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November 1, 2001

6 Min Read
A moldmaker's engineering strategy

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Magor is no stranger to large-cavity molds. It has built several 128- and 64-cavity molds like this one for its medical and packaging customers. The company recently built what is reportedly the largest valve-gated mold ever at 128 cavities.

It takes only about 5 minutes with Magor Mold President Wolfgang Buehler to sense that he's excited about the moldmaking business in a way few are in these economic downtimes. The first thing Buehler makes clear is that Magor Mold (San Dimas, CA) isn't a mold shop. "We're an engineering service business to the medical molding industry," he states. The company begins with product design. "Design for manufacturing is our forte," says Buehler. "[Design engineering] is where you make your money. Once it's designed well, almost any shop can build the mold." 

Buehler's business philosophy differs from that of many mold shop owners. Rather than court several dozen customers that each do a few thousand dollars in molds each year, Buehler has 10 key, long-term customers. "Six out of these 10 customers represent 90 percent of Magor's annual sales," Buehler explains. "It's not always the same six from year to year, but it's always six out of the same 10." 

Going Beyond the Tool Build 
Partnerships are key to Magor's success. Several years ago, Buehler began looking intensely for partnerships among his medical OEM customers. He approached each with a proposal: "If you need quick turnaround on tooling, give us a lot of utilization of capacity and we will give you fast delivery," Buehler promised. 

"It's all scheduling for mold shops," he explains. "We're always robbing Peter to pay Paul when it comes to time." 

Buehler asked his customers to look at all of their moldmakers and choose one with whom they would like to partner. Most of them chose Magor. "It's all based on trust because there is no competition," he says. 

This arrangement means that Magor's cost of sales is zero, which is the way Buehler likes it. "We don't do sales. We do the engineering up front and then we get the job," he says. "We put the investment in engineering the part and the mold." 

Creativity is also part of Magor's success. Many mold shops look at a print and give the customer exactly what they ask for, notes Buehler. The first thing Magor does when it receives a print to quote is determine whether or not the part design is sound and manufacturable. 

'A customer can't pay us enough for reducing cycle time from 18 to 12 seconds.'

"We have to feel 100 percent about the design or we refuse to quote the job," he says. "When moldmakers get talked into building a mold they don't feel good about, they lose their shirts," says Buehler. 

In addition, Magor rarely quotes a print as is, but evaluates ways to make it more manufacturable, and then quotes the job based on providing a mold for optimum manufacturing. However, Magor never tips its hand prior to getting the purchase order. "If we get the PO, we'll tell the customer our recommendations for reducing part costs," Buehler says. 

Many molds fail to operate in an optimum way under actual molding conditions because many moldmakers do not understand molding, he notes. "Mold shops need to learn molding," Buehler says. "We don't sell molds, we sell molded parts because that's where the customer makes money." 

Customer Education 
Being competitive in the global market is complicated by mold purchasers who don't know what they're buying. They typically go for the lowest-priced mold rather than assess the lowest overall cost to manufacture the product, notes Buehler. Too many OEM customers attempt to save money on the wrong end of the program, he says. "The mold doesn't make up the majority of the cost to manufacture their products," he explains. "The cost is in the manufacturing. They can't pay us enough for reducing cycle time from 18 seconds to 12 seconds." 

The worst customer for a mold shop is one who doesn't realize what he's getting, says Buehler, who believes that educating customers in the role the mold plays in the OEM's total cost to manufacture is critical to the success of U.S. mold shops. "If a customer doesn't know what he's buying, you won't win that battle." 

Buehler urges moldmakers and mold shops to be their own critics of their work. "Don't wait for the customer to be critical," he says. "Management needs to be detail-oriented. Put more attention into detail and be more critical of what you do." 

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A 128-cavity dust cover mold was designed and built by Magor for Erie Plastics. The mold, which runs cycles of approximately 6 seconds, was built using a minisystem from Manner GmbH and is said by Erie to be virtually maintenance free.

Putting It All to Work 
Once partnerships are formed, suggestions are made, and the customer is educated, it's time for Magor to prove it can deliver what it preaches. It did so recently when it built the largest valve-gated system ever. Magor used a minisystem (M-4 nozzles) from Manner GmbH to complete the job—a 128-cavity mold that contains individual drops and ran a 7.5-second cycle at its tryout. "We feel confident that production molding will be less than 7 seconds," explains Buehler, adding that the customer was hoping for an 8-second cycle. 

This kind of mold is not new to Magor. Three years ago the company built a 64-cavity mold with a minisystem for a medical application. And in April 1999 it designed and built a 128-cavity dust cover mold for Erie Plastics (Corry, PA) that reportedly runs in a 6-second cycle. Magor is currently building a second mold for each of these projects. 

"There are benefits to this type of mold in areas you wouldn't expect," says Hoop Roche, president of Erie. "We don't run cold runner molds, and this mold allows you a more tightly controlled process, which gets you better cycle times. 

"The best benefit, however, is that it's the closest thing to a maintenance-free mold we've ever had," Roche emphasizes. "Because you run the materials at lower temperatures, you don't have outgassing, and consequently, no buildup of crud on the mold." 

Mold maintenance is critical to Erie's performance, which is why Roche is planning to build a third 128-cavity valve-gate mold with Magor. "We can produce well over a million parts a day [in these molds]," Roche adds. 

Contact information
Magor Mold Inc.
San Dimas, CA
Wolfgang Buehler
(909) 592-3663
www.magormold.com
[email protected]

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