator of high-value, low-volume rubber products, Elasto Proxy has the application knowledge and technical expertise to meet the needs of manufacturers of agricultural equipment, mobile specialty vehicles, and mass transit systems.

    Many of the companies we met with are part of well-established international firms with facilities in North America, Europe, and Asia. In seeking strategic relationships, businesses in Brazil want to strengthen their supply chains by finding partners who are more than just product providers. The sales process is different in Brazil, but doing business still means building relationships.

    Like our partners in other parts of the world, the companies we met with were looking for both high-quality rubber products and innovative inventory management. Elasto Proxy could open its own facility in São Paulo, of course, but the Brazilian government offers access to a bonded warehouse where employees pick and pull items from your company’s container for shipments to your customers.

    The Speed of Change

    Brazil is growing and changing, but some things still don’t move quickly enough for the country’s talented and energetic entrepreneurs. For example, because Brazil still has protected markets, the sales process requires lengthy government approvals. Goods are taxed differently in Brazil, and the product classification system is complex, too.

    For foreign companies, there are steep duties on imported goods to consider. Specialty products that can’t be made in Brazil are taxed less, so custom-fabricators like Elasto Proxy may be able to leverage the regulatory structure. The trip that Donna and I took to Brazil was only our second, however, so we want to learn more about doing business in Brazil before making long-term decisions.

    Specialty Seals and Thermal Acoustic Insulation

    Elasto Proxy’s recent trip was an important step in our decision-making process, and a very positive one overall. In addition to strengthening new business relationships, we learned more about the Brazilian market’s demand for specialty seals, thermal acoustic insulation, composite materials, and specialty flooring.

    From engine compartments to tractor cabs,  Brazil needs high-quality rubber products and reliable suppliers who can deliver multiple components. There are opportunities in military vehicles, too, as the South American country is increasing defense spending.

    Donna and I are looking forward our next trip to São Paulo this summer, and welcome your questions – as well as your own insights – about doing business in Brazil. How can we help you?

  • The Sealing Industry Is Changing. Are You Ready?

    Doug Sharpe

    President of Elasto Proxy

    Manufacturing capabilities

    The sealing industry is changing. Is your supply chain strong enough to adjust? Are you ready to benefit from new seal designs, material compounds, and production configurations? Demand for specialty seals has transformed the global marketplace, but how can these changes help your business to source high-value sealing solutions?

    Seal Design and Seal Demand

    Since the 1980s, shipments of seals and gaskets have nearly tripled in the United States alone. The Great Recession tempered demand in the world’s largest economy, but sealing suppliers are finding markets abroad in places like Brazil and China. Meanwhile, manufacturers across North America and Europe are designing industrial products with increasingly complex seal designs and material requirements.

    If you’re an industrial buyer or a product designer, it’s important to understand how these changes in technical design and global demand can affect your business. As Kerry C. Smith of Rubber and Plastic News explains, it’s also important for sealing suppliers to understand that the art of sealing is now part “engineering science”.

    Specialty Rubbers and Material Requirements

    Traditionally, sealing suppliers sold standard rubber products mainly to manufacturers of durable goods. Today, seal designers and custom fabricators are also serving industries ranging from aerospace to oil field exploration. Meanwhile, demand in the automotive industry is also changing, with newer and more stringent requirements such as longer seal life at higher temperatures and near-zero permeation.

    Regular rubber gaskets may be suitable for many low-pressure and low-temperature applications, but synthetic rubbers and thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) are designed for specialized uses. Although specialty rubbers are more expensive, these newer polymers combine characteristics such as strong fuel, oil, and temperature resistance. TPEs have less heat resistance, but are lightweight and durable.

    Production Capabilities and Inventory Management

    For all buyers, regardless of industry, the availability of specialty rubber materials means more options than ever before. Yet changes in buyer demand and compound selection aren’t the only sealing challenges facing technical designers and custom fabricators. In response to increased international competition, sealing suppliers must improve production quality and reduce manufacturing costs.

    Seal fabrication must meet exacting standards and specifications, too. For example, in the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. Force needed specialty rubber gaskets for military aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan. By procuring parts that met all mission requirements and were configured for multiple applications, the Air Force improved its logistics and inventory management, too.

