Supply Chain Risk Management for Seal Programs With Quality Guru Nand Patel

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Nandkishore Patel is Director of New Business and Product Development at Darcoid. In this key role, Nand builds on his extensive experience and depth of knowledge in the seal industry and focuses on bringing new-to-market products, capabilities, and materials to its customers as their technical sealing needs evolve. Before moving into his current role, Nand spent the first 17 years of his career at Darcoid building out, developing, and directing Darcoid’s industry, leading quality assurance operations. Nand earned his master’s in chemical engineering and polymer science at the University of Toledo.



Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • The global economic and supply chain forces putting the squeeze on the seal industry
  • How end-user OEMs are being forced to find alternate sources for their seals and the risks this exposes them to
  • Common methods and limitations of specifying seals
  • Risks of taking documented specifications at face value
  • Recognizing the danger of an overly generic material callout
  • ASTM International: what ASTM Standards are; ASTM strings - what they look like and how to use them
  • Why a strict focus on the end-use conditions and requirements is key to risk mitigation
  • Materials formulations: Juggling polymer content, carbon black, and plasticizers – why you should care
  • The value of elastomer and seal expertise when searching for an alternative
  • A proven, successful process for onboarding new requests for second sources
  • Auditing your control docs for current-state risk exposure based on seal end-use conditions
  • An introduction to elastomer workmanship standards and quality control
  • The value of in-house validation in your specific use-case environment
  • Staying ahead of regional supply chain constraints through strong relationships with manufacturing partners all over the world

In this episode…

In this episode of Makers of Our Future, Bill Sharratt is joined by Nand Patel, Director of New Business and Product Development at Darcoid, to dive deep into the mission-critical checklist required to de-risk any elastomer resourcing initiative. All rubber is not created equal. Recognizing and deploying the optimal workmanship standards for your specific use case is critical. We talk to the required combination of: expertise in seal materials; manufacturing; and in-house validation capabilities to deliver the quickest, lowest-risk path to relieve your seal supply constraints. 


Resources mentioned in this episode:


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Episode Transcript:

Intro  0:03 
Behind every great product is a great seal. Join us at the crossroads of preeminence, product design, engineering, seal mastery, and supply chain excellence, and to learn from the makers of our future.
Bill Sharratt  0:21 
Welcome, and thanks for joining us today for conversations with the people behind the products that are making the world a better place and for conversations with leaders in the steel industry who are helping make all that happen. My name is Bill Sharratt. And I'm your host for today. I'm joined by a colleague Nand Patel, who we'll introduce in a minute, but we're doing something a little different today. We're talking about some of the pressures that are really driving our industry right now. The stuff that everyone is focused on, what's keeping everyone awake at night, there's a tremendous pressure on with most manufacturers is to find second sources for products that are drying up because of supply chain disruptions. It's the supply chain Armageddon, everyone's been living since lockdown. And we realized that what we do, and the way we are structured as a business actually really helps reduce the risk associated with looking at for second sources. So we're going to talk about risk management, what you need to look out for how you should do it best. And that's the conversation today. I remember our sponsorship message this show is brought to you by Darcoid. We're building this podcast as a searchable store of knowledge, something that you can reference if you're new to seal design. And if you're starting out in your career in engineering, then hopefully you'll learn from successful engineers whose work is changing the world. All right, Nand you're up. My guest today is Nand Patel, Director of new business and product development at Darcoid. Greetings, Nand.
Nand Patel  2:09 
Thank you, how are you?
Bill Sharratt  2:11 
Good. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Let's get into a little bit about who you are and what you do. What's your role here at Darcoid Nand?
Nand Patel  2:21 
So my role essentially changed over the last couple of years. I am director of new product and new business development. Previously before that, worked out. So I've been at Darcoid for 19 years now, worked in quality for 16 and a half 17 years. So it's a long journey, have done everything in quality management from working with customers and working with our manufacturing partners all over the world. A little bit about me. My background is in chemical engineering. I have a master's in chemical engineering with a polymer science background. And previous to this joining Darcoid, I worked at a company that plastics recycling. And at the time, it was a noble idea with a lot more focused now on carbon capture and cleaning up the environment. I worked at a company that actually did plastics, recycling for engineered plastics. And 20 plus years back that was a novel idea because there weren't many companies that we're doing recycling in engineered plastics, very good, such as ABS and Polystyrene, right, which is used all over the world and televisions to refrigerators, and the likes in automobile, and anything and everything you can think of. So a major problem in the world that was there 20 years back is actually a bigger problem now.
