TUCSON, ARIZ. — More upfront involvement in design and engineering is proving fruitful for mold makers and their customers.
The concept of full service is surfacing as a requirement to supply original equipment manufacturers, said several attendees interviewed at the joint conference of the Molders and Moldmakers divisions of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. The event was held Feb. 18-21 in Tucson.
Early involvement is critical, said Hermann Schweinle, vice president of manufacturing for Delta Mold Inc. The Charlotte, N.C., mold maker was able to deliver a particular mold design to one customer, a television manufacturer, in less than 11 weeks from a normal 16-18 weeks, he said.
The firm's top designer met with the customer early on. Said Schweinle, ``They committed themselves even though the product was only 80 percent designed, [and] they allowed us to buy steel for the cavity core.''
Involvement at an early stage means the mold maker can improve deliveries and can also improve tools, he said. Delta Mold quotes delivery capabilities, rather than cost, as the critical factor on eight of every 10 jobs.
Delta Mold employs 105 at a 48,000-square-foot facility in Charlotte, N.C. Common ownership runs both Delta Mold and sister company Delta Tooling Co. of Auburn Hills, Mich., as separate firms.
Customer-required quick turnaround means ``a lot more interaction in part design,'' said Norb Schwab, engineering manager with molder and mold maker Polymer Conversions Inc. in Orchard Park, N.Y.
``In the old days, we would get a print from a company,'' he said. ``We would quote the parts and never question whether the print is right or wrong.''
Now, Schwab said, solid models and modem transmissions result in ``an almost-instantaneous system, as long as we have clean databases.''
Key customers ``come to us in the early stages of design to get input on materials and proper plastic part design,'' he said. In turn, Polymer Conversions holds periodic in-house seminars to educate customers.
Formerly, creating a mold took 20-26 weeks with 10-20 percent in design work and the remainder in tool building, Schwab said. ``Now, most [molds take] 10-12 weeks'' with the same design input and another 10-20 percent in engineering or programming.
Polymer Conversions employs 70 and operates 20 injection molding machines in a 35,000-square-foot facility. Molding accounts for about 70 percent of labor; tooling and engineering, 20 percent; and secondary operations, 10 percent.