    The Elasto Proxy Example          

    Elasto Proxy works with buyers who want to benefit from new seal designs, material compounds, and production configurations. That’s why our technical services team uses SolidWorks™, a 3D CAD application, to validate technical designs and optimize them for cost and weight. By analyzing the deformation of a rubber profile, for example, we may be able to reduce your material costs.

    Elasto Proxy’s custom fabrication capabilities include water jet cutting, splicing, taping, die cutting, cold bonding, vulcanizing, and molding. With support from our machinery, many of the small-to-medium quantities that we produce are hand-crafted at our world headquarters in Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada. To learn more about Elasto Proxy and how we can help, please contact us today.

  • How to Read ASTM D2000 Specifications

    Doug Sharpe

    President of Elasto Proxy

    ASTMASTM D2000 is a published specification that provides buyers and suppliers with a standard way to describe rubber. Designed for automotive applications, this classification system is also used by other industries because it’s clear, concise, and highly descriptive.

    As I explained in my last blog entry, buyers will benefit by understanding ASTM D 2000 because this specification provides a “common language” for communicating with sealing suppliers. So let’s begin a lesson in the language of rubber and learn how to speak ASTM D 2000.

    Call Outs

    ASTM D 2000 uses letters and numbers to describe or “call out” the properties of vulcanized rubber. Type and Class are the most important call outs to consider.  In the language of rubber, think of Types and Classes as nouns and verbs – the building blocks of sentences. There are also other callouts that, like adjectives and verbs, help with descriptions.

    Here’s a complete “sentence” in ASTM D2000. We’ll use it as an example throughout.

    ASTM D 2000-3 M2BG714B14EA14EF11EF31 EO14 EO34 F17

    Yes, this dialect in the language of rubber looks complicated. But let’s crack the code one step at a time by examining its components:

    • Standards
    • Year Last Revised
    • Units of Measure
    • Grade
    • Durometer Hardness and Tensile Strength
    • Suffixes

    Standard

    The first few letters and numbers (ASTM D 2000) simply indicate the standard.

    ASTM D 2000-3 M2BG714B14EA14EF11EF31 EO14 EO34 F17

    Year Last Revised

    The -3 after the 2000 indicates the year (2003) in which the standard was last revised.

    ASTM D 2000-3 M2BG714B14EA14EF11EF31 EO14 EO34 F17

    Units of Measure

    The M after the -3 indicates that all units of measure are metric. So, when you’re reading about temperatures, think Centigrade instead of Fahrenheit. If the M is missing, then English units are used.

    ASTM D 2000-3 M2BG714B14EA14EF11EF31 EO14 EO34 F17

    Grade

    In our example, the 2 after the -3 is the grade of the rubber. Typically, grade numbers are only given when the basic requirement (Grade 1) doesn’t sufficiently describe the material’s properties.

    ASTM D 2000-3 M2BG714B14EA14EF11EF31 EO14 EO34 F17

    Type

    Type describes a rubber’s temperature resistance - and is so important in our sample ASTM D 2000 “sentence” that Type is like a noun! Look for the type (B) after the grade (2).

     ASTM D 2000-3 M2BG714B14EA14EF11EF31 EO14 EO34 F17

    With types, a rubber material must meet the following requirements after 70 hours of heat aging at a specified temperature.

    • Change in tensile strength: ±30%
    • Change in hardness:  -50% max.
    • Change in hardness ±15 points

    So what are these specified temperatures? That’s what the table below explains.

    Table 1 - Types

    ASTM D 2000 assigns a letter to each test temperature. Again, our example uses Type B.

    Type Test Temp (°C)
    A 70
    B 100
    C 125
    D 150
    E 175
    F 200
    G 225
    H 250
    J 275
    K 300

    Class

    Class describes a rubber’s resistance to swelling in oil after 70 hours at the temperatures listed in Table 1, but only up to 150° C. In case you’re wondering, that’s the maximum temperature stability of the test oil (IRM No. 903) used in ASTM D 2000.

