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Material Selection - Get the Right Advice

25 Nov 2013 | Posted by Andrew Onions

Increasingly we are facing the challenge of working with customers to resolve application problems after they have manufactured and delivered product to their client invariably this is not a result of a supply failure but a lack of applicable information coming down the supply chain, or the correct questions being asked, to enable the selection of the correct material in the first instance.

The prerequisite to ask the right questions prior to quoting for a job can sometime get lost in the pressure to deal with a 'demanding' customer, but the cost of putting it right can be wholly disproportionate.

Some typical examples of this these type of scenarios are summarised here -

MacLellan customer ordering Commercial FKM Rubber Sheet when the application clearly specified Viton A on the drawing - MacLellan and consequently the customer were unable to provide a Certificate of Conformity that allowed the already manufactured gaskets to be accepted by the end client - resulting in the customer having to repurchase Rubber Sheet and manufacture in the correct material

MacLellan customer ordering Commercial Nitrile Rubber Sheeting when the application required a bespoke Client formulation which was referred to on all of the Client paperwork - Customer cut a large number of components which failed when installed and tested - at this point the Customer asked for a copy of the Specification for the material and forwarded it to MacLellan for advice - we were able to identify an appropriate formulation from our library and supplied accordingly - resulting in the Customer having the cost of repurchasing Rubber Sheeting and manufacture.

MacLellan customer ordering Commercial EPDM Rubber Sheeting which failed in application and was found to not conform to the technical standard issued by the Client - subsequent investigation by MacLellan identified the product required WRAS approval - resulting in the customer needing to repurchase Rubber Sheeting material and manufacture new product.

MacLellan has always seen Technical Advice as one of its core strengths and skills, extending to recommending materials and products that are not Rubber Sheeting where the application is appropriate.

Resources such as Ask George are available on our website for many of the common questions about materials, specification or terminology, however where you have specific technical characteristics, media or temperature resistance that you have to achieve we recommend you talk to us to get the most up to date advice.

It should be noted that new materials are being developed all of the time and specific characteristics can be designed into polymers where they may not have existed before or where they are not typically expected - a good example of this are the new crop of Flame Retardant, Halogen Free EPDM compounds for use in Transport applications

Have we lost interest in asking the right questions?

Do we feel it is a weakness that we don't automatically know what the customer is asking for?

Are we embarrassed about requesting clarifications?

Are Purchasing Managers putting cost ahead of Specification?

Asking questions of our customers shouldn't been seen as a weakness or lack of ability but a sign that we know what we are talking about and need more information to make an informed decision. If our customer can't provide the full information they need to accept some of the risk in the supply decision but that needs to be made clear at the outset.
Ultimately making the wrong assumption will cost you money, taking the right advice is invaluable.