In today’s ISO 9000 framed injection molding operations, preventative maintenance on equipment is a given. The manufacturers’ recommended maintenance steps and frequency are entered into a spreadsheet or more importantly an ERP system and said equipment is maintained proficiently. One of the “pieces” of equipment that does not fit into this system are the molds utilized to make the customers’ product. First and foremost, the molds are unique “custom” pieces of equipment with no issued set of recommendations. Secondly, they are a customer owned asset and as such, sometimes not regarded as “in-house equipment.”
With molds in regular production, it is easy to fall into a mode of running reactively to leaks, squeaks or a run of bad parts. If a mold is looked at during a run, mold maintenance staff can regard the mold as already having been serviced and it is placed back onto the shelf. Once into this mode, the mold shop does not need to look for work, it comes to them in the form of last minute needs or production stoppage that must be dealt with. Some of the activities that can eat into a maintenance shop’s day include, mold breakdowns, cavitation drop-offs and poor quality parts. Couple that with planned activities around mold revisions where time is eaten up by poor documentation issues or difficulty working with some molds that are more intricate and it is that much easier to stay in reactive mode.
All of this reactionary effort adds up to being unable to forecast labor and dollars for the mold maintenance part of the injection molder’s operation. While few set out to, it is easy for a molder to fall into this reactive mode and not see the forest for the trees. One factor that helps bring this dark force out into the light is having an internal mold design group. Shops that have both mold design AND mold maintenance have a larger issue with unscheduled mold maintenance. New mold projects are planned and scheduled. Distractions like unplanned maintenance can have a time impact on new molds and a ripple effect that can put customer relations in jeopardy.
Aside from the afore mentioned impact on new molds, reactionary mold maintenance means extra overhead and extra cost to pass on to the customer base. This makes molder less competitive or more importantly at risk financially if it is not brought under control. Reacting to mold issues and inefficiencies during production means press downtime, unplanned mold pulls, a disrupted production scheduled and stress on a technical staff.
A molder that has a planned and systematic method of maintaining molds has a much better chance of being able to accurate predict what their costs are going to be, maintain an accurate production schedule and as such on-time deliveries, and have a staff that is efficiently working to a plan rather than reacting haphazardly to issues as they arise.
Look for these mold maintenance qualities in a molder, and you will be better assured you are getting a good deal for your order and a supplier that will be around for the long haul.