    In the language of rubber, class is so important that it’s like a verb. By putting a noun (type) and verb (class) together, we form a basic sentence in ASTM D 2000. As with most English sentences, too, our verb (G) follows the noun (B).

    ASTM D 2000-3 M2BG714B14EA14EF11EF31 EO14 EO34 F17

    Table 2 - Classes

    ASTM D 2000 then assigns lettered classes to each maximum allowable volume swell by percentage (%). Again, our example uses Class G.

    Type Max. Swell (%)
    A No requirement
    B 140
    C 120
    D 100
    E 80
    F 60
    G 40
    H 30
    J 20
    K 10

     

    Durometer Hardness and Tensile Strength

    ASTM D 2000 defines durometer hardness and tensile strength with a three-digit number.

    ASTM D 2000-3 M2BG714B14EA14EF11EF31 EO14 EO34 F17

    In our example of 714, the 7 denotes a material with a durometer hardness of 70 ± 5 A. The 14 indicates that the tensile strength must be at least 14 MPa, or 2032 psi.

    Suffixes

    As we’ve learned, the language of rubber contains the equivalent of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and other parts of speech. There are suffixes, too – literally. These combinations of letters and numbers can be quite long, depending on your requirements. As you can see, our example is half suffix!

    ASTM D 2000-3 M2BG714B14EA14EF11EF31 EO14 EO34 F17

    Table 3 – Suffix Letters

    ASTM D 2000 assigns a letter to each suffix elements.

    Suffix Required Test
    A Heat Resistance
    B Compression Set
    C Ozone or Weather Resistance
    D Compression-Deflection Resistance
    EA Water Resistance
    EF Fuel Resistance
    EO Oil and Lubricant Resistance
    F Low Temperature Resistance
    G Tear Resistance
    H Flex Resistance
    J Abrasion Resistance
    K Adhesion
    M Flammability Resistance
    N Impact Resistance
    P Staining Resistance
    R Resilience
    Z Other (User-Defined)

    Language can be colorful, of course, and the language of rubber is no exception. Remember, however, to always assume that the color of rubber is black except for FC, FE, FK, and GE. If you need a different color rubber material, then consider that a color change may also change the material’s physical properties. When in doubt, check with your supplier!

    Table 4 – Suffix Numbers

    In addition to letters, suffixes contain numbers.

    • The first number specifies the duration of the test and the test method.
    • The second number indicates the testing temperature.

    Understanding all of the suffix numbers in ASTM D 2000 is a tall order and means purchasing the specification. If you do buy the entire standard from ASTM International, then refer to Tables 4 and 5 for details. Remember, too, that there are restrictions on how much of ASTM D 2000 you can share.

    Class Dismissed!

    I hope you’ve enjoyed this lesson in the language of rubber and now understand how to read ASTM D 2000 specifications. If you have questions, need clarifications, or are still wondering if a rubber material is right for your application, please contact Elasto Proxy. How can we help you?

  • Best Practices for Specifying Rubber Materials

    Rubber Profiles Elasto Proxy

    Doug Sharpe President of Elasto Proxy

    Why is it important to ask for more than just a “neoprene or EPDM 60 duro seal” when ordering sealing products? If you don’t specify physical properties or consider ASTM standards, a supplier may deliver a seal that has the the wrong characteristics. All materials aren’t the same, and many different types of rubber compounds are available. So where can you find the expert advice you need to select the right rubber material?

    Watch Elasto Proxy on YouTube

    Elasto Proxy’s new YouTube video, Best Practices for Specifying Rubber Materials, provides answers to important questions about material selection. If you don’t know where to start, or even which questions to ask, then this instructional video is for you. “Best Practices for Specifying Rubber Materials” can also help if you’ve ordered rubber materials before, but want to be sure you’re asking all the right questions.

    At just 2:39 minutes long, this new YouTube video is co-hosted by Megan Beaulieu, Elasto Proxy’s Executive Assistant, and me. “Best Practices for Specifying Rubber Materials” is the first of several instructional videos that Elasto Proxy will feature on our YouTube channel, so Megan and I start with the basics.

    After describing some problems caused by ordering just a “neoprene or EPDM seal,” we outline the ASTM classification system and discuss how rubber compounds vary in terms of hardness and flexibility. If you need a neoprene or EPDM seal, then you need to know about the ASTM D2000 and ASTM D1056 standards.

