Saving the Optics Supply Chain: Two Common Issues, and Ways to Head Off Supply Chain Risks



Minimizing supply chain risk is an important priority for companies that source optical components. Tight timelines and cost pressures mean that businesses can’t afford mistakes or missing parts. There are several ways to reduce your optical supply chain risk and ensure continued availability of optical components.

Risky Business

Here are two common examples of how things could go wrong:

Scenario 1: Vanishing Optics Supplier

You purchase your optics and other components, you build your product – it’s business as usual – when suddenly, your vendor goes out of business or stops carrying the part you need. What happens then? Part of the challenge in managing supply chain risk is figuring out what to do in this situation.

That’s the predicament several companies faced when Rolyn Optics closed its doors a few years back.  Luckily, Ross Optical offers Rolyn Optics equivalent parts, so former Rolyn Optics customers didn’t have to redesign optical assemblies or sacrifice performance with a lesser quality optic.

With optics industry consolidation and streamlining of optical catalogs, this is unlikely to be an anomaly. In fact, many catalog companies have dropped large optics from their catalog, leaving Ross Optical to be one of the only catalog sources for these lenses.

Scenario 2: Prohibitive Costs at Production Volumes

Many of the optics catalog companies are very good at providing a few catalog optics at reasonable prices for your optical system prototype. You design around it, make key assumptions about production pricing, and then—the unpleasant surprise. The same catalog company is not geared for production quoting.

Seeking multiple quotes as your volume demands change may save your design.  In several recent projects, Ross Optical provided production volume optics to match others’ catalog lenses at 30% less cost than the competitor’s quote for production volumes.

Risk Reducers

Whatever the supply chain disruption, there are things you can do to mitigate risk:

Second Sourcing

Second sourcing or multiple sourcing is one way to maintain control of your supply chain. In a survey of optics professionals we conducted this past May, 58% of respondents said they were exploring second sourcing to address supply chain concerns.

Ross Optical works with a global network of 21 optical manufacturing partners, which reduces supply chain risk by enabling customers to get the right optical components and meet tight timelines.

Supplier Relationships

Another key to a healthy supply chain is fostering good relationships with your suppliers. A true supply chain partner understands your products and processes and can suggest alternative solutions when challenges arise.

Ross Optical is a trusted partner to many companies, managing projects from design to prototyping, production, and assembly.


4 Tips for Saving Your Optics Supply Chain

  1. Don’t panic — If your supplier no longer has the part you need, shop around for equivalent parts. It’s likely someone else will carry the same part; just be sure to check with a salesperson, as part numbers may be different.
  2. Hold off on the redesign — Again, check to see if another vendor carries the part before you redesign your whole product or optical system. If you do need or want to redesign, choose a supply chain partner that is experienced in lens design and optical/mechanical systems design.
  3. Reverse engineer — If all else fails, have suppliers take a look at the drawings and suggest alternative lens components for your optical assembly. You may even come out ahead in performance and cost.
  4. Remember that volume opens up options — From holding inventory at your existing vendor to finding alternate suppliers, rethink sourcing as your volume demands change.

 Download our Supply Chain Process Improvement Guide for more tips and options to reduce risk and costs.

Download Guide