What We Learned at Silicone Expo
What could an event for the silicone industry teach companies that don’t make rubber? Plenty! Silicones help keep the world moving, both figuratively and literally. From automobiles and airplanes to medical devices and manufacturing equipment, these synthetic elastomers are indispensable. They’re also in high demand during a time when prices are rising and workers are hard to find.
These were just a few of our takeaways from last week’s Silicone Expo USA, North America’s first free-to-attend commercial tradeshow and conference for the silicone industry. From June 21 to 23, 2022, Specialty Silicone Products (SSP) joined hundreds of other industry leaders at Huntington Place in Detroit, Michigan. Here’s what else we learned, and how what’s happening could affect your business.
#1 The silicone industry is ready.
Material and equipment suppliers, mixers, fabricators, and distributors were excited to meet again face-to-face. Video calls via Zoom and other platforms supported industry communications during the COVID-19 pandemic, but there’s no substitute for in-person events. The silicone industry is a close-knit group of great people, and Silicone Expo proved that we’re ready to tackle new challenges and opportunities.
#2 Supply chain is the hot topic.
Supply chain constraints and what to do about them were the topic of countless conversations. Alone, no company has everything that they need. The silicone supply chain contains many links, and different companies have different roles to play. Fortunately, most event participants have enough material supply to meet most demand. Plus, since everyone is in the same boat, we’ll weather the storm together.
#3 Reformulation is affecting innovation.
Silicone Expo participants also discussed how their companies’ chemists and technical teams are spending more of their time reformulating products than researching and developing new ones. Because of current supply chain constraints, companies are using different suppliers to get what they can. For buyers, ingredient changes to materials underscore the importance of testing and certifications.
#4 Workforce is the tip of the iceberg.
Finding and retaining workers is a huge challenge throughout the silicone industry. Because of this labor shortage, starting wages continue to rise. Inflation isn’t helping either. At the same time, increases in the costs of raw materials are driving price increases for final products. Typically, these increases range from 25% to 50%; however, they are more in some cases.
#5 The world needs silicone.
Despite the grim economic news about everything from gasoline to food prices, the silicone industry is thriving. That’s because the world needs silicones for applications like home appliances, military aircraft, electric vehicles, food processing equipment, industrial machinery, and baby products – just to name a few. Fortunately, all of the companies at Silicone Expo are doing their best to keep these markets moving.