    Rubber Seals and ASTM Standards

    ASTM International is an organization that provides standard ways to describe or call-out rubber materials based on physical properties. ASTM designations are based primarily on Type (heat resistance) and Class (oil resistance), but include additional values that describe a compound’s other characteristics.

    ASTM D2000 describes the properties of vulcanized rubber materials such as natural and reclaimed rubber. Although this ASTM standard is entitled “Standard Classification System for Rubber Products in Automotive Applications,” other industries can and do use it for non-automotive applications.

    ASTM D1056 covers flexible cellular rubber products known as sponge rubber and expanded rubber. As ASTM International’s “Standard Specification for Cellular Materials,” it defines cellular rubber by Type, Class, and Grade.

    How Can We Help You?

    Watching “Best Practices for Specifying Rubber Materials” is a great way to get started, but we appreciate that you may have questions of your own, too. By listening to all of your requirements and understanding all of our needs, Elasto Proxy can recommend the right sealing solution for your specific application. To learn how our solutions providers can help, contact us today.

  • Seal Selection and Thermal Expansion

    Thermal Expansion Thermal Expansion

    Doug Sharpe President of Elasto Proxy

    In my last blog entry, I recommended grabbing a cup of coffee before diving into this week’s discussion about the coefficient of thermal expansion. Yes, the caffeine will help if you prefer explanations over calculations. But our topic this week is less about math and more about the physical properties of elastomers. Let me explain.

    To choose the right compound for your sealing application, you need to know how that material will perform at specific temperatures. Physical properties such as modulus of elasticity are important, too, but let’s stick to temperature while you’ve got last week’s blog entry in mind and a hot cup of coffee in hand.

    Elastomers and Changes in Temperature

    All elastomers have a coefficient of thermal expansion. Simply put, this value describes how the material changes in length, area, or volume with changes in temperature. In the case of rubber door and window seals, linear expansion is important because it helps to predict how a change in temperature will literally lengthen or shorten the seal.

    Let’s consider two examples, both involving a rubber door seal and a metal door frame. At high temperatures, the rubber seal expands more than the metal frame. At low temperatures, the seal contracts more than the surrounding metal material. So what happens if you choose the wrong rubber? The door may not shut if it’s hot, or may admit wind and weather if it’s cold.

    Now think back to last week’s blog entry, in which we learned about tractor trailers that make northbound runs from Miami to Montreal. For drivers and vehicles alike, the temperature changes can be extreme – especially during winter. If a rubber door seal is made of a compound that can’t handle these changes, the seal may fail and jeopardize the load.

    Temperature Range and Temperature Change

    Seal performance isn’t just about temperature range then. To select the right compound, you must also consider temperature change – how the rubber reacts when the temperature rises and falls.

    Take a look at the chart below. The data required some conversions – and some may quibble with the math – but our takeaway here is simpler than the calculations. As you can see by looking at the right-hand column, all rubber is not the same when it comes to temperature changes!

    Thermal Expansion

    Material Thermal Stability X10-6mm/°C
    EPDM 150° C 160
    NBR 120° C 230
    SBR Ambient 220
    Silicone Ambient 2.5
    Urethane 100° - 150° 180
    Neoprene 130 - 150
    Teflon 230 50 - 80

    Table 1: Some Common Elastomers and Their Coefficients of Thermal Expansion

    For more information, including the coefficient of thermal expansion calculation itself, please visit the National Physical Laboratory. Another good on-line technical resource is Rubber as an Engineering Material: Guidelines for Users.

    Feeling Stressed Out?

    Don’t spill your coffee, but the relationship between elongation and temperature isn’t always so straightforward. For starters, elastomer elongation increases over a specific temperature range and then decreases at still higher temperatures.

    Then there’s something called the Joule effect, which occurs only when an elastomer is under tensile stress. The easiest way to explain this is to imagine a rubber band suspending your coffee cup. If you warm the elongated rubber band with an infrared lamp (your desk lamp, perhaps), the rubber band doesn’t expand. In fact, it retracts to support the load.

