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Strategic alliances: Keeping your projects and partners in line

December 3, 1999

8 Min Read
Strategic alliances: Keeping your projects and partners in line

As OEMs depend more on moldmakers and injection molders for assistance with new-product development, these suppliers must be more engineering-savvy. Often, that means farming out parts of a job to specialty contractors.

Such a strategy requires good project management skills to ensure that all parties are on the same page and that consistent quality is maintained. In recent surveys performed by several moldmakers and molders, “more project management” or “expanded project management” expertise was rated as one of the top needs of OEMs from their suppliers.


The Leader of the Pack
This is the situation in which moldmaker and molder Polymer Conversions Inc. (Buffalo, NY) found itself. With a customer base that is engineering-intensive, PCI had to develop its own engineering expertise, including a project management team.

Heading up this team at PCI is the project manager, who’s responsible for making sure that product development, mold design and engineering, and preproduction mold trials happen on schedule and without a hitch. The project manager also acts as the contact point with the customer.

“The project manager is really the captain that guides the boat through all the lock systems and waterways, which might be the various departments,” explains Norb Schwab, PCI’s engineering manager.

The success of PCI’s growth resides in the company’s strong project management skills. “We’ve built our company on people who have strong backgrounds in the industry,” Schwab explains. “We’ve developed QS and ISO procedures, which makes it easier for project management to pursue new work.”

Strategic Partnerships
Although the company has a strong engineering department, developing strategic partnerships has given PCI an edge in meeting customer requirements without the added expense of a larger staff.

The company has aligned itself with Northern Design, a local design house, and is part of a Moldflow consortium at Penn State University, which performs flow analysis as part of student projects. PCI also has partnered with some smaller, local mold shops.

PCI starts a new program with a quality plan to establish time lines and milestones. This review identifies outside vendor involvement and assigns departmental responsibility for overseeing each vendor. Assisting this effort are PCI’s Mold Standards. Schwab says that when PCI subcontracts work to Northern Design, it already knows PCI’s expectations for mold construction. For complex jobs, Northern also attends the design meeting.

Notes of Caution
When partnering with outside vendors, caution must be exercised. Partners should have a similar corporate culture and the same commitment to quality and on-time delivery, notes Schwab.

Also, some moldmakers and molders are reluctant to partner with other shops for fear the shop will go directly to the OEM for the work. However, with the increasingly tough demands of OEMs, smaller shops often don’t have an opportunity to get work from larger companies.

“Mom-and-pop shops can’t offer what we can in the way of being able to manage large programs,” says Schwab. “They’re glad to partner with us because it allows them to build their business and do work for companies through us that they wouldn’t have gotten on their own.”

Ultimately, Schwab believes that one of the greatest strengths for a molder today, even for a company of PCI’s size, is engineering. “You have to have strong engineering capabilities, identifying parts as truly moldable, and understand CAD/CAM systems,” he says. “You’ve got to be able to manage programs, help the customers identify what they want, and determine the optimum way to get them there.”

PCI’s Mold inspection report

Answers to these questions should be yes, no, or not required.
1. Are all exposed edges of mold base broken 1/16 inch?
2. Is ejector pinhead clearance .002 inch or less?
3. Have cavities and cores been deburred?
4. Have cavities and cores been numbered?
5. Have cavities and cores been engraved and/or textured?
6. Are inserts stamped with steel types?
7. Are blocks stamped by number and placed properly in mold?
8. Do cavity and core blocks stand .002 inch above mold plates?
9. Are all mold plates and inserts demagnetized?
10. Has wall thickness been checked?
11. Do leader pins enter before any inserts touch?
12. Do leader pins enter before cam pins enter slides?
13. Are ejector pins flush to .002 inch high, or as specified?
14. Do return pins provide for proper pushback?
15. Are any ejectors under slide inserts?
16. Have all cores and blade ejectors been draw polished?
17. Have all springs been installed as required?
18. Is ejector plate tapped for machine knockout if required?
19. Is bottom clamp plate drilled to match proper machine?
20. Does ejection system work freely?
21. Are heel blocks set to leave mold open .005 inch?
22. Are pillars flush to .002 inch higher than rails?
23. Have eye bolt holes been tapped in both halves of mold?
24. Are all waterlines drilled and tapped and free of chips?
25. Are waterline baffles and plugs installed?
26. Have waterlines been pressure tested?
27. Have runners been polished and junctions radiused?
28. Is sprue bushing staked in place?
29. Does mold have clamp slots in both halves?
30. Are there pry slots in corners of mold?
31. Has mold been vented?
32. Are all mold plates nickel-plated?
33. Is mold stamped with all proper ID in 1/4-inch letters?
34. Is top of mold stamped as well with water ins and outs?
35. Is mold number inked on both sides of mold in 2-inch letters?
36. Has mold been greased properly?
37. Is shipping strap installed and stamped with mold number?
38. Is mold equipped with positive return?
39. Is mold equipped with guided ejector system (pins, bushings)?
40. Maximum ejector stroke (stamped on mold)?
41. Minimum ejector stroke to clear part (stamped on mold)?
42. Is there sufficient amount of bolts in ejector plates?
43. Are there limit switches on mold? How many?