Bill Sharratt  4:03 
You lead the way you spearheaded led the charge. Well done Nand. Excellent. So graduated from University of Toledo, I believe. What were you born and raised in Toledo?
Nand Patel  4:16 
I was not, I was actually born and raised in India. I did my undergrad or bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering in India and then decided to come and pursue my masters here in the US, which is how I ended up at University of Toledo.
Bill Sharratt  4:32 
Perfect, excellent. And from my personal perspective, our audience members should know that there is no one who knows more about polymers, rubber manufacturing all the steps in the process from compounding all the way through finishing, storing and handling. Obviously quality systems Nand right really developed and implemented and built out dacoits quality capability. What this guy knows, or doesn't know, ain't worth knowing, ladies and gentlemen, so thank you Nand. I'm glad you're here with us today. So what about putting this show together because a lot of the podcast has been talking to people about their products and how their careers went so on, which is all well and good. But my goodness, what we're living and breathing in the manufacturing and supply chain industry is quite an amazing period of stress to the system, and our customers, their customers, other people, no one is going to be tied to a single source anymore. Strategically, they realize there is a major risk associated with a single source, a region goes down because of COVID. Shipping in a certain area blows up, material supply is suddenly not as impacted in a particular region, or globally. So ultimate’s have to be found. And it's in the rubber industry, when people don't know a lot about all that goes into making a seal. What really well in a given application, if they don't factor all that in, it's very easy to say, hey, this black rubber will work as well as that black rubber. So we're here to talk about steps we take to assure if we need to resource, any kind of supply, how careful we have to be and the steps we have to take. So hopefully that steps what we can cover today Nand. Does that sound about right?
Nand Patel  6:51 
Yeah, sure. And if I may take a step back and add to what you just said, in the rubber world, most companies will say here is our material with an ASTM string.
Bill Sharratt  7:09 
What is ASTM, Nand?
Nand Patel  7:11 
That is a standard that was written by the American Standard for materials. And essentially, it was designed or developed for the purpose of trying to put all manufacturers on the same foot, 20, 25, 30 years back manufacturers would come out with the material and would say mine is better than yours. And so there was a standard put together in order to say everybody tests the same standard. Yeah, maybe a referee. But in today's world, that's not enough. It's a good starting point.
Bill Sharratt  7:50 
Okay, so what does an ASTM string or how would I know an ASTM string, if it walked up and slapped me in the face? What does it look like on documentation?
Nand Patel  7:57 
Yeah, if for example, on a nitrile machine material that you're using, you would probably see a ASTM string that would say, ASTM, D 2000. And then it will start with 714.
Bill Sharratt  8:13 
And a string of digits and numbers.
Nand Patel  8:16 
A string of digits and numbers. Yep, it will be something like a B14, B34, which is generic compression set. And then it would depending on your application, it could be stuff like EO14, EO34, which are oil immersions. And then you may have something to do with a fluid or fuels. It could be EF21, EF31. And then you could have other things in it. For different materials, it could be the tear strand, you could have a low temp property that is required, maybe an F15, or F17 for a brittleness test.
Bill Sharratt  8:52 
Dude. Clearly, this is a long string of characters that represents a whole bunch of tests. You're rattling them off, like, like, really well, we are a member of ASTM ourselves as a company. But for most people, it takes many years to become conversant with what they actually mean, is that correct?
Nand Patel  9:17 
That is correct. And, as I said, that's a good starting point. And in today's complex world of hundreds of thousands of manufacturers all around the world, saying our material meets this ASTM string. Again, it's a starting point. But when you're talking about risk and risk mitigation, our job is to make sure it's not just about ASTM string, but what it means to a customer's application.
Bill Sharratt  9:48 
Yeah, I know from personal experience that those ASTM tests and oils and fluids are a very standard, broad buckets, if you will, and so many of our customers are using variants where and elastin might perform a little differently, oftentimes a little different as fine. Many times a little different means the difference between something working and something failing in the worst possible way. Right? So, good point. So let's take it from how often inboards to us we get a request from often, someone in supply chain says, oh, my goodness, can use source XYZ for me this part, we will take the time to understand all the requirements in terms of what lead time is required, where in the world that needs to be inventoried, any of the supply chain issues that are important. And then it quickly goes to a technical conversation. Can you walk us through how that technical conversation happens now?
Nand Patel  10:55 
Yeah, sure. So, like, any application, material is the starting point. And ASTM string is also a starting point. But where we differ, or where we do risk mitigation is to ask questions about where is this product going to be used? Where is this material going to be used? And we dig a little deeper into where the customer is going to be using a given seal. So we're in the equipment, what is it going to be exposed to, what are the temperatures, you're looking at?
