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January 1, 2001

6 Min Read
Moldmaker wears a global interface

The Acot Co. is a growing worldwide moldmaker with large production facilities in Asia, the Americas, and Europe. That gives the company a lot to talk about. However, when IMM met with representatives at the Fakuma show in Germany last October, the first thing they started talking about was the success of the company's recently introduced online customer interface.

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 Acot's E-Partner software (bottom) gives clients online access to a complete project management matrix for each tool in production. Besides the VRML 3-D file shown (top), a client can look at 2-D drawings, mold proving results, and individual mold components.

     Called E-Partner, the software and its related website are custom designed to support the company's goal: Bring molds to market in the shortest possible time at the most competitive cost with no sacrifice in quality. And it works, according to Guy Holder, deputy managing director of Acot-Riga, located in Riga, Latvia. After  more than six months online, E-Partner has already found full acceptance by clients around the world.

The Site
Multifunctional and covering every stage in a mold's development, the specially designed online software begins with an automated quotation system. It guides the customer through the insertion of specifications and variables, prompts for more information where needed, and returns a quote to the client in about two days, depending on the time of day it arrives. According to Holder, however, E-Partner's postquote and order functions are proving equally if not more valuable to both client and supplier.

     Through a password-protected interface, an Acot client can view a list of molds in current production. Clicking on a particular mold takes the user to the Mould Progress Matrix. This shows the client the estimated vs. actual time for each process in the mold's construction, the percentage of the tool already completed, and the amount of lead time consumed. The Matrix also contains links to layers of specific information about the mold, including the following:

  • Complete mold information, including tooling specifications.                     

  • A project log containing a full and detailed history.                     

  • A VRML 3-D virtual reality model.                     

  • Photos of cores, cavities, slides, and bases' updated every three to four days.                     

  • Component dimensional reports.                     

  • Mold test reports.                     

  • A DWF general assembly drawing.

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 A client at his computer can view progressive photos of his mold in production and ask for a different or more detailed view. This image is unclear for technical reasons, but the on-screen images are clear and detailed.

Should Acot need information, a flashing notice on the page catches the client's eye and requests action. A full history of all communications regarding the mold is maintained in the project log.

Once in use, Holder says, the system revealed several other advantages. For example, an increasing number of clients have found another application of the photo record within the matrix. When a client is contemplating a change, specific photos of a particular part of the mold can be requested. This can be a photo not in the standard selection, or it can be a more detailed close-up of a specific area in question. The client then receives a clear visual to evaluate before making any change decision.

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Acot's molds span a variety of applications. This is an optical-quality mold for a surgeon's face mask.

The E-Partner software design also includes full linking of every Acot facility around the world. This is critical given that virtually all clients are themselves global players and that Acot provides concurrent engineering from multiple locations. Acot's moldmaking factories are located in Riga, Latvia; Hermosillo, Mexico; Mirabor, Slovenia; and Singapore. The Singapore plant also performs injection molding, and Acot has other molding plants in Malaysia, Shanghai, and Xiamen, China. U.S. sales offices are in New Jersey. Acot is also a member of the Singapore-based Acma Group, which owns Creative Masters, a maker of high-quality toy collectibles that performs molding at four facilities in China.

Acot is possibly among the largest moldmakers in the world. There are 50 milling centers and 30 EDM machines at three locations. The large CNC mills offer XYZ travel up to 2.5 by 1 by 1m. The upper size limit for molds is about 12 tons. Acot's total workspace is 101,800 sq m (1.1 million sq ft). The company employs about 2000 people. Add Creative Masters and you have 264,800 sq m (2.85 million sq ft) of space and almost 9000 employees. In the toolmaking locations there are about 750 moldmakers, plus another 250 at Creative Masters. Acot's total annual revenue is more than $320 million and growing.

Up From The Ashes

Acot's Riga, Latvia plant is an interesting story. The Technological Tool Factory, as it was formerly known, used to make molds for Soviet army gas masks, among other things, until the USSR collapsed. Subsequently privatized, it struggled to stay alive until Acot acquired it almost five years ago.

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 Besides modernizing the building, Acot s extensive renovation of the 322,800-sq-ft plant in Riga, Latvia included a major investment in CNC machinery, such as the KAFO machining centers in the foreground.

Today the company is healthy, growing, and certainly one of the largest single moldmaking shops in Europe. Revenue in 1997 was less than half a million dollars; in 1998 that number grew to almost $6 million. Acot invested substantially in equipment and initiated a full renovation of the nearly 322,800-sq-ft facility.

Latvia was not seen as a prime spot for foreign manufacturers to locate, but Tony Thorne, managing director, says Acot liked the substantial number of highly skilled engineers and moldmakers that had trained in the Soviet factories. Riga is Latvia's capital city, a busy port, and according to Guy Holder, deputy managing director, provides a good living and working environment.

Thanks to Acot's investments, those engineers and moldmakers now have 28 CNC machining centers, 22 CNC EDM systems, 27 grinders, a full assortment of drills and lathes, plus eight injection machines ranging from 100 to 1500 tons for tryouts.

Acot-Riga has focused on medium to large molds for auto, medical, electronic, and housewares applications. Customers include Thomson, Ford, Stanley, Volvo, Toyota, Rubbermaid, and others. The plant, which is about to be certified ISO 9002, runs around the clock six and sometimes seven days per week.

The product design group uses FMEA and QFD methodology and works with Pro/Engineer, SolidWorks, Cimatron, and AutoCAD systems. Tool design incorporates mold flow and stress analysis with 3-D component data. 

Contact information
Acot
Brick, NJ
Bill Herrmann
Phone: (732) 458-6565
Fax: (732) 458-3469
Web: www.acotonline.com

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