    Choose a Partner – Not Just a Provider

    Experimenting with rubber bands and coffee cups makes for a fun science project (and perhaps a coffee-stained desk), but our job at Elasto Proxy is to help you choose the right sealing solution for your specific application. By analyzing all of your application requirements and listening to all of your needs, we can offer answers to your sealing questions – and not just explanations of coefficients and calculations.

    For over 25 years, Elasto Proxy has provided sealing solutions to partners in a variety of industries. How can we help you? Please comment below, or contact us at our website today.

  • Seal Selection and Service Temperatures

    Service Temperatures Service Temperatures

    Doug Sharpe President of Elasto Proxy

    Did you have a cup of coffee this morning? How about a glass of orange juice. If you enjoyed either of these beverages, thank a trucker. Each day, the commercial trucking industry moves billions of dollars’ worth of commodities between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. For long-haul truckers who drive from places like Miami, Florida to Montreal, Canada, the trip lasts days and involves extreme changes in temperature – especially during the winter months.

    For driver and vehicle alike, temperature changes can be challenging. Tractor trailers contain plenty of rubber and plastic parts – not just the tires. If a door or window seal is made of a compound that can’t handle hot or cold temperatures, the seal may fail.  Farmers, road crews, and construction workers face this problem, too, even though their vehicles travel much shorter distances. Outdoor temperatures can rise and fall rapidly, so makers of mobile specialty vehicles also need dependable sealing solutions.

    Service Temperature of Elastomers

    Rubber softens at high temperatures and becomes hard as a hockey puck at low temperatures. Many different elastomers are available, so how do you choose the right rubber for your sealing application?

    With outdoor products such as door and window seals, you need to consider the service temperature for starters. This chart from our website lists temperature range for various types of rubber.

    Material Compound Minimum Temperature Maximum Temperature
    SBR -85° F +158° F
    Natural Rubber -85° F +158° F
    EPDM -80° F +300° F
    Neoprene -65° F +225° F
    Nitrile -55° F +275° F
    Urethane -70° F +250° F
    Silicone -180° F +525° F
    Viton -40° F +500° F

    Service temperature isn’t the only factor to consider, of course, but let’s start with the basics.

    Rubber Seals at Low and High Temperatures

    At low temperatures, elastomers do more than harden. They become less flexible. If they reach their brittle point, they may even crack. That’s what happened to the rubber O-rings on the Space Shuttle Challenger in a 1986 tragedy that claimed the lives of seven astronauts. NASA officials believed the seals were suitable for cold weather, but the O-rings were unable to withstand sub-freezing temperatures.

    The weather at Cape Canaveral, Florida was unusual on that day, more like Montreal than Miami. But high temperatures can also cause seals to fail.  When the temperature of an elastomer approaches its upper service limit, the rubber may undergo chemical changes that are irreversible.

    With each 10° C (18 °F) increase in temperature, the rate of some chemical reactions doubles. Again, consider the case of a trucker who is northbound bound from Miami to Montreal in the middle of a (typical) winter. If extreme cold will reduce the life of a door seal that’s helping to protect a valuable shipment, isn’t the cost of a compound with a wider temperature range a sound investment?

    Elastomer Performance and Predictability

    Even if a seal doesn’t fail, elastomer performance becomes less predictable when rubber reaches the limits of its service temperature range. So does that mean that we can predict how a compound will expand, contract, and recover with changes in temperature? Yes, but this is why there’s more than just temperature range alone to consider. Each material handles these changes differently.

    In my next blog entry, I’ll discuss a concept called the coefficient of linear thermal expansion. So drink your orange juice – and grab a cup of coffee – before trucking over next week. In the meantime, do you have any questions about seal selection and service temperature? Please let me know by commenting below, or connect with me on LinkedIn.

  • One-Stop Sourcing Means More Than Supply Chain Strengths

    Clyde Sharpe President of International Sales, Elasto Proxy

    Supply Chain Strengths Supply Chain Strengths

    Does your company have too many suppliers? How well do you understand the capabilities of each of your vendors? These questions seem separate, but they’re interrelated. Your answers can benefit your own buyers and managers, as well as the suppliers who serve them.

