Rubber technology played substantial role in global technical progress for over 170 years, and today there is still no substitute for rubber. But rubber industry is in maturity stage of the life cycle, which is characterized by intense competition and low profit margins.
Significant technical innovations (as TPE, injection molding technology, etc.) allow to improve value of the rubber products and increase profit margins. However, innovations are not always possible. Due to status of the global economy, it is expected that cost pressure, customer quality demands and environmental expenses will increase. In the absence of innovations, manufacturers utilize opportunities to lower direct costs of rubber products.
While lowering direct costs via reducing costs of raw materials and processes is a feasible approach, it should be conducted intelligently, with recognition of unique physical and chemical nature of rubber and possible negative effects on properties of final products. We demonstrate that even materials that are termed commodities and are assumed equal, can have differences that affect rubber processes and final properties of products. Therefore, management of change (MOC) rules should be enforced to assure that service life of the final products is not affected.
We argue that quality control and improvement is a hidden powerful tool to lower costs. This resource is not recognized due to a mistaken classification of quality as a “Non Value-Added Activity”.
Intelligent approaches to direct cost reduction will assure not only higher profit margins, but also extend life cycle of the rubber industry and provide sustainability.