There are a number of reasons you may have to find a new injection molder. Your current molder may be out of capacity. You need a molder for that new product marketing has been pressing for. You just found out your molder will soon be closing its doors. Or maybe your molder just isn't growing with you. These situations confront engineers and buyers every day. How they deal with them can mean the difference between stopping the line or keeping it going, meeting a marketing deadline or giving the competition an advantage.
Locating an injection molder that best suits a firm's immediate needs and, at the same time, ties into the firm's future plans, can be a challenge.
The first task is to determine where you can locate receptive, quality-oriented molders without taking up an exorbitant amount of time. Besides word-of-mouth, conventional avenues have been industrial directories, trade magazines and trade shows.
`Yellow page' advertising can be somewhat successful. Its drawback is the lack of immediate, one-on-one interaction. Also, costs for advertising a molding company in these directories have become more economical, substantially increasing the number of listings. Sifting through the candidates can be overwhelming when the pressure is on to find a good molder.
National trade shows allow the opportunity for one-on-one interaction. But they can also be overwhelming because the multitude of exhibitors tends to reduce the amount of time you can spend with each molder.
One of the more-effective techniques is to attend regional trade shows, which provide the opportunity to speak to a comfortable number of prospective suppliers. This allows the time to explore their capabilities, personalities, and fit to your specific molding requirements.
A new avenue is the Internet. It is a middle-of-the-road alternative to the trade show, directory, or magazine advertisement. It allows speed and flexibility in searching for a supplier and provides a route to interact by way of e-mail. Other benefits are the search capabilities and discussion groups that can help in obtaining recommendations.
Whatever avenue you use, it is important to limit the number of molders that will be evaluated further. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands, your search should be limited to eight initial suppliers and whittled down to two or three before the final selection is made.
There are eight important issues to consider:
In-house mold-making facilities. Whether you intend to relocate an existing mold or start a new program using a new mold, it is extremely important that your new molder have in-house mold-making. It greatly reduces the time and money needed to get a new mold built, sampled, and debugged. If you are relocating existing molds, in-house mold making is extremely useful in quickly getting that mold up and running with the least amount of cost.
If your new molder does not have in-house mold-making, he will be relying on another business not under his control.
Computer-aided design. Designing a mold takes time. Reducing that time through CAD is essential to getting your product to market faster than your competition.
Process control. Injection molding technology has come a long way over the past 10 years. The machines are quicker, more efficient, and have reporting and self-correcting capabilities. To be competitive, molders should be investing in these technologies and understand the need to design and manufacture-in quality, rather than inspecting out errors after the fact.
Quality control. When visiting your prospective supplier, keep a close eye on the activity within the quality-control department. Ask who each of the workers reports to. Especially ask who the department head reports to. It is important that the department head or manager report directly to the general manager/president/owner. Without reporting to the person in charge of the company, there is always the possibility that he or she will be overridden by someone whose interests are strictly on a dollars-shipped basis.
If the quality-assurance manager reports directly to the president, it is important for you to spend some time with the president to get a feel for her or his commitment to quality.
Fiscal health. Without a healthy corporate financial profile, there may be trouble down the line. Even under the best conditions, you should obtain a Dun & Bradstreet report on your supplier every six months.
References. While it is important to contact the references your potential molder gives you, it can also be beneficial to contact people not on the list, such as the quality-control or engineering managers. Finding someone with limited public contact may yield a more constructive evaluation.
Communication skills. In the initial stages of your business relationship, be aware of instances of misunderstanding or misinterpretations. This may be an indication of what you can expect.
Personality. Every company has a personality. It generally flows from the top down through the organization. Be cognizant of attitudes. Ask questions and be aware of not only what is being said, but how it is being said.
There are many pieces to the puzzle of finding a good injection molder. The key to a successful search is to have patience and keep your options open to other suppliers if your original supplier is unable to meet your goals.
Milgram is president of Job Shop Services Inc., a Bensalem, Pa., company that helps manufacturing service providers to market and expand their companies.