    Traditionally, manufacturers divided purchases among many different vendors. Buyers focused on supplier prices, but without understanding the internal costs of maintaining a large vendor base. Tracking a multitude of purchase orders, invoices, and deliveries wasn’t the only challenge, however. Quality and reliability suffered if buyers didn’t fully understand what suppliers could and couldn’t do.

    When buyers reduce their supply base, they strengthen their supply chain. At the same time, suppliers who offer one-stop sourcing can also increase business. This is good for them – and good for you, too.

    Reducing the Vendor Base

    Reducing the vendor base is a principle of lean manufacturing, a set of production practices that seeks to eliminate waste and deliver quality products on-time, at the lowest production costs, and according to customer needs. Companies that apply lean principles to their purchasing practices buy from fewer and more dependable suppliers, developing partnerships and building trust.

    Lean buyers take the time to fully understand each supplier’s capabilities. Lean managers understand that “value” means more than low prices, and seek suppliers who can help improve quality, enhance functionality, and reduce costs.  So how lean is your company’s procurement process?

    Strengthen the Supply Chain

    Businesses that reduce their vendor base strengthen their supply chain, as a case study of one our specialty vehicle customers proves. When Volvo of Ontario asked Elasto Proxy what more we could do for them, my colleague John Rye described our technical design and custom fabrication capabilities.

    Volvo’s Ontario division reduced its vendor base repeatedly, but Elasto Proxy made each cut and even landed larger contracts. The specialty vehicle manufacturer has moved these operations to the United States, but Elasto Proxy continues to provide high-quality rubber and plastic parts on-time and according to specification.

    Increase Business

    Like many multinational corporations, Volvo maintains production facilities beyond just Europe and North America. So when Volvo of Brazil needed a supplier that could strengthen their supply chain, they approached Elasto Proxy because of our work for Volvo in Canada and the U.S. As Elasto Proxy seeks new partners in international markets, we’re proud to showcase Volvo of Brazil as an example of how we’re meeting sealing challenges in South America.

    One-stop sourcing means more than just supply chain strength. By helping Volvo of Brazil to reduce its vendor base, Elasto Proxy is learning lessons that can benefit other partners in the many industries we serve. Does your company have too many suppliers? Do you fully understand the capabilities of each of your vendors? Our advice is to choose a partner – not just a provider. How may we help you?

  • How to Manage Price Fluctuations for Raw Materials

    Price Fluctuations and the Supply Chain Price Fluctuations and the Supply Chain

    Paulo Arruda Purchasing and Logistics, Elasto Proxy

    How well do you handle risk? For businesses that source raw materials internationally, risk management is a key to supply chain strength. By identifying all of their risks and applying resources efficiently, global companies can minimize the probability and impact of price fluctuations for raw materials.

    Too many buyers are lured by low unit prices that skyrocket when global prices rise sharply. You can control your agreements with vendors, but your business cannot control the weather, political unrest, strikes, and transportation issues in a supplier’s country. So what should buyers and managers do?

    The answer is to build partnerships, understand demand, and buy the right amounts.

    Building Partnerships

    Here at Elasto Proxy’s headquarters in Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada, it’s my job to manage and optimize our material procurement, logistics, and inventory strategies. Before we partner with a vendor, we visit the company’s facilities and evaluate their business operations. Our supply chain strength benefits our customers, for whom we custom-fabricate rubber and plastic components such seals and gaskets.

    Price is important, but it’s not the only factor that Elasto Proxy considers. Innovation, quality, honesty, and dependability are values that our company looks for and expects partners to share. For the suppliers that we select, regular on-site visits help us to identify risks and strengthen business relationships.

    Understanding Demand

    As a custom fabricator of high-value, low-volume rubber and plastic parts, Elasto Proxy needs few long-term contracts. Rubber prices fluctuate throughout the year, so we manage most vendor agreements on a monthly or quarterly basis, depending on the material compound. There is more price variability with synthetic rubber than silicones, and our agreements reflect this.

    During the agreed-upon period, prices are fixed. Some vendors can hold their prices for longer than others, but the global chemical market varies. Industrial usage such as seals, belts, and hoses accounts for only 20% to 25% of worldwide rubber demand. Because the tire industry consumes most of the rest of the world’s rubber, an increased demand for automobiles drives up raw material prices in our own market.

