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ACTIVITY: Personal Supply Chain


Improvements in travel and communication over the last 500 years have led to the interconnection of the four world zones, but what does this mean for us today? In this activity, you’ll research an item you use every day in order to understand how this item is made and what it takes to get the item to you.


Choose an item you use in your daily life. Research the raw materials needed to make it and how these raw materials come together to form the finished product. Also research what kind of transportation is used to get the final product to you.
"AluminumSlab" by ALIquotob - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Your research will specifically answer the following questions:
1. What are the raw materials needed for this product? Where are they found?
2. What are the steps involved in making this product? Where does each step in the production take place?
3 What energy is needed to produce this item? Where does that energy come from?
4. What kind of transportation, if any, is needed at each stage of the production process, including getting the finished product to you?

For Further Discussion

In the Questions Area below, share your item and the answers to two of the questions above. Then, comment on someone else’s item, and explain how their answers to the questions influences how you think about interconnection today.

Want to join the conversation?

  • blobby green style avatar for user alton west
    My Item was the Toothbrush. The raw materials that are needed for this product include plastic and nylon for the bristles. Plastics, also called polymers, are produced by the conversion of natural products or by the synthesis from primary chemicals generally coming from oil, natural gas, or coal.Nylon is a polymer—a plastic with super-long, heavy molecules built up of short, endlessly repeating sections of atoms, just like a heavy metal chain is made of ever-repeating links. Nylon is not actually one, single substance but the name given to a whole family of very similar materials called polyamides. The steps involved in making this product are as follows:
    Molding the handles
    1 Plastic is mixed and shaped into pellets. The pellets are then placed in an injection molding machine, which heats the plastic until it is melted. A rotating screw or plunger forces the liquid plastic into the handle molds. The molds form the entire handle, including the small holes, called cores, into which the bristles are inserted. The molds are securely clamped, and pressure is applied to the molds while the plastic cools. Once the molds have adequately cooled, the clamps are removed, and small pins push the handles out of the molds.
    The filling machine
    2 The bristles, which are usually made of nylon, are positioned into the core of the handle automatically. The bristles are then stapled into the core with tiny metal staples.
    Trimming the bristles
    3 Next, the toothbrush passes through a trimming machine which slices the bristles to the correct length and shape for the particular design.
    Packaging the toothbrushes
    4 The toothbrushes are packaged into cardboard and/or plastic containers. Labels are attached to the package, providing product information such as bristle hardness, as well as recommendations for usage. If the brand is approved by the American Dental Association, the Seal of Acceptance is also stamped on the container.
    5 Finally, the packaged toothbrushes are bundled into larger shipping boxes or crates and transported to distributors.

    Read more: http://www.madehow.com/Volume-2/Toothbrush.html#ixzz49k1S9lEp

    Most Nylon is manufactured in China, plastics are produced all over the world, and oral b tooth brushes are made in the USA.
    (4 votes)
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  • mr pink red style avatar for user Tony
    I will discuss Weathertech Floor Liners. These floor liners are for automobiles. I took great interest because of their high quality and the fact that they advertise that they are made in Illinois USA. I also love this example because right now as the new all electric vehicle, the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt, is being released across the (US) country in stages. Chevrolet Bolt drivers are pleading with Weathertech to produce a floor liner for that vehicle.

    Product Development: Once a new model vehicle is produced. Weathertech must get their hands on one of these new model vehicles to laser-scan it. If there are more than one configuration (bucket or bench seats, center console etc.)of this new model, Weathertech needs to get their hands on multiple vehicles. I don't know this exact process, I could speculate the following: 1.The buy a new model vehicle. 2. They rent a new model for a few months. 3. Weathertech could be the OEM manufacturer of the floor mats, therefore they have all the pre-production specifications and test vehicles to develop their products. Once the pre-production mold is produced, it must be approved for perfect fit within that vehicle.

    Materials needed: in this case, plastic and rubber for the actual product and steel aluminum for the tooling are needed. These raw materials are produced within the USA. Cardboard is needed for each set of mats for storage and retail sale.

    Manufacturing process: Once a new design is approved, they must create an mold for each mat. This can mean up to six or seven molds per vehicle. Probably about 19,000 molds exist now for all current and past vehicle models in US, Canada and Europe. The plastic sheets are pressed into these molds, and trimmed and ready for packaging and sale.

    Distribution process: A customer can purchase these products direct from the company via the website or telephone. These products ship out of Illinois USA via UPS or FEDEX. A customer can also purchase for a local retailer. These retailers often buy from a local distribution center. These distribution centers buy truckloads at a time, and a stock order from Weathertech can take several weeks. These large stock orders are purchased at a large discount, therefore allowing the retailer to sell the product at the same retail price Weathertech sells for, even though it is passing through two or more middleman in the process.

    Back to the Chevrolet Bolt drivers. They can log onto the Weathertech blog each Monday to see all the new products being released. Their mats are probably in design process and will soon be listed on this blog.
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Monique Dean

    1. What are the raw materials for this product? Where are they found?

    The raw materials used for making toothpaste contains: binders, abrasives, sudsers, humectants, flavors (unique additives), sweetners, fluorides, tooth whiteners, a preservative, and water.

