Nov 07 2005

Facts to Face and Problems to Solve

Published by at 5:29 pm under Uncategorized

Releasing a tool prematurely for production is a formula for disaster. Before we can launch a product certain realities must be faced and addressed. Before we can launch a product certain realities must be faced and addressed.  Sometimes we create our own messes and have high overhead costs because we haven’t smartened up enough. Sometimes we wish really hard the tooling will change for free or the process technicians will fix something and a slow, non-producing tool will magically become a cash cow.  Wishing didn’t work when you were 10 years old.  It doesnt work now.  If you are looking to improve profits here are some facts to face and problems to deal with.

In the rush to approve a part or bring a product to market many people believe ‘little’ defects or a non-performing cavity can be fixed during production.  They therefore release the tooling to production and begin a very successful program of losing money.

There are some facts to face:

  1. While Quality is free, it’s rework that costs.  If you put your Quality Department’s time and effort into a rigorous tryout and qualification you really don’t have to inspect; only audit. No rejects mean no costly replacements or rework. It also means you need less inspectors.
  2. Inspections (hourly, daily, regularly) are an admission that you don’t have either a reliable process, a reliable machine, a reliable tool or a combination of all of these.  Face it and deal with it.
  3. Semi-automatic processes create scrap.  Any cycle determined by a person will have the variations of that person.  Variations create scrap.  Automatic processes may require a tooling modification but they will reduce scrap.
  4. A tooling fix is a one-time expense.
  5. A process fix costs you every time the machine ejects a part.
  6. Injection molding is a mature industry/technology.  While there have been many innovations in machines, molds and process control; the basic technology of melt the plastic, inject, pack, cool, eject and repeat has never changed.  It is therefore learnable and NOT Voodoo Engineering.
  7. There are only a few variables in molding: The environment, the equipment, heat, pressure, time, speed and position.  It is easy to learn these variables, their affect on the process and their interactions. Each variable is controllable and measurable thereby making DOE’s (especially the ever-popular L8 version) while making some excellent Executive Wallpaper, a very expensive waste of time and money.
  8. If plastic were a person, it could never lie: the defect you see was created  it didn’t grow there like mold on a loaf of bread overnight.  It tells you what happened and most times where to look for the correction.
  9. Price is not king.  Ask anyone who’s paid for expedited freight costing more than the part is worth.  Therefore getting your parts 11 time zones, two cultures and one language barrier from your plant is only an excellent business decision until the first lot is rejected, the freight container fell into the ocean, or the customs people are sitting on your shipment.  If anything, king is delivery.  The worst nightmare is finding a defect and knowing there is  eight weeks of rolling inventory in the pipeline and NO CLUE if the parts are good or bad.
  10. Maintenance is expensive and necessary.  Yes it is expensive but it is an investment in maximizing profits.  Ignoring maintenance is like ignoring the low oil light in your car for a few thousand miles when a few quarts of oil are always cheaper than a new engine.
  11. There is only one true metric of productivity in Injection Molding:  Net saleable pieces produced per hour.  Making scrap quickly, running without a full set of cavities, slowing down because of lack of maintenance, sorting out scrap all degrade profits.  If you make a bad part you spend twice the machine cycle to replace it: Once when you made it, and again when you made the replacement.  This second time is paid for directly out of profits that will never be replaced.
  12. There is no rule that you have to lower your prices.  While being asked isn’t stealing saying “no” is a perfectly acceptable response.  Most threats that the tooling will be pulled are bluffs.  If the tooling will be pulled, it will be pulled no matter what you do.  So don’t worry about it.
  13. There is no obligation to continue to do business with an abusive customer.  Working with people whom you can profitably do business with is preferred.  ‘Thinning the herd’is an acceptable practice in most industries including the plastics business.

There are also problems:

1. The customer is rarely right.  most customers are now buyers who have no knowledge of the industry or what it takes to produce a part.  They are more in love with today’s management buzz words than actually getting parts.
2. If it’s in writing you can count on it.  If it is verbal most people can’t accurately recall all the specific details.  All business transactions should be memorialized.  Take notes of phone conversations and send it to the other party under the title “To recap our phone conversation of ……… Here is what we agreed to:”
3. Nobody wants parts to print . Parts that work functionally and aesthetically are what the customer is purchasing.  It is the molde’s job to educate the customer that ‘if it works and looks like it is supposed to; it has met the design intent.Therefore a print change is appropriate”  Also it is the molder’s job to educate the customer that surface finishes defined as ‘Shiny’ or a ‘Bright (High) Polish’ or a cosmetics specification ‘Free of defects’ are not specifications, only wishes.
4. Molder’s management is spending less time on the floor and more time in front of their computers  “Management by Telepathy” is the surest road to unrealistic expectations if not business failure  Get to know the folks in the T-shirts and shorts. They hold amazing amounts of untapped expertise in you only ask.

Solving problems is actually simple:  Find the underlying cause that all manifestations of it point to and remove this cause permanently.  If the cause is gone so is the problem.  Without communication to the front office or the customer, good solutions only get lost in politics, memos, and meetings.  Solutions require intelligent work and most often money.

Think if it like cutting your finger:  The FIX is disinfecting the cut and putting on a band-aide.  The SOLUTION is finding out (learning) how (why) you cut your finger in the first place and not doing it again.  We should be in the solution business.  We should  look at solving problems by removing the problem i.e. Fixing (modify/repair) the Tool, sometimes the process, and sometimes the machine.

Your Choice

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