Bill Sharratt  11:32 
The actual use conditions, as opposed to, gosh, oftentimes, these prints we see a five years old, 10 years old, 20 years old. And we know that once was specified and probably supplied in when the engineer was doing their original testing, work great, then, but they might have changed up fluids and process speeds and temperatures since then, right?
Nand Patel  11:59 
Yes. And then you're talking about the risk mitigation problem that is being faced all around the world, every single commodity in the world is impacted. So if a customer is using a fuel, or a fluid, or an oil, there is potentially a chance that some ingredient has changed, either over time or over the last couple of years, which could have an impact on the last summer that's used.
Bill Sharratt  12:27 
I got a story about that. Gosh, I had a customer who called and said your seals are swelling, your seals swelling and the swelling, all of a sudden, nothing's working, and what have you done different. We ran the fire drill and nothing was different. And nothing was different at their end. But it took a few weeks. But we found out that their lubrication grease, the supplier had made a tiny formulation change in that lubrication grease, which just pushed our high performing material from the edge of high performing into the oh my god, it's swelling, and no performing. So yeah, so many changes to so many components can have knock-on effects.
Nand Patel  13:07 
Yes, absolutely. And if you think about it, for example, you're talking about with a high-performing material, where the swell was less than 5%, the customer application performed pretty well. And now because of a new ingredient, the swell went from five to 8%. And all of a sudden, it doesn't work because your assembly starts failing, or you're not getting the performance that's required with the seal that's not adequate for the new oil that was put in place. And so yes, that's why we say ASTM string is the starting point. But again, things like this, we take care of making sure that we are testing that in the customer fluid, when they change, we have to dig a little deeper to find out what happened.
Bill Sharratt  14:03 
So put a pin in that testing and customer fluid. What happens if there's not an ASTM string on the print? Oftentimes, there are no strings on the print. Oftentimes, it's called out as a material family type and diameter. And that's about it. Right?
Nand Patel  14:19 
That is correct. And I think that in those instances, that's even a bigger worry with anybody who are providing a generic material that can be sourced from anywhere in the world without regards to what kind of an application it's going into. So just to give you an example of a material can be as simple as a nitrile, semi dromeda. But in the world of nitrile depending on the performance requirement, you can go from 18% ACN content to 50% That is correct. And that that has an impact on your low temperature, it may have an impact on your high-temperature requirements, it will have an impact on the volume swell of certain fluids, it may have impact on compression set. So on and on and on it goes.
ACN is the most expensive ingredient in that batter, that cake mix, right? And if a manufacturer is looking to shave a few pennies, they'll drop out ACN and bump up carbon, for example, right?
That is correct. Or they may substitute a lot more with plus sizes, that are cheap ingredients that are added to act as a filler and reduce the polymer content. Hence, by affecting your volume or your compression set other properties that are required for the seal to perform.
Bill Sharratt  15:59 
And it's the polymer content that gives that seal material its particular performance characteristics, that chemical resistance and so on.
Nand Patel  16:08 
That is correct. Yes.
Bill Sharratt  16:09 
Excellent. Going back to an earlier point, I was talking to Jeremy golden a few weeks ago on the show. And one thing he said really stood out to me it was said customers will take your product and do things with it, you can never imagine. So that's also part of that whole got to be careful, if you're substituting out any critical components in that product, you got to make sure they work.
Nand Patel  16:34 
Absolutely. And that's why at Darcoid what we pride in is not just asking the question of here's a brand, can you quote it? And it's two steps saying, okay, where is it being used? How is it being used? And it gives us the risk mitigation that we're talking about, right? Because we want to make sure that we provide a solution, understanding your application better.
Bill Sharratt  17:01 
So back to a point earlier that we put a pin in, I'm going to lead the witness in this one, we have some unique capabilities in terms of understanding material compatibility in the customers, particular super mix, if you will of chemistries and temperatures. Do you want to talk to that capability, Nand?
Nand Patel  17:25 
Yeah, I mean, it's so again, understanding the customer requirements, we have a whole host of different things that we can do with it, we have a test bench where we are able to do compressions and testing. And the compression testing can be done at different temperatures. Because you may be interested in knowing what the material does, or how it rebounds if it's exposed to a certain temperature, right. And that's an important characteristics to make sure the material is able to rebound after it's been compressed for a certain amount of time, right. Or we have ability to do fluid soak test, whether it's in our test bench, or whether it's working with a third-party lab that's certified to ISO 17, or 25. So we do work with accredited labs that understand the ASTM standards well that understand our testing well. In addition to that, we can do physical as well as mechanical characterization of materials. And we can do a whole host of testing, whether it's DSC, doing a TGA, doing failure analysis, doing low-temperature testing, compression set, as I mentioned before. So we can do a whole bunch of testing, whether it's in-house, or working with a partner that has a lot of capabilities with testing.
