Aston Martin learned what we've known about complex supply chain

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The story of the United States’ trade deficit with China (over $318 billion in 2013) is one that most of us are familiar with. Cheaper labor costs and more limited regulations often mean that “Made in China” is cheaper than “Made in America.”

But as the executives at Aston Martin will tell you, the true costs of outsourcing your manufacturing might not look so good over the longer term.

Plastics News has covered the incident extensively, and the story of the faulty pedals is filled with complex supply chain dynamics. The precise origin of Aston Martin’s faulty pedals is a bit murky, but one thing is very clear. The auto manufacturer had no idea what was going on at the business end of its supply chain.

This certainly isn’t an issue unique to luxury British automakers. Back in February, a majority of Plastics News readers admitted that their supply chain is more of a mystery than a sure thing.

Offshore plastics manufacturing, outsourced far down the supply chain, is often cheaper than dealing directly with a domestic manufacturer. At least initially. But the long-term, serious issues can work their way up the supply chain and cause big problems.

That’s the core issue behind why several of our customers have reshored their plastics manufacturing to Ray Products, while keeping their assembly plants offshore to take advantage of lower labor prices. They have us thermoform plastic parts here in Ontario, Calif. When the parts are ready, we ship them to the customers’ assembly facilities in China.

Beyond trust and quality issues, large-scale, heavy-gauge thermoforming is a relatively uncommon process in China and other offshore manufacturing centers. That’s why a few times every month, Ray Products’ loading dock is stacked with boxes and crates labeled for shipment to China with a large “Made in the USA” sticker on the side, swimming against the current of a $318 billion trade deficit.

It seems like Aston Martin has learned a lesson from their experience and is planning a bit of reshoring in the near future. With a bit of luck and a less mysterious supply chain; maybe Mr. Bond won’t have to deal with a snapped accelerator pedal the next time he’s trying to save the world.

Brian Ray

President

Ray Products Co. Inc.

Ontario, Calif.

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