SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. — Customers including the United States Mint are taking notice of Tech Group Inc.'s decision to centralize its engineering resources.
Tech Group has made crystal polystyrene jewel cases for existing Mint coins for more than 10 years.
The old tools remain fully functional but they have developed some sonic weld, manufacturing yield and costly assembly problems.
Now, a new product — a set of 50 commemorative quarters — provides an opportunity to resolve some internal assembly issues. Over a decade, the Mint plans annually to issue five new coins, each recognizing a state in the order of entering the union. Following competitive bidding, the Mint awarded a sole-source five-year contract to Tech Group in August 1998.
``They came to us with not much more than a napkin sketch,'' Jeff Goble said in an interview at Tech Group's Customer and Engineering Center in Scottsdale. Goble, the center's vice president and general manager, referred the project to a newly formed early supplier involvement engineering group.
The team designed a crystal PS case overcoming the prior problems and quickly arranged for two family bridge molds to make initial parts. It then began work on a high-volume family stack mold, integrated assembly and fully automated packaging system. A snap-fit feature improved the case's hermetic seal. Use of Moldflow mold-filling simulation software helped produce a flat part immediately.
The bridge tool has been running at the CEC since September and will continue in use on an interim basis.
``This was a way to get to market rapidly,'' he said.
CEC engineers brought the stack mold on line in early March at Tech Group's Phoenix plant.
Tech Group brought its engineering resources into a single organization over 18 months, beginning in July 1997.
Tech Group merged three groups in Chicago, Scottsdale and Tempe, Ariz., and reconfigured an existing 70,000-square-foot manufacturing site for about $1 million. ISO 9001 recertification occurred in February 1998.
The facility also houses quarters of Tech Group's North American custom molding group and guest offices for customers collocating for development work.
Tech Group's corporate offices are located four miles away in another Scottsdale facility.
Worldwide, the company has 12 manufacturing locations, operates more than 250 molding machines and had sales of $134.7 million for the fiscal year ending June 30.
Sister unit Omni Mold Ltd. in Singapore employs about 70 mold makers and collaborates with the CEC ``sharing designs and occasionally jointly building tooling,'' Goble said.