Standard mold requirementsThe following items are suggested for mold construction, but may be altered or eliminated because of design, customer, or pricing considerations.

1. All steel treatment should conform to manufacturing specifications. Stamp type of steel on cavities, cores, and inserts.
2. Number cavities and cores and corresponding pocket.
3. Mold cannot be welded or shimmed without PCI approval.
4. All shutoff angles are to be a minimum of 7° unless approved by PCI engineering.
5. Maximum depth clearance in knockout pinhead counterbores=.002 inch.
6. Include waterlines in and out bottom or back of mold, if possible.
7. Identify water circuits, number and label "in" or "out." Pressure check all water circuits for 80 psi minimum air pressure.
8. Mold bases are to be 420 stainless steel or treated with an anticorrosion process, preferably electroless nickel.
9. All exposed edges of the mold base are to be broken 1/16.
10. All molds should have a bottom clamp plate.
11. Pry bar slots are required on all four corners of each moving plate (for example, main parting line, stripper plates, moving plate on three plate molds); not required on ejector plates, box, and so forth.
12. Strap bar across parting line is required on operator side of mold (stamp PCI mold number on strap).
13. All molds should be stamped “top” on both halves. An eye bolt hole must be provided on the top end so that the mold will hang straight when being installed in the molding machine.
14. The following information must be stamped on mold base, preferably on the rail (softest steel) so that the information is visible from the operator side of the mold using 1/4-inch minimum or larger letter size:

  • Name of moldmaker.

  • Customer's name and part number.

  • Weight.

  • Month and year built.

  • Knockout stroke minimum and maximum.

15. Do not use center knockout without PCI approval. Knockout locations are to be matched to knockout system of machine specified for job.
16. Knockout extensions must be provided on all molds so that they extend to platen surface of bottom clamp plate. On molds with spring-loaded knockouts, extensions are to be plain. On molds with knockouts that have to be tied in, the extensions must be tapped 1/2-13 for a minimum of .70-inch deep. PCI’s engineering department will specify type at first design review.
17. Include a spring return knockout system (1/2-inch diameter return pins with 1-inch diameter springs) with standard pressure springs on mold where possible. Return pins are to be drilled and tapped when necessary to hold pin plate against spring pressure for ejector pin installation.
18. Ejector system is to be guided with leader pins and bushings. Additional bolts are to be added to secure knockout/pin plates in addition to original four corner bolts.
19. Sprue bushing to be staked in place with a 1/2-20 s.h.c.s. and provided with a 1/2-inch radius for nozzle. Locating rings to be 3.990-inch diameter.
20. Where there is a chance for ejector pins to be damaged by mold action (for example, slides), positive returns/limit switches must be used. If positive returns are necessary, the preference is to use Hasco positive return components.
21. Slides actuated by cam pins must be retained in their open position by “slide retainers”; PCI prefers superior style.
22. There will be no water pipes, plates, screws, and so forth sticking outside of the mold base unless approved by PCI.
23. All molds must be received with documented dimensions for the critical process control cavity dimensions specified by the polymer during the design review of the mold.
24. Final design of all molds must be approved by PCI and documented as such.
25. Complete mold drawings and/or CAD data must be provided where applicable.
26. A completed mold inspection report must be delivered with the mold. Reference PCI form T-2112 Rev. A.

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