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November 27, 1999

4 Min Read
Inheriting a mold:  Helping your customer make the switch

Once upon a time there was a medical products manufacturer burdened by a molder supplying overdue, substandard parts. The molder was grappling with process control issues and working for the first time with the gas-assist process. Diminishing part quality jeopardized the health of the product and put the manufacturer at risk. Although the molder had been a supplier to this company for five years, the decision was finally made to terminate the relationship, pull the $2.5 million program, and find a new molder. “It was a very difficult decision,” says an engineer at the company, who asked to remain anonymous. “No one was happy.”

Still, in Pulsar Plastics, based in Carlyle, IL, the manufacturer found a new molder it thought could do the job. This $18 million, 13-press company had experience with gas assist and appeared to have the organization and quality procedures the manufacturer required.

But a larger question still loomed: How to transfer this program from the current molder to Pulsar without disrupting the supply chain? The product was on the market and maintaining stock was critical. The manufacturer had never moved a mold before and didn’t know how to start. “I asked Pulsar,” says the engineer, “if they’d ever suddenly taken on a mold from another molder. They had, and it really made a big difference.”

Transfer as a Service
When a program is transferred from one molder to another, often the current molder is instructed simply to ship the tools to the new molder, sight unseen. The new molder is then saddled with the task of constructing order from what is potentially a chaotic situation. But in this tale, Pulsar didn’t wait for the tools to arrive, says Adam Pashea, marketing manager for the company. “We’ve found that when we are allowed to assist in the transfer process, it moves along more expediently and efficiently,” he reports.

Pulsar took over coordination of the transfer, visiting the previous molder, assessing the parts in the process, and inspecting all of the tools. “We coordinated the movement of the entire project—the molds, the material, everything,” says Pashea. “We visited the current molder and inspected all raw materials and work-in-process parts, and coordinated the shipment of all items related to this project to Pulsar’s facility.”

For some OEMs and manufacturers, the arduous task of pulling a mold from a supplier is so imposing that the idea can be delayed or even abandoned, even in the face of substandard product. “I think some customers say, ‘I’m getting poor quality. How do I know I’m not going to get the same thing somewhere else?’” Pashea says. The necessity of pulling a job also implies a failure in the system, which can be a divisive and unsettling reality—between the molder and customer and within the customer’s company.

For molders who inherit molds or programs from other molders, the unfamiliarity that accompanies an unknown tool can make for an awkward transition. To avoid this, and to give its customers more peace of mind during the transfer of a mold, Pulsar has developed a set of procedures to make the process as painless as possible.

The Method
When coordinating the transfer of a mold to its plant, Pulsar performs three basic tasks to ease the transition.

  • Determine inventory and production requirements. Obtain an estimate of the parts needed to meet scheduled shipments. Work with the current molder to determine the amount of finished goods at its facility. Request an inventory of raw materials, work-in-process parts, and finished goods associated with the project. The document should provide a total quantity, description, status of completion of work-in-process parts, and valuation of all materials in inventory. The current supplier will typically request a cashier’s check for the balance due on all materials, and thus an accurate inventory and dollar value is imperative. Pulsar recommends a wire transfer of the necessary funds when visiting the facility.

    Review and validate the assets. In other words, go to the facility. Whenever possible Pulsar sends a contingent to the plant of the current molder. Despite the potentially contentious situation that exists, Pashea says most molders he’s encountered are professional enough to let the new molder come to the plant and conduct an inspection.During this onsite visit, and before committing to a delivery time line with the customer, Pulsar inspects the tools and assesses what, if any, repairs will have to be made before production can be restarted. “An accurate estimate cannot be given until the tool is inspected,” says Pashea. “We’ve gotten some molds in need of considerable work prior to being production ready.” Pashea adds that he believes many molders lose jobs due to a poorly designed mold or a mold in need of repair. “One of the reasons molders have problems is that they don’t take the time to correct the mold,” he suggests.Implement the project. Once the transfer of materials and molds has been completed, calculate, based on work-in-process parts and customer needs, how many parts are required. Repair tools as necessary, establish quality parameters, and start production.

Pashea says Pulsar has successfully completed at least a half dozen program transfers in the last few years, following this model.

Contact information
Pulsar Plastics
Carlyle, IL
Adam Pashea
Phone: (618) 594-3692
Fax: (618) 594-8337
Web: www.pulsarplastics.com

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