Sponsored By
Clare Goldsberry

June 14, 2016

4 Min Read
HP project shows how collaboration among stakeholders improves products

A sound project management strategy provides a pathway to better molds, higher quality parts and on-time scheduling to meet pre-determined lead times. While many OEMs and suppliers talk a good game, however, few actually pull it off. David Tucker, Plastics Sourcing Engineer for Hewlett Packard (Palo Alto), developed a new collaborative framework, which he calls the Round-Table Review Process, that helps all the stake-holders in a project become owners of the project—including any problems—to ensure success.

Tucker defines the Round-Table Review Process as “pertaining to a conference, discussion or deliberation in which each participant has equal status, equal voice and equal time.”

Tucker presented a case study at the recent ANTEC conference in Indianapolis. The project’s scope included 700+ custom injection molds, collaboration between 50+ design engineers, communication between three different geographic regions and an aggressive release schedule. “Adoption of the correct plastic part review process and release planning was at the crux of the project,” said Tucker.

The goals of the Round-Table Review Process included identification of:

  • The project mission (what is the best system for the plastic part design release?);

  • supporting objectives (cost reduction and meeting deadlines and quality goals);

  • supporting goals (reducing fixed and variable costs, increasing communication, developing the timing plan, providing mentorship among group members, and building a relationship with stakeholders).

The strategy included comparing alternatives. The resulting actions included determining gate placement and tool criteria, optimizing the design for plastics, validating the design using simulation, reducing production issues, providing tooling design for manufacturing and prioritizing workflow.

The Round-Table Review Process had several guiding visions that included organizing a small team of peers, keeping it simple and having respect for and trusting team members, and focusing on problem identification, then evaluating the end product using different perspectives. “Meetings are informal in nature and do not use systematic rating systems or advanced evaluation techniques, and discussion is established to keep the review process flowing,” Tucker explained.

David Tucker, HP Plastics Sourcing Engineer.

Broken out, the review process begins with Perspective #1: Project management, in which team members discuss the schedule, the prioritization of parts or components and assignment of a plastics owner to provide a point of contact.

Perspective #2 is tooling: What is the estimated usage? Is the part cosmetic? Next the team establishes a gate strategy to obtain the design objective of the part, and then identifies any special requirements.

Perspective #3 involves plastics design, in which the team discusses part functionality and the natural cavity/core split of the design. The team then determines any top level design rule violations. Next, the team conducts discussions on alternative plastic design solutions that better accomplish design goals.

Perspective #4 is the plastics processing area, where the team identifies the material to be used, conducts a general processing discussion and notes long-term concerns with production.

As a result of this Round-Table Review Process, HP improved in several key areas. In developing an injection mold manufacturing strategy, the company developed and validated a gating strategy; identified thick and thin sections of the parts; validated design details and features; and predicted cosmetic defects. Tucker noted that “face-to-face communication of simulation results enabled non-molding experts to understand the value of the tooling.”

Next, the plan for getting parts on schedule was successful due to clear communication with vendors and engineers to understand resource utilization and limitations. “The parts released to vendors had improved manufacturability and enabled us to hit the ground running,” Tucker commented. “Both internal and external stakeholders benefited from this communication.”

The team also explored using alternative methods to solve design problems. “Early discussions allowed the team to focus on solutions up front and to plan for utilization of new production methods,” said Tucker, noting that some of the new technologies adopted during this process involved two-shot and gas-assist injection molding, sequential valve gates and family tooling. “The collaborative review process enabled the assessment and implementation of new ideas and methods,” Tucker stated.

Collaboration provided mentorship to participants of the group that were not as familiar with plastic part design and molding technologies. The skill areas that showed the most improvement were project management, part design, tool design, processing, communication and mold simulation. “Working together helps team members learn and share,” said Tucker. “It makes the team and the product better.”

The new Round-Table Review Process developed by Tucker and HP proved to be an excellent way to ensure that the project stayed on schedule and ensured an excellent outcome. “The product quality, cost and execution all benefited from the use of the Round-Table design review discussion. These improvements were measured by the assessment criteria discussed,” Tucker concluded. “Above all, the group members and culture of the plastics organization of HP improved. The change has enabled better technical assessment and planning with the organization.”

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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