    Buying the Right Amounts

    Strengthening your supply chain involves building partnerships, understanding demand, and knowing how much to buy. Here at Elasto Proxy, our supply chain is strong enough that we can purchase just enough materials to maintain our service-level agreements with customers. By analyzing customer sales forecasts and annual estimated usage, we minimize risks such buying too much or too little material.

    Logistics provides value to your company’s customers. By building partnerships, understanding demand, and buying the right amounts, buyers and managers can strengthen their supply chain to account for price fluctuations in raw materials.

  • Hockey Isn’t Just for the Hard-Headed

    Hockey and Rubber Hockey and Rubber

    Clyde Sharpe President of International Sales, Elasto Proxy

    Yes, I was wrong. But I should have been right! In my last blog entry, I predicted that there wouldn’t be an NHL season this year.  Last December, the negotiations between owners and players were as hard as a hockey puck on a cold winter’s day. Then a January thaw occurred. A deal was struck and teams took to the indoor ice for training camp. A week later and without any preseason games, the league launched a strike-shortened 48-game regular season. That’s 34 games less than in normal years and there won’t be any inter-conference play until the Stanley Cup Finals.

    Here at Elasto Proxy headquarters in Quebec, Canada, I’m surrounded by fans of the Habs – the Montreal Canadiens. So unless the Habs host my favorite team, the Calgary Flames, in the Finals, I won’t have a chance to watch Alex Tanguay and company at the nearby Bell Centre. Yet John Rye, Elasto Proxy’s resident Toronto Maple Leafs fan, will have a chance to face-off against Megan Beaulieu and much of our production team when the Canadiens host the Leafs on February 9th. Still, it’s not the lack of inter-conference play that bothers me – and why my NHL prediction should have been right.

    Hazards of a Shortened Hockey Season

    As the hockey analyst Pierre McGuire explains, players need about 10 games to get into the rhythm of the season. If McGuire is correct (and I think that he is), that’s nearly 20% of this strike-shortened year. The abbreviated season also favors teams whose lineups haven’t changed much since the Los Angeles Kings hoisted the Cup last June. If chemistry counts, then teams like Philadelphia, Montreal, Toronto, the New York Rangers, and even Calgary will need to incorporate new players quickly. Gone is the pace of a full-length season, too, when many good teams slump in the middle yet finish strong in the end.

    This year, hockey teams that get off to a slow start are at a disadvantage – and NHL players could be at risk, too. Although many skaters kept themselves in good condition, the strike did not prepare them for a regular season where every game counts and contests have a playoff-like intensity. Some hockey gear is made with shock-absorbing materials and gels that help reduce the risk of injury, but is this protective equipment really up to the task? Concussions aren’t just a problem in hockey, of course, as football fans in the U.S. will tell you.

    Hockey Equipment and Player Protection

    Except for the ones worn by goalies, most hockey headgear isn’t as eye-catching as the football helmets worn in the NFL (or even the CFL). In terms of preventing head injuries, however, what matters most is what’s inside. Most hockey helmets are made of a lightweight plastic, typically a polycarbonate material, and feature a one-piece or two-piece design. Underneath this hard plastic shell is a liner to help absorb impact and, in some products, a second liner for comfort. Because of our water jet cutting capabilities, Elasto Proxy has experience with custom-fabricating the EVA foam that’s used in helmet inserts.

    Hockey protective equipment also includes rubber and plastic components such as mouth guards, ear protectors, and pads.  Mouth guards come pre-formed and then mold to the mouth during use, or can be softened by heating and then molded by biting down on them. Ear protectors, another type of safety equipment, can be inserted into player helmets for extra comfort and protection. The hard plastic elbow pads that some skaters like provide protection, but can cause serious injury to opponents.

    What Do You Think?

    The NHL is back and the 2013 season is in full-swing. There have been some good games, a few fights, and at least one charging penalty that’s resulted in a one-game suspension. But should the NHL have had a season at all? And how well will hockey equipment help to protect players during the short, intense season?

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