Technology is the basis of the partnership between Diversified Plastics Inc., a custom molder and mold maker in Minneapolis, and one of its customers, Barnant Co. of Barrington, Ill. ``It's been extremely beneficial for both companies,'' said Dan Hudson, materials manager for Barnant, a maker of instrumentation and peristalic pumps for medical applications, research and some industrial uses. ``We may start a program and get involved with their tool designers with as little as a rough sketch.''
``We'll review the design at certain stages, but [Diversified] stays with the project from start to finished product,'' he said.
The success of the relationship hinged on throwing out the book on the old, structured way of going from art to part, and working concurrently using Pro/E and CadKey software.
Instead of completing a part design internally, getting the blueprints from engineering, then issuing a request for quote and waiting for those numbers to come back before issuing a purchase order - which Hudson said takes several weeks - Barnant signs a letter of intent based on a good-faith estimate of tooling costs. That, along with a down payment gives Diversified the go-ahead to start the mold.
``We've developed a relationship with Diversified that is rather unique in that there is a tremendous amount of trust on both sides,'' Hudson said.
Recently the companies completed their first major project utilizing electronic data transfer. The project involved nine molds. The companies transfered information back and forth through electronic files, creating a paperless project, reducing drafting time and the possibility of errors.
``There's always a possibility that when you transfer a design from engineer to draftsman on paper, a mistake can be made,'' Hudson said.
Annette Lund, Diversified sales and marketing manager, said using the design software technology enhanced communication between the companies, and allowed for a better design overall.
``We were able to make [the design] more detailed than before, which meant we caught errors when they could still be changed in the computer,'' Lund said. ``You can draw anything you want on a piece of paper, [but that] doesn't mean it will work.''
Using electronic data transfer and concurrent engineering also has eliminated a lot of the fingerpointing, Lund said.
``There's not been any of this, `You guys are the experts, you should have seen this,'*'' she said.
Hudson said he appreciates Diversified's help in getting the new product - a hand-held, digital thermometer - to market.
``We do business with a number of molders, and many don't have the same objectivity that Diversified has when it comes to technology,'' he said. ``Molders that don't keep up with this technology will undoubtedly lose a lot of business.''