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May 27, 2002

5 Min Read
Choosing the right mold shop: An OEM perspective


Coinco manufactures electronic bill and coin handling equipment. Its toolmakers are chosen on the basis of both price and lead time.

Often we look at purchasing a mold from the toolmaker's point of view and what the mold shop expects from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). IMM decided to turn that around and explore the step-by-step mold purchasing process from the point of view of one OEM engineer.

John Scherr, a design engineer for Coin Acceptors Inc. (Coinco, St. Louis, MO), the world's leading manufacturer of electronic bill and coin handling equipment for the vending industry, offers some tips on the process of selecting the right mold shop.

Scherr says the first step is to determine compatibility between Coinco and the mold shop. Some of the compatibility criteria include easy transfer of CAD data between Coinco and the moldmaker; capabilities to produce designs and molds for complex components as opposed to simple, straightforward parts; in-house mold sampling to eliminate shipping the mold back and forth if changes are warranted; and other value-added features such as electronic progress reports, including photos, via the Internet. "This last one can save lots of travel cost and time," says Scherr.

Second, Scherr recommends a visit to the mold shop to see firsthand how it operates and how compatible that will be with how the OEM operates. "Get references, and then actually talk to the references," says Scherr.

Traveling and Other Considerations
In spite of the fact that this is a global economy and molds can be purchased anywhere in the world, Scherr believes location is important. It's fairly well known that if a mold purchaser likes to travel, he or she will likely go further to obtain a mold. Yet Scherr believes travel is not the best use of time, and he prefers to use shops in close proximity.

When he does go out on shop surveys, he tries to evaluate several in the same geographic area. "Surveying shops in the same city can make travel more cost effective," he explains.

When it comes to the quoting process, Scherr says it's critical to make certain that each shop is quoting the same tool. That puts the onus on the mold purchaser to "be very specific with what you want" in terms of mold type, design parameters, steel parameters, and so forth.

Also, once you have quotes, be consistent with the vendors. "It isn't fair if the high bidder or the guy with the longest lead time is given an opportunity to modify their quote, but the others are excluded from the same opportunity," says Scherr.

Be courteous to the bidding shops and follow up with them on the quotes. While price is always important, lead time is often a deciding factor between competitive bids, Scherr points out.


Design Engineer John Scherr encourages courtesy, honesty, and organization for those involved in selecting a toolmaker.

"The shops not awarded the work deserve timely notification to let them know that the job has been contracted and why they were not the winning bidder," explains Scherr. "It builds good relationships for future work."

When awarding the contract, make sure to match the mold build requirements with the skills, equipment, and expertise of the mold shop. That's why doing upfront shop qualification is critical. Awarding a job to a shop that doesn't have the experience or equipment to handle the job just sets it up for failure. In that case everyone loses.

Manage the Process
During the mold build cycle, keeping track of the mold progress is key to success. To do this, Scherr has created a spreadsheet with all the vital information available at a glance: part name, part number, tool number, revision level, material, location (mold shop name), cost, delivery date, status, comments, and more. "Currently I'm tracking 39 separate parts at seven different mold shop locations," says Scherr. "All this information fits on two letter-sized sheets of paper."

Scherr also keeps an electronic folder for each vendor and for each part/mold. Inside each folder he stores and copies all files pertinent to the particular part/mold, including the RFQ, CAD data, approvals, layouts from the vendors, and all correspondence such as e-mail or letters associated with the tool build. "This has proven very valuable in tracking down details of what, when, where, why, who, and how of the build cycle," Scherr notes.

To ensure good communications with the moldbuilder, Scherr always follows up his phone calls with an e-mail correspondence. "This establishes written documentation of actions, confirmation of dates, and so forth," he says. "Vendors have told me they appreciate the e-mails and have learned to expect them."

Never assume that "no news is good news," Scherr states emphatically. "Talk to the vendors at least once every week and more if needed. Insist on regular and timely progress reports. The best shops itemize by job tasks such as design, order material, and program electrodes—not just 'mold 25 percent done.' The percentage game can be very misleading."

Following these guidelines has helped Scherr stay on time and on budget with his mold shop vendors. The result is that everyone comes out a winner and good relationships are built between the moldmaker and OEM.

"Experience is always the best teacher, but following a consistent procedure, documenting all communications, and having respect for all parties makes for a win-win situation for everyone," Scherr says.

Contact information
Coin Acceptors Inc.
St. Louis, MO
John Scherr
(314) 725-0100

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