Bill Sharratt  18:57 
So we find ourselves helping customers who are moving so fast, this is just one of many products that they're wrestling with, to find solutions on. We can do that evaluation for them. So their test lab, facilities, resources can be used on other issues. So it works really well to help out along those lines. And we can do a testing on as molded seals as well as slabs. And that's another benefit. Really understanding the performance of the seal component in the customer's application rather than being a theoretical data point.
Nand Patel  19:44 
That is correct. So to add to your point, most ASTM string testing is done on slabs and buttons. And that's a good start, as I said, standardized testing. What Darcoid brings to the table is in addition to that, having the ability to do testing in our lab, which may be an actual product, right? And in the customer setting.
Bill Sharratt  20:12 
Yeah, makes all the difference, all the difference. So we talked about materials. Boy, did we talk about materials, and I know that we barely scratched the surface. So this is just a kind of a teaser here. But workmanship in terms of, okay, so we find the material that's going to work, it fits, the supply chain fits the customers logistics requirements. What about the molding part? And how do we control workmanship and molding quality work?
Nand Patel  20:48 
Yeah, so to that, I think there's a lot of different standards in the industry. Standard started out with RMA, which was the Rubber Manufacturers Association guidelines that was used a number of years back, and has now evolved with times, right. So there is a aerospace standard. There's an ISO 3601 standard that's used in the industry. Where we get into the specifics of is, under what magnification do you want it check at? And so we do work with manufacturers to put that in, based on your criticality of your application. Most customers would say, I just need a general-purpose O ring, we could go with a grade n, which is accepted universally. But some customers will say, you know what, my application is a little more than that, then we work with our manufacturers to make sure it's a dash S, which is more specific, more stringent with respect to flash or non fails or other type of defects that you generally see in manufacturing. And then if your application was even stricter than that, then there is CS standard. So a lot of those controls come in via different methods, making sure the tool is capable of producing parts that can meet those standards. And in addition to that, we may have a inspection at the end of it, where it will guarantee that what you're seeing meets your specification.
Bill Sharratt  22:34 
Perfect. So that's a long way down the road. I was just thinking maybe we need to back up a bit. I mean, we've onboarded, we've understood the application, we've taken a look at your documents, I think something that we can do really quick. Once we've matched up the application requirements with how it's actually described on your documents, we can give our customers a very quick analysis of the existing exposure risk right now. Should someone say hey, I've got a product that meets your print, we can tell our customers based on what we found out how much risk they're exposed to by accepting anyone coming along saying we've got an equivalent. So that's the point where our customers can make up their mind on just how critical it is. And oftentimes, they'll develop the conversation with us to go down the path of additional testing when we propose candidate replacement compounds and validate those, correct?
Nand Patel  23:44 
That is correct, yes.
Bill Sharratt  23:46 
Good. So that's worked for us really well in terms of keeping our customers in production with product that works as well as the original specification. And it gives them some options when they need desperately to have a second source on sale component. So that's a big package in terms of what we offer and my commentary on that is, Darcoid is big enough to pull it off, but we're small enough to care. If you don't have a six figure seal spend some of those larger steel manufacturers that you might be wanting to go work directly with. And I'm at the time of day to do this kind of thing.
Nand Patel  24:38 
Yeah, you're right. So I mean, I think the second source is not just about materials, it's about manufacturing. It's about finding the right partner that can manufacture it. And then it's about the quality of product from mixing of the batter or rubber to finish goods that we provide, right. And so there is a lot of steps that are in between second sourcing from, let's say, from Asia to North America. And our job has always been to minimize the risk, not only from the perspective of supply chain, but from the perspective of material, from the perspective of just manufacturing the port the right way, and meet your application, and all the risks associated with manufacturing it, whether it's from mixing the rubber to molding the pot to finish goods,
Bill Sharratt  25:37 
And the fulfillment and the getting it to your to your point of assembly when you need it. Critical, right? So we're finding that we're developing this expertise and customers are looking for if they're buying or sourcing Asian manufactured product, there's a lot of pressure to bring that onshore it back to North America. Sometimes that's not really possible based on this really baseline costs involved. But we also have another region of excellence, which is Europe, which has some excellent capacity, so that we can kind of provide solutions based on where you want to localize manufacturing that best suits the supply chain. It's a global approach.
