Ideally, the custom molder/mold maker should be brought into a project as early in the game as possible, preferably at the concept stage. But Diversified Plastics Inc., a custom injection molder and mold maker in Minneapolis, found that doesn't happen in about 50 percent of the jobs the company quotes.
To speed up the time from part concept to finished molded part, Diversified recently implemented a system it devised to reduce tooling lead times and eliminate costly errors. ``Pre-plan'' emerged out of the company's ISO 9002 certification, while it was improving its contract review standards.
Annette Lund, Diversified's sales and marketing manager, said that in reviewing the mold design and build process the company discovered that administrative tasks take from 10 percent to 20 percent of the total time it takes to build a mold. Diversified found that it could sometimes shave several weeks from the mold-build lead time just by more careful planning at the quoting stage.
``[Preplan] has made a big difference,'' Lund said. ``We do tight-tolerance molding, and sometimes we've taken an order and started on the mold, and then found errors or problems with the part prints that cause delays.''
To alleviate costly glitches, a four-member Preplan team, consisting of a representative from the quality department, tooling, molding production and sales, meets to review each request for quote. By making the quoting process the responsibility of the entire company rather than just a sales function, all departments have an opportunity to provide input on what it will take to successfully complete a job.
Team members look at each potential job from their department's concerns, Lund said.
Quality looks at it to determine inspection criteria, including any special gauges or fixtures that might be needed.
Production reviews the part to give input on the optimum way to run the mold, and along with the tooling department, to determine the best type of mold.
After this initial meeting, the team members take the blueprint and quote request and review it individually. The team members complete a form, which is then given to the person quoting the job for final consideration prior to putting a number to the RFQ.
Lund said most customers have done some prior design work and want the part quoted exactly like the blueprint.
``We like to be involved with our customers prior to the RFQ stage, but many just don't come to us that early,'' Lund said.
After the Preplan review process, the team communicates to the customer any exceptions to the print, identifying potential problem areas and making suggestions for improvements.
Dan Hudson, materials manager for Barnant Co., a customer of Diversified, said Barnant has reaped the benefits of Preplan.
``It's total front-end involvement that makes the difference,'' Hudson said. ``[Diversified] works with us throughout the design process and makes recommendations. This minimizes the mold-tweaking period dramatically.''
With both organizations getting input at the front end of the project, Hudson said, ``what you end up with is total ownership of the design.''
This eliminates finger-pointing and prevents delays.
Barnant is a maker of instrumentation and peristaltic pumps used in medical and industrial applications in Barrington, Ill.
When the order comes through the door, Diversified is prepared for the job. It takes about eight hours for the Pre-plan quoting process, depending on the complexity of the parts quoted, but ``In the long run it has helped tremendously,'' Lund said. ``We recently completed 12 molds in just nine to 10 weeks rather than the 12 weeks the customer wanted, just because we were ready up front.''
Diversified runs 11 presses with clamping forces of 51-300 tons, and employs 75. The company also offers insert molding and a variety of secondary operations including silk screening, hot stamping, sonic welding, total assembly and packaging to the telecommunications, electronics and filtration industries.