For many plastic injection molders, delays in project launches are distressingly common. But they don’t have to be.
Is your molder dealing with persistent tooling problems? Are they slow to respond to your questions? Are their project reports inconsistent, incomplete or outdated? Are delays becoming more common than they should be?
If you’re facing any of these challenges with your molder, then maybe it’s time to rethink your project launch strategy.
Here are five critical warning signs that you need to watch for:
1. Project communication is problematic
Historically, many molders have used a weekly update with action items to facilitate project communications. But this approach is no longer adequate in today’s era of data-driven decision-making. Why?
With this type of “open-loop” reporting, there’s no accountability to ensure that each of the action items is completed on a timely basis. Often, the majority of communication is done on an ad hoc basis. As a result, a lack of regular communication results in uncertainty about the project timeline.
New Berlin Plastics’ approach: We utilize a web-based collaboration tool to enable agile communication between New Berlin Plastics engineers and our customers. It solves the biggest problem with most launch processes: It’s structured to provide closed-loop management of action items. In other words, business rules can be configured so that it alerts project participants if their tasks aren’t resolved on a timely basis.
If these action items still aren’t answered, they’re escalated to a higher level of priority. This makes it easy for project managers and engineers from our team and our customers to view and resolve them promptly. That, in turn, helps us keep our customers’ project launches on track.
2. No evidence of continuous improvement and reinvestment in the business
Continuous improvement isn’t just something you “do” periodically to make sure you’re being as efficient as possible at everything you do. It needs to be baked into your company’s DNA, so it permeates your culture, your investment and project decisions and the way in which you partner with customers.
In addition, partnering with a molder that makes ongoing investments in people, equipment, training, automation and project management capabilities can help you manage your costs, minimize supply chain disruptions and deliver a better end product to your customers.
Unfortunately, with many molders being acquired by investment firms, it’s hard to find a partner that can afford to make these types of important investments on a consistent, ongoing basis.
New Berlin Plastics’ approach: We’ve been committed to the continuous improvement of our processes, molding equipment, data collection/analysis technology and people for many years. That’s what enables us to achieve a 98% on-time launch track record over 100 open customer projects.
Plus, New Berlin Plastics is privately owned. We’re not preoccupied with trying to service debt like many of our investor-owned competitors. That enables us to make the significant long-term investments that are required to become a world-class plastic injection molder.
3. Incomplete and inaccurate information makes it hard to make informed decisions about the project
Project launches in the plastic injection molding industry require a significant amount of molder/customer communications. The two parties must discuss a variety of part design optimization, tool design, polymer selection and other issues as the molder dials-in its production process to meet the customer’s requirements.
Customers require access to up-to-date, accurate information about the status of the project and its tasks. That enables them to make informed decisions and, if needed, course corrections to help keep the project on track. Without it, project timelines suffer.
New Berlin Plastics’ approach: Our data-driven approach helps our customers make better-informed decisions about their supply chain planning and go-to-market strategies. Our online collaboration tool creates a closed-loop environment that assures those action items get the prompt attention they deserve. It also ensures that our customers always have access to up-to-date project information.
Most importantly, this enlightened approach to project launch management enables us to consistently produce high-quality parts that meet our customers’ specifications.
4. Your molder isn’t leveraging Scientific Injection Molding to its full potential
Scientific Injection Molding (SIM) uses data and statistical analysis to create the most effective, robust, repeatable process possible. It enables the molder to create an optimized tool design, based on mold flow analysis and best practices. It focuses on polymer behavior rather than machine behavior. That enables the molder to create a robust, repeatable process that reduces set-up times and scrap, while also improving part quality and consistency.
Many molders use SIM, but don’t connect it with a focus on continuous improvement and ongoing reinvestment in equipment, technology and people. That’s where its real power resides. Ideally, your molder should be employing SIM to identify and fix the root causes of problems.
It should also be used to reveal patterns in mold data and conditions that help your molder to identify areas for improvement and variables to avoid. That requires a significant investment in data warehousing, analysis and the expertise to extract insights from it.
New Berlin Plastics’ approach: At New Berlin Plastics, Scientific Injection Molding is part of a larger approach that’s focused on continuous improvement, robust launch and production processes and intelligent analysis of data to quickly troubleshoot and solve production problems. Combining data with highly optimized processes enables us to make informed decisions that expedite our customers’ project launches.
5. The molder’s process isn’t rigorous enough to produce high-quality parts consistently
Ideally, your molder should have finely-honed, data-driven processes that enable it to produce high-quality parts on a consistent basis. A commitment to continuous improvement is a plus because it ensures that the molder will continue to refine its processes over time. High variability leads to either waste or excess production costs. Either scenario can result in a higher cost to you in the long run.
New Berlin Plastics’ approach: During the project launch process, we work closely with our customers to create tooling that is optimized to the material and application. As we put the tooling through test runs, in-mold sensors help us gather data about actual tool and resin behavior.
Once the tool, material and production process have been optimized, we create a Universal Process Sheet, an internal “recipe.” It documents all of the data points regarding various attributes of the manufacturing process. That enables us to rapidly and reliably put that tool into production for future orders.
It’s time to raise your expectations for project launches
If you’re seeing any of these warning signs in your current molder relationship, perhaps it’s time to take a fresh look at what’s possible with project launches. Contact us today to discuss your needs.