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Out of sight, out of mind: Once molds begin running at a molder's facility, many OEMs just forget them. They know little about molds they built and less about those they inherit via acquisitions. Why bother? Hundreds of thousands of reasons, each worth a dollar.

Clare Goldsberry

February 3, 2011

5 Min Read
OEM: Do you know what the condition of your tooling is costing you?

Out of sight, out of mind: Once molds begin running at a molder's facility, many OEMs just forget them. They know little about molds they built and less about those they inherit via acquisitions. Why bother? Hundreds of thousands of reasons, each worth a dollar.

Many OEMs have hundreds of molds running (or on shelves) at molding shops across the country, which makes keeping a handle on the condition of all these molds seem like a daunting task. As a result, molds can run for years with little or no maintenance, especially during times of recession or slow business. Since everyone knows good parts only come from well-maintained tooling. Knowing the condition of their tooling can bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to the OEMs bottom lines over the life of the mold. But how?

A tooling audit/evaluation provides a snapshot of "current-state tool condition" across the entire tooling inventory, and can make recommendations that mitigate risk, says tooling consultant Paul Mulville. His company, Tooling Transfers, specializes in mold transfers and tooling audits and evaluations for OEMs transferring tooling or acquiring tooling through a buyout of another company. The tooling audit/evaluation, he says, keeps the OEM on top of mold conditions by understanding why-and when-mold maintenance is required. 

"Is the OEM planning a mold transfer or just having supply chain interruptions?" asks Mulville. "If it's performance issues-say the mold has been out in the field for a number of years and is no longer performing in an optimal way-then this is an opportunity to make the tooling tangible to the OEM. If it's costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars, it will get their attention."

 "A tooling audit constitutes an assessment or evaluation of the current condition of the tooling as it relates to your tooling inventory. Is the tooling robust enough to handle part volume requirements? Is it running optimally? You want to get an understanding of the performance of the tooling, and whether it will stand up to production requirements-to get an idea of the longevity of the mold."

To find out if a tooling audit/evaluation would be beneficial, Mulville says OEMs should ask these questions:

1. Are you plagued by plastics-related supply chain interruptions? If so, then you need to get to the root of why components aren't being shipped timely. Is the tool running a poor cycle time? If so, why? Are cavities blocked off because of nonconforming parts? Is the tool down for repairs more than it should be? Does the molder have to run excessive amounts of inventory to ensure that you get your parts on time and in the quantities required?

2. Has the tool exceeded its normal life cycle? Most tooling comes with an estimated lifecycle based on the type of tool it is, the type of metal used, the plastic material being run, and the estimated number of parts run off of the tool annually. Many OEMs don't really understand that tooling has a lifecycle, and that it can be a shorter or longer life cycle depending on the above factors. Many molds run for a decade or more, particularly for products with long life cycles, or when aftermarket parts are stocked for repairs or refurbishment.

3. Do you know the scrap rate for your molds? This can be especially important because a molder has to include a charge for scrap, so you might be paying a premium for your parts because of excessive scrap. For example, if your tooling is a conventional cold runner mold, and the parts must be 100% virgin material, your scrap rate will be higher. A hot runner mold will reduce the amount of runner scrap but it's key that every cavity be running conforming parts. If not, that will contribute to the scrap rate.

Sometimes, owing to quantity and release date requirements, molders will run a multicavity mold with nonconforming cavities blocked off to keep from having to take the mold out of the press for repair. This gets conforming parts to the OEM, which many molders believe to be the important factor. Molders will sometimes sort nonconforming cavities/parts into the scrap barrel. However, it's as important to the molder not to make scrap as it is to the OEM not to receive scrap parts-or to be paying for scrap!

4. Is the cycle time on your molds the same today as when the mold was new? Good maintenance can maintain optimum cycle times. And cycle times equate to price, which is why it's important to know the cycle time each mold is getting.

Mulville notes that capturing both scrap rates and cycle times for molds can be the key to determining whether existing tooling is beyond repair or if it can be made robust again. Those numbers often provide the critical justification for making repairs or purchasing new tooling.

"These factors don't get a lot of focus from OEMs," Mulville says, "but the losses they're absorbing through increased piece price can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. If the OEMs have a handle on current tooling conditions, they're paying the price they should and will be less likely to have supply chain interruptions."-Clare Goldsberry 


Making tooling tangible to OEMs can be difficult, until they see in black and white just how much money they are losing by not staying on top of the condition of molds they own.

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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