Nand Patel  26:28 
That is correct, yes. And I think what Darcoid prides itself in is making sure you're choosing the right material, and the right partner, wherever you need us to be. So we work with manufacturing partners in North America, as you alluded, and then we have manufacturing partners in Asia. And we are manufacturing parts in Europe, to make sure we are able to support the customer's needs, no matter where they are.
Bill Sharratt  26:58 
And we have relationships with these plants, your passport is full to overflowing with stamps from evidence of travel.
Nand Patel  27:07 
That is correct. That is correct. So yeah, my previous job title was director of quality, and over the years have traveled to many, many, many countries, and many, many plants all over the world, qualifying them, auditing them, and making sure the right partners you want to work with.
Bill Sharratt  27:29 
Because it's relationships, knowing that they have the right quality practices, proving it, showing it to us, and then if there is an issue, there's always going to be an issue, somewhere along the line, having those relationships, so we know who to talk to, to move quickly, to resolve and get back in production. Yes.
Nand Patel  27:50 
That is correct. I mean, classic example is, when a customer calls and has an issue with a manufacturing partner in Asia, we were able to help a customer get product within one week from a local source.
Bill Sharratt  28:05 
So jump to the head of the line at that local source. I seem to remember that is some leverage, Nand.
Nand Patel  28:14 
Yeah. But yeah, the important thing is relationships but as we go along this from the perspective of how Darcoid serves the customer with risk mitigation, we are not just auditing plants that we work with, we actually go one step above that, we are actually going to the material source where our manufacturing partners are getting the rubber from. And we have actually gone and audited the manufacturing of the rubber or compounding of the rubber itself, to see what kind of risks exist at the material level. So the risk mitigation is from the perspective of material, is from the perspective of making the parts and the manufacturing of the parts finished goods, and then the supply chain and everything else in between.
Bill Sharratt  29:07 
Yep, perfect. There's a lot to unpack there. Hopefully, our audience member will consider this as demands to find alternate sources, qualified sources, reliable sources come across their desk, where this is what we do. This is how we're structured. I think we given you a good sense of, we understand your application, understand how you're using the product, how you need the logistic support going forward, and we match that up from your application upwards rather than from a generic, try this. That's how we mitigate risk, manage risk. This is a high risk environment for resourcing and we'd like to sleep well at night. And that's how we do it. Right.
Nand Patel  30:01 
That is correct. And I think, in addition to that, it's all about making sure that the risk is mitigated in the process, and is not a part of your inspection
Bill Sharratt  30:15 
And inspect our quality. Yeah.
Nand Patel  30:17 
Yeah. And I think it's important to remember that one of the major value add that Darcoid does bring to the table is quality, and an inspection department that makes sure that the risk is minimized before you get the product, or the customer gets the product.
Bill Sharratt  30:35 
Excellent. I can tell you're only fresh out of your role running quality operations. Now that's still very near and dear to your heart, for sure. But it's a key component of our entire business structure. So there we are, and anything else you'd like to add? I think we covered a lot of ground. Don't want to make it too complex, too overwhelming. But hopefully, our audience member will get a sense of how to do it right.
Nand Patel  31:09 
Yeah, I think we've covered a lot of ground. And I think the important thing to remember is, there is a lot of places where things can go wrong. But that's what Darcoid is here for because we do understand manufacturing, we do understand materials, and we do understand that the finished goods need to meet certain requirements.
Bill Sharratt  31:32 
Yep. Perfect. Gosh, you've done a lovely job planning the organization. If anyone needs to get in touch with us, LinkedIn, or just straight to the website, I know what I say.
Nand Patel  31:48 
Yeah, absolutely. I think we are reachable by our website, we are reachable by phone. And one email away from obviously asking or addressing any questions. And so yeah, we are reachable by any means possible.
Bill Sharratt  32:06 
Except carrier pigeon.
Nand Patel  32:09 
That still exists with Twitter.
Bill Sharratt  32:12 
There you go. Very good. Very good. All right. I think that will wrap here. Covered a lot of ground risk management, risk mitigation in the wonderful world of resourcing and finding alternates. If you need help you know where to find us. I hope this has been helpful on your journey. Thank you.
Nand Patel  32:32 
Great, thank you.
Outro  32:33 
Thanks for listening to the Makers of Our Future Podcast. Behind every great product is a great seal. Learn more about how we can help at The best seal on time, zero defects Darcoid.

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