Choosing a Thermoplastic Injection Molder
There are a number of reasons you may have to find a new injection molder. Your current molder may be out of capacity and you need your mold run -- now! You need a molder for that new product that marketing has been pressing for. You just found out your current molder will soon be closing its doors. Or maybe, your current molder just isn't growing with you.
These situations are put in front of engineers and buyers every day of the week. How they deal with them can mean the difference between keeping the line going or stopping, meeting a marketing deadline, or giving the competition an advantage. And the issues don't just apply to finding an injection molder, they can just as easily apply to other manufacturing services.
With thousands of thermoplastic injection molders throughout the world, locating one that best suites a firm's immediate needs and, at the same time, ties into the firm's future planning, can be a challenge.
The first task is to determine where you can most effectively locate receptive, quality-oriented molders without taking up an exorbitant amount of valuable time. Besides word of mouth, conventional avenues for locating a molder have been regional or national industrial directories, trade magazines, and regional or national trade shows.
'Yellow Page' type advertising can be somewhat successful. The drawback with this method is the lack of immediate, one-on-one interaction with these suppliers. With the increased avenues for marketing and advertising, costs for advertising a molding company in these directories have become more economical, substantially increasing the number of suppliers either advertising or listed. Sifting through the candidates can be overwhelming when the pressure is on to find a good molder.
National trade shows allow the opportunity for one on one interaction. But they can also be overwhelming because the multitude of exhibitors (some as many as 2,000) tends to reduce the amount of 'quality' time you can spend with each molder.
One of the more effective techniques is to attend regional trade shows. Regional trade shows, typically known as 'Job Shop Shows', provide the opportunity to speak to a comfortable number of prospective suppliers. This allows the time to explore their capabilities, personalities, and fit to your specific molding requirements. When it comes to face-to-face interaction in a short time, the regional 'Job Shop Show' can be a valuable tool for locating a good, long term injection molder.
A new avenue for locating quality molders is through the rapidly expanding 'Internet'. While many may feel this forum is a 'high tech industrial directory', it is a middle of the road alternative to the trade show, directory, or magazine advertisement. It enables speed and flexibility in searching for a supplier that displays well and, at the same time, provides a route to interact by way of the e-mail process. Another benefit of the Internet is the search capabilities and discussion groups that can help in obtaining recommendations and for your current task.
Whatever avenue is used to obtain your prospective molder, it is important to limit the number that will be further evaluated. Selecting an exorbitant number of prospective suppliers for more detailed evaluation will take up quite a bit of your time, along with putting too many variables into the equation. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands, your search should be limited to eight initial suppliers and whittled down to two or three before the final selection is made.
When searching for your molder, here are some relevant issues to consider:
1. In-House Tooling Facilities
When evaluating a prospective injection molder, consider whether they have an in-house tooling maintenance, repair and upkeep shop, preferably with 24/7 responsiveness. Having on-site dedicated expertise dedicated to maintaining, repairing, and getting the customer's molds on-line again as quickly as possible goes a long way to ensuring maximum efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
2. Computer Aided Design
Designing a mold to produce your components takes time. Reducing that design time through CAD is essential to getting your product to market faster than your competition. The additional flexibility provided by CAD and the experience to assist in the final design of your components with an eye toward moldability and cost efficiency will save you even more time.
3. Process Control
Technology in injection molding has come a long way over the past 10 years. The newer machines are quicker, more efficient, and have reporting and self-correcting capabilities. To be competitive, injection molders should be investing in these technologies and understand the need to design and manufacture-in quality, rather than inspecting out errors after the fact. Don't think that money spent in new technology means higher prices. Quite the contrary, it means more competitive costs because of less waste and greater efficiencies.
4. Quality Control
When talking with or visiting your prospective injection molding suppliers, keep a close eye on the activity within the quality control department. Ask who each of the people working in that department report to. Especially ask who the department head reports to.
In the quality assurance areas, it is important that the department head or manager reports directly to the General Manager/President/Owner. Without reporting to the person in charge of the company, there is always the possibility that he or she will be overridden by someone whose interests are strictly on a dollars-shipped basis.
If the Quality Assurance Manager reports directly to the President, it is important for you to spend some time with the President to get a feel for her or his commitment to quality.
5. Fiscal health
All the right components can be in place for a great relationship in molding, but without a healthy corporate financial profile, there may be trouble down the line. There is nothing more frustrating, and potentially dangerous, than when your molder is forced to shut its doors for financial reasons.
Even under the best conditions, you should obtain a Dun and Bradstreet report on your supplier once every six months. While this is not a sure-fire way to avoid problems, you may be alerted to potential problems and adjust your strategies before their problems become yours.
It is understandable that references given to you by your prospective molder will be from the more elite of his/her customers. Typically, you will be given a contact name. While it is important to contact the person on the list, it can also be beneficial to contact people other than those on the list, such as the quality control or engineering managers. Finding someone with limited contact with the molder may yield more of a constructive evaluation.
7. Communication Skills
Communication skills are essential in maintaining a long term relationship. In the initial stages of your business relationship, be aware of instances of misunderstanding or misinterpretations. This may be an indication of what you can expect in the future.
Every company has a personality. It generally transcends from the top person down throughout the organization. When discussing possibilities with your prospective molder, be cognizant of attitudes. Ask questions and be aware of not only what is being said to you, but how it is being said to you.
There are many pieces of the puzzle of finding a good injection molder. Following the advice above should reduce your time in finding and keeping a new supplier and forming a long-term relationship. The key to a successful search is to have patience and keep your options open to other suppliers if your original supplier is unable to meet your needs.
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