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October 1, 2001

6 Min Read
Q&A: On-time mold delivery defined

Editor's note: A member of the American Mold Builders Assn. wrote, "One of the most costly factors of moldbuilding is overtime. We as moldbuilders have always taken pride not only in our workmanship but also in meeting our delivery commitments. Our industry is unique in the fact that based on a quote, we will work overtime to meet a delivery deadline, in many cases with little or no cost to our customers. How did we get to this ridiculous point? Why paint ourselves into a corner by promising a delivery date or accepting the almost always short lead times demanded by our customer?" The writer, obviously a moldmaker, raises a good point. To discuss these criticisms of the industry, IMM interviewed Bill Kushmaul, a member of the AMBA and president and ceo of Tech Mold Inc. in Tempe, AZ, for his views. 

IMM: How did moldmakers get to this ridiculous point? 

Kushmaul: Once the moldmaker gives a delivery date, he'll pull out all the stops to meet this date, regardless of who's responsible for any delays that have occurred. 

IMM: Who's responsible for seeing that delivery dates are met? 

Kushmaul: The moldmaker has the responsibility to deliver the mold on time, but the customer must facilitate this by providing the minimum information required to accomplish the mold build in the quoted time frame (i.e., providing a clean database or a final design). 

IMM: Describe the perfect scenario. 

Kushmaul: In a perfect moldbuilding world, the OEM's design engineer contacts a preselected moldmaker based on this shop's ability to design and build molds of this particular type and size—a shop that has proven its abilities both technically and in terms of meeting price and delivery. 

The customer's designer then works with this moldmaker on a concept design to meet the designated requirements of the molded part. A part design is developed in conjunction with the customer's designer, and is then approved by the customer. Based on this design, the moldmaker then submits a bid for the cost of the mold and the delivery date. Both the price and delivery date are based upon the fact that the preliminary design is final and all the information for the mold design is accurate. 

It is also based on the fact that the moldmaker has access to all areas to be machined, and isn't restricted in any area because final dimensions are still to be determined by the customer's designer. 

The customer provides the moldmaker with an electronic file that contains a clean database or finalized, approved prints. The moldmaker is then able to proceed with the mold build without restrictions or limitations in primary areas of the design. 

The mold is then built with only minimal changes along the way, and any changes that do happen occur in a timely manner and don't affect areas in which steel has already been cut. Nor should these changes affect in any significant way the number of hours quoted to build the mold or the delivery date. 

IMM: How does it work in the real world? 

Kushmaul: The customer's designer provides a preliminary part print from which several moldmakers bid the job. Each moldmaker pores over the part print and determines the best way he would make this mold, noting exceptions, changes, dimensional problems, and suggestions. 

Based on this, each moldmaker puts a price and delivery date on the mold. The customer then chooses a mold shop based on price and delivery—usually the lowest price and shortest delivery wins. The moldmaker is then provided with an electronic file that requires significant time to clean up, or a part print that is still in the preliminary, unapproved stage. The customer tells the moldmaker, "We'll finalize the design as we go along." This they call concurrent engineering. 

The moldmaker is restricted and told to stay out of certain areas of the mold until a dimension can be determined or a change approved by upper management. The moldmaker attempts to work around these areas, but many times these are crucial areas that need to be addressed early in the build. Delays in approval cause delays in the moldbuild process, which then becomes the moldmaker's problem. 

Changes come from the customer at stages during the mold build that require recutting steel, rebuilding electrodes, or otherwise redoing work. The moldmaker is put on hold while changes are being approved by the customer. Yet, it is still the problem of the moldmaker to stick to the delivery date. 

IMM: What can a moldmaker do to protect himself from this real-world scenario? 

Kushmaul: The part print and database always contain issues. Thus the quote needs to be broken down into the same areas in which issues might affect the price and delivery. For example, clean up database = X weeks and price; design mold = Y weeks and price; and build mold = Z weeks and price. 

If nothing interrupts the mold build, then we have an obligation to build the mold in X+Y+Z weeks for X price. Any changes, corrections in design errors, and so forth have the potential to cause delays. 

IMM: What's the most crucial part of the mold build that affects delivery dates? 

Kushmaul: There was once an advertising slogan for a filtered cigarette that said, "It's what's up front that counts." We need to make that the moldmaker's slogan. Truly, the front-end portion of the mold build is crucial to making the quoted delivery date. 

IMM: Often OEMs are slow to release POs. What's your answer to this dilemma? 

Kushmaul: We need to emphasize more to our customers that our business changes on a daily basis. One week we're slow and looking at available machine time. The next we've got so many POs coming in the door that our lead times begin to look impossible. 

Yet, we quote based on our shop load at the time of the quotation, not on the shop load when the PO is ready to be released. 

We need soft queue time. That is small timeslots that allow us to absorb small delays in getting a PO or part design approval. If we have enough time set aside for this soft queue time, then those things that are beyond our control won't get the best of us. 

IMM: When should a moldmaker pay penalties for a late delivery? 

Kushmaul: Only when the late delivery was caused by something for which the moldmaker is responsible. If the customer caused the delivery schedule to slip due to indecision on design, dimensions, or approvals, no penalties should be incurred by the moldmaker. 

IMM: What can moldmakers do to help customers understand all of this better? 

Kushmaul: We need to educate our customers better on how our business operates. One of the most important things we can teach them is the relationship between price and value. The value of the mold to the OEM's new product can't be underestimated, yet too many people see the whole moldmaking process as a royal pain. These people don't see the value in the moldmaker's product. The price of the mold reflects the value that the moldmaker brings to the table (i.e., expertise, knowledge, talent, machine time, and technology investment). 

Secondly, we need to educate our customers that the biggest interference of the moldbuild process is limiting the moldmaker's access to certain areas of the mold while designs or dimensions are decided. Customers need to know that the mold build is a process that involves the entire mold, and that it's damaging to the process to hold a moldmaker back from an area, restricting work to only one area. 

Customers must be told that the more they intervene during the mold build, the more it affects price and delivery. Whenever the customer calls requesting a change of any kind, the response should be, "This may result in a change in price or delivery. We'll review it and get back to you later today to let you know how this will impact either or both of these areas." 



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