Although a mold builder looks to have a smooth relationship with his customer, any request for a written guarantee can churn up some confrontational feelings. One asks himself, if not his customer, “Are the molds going to be neglected and then returned for no-charge repairs?”
With mold builders already contending with razor-thin margins and an inconsistent backlog, the liability of absorbing repairs might just be a back breaker.
Why are more mold buyers asking about performance warranties? A skeptic could say it's just one more way of grinding down a mold builder. However, the real goal for a reputable molder is to have the mold builder sensitive to its need for a consistently performing tool. Raising the topic of performance expectations is an opportunity for a different kind of collaboration.
How does a mold builder respond to the topic? Some tell customers, “No way!” Others have reported that they just say yes “and we'll worry about it later.”
There are some versions of a warranty that have been developed, but their use is the exception, not the rule.
A mold builder often will be concerned and uncertain as to how the mold will be maintained. How can it be verified that toolroom personnel are trained and capable? Does the pace of mold changeovers mean it is a “firefighting culture”? Is there an established, structured maintenance system in place? Is there electronic documentation in place that is integral to the care of the molder's fleet of tools?
If so, a mold builder can guarantee the materials used, the dimensional accuracy of the tool and sound engineering practices that will result in a tool that will perform as expected when maintained at consistent intervals.
Much like automobile warranties require evidence of proper maintenance, and consumer electronics warranties do not cover cameras that are dropped, parameters are required for mold warranties. And rather than being a “gotcha,” clarity of expectations helps both parties.
This subject was recently presented to the American Mold Builders Association at its annual convention, and there was interest in a standardized warranty being reviewed and approved by the group's board.
Mold-maintenance expert Randy Winton is gathering warranties that have been formed, combining various aspects into one document, to forward that draft for the AMBA as well as other mold builders and molders to review. Contact Randy at randy.winton@ toolingdocs.com to share your insights and experiences.
Taking it one step further, rather than cringing at the question, what if a mold builder replies with an offer of an extended warranty? That's an opportunity to differentiate oneself from low-cost mold-making companies that are more focused on churning out tools, rather than their tools churning out parts.
Molders that are aware that real profits are generated from quality tools running at optimum performance can benefit from a collaborative — not confrontational — conversation with the builder of their tools.
Starkey is president of Wauconda, Ill.-based PCIC Group, which comprises Progressive Components International Corp., Roehr Tool Corp., ToolingDocs LLC and AST Technology GmbH.