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Moldmakers: Let your hot manifold suppliers give you a helping hand by involving them early

The value of hot runner systems is generally understood by OEMs, whose manufacturing requires high-cavitation, high-speed molds. In spite of the interest in reducing costs to manufacture—including eliminating scrap and increasing quality—hot runner suppliers say they’ve been given the short shrift, and that moldmakers have commoditized hot runner systems in an attempt to build their own value into the process. Ultimately that leads to them being unable to sell their value to their customers.

Clare Goldsberry

October 8, 2009

4 Min Read
Moldmakers: Let your hot manifold suppliers give you a helping hand by involving them early

As many moldmakers react to pricing pressure from Tier Ones and OEMs, selling the additional cost of a hot runner system can be tough. A tough economy isn’t making things easier, either. “In an era when margins are very tight, the value of hot runner systems is often not recognized,” says Rich Oles, president and CEO of PSG Plastic Service Group Inc. (Stevensville, MI; www.psg-online.us). “It may surprise some, but the hot runner/manifold supplier is a key, if often underutilized resource, that can make a significant contribution to both reducing the new product development cycle and help reduce overall piece part cost for plastic parts.”

On the flip side, in today’s highly competitive market environment, design engineers are considering every opportunity to reduce the part’s development time and the piece part cost for the application. “If a hot runner manifold supplier is involved early in the project, the supplier can offer guidance necessary for determining gate location and configuration,” Oles says. 

The manifold supplier can provide the needed justification to both engineering and purchasing for such a system to improve cycle time and reduce overall costs, thus putting less pressure on the moldmaker to sell it. “A couple of hours of that interaction between designer and manifold supplier on the fit, function, and assembly of the part can made a measurable difference,” explains Oles.

Manifold systems are a difficult sell for the moldmaker because they increase the price of the mold. Purchasing might look at the bottom line and wonder why Moldmaker A’s quote came in higher than Moldmaker B’s. “Many OEMs continue squeezing their suppliers due to the bad economy,” Oles notes. “How can moldmakers give a rebate on something they’re not making any money on in the first place? It’s brutal out there now. The bottom-line price of the mold is critical.”

Allowing the manifold supplier to get involved directly with the OEM provides the value-added engineering assistance that sells the system to the OEM, taking the onus off the mold manufacturer. Another reason to involve the manifold supplier prior to the toolmaker, and prior to initiating the material flow analysis for the mold, is that today’s advanced manifold suppliers are well versed in tooling issues and possess the skill sets required to determine the optimum nozzle location and whether those recommendations are realistic for manufacturing the mold.

“Perhaps it’s realistic to change part shape to accept standard nozzles,” says Oles. “More likely it works out that just as certain features can’t change on a part, there are also optimal material injection points that need to be held.”

Oles notes that the overall design process involves a lot of give and take between all parties. “Compromise, plus a clear understanding of fit and function, assembly requirements, and those things critical in each project will direct the end result,” he adds. “Getting all parties involved at the onset of a program will set these goals and direction—once.”

At the very least, this early involvement will save a few days just in back-and-forth reviews. “In today’s brutal market environment where molding lead times have been shortened from the 16-22 weeks of a few years ago down to less than 10 weeks in recent years to a current three to six weeks in some instances, it’s critical to work collaboratively,” says Oles. “Additionally, with manifold lead times falling within the build time, upfront input from the manifold supplier can decrease overall lead times through improved efficiencies in both time and resources needed to finalize the approved process."

Oles says that manifold suppliers and mold manufacturers are being called upon to do more design engineering of molds as OEMs and Tier One molders are being forced to reduce staff in the never-ending effort to cut fixed costs.

“In this unprecedented time in our industry, OEMs need to recognize that including the manifold supplier early in the process will provide significant added value in the part design, manifold concept, and ultimately the mold approval for production,” says Oles. “This translates into a straightforward way to save time in bringing the product to market, and reduce the hurdles mold manufactures face in trying to sell the value of a hot runner system from their end.” —Clare Goldsberry

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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