    You can research the ingredients online or you can ask your dentist for a good recipe. you can buy most of the ingredients at your local drug store

    2. What are the steps involved in making the toothpaste? Where does each step in production take place?

    The making of toothpaste is made in factories all over the world. First step is to take all the raw materials into the the factory to be mechanically and manually weighed, just to make sure all of the ingredients are in accurate proportions. Then the ingredients are mixed together. Step 2, the temperature and the humidity are watched very closely as all the ingredients are mechanically mixed together. It is important that, that process is done correctly. Each machine also known as a vat, in the toothpaste industry makes about the equivalent of 10,000 (118ml) tubes of toothpaste.

    3. What kind of transportation , if any, is needed at each stage of the production process, including getting the finished product to you?

    The making of toothpaste is transported manually and mechanically. Mechanically, the tubes are blown and vacuumed to make sure they are clean before getting filled. After it's filled the ends are sealed/ crimped closed. Manually, after the tubes are filled and closed they inserted in their boxes and some companies do this by hand. Then the toothpaste is ready to be shipped to stores.
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Meghan Mansfield
    Tea -

    1. What are the raw materials needed for this product? Where are they found?
    Tea contains L-theanine, theophylline, and bound caffeine sometimes called theine Camellia sinensis plant. The tea leaves themselves can be found anywhere but are mainly found in Tibet, China, India and Japan.

    2. What are the steps involved in making this product? Where does each step in the production take place? Tea is grown, harvested and then manufactured all in the same place where ever its being grown.

    3. What kind of transportation, if any, is needed at each stage of the production process, including getting the finished product to you? Once the tea has been processed it can be shipped raw, as just the leaf for unique steeping purposes or it can be packaged into tea bags that act as a filter, put into boxes and distributed to stores all around the world.
    (2 votes)
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  • marcimus purple style avatar for user Toony
    My item was paper.
    For question one, the only raw material that is needed is wood.
    For question three, the energy used by the bark (which isn't used to make paper) is used to (mostly) power the mechanical processing for paper once the fiber has been extracted from said bark.
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user leonard.tj15
    One Item I use everyday is paper. Paper comes from trees which are logged then trucked to a paper mill where it then gets cut up in to sections and soaked in water for days then put through a series of strainers and then finally dried and formed in to sheets of paper then it is sent off to a factory to be finalized in to different forms of paper and then put in to packaging and put in a trailer and trucked across the country and delivered to many different locations for purchase by us
    (1 vote)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user alton west
      I believe that your answers to the questions influence the way i think about interconnection by providing more insight about just how much goes into creating paper an item that i too use all of the time. The amount of effort it takes to create paper and the places that are involved show that we had to evolve through interconnection in order to experience our various advances throughout history.
      (1 vote)
  • leaf yellow style avatar for user Lünee Vrümee #TYllwLf
    I pick...Filing Cabinets!
    1) First, some steel is shipped to the manufacturing plant. Since, from Wikipedia's statistics, China exports more than half of the worlds exports of steel, and since a lot of items here in the U.S. are made in China, I'll bet that the steel used is shipped from China via Container Ship and Freight Train.
    2) Apparently, the manufacturing process all happens at one place, where some computers punch, fold and weld the pieces together. Then it's shipped via train/plane or truck to a warehouse...
    3) ...where it's shipped via truck to my Dad's office, and used to hold all sorts of miscellany, like stuffed animals, music, coffee cups, computers, and me (when I was a baby; he was a big B. F. Skinner fan.)
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user gabriella lopez
    raw materials for fabric would be cotton, flax, silk, wool, rayon, nylon, polyester.
    the three steps to turn these raw items into fabric would be 1st turning these items into yarn, then weaving them together, & lastly dying the fabric.
    the transportation requirements for this product would require boat or vehicle.
    (1 vote)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user clinton ferguson
      The process of paper making uses raw materials including water, energy, chemicals and wood chips (1), that contain cellulose. Cellulose is the fiber component of wood, and exists naturally in most plant life. The paper mill boilers (2) produce steam for turbines (3) that make electricity for motors and pumps
      (1 vote)
  • spunky sam green style avatar for user Sabrina Groom
    I chose Books.
    1. I know the pages need wood, which would come from trees. The type of book I chose for this project is a leather bound book, in which the leather would come from a cow.
    2. I know that someone would have to butcher the cow to get the leather and someone would have to cut down trees for the wood. Then the wood would be turned to paper, and the cow hide would be turned into the leather which would be cut and shaped to the book size. The paper would then go through a printer to have the words put on it, and then the large pieces of paper get folded to fit in the book and make multiple pages. After the pages are put into order and the cover is put on three edges of the book that do not include the binding are sliced down to remove the folds so that the book may be read without the reader having to cut all the pages apart.
    3. A lumber truck will transport the wood to a paper factory and the hide will have to be transported somewhere to be made into leather. After they are paper and leather they are transported to the printing company who then ships then to bookstores. Once they are on the self at the book store they’re bought and the new owner takes them home.
    (1 vote)
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  • leaf red style avatar for user Razumutaz
    The iPhone needs materials like glass and aluminum. These items need smelting and melting to create, which uses lots of natural energy, and may be transported by plane, which gives off a lot of carbon emissions.
    (1 vote)
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