Say that your company is molding a part for a printer in Ohio that uses components also made by suppliers in Mexico and China.
Once assembled, the part goes to a customer with global sales, and the customer puts its name on the printer. To ensure that the final product looks like a unified system, not a series of parts, the customer provides strict color guidelines.
``You've got global trading partners who are trying to be faster and more efficient, and you need the technology to facilitate clear color data moving from China to New York and New York to Frankfurt,'' said Ken Boyle, vice president and general manager for GretagMacbeth LLC's color and appearance business unit.
And with those demands, GretagMacbeth and some of its competitors are rolling out testing systems that communicate well between different countries and different testing equipment.
For NPE 2003 in Chicago, GretagMacbeth of New Windsor, N.Y., was showing its NetProfiler, which coordinates the testing instruments made by a variety of manufacturers, allowing companies to verify that their parts are working from the same palette of hues, regardless of the machine used to test those colors.
X-Rite Inc. launched its comparative testing system, the X-Rite Color Master Web Edition, in which molders and their customers access the same information from a central Internet server.
``You don't need to buy extra software,'' said Brian Teunis, general manager of color and appearance for Grandville, Mich.-based X-Rite. ``You don't need to manually shift a sample chip back and forth.''
Global manufacturing trends can complicate production when the primary molder or original equipment manufacturer cannot easily do a side-by-side comparison of components. If a large shipment of covers is just slightly off from the hue of a casing, companies have wasted time and money getting the finished product to market, Boyle noted.
``You have to be able to communicate within a time frame and within a cost that is going to work for everyone,'' he said.
Molders cannot afford to have multiple testing equipment on site to meet the different demands of multiple customers. The better alternative is to have one system in place that can work with multiple brands of equipment.
The X-Rite Web-based system allows processors to access the same base-line data from the Internet, regardless of where they are located - whether in the design office or on the shop floor. It even translates data into multiple languages, so companies can use whichever is the most comfortable for them, and halt potential problems from faulty translations.
One automotive mirror maker used the system to track a poor color match on bezels back to the raw material blend coming into a supplier's factory, Teunis said.
``You've got just the one color chip stored in the server,'' Teunis said. ``Everyone's responding to that. They can respond instantly.''