Injection molders come in all sizes and flavors. Matching the molder and customer is essential for the economic well being of both.
One category of molder is the shoot-and-ship shop. It is a molder that simply melts plastic materials and shoots them into molds. It might be a good supplier for products with broad specifications and low quality standards and, if there is a part failure, there will be minimum risk to life and property.
These molding companies have generally just a few old molding machines with sloppy controls. They lack quality-control departments and procedures and engineering departments, but they will usually be the low bidder.
At the other extreme you have the superhigh-quality molder that supplies parts in a very narrow niche due to part size, material specification or other specialization. This molder is able to trace and certify each part made and each of its raw-material components back to the earthly origins, potentially through several different manufacturing processes. This company is full of auditors, accountants, attorneys, clerks and a few people who produce the product.
Then there are molders in between. In selecting your molder, there are several questions you need to consider:
c Engineering. Does the molder have appropriate-size molding machines, an engineering department and the ability to design your part? Does it bring design consultation to your facility? Does it study your manufacturing process and understand manufacturing variables of other components manufactured for your product? Does it have wide prototyping capability for tooling? Does the moder have on-site mold building and repair? Does its engineers have the knowledge to ask the right questions and assure trouble-free launching of the project? Will it give the best judgment even if it means not getting the order? Does it oversell?
c Service. Does the molder have the integrity to do the right thing even when you are not watching? Would you be an important customer or a second-level customer? Does it stock raw materials for your product? Will it stock your finished product for multiple shipment releases? Does it react quickly to schedule changes or product redesigns? Does someone from the mold shop return phone calls promptly? Is dealing with the company a pleasant experience? Is it operating its plant near capacity, thus negatively affecting your delivery?
c Equipment and quality. Does the mold shop implement automation and robotization for consistency of product? Is the equipment state-of-the-art closed-loop or ancient technology? Is it capable of doing assembly or performing secondary operations? Does it have proper tools and calibrate them regularly? Does it have warehousing capability?
c Capability. Does the molder have redundant equipment? Will the person you speak to this year be with the company next year? Is production certain and reliable? Does it have a labor union? Does it have financial strength to be in business next year?
Once these factors have been considered, you may find the appropriate molder without depending upon luck.
Coates is the author of Our Toilets are Not for Customers and president of American Plastic Molding Corp. in Scottsburg, Ind.