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Articles from 2002 In May


Industry Watch

SPI's Committee on Equipment Statistics recently released data on plastics processing equipment sales in 2001. The report, as this table reflects, confirmed many suppliers' worst fears, with shipments off anywhere from 40 to 60 percent compared to 2000.
2001 equipment orders fall sharply
Several indicators pointed to 2001 as being a dreadful year for the plastics industry as a whole, with equipment suppliers enduring an especially bleak time. Some newly released data reveal just how difficult a year 2001 was.

The information, detailed in a report from the Society of the Plastics Industry's Committee on Equipment Statistics, reveals a precipitous dropoff as shipments and new orders dived by 40 to 60 percent in 2001, compared to 2000.

The report is based on monthly order and shipment data gathered from domestic suppliers of injection molding, blowmolding, extrusion, auxiliary, and components equipment. Participants in the report shipped $1.045 billion in products in 2001, compared to $1.752 billion for 2000—a 40.4 percent decrease. First quarter 2001 new orders marked the beginning of the eventual shipment decline, falling to $312.5 million from $404.6 in the final quarter of 2000.

Also in the first quarter of 2001, new orders outpaced shipments, creating a backlog of 1.2 percent. By Q4 2001 that backlog had reached 24.6 percent.

Injection molding equipment fell 44.2 percent overall in units, the second highest total by process, and 43.9 percent in dollars. Overall auxiliary shipments fell 33.1 percent in dollar value. The only gains were posted by blowmolding; shipments in this sector were up a modest 4.3 percent in units and 28.1 percent in dollars.




Medical manufacturers join forces
The contract manufacturing boom that has taken over the electronics industry appears to be migrating to the medical products market. In early May, self-described medical contract manufacturer Avail Medical Products Inc. (Ft. Worth, TX) announced its merger with Horizon Medical Outsourcing (Santa Ana, CA), creating what Avail says is the largest outsource manufacturer of finished, disposable medical devices.

Avail President and CEO J. Randall Keene told IMM that the two companies have actually had on-again off-again merger discussions since 1994, and in May decided finally to tie the knot. Keene says Avail lends strong design, product development, and moldbuilding skills. Horizon specializes in developing turnkey manufacturing solutions.

Most of Horizon's injection molding needs are met by custom molders, and Keene says he expects that will continue. He also says there will be no immediate consolidation of facilities or personnel. In fact, he plans to expand services: "The win for us is not moving molds around," he says. "The win for us is meeting our customers' needs on new projects."

Under terms of the merger, Horizon retains its name, but becomes an Avail company. Keene will retain his titles, and Horizon President William A. Goolsbee adds the title executive vice president, Avail, to his business card. Together the companies expect 2002 revenues of about $135 million.




Wittmann adds water products to the lineup
Equipment supplier Wittmann has announced the acquisition of Capitol Temptrol. The move adds a full water product line to Wittmann's already extensive portfolio of auxiliaries and equipment, but it also reflects consolidation that will likely continue in an industry reeling from abysmal sales in 2001.

Apart from gaining size during a downturn, the move also adds portable and central chillers to Wittmann's stable of dryers, material handling equipment, robots, automation systems, and granulators. For Capitol Temptrol, the deal backs its products with the sales structure and resources needed for growth, according to Wittmann Capitol Temptrol Div. Manager Fred Heine.

"The two things that Capitol Temptrol did not have as a small operating entity were the financial resources and the sales network that we've got with Wittmann," Heine said.

Heine says the combined assets benefit Wittmann and its customers and help establish a global presence for Capitol Temptrol. "Wittmann now represents a complete line of auxiliaries including water, which allows them to go in as a single group," Heine said. "Place one order and have one system and one group backing it up. I think that is a tremendous advantage for everyone."




Short shots
Cascade Engineering (Grand Rapids, MI) has acquired the assets of Clarion Technologies (Montpelier, OH), creating a new company called CK Technologies.

BM Biraghi SpA (Monza, Italy) has joined the Sacmi Group (Milan, Italy), which already has a 60 percent share in Negri Bossi SpA (Milan, Italy).

After first opening its doors in January 1998, Micro Molding LLC (Boynton Beach, FL) abruptly closed them on April 9.

Dow Corning Corp. (Midland, MI) has acquired thermoplastics compounder Multibase SA (St. Laurent, France). Multibase has facilities in Michigan, Ohio, and India. 

Molding study puts purging costs in perspective

A two-cavity, hot runner mold (above) produces the throwing discs at Aakron Rule. Frequent color changes are the norm for this application, and the cost to purge using PP had reached $8000 annually.
Color changes—such as going from dark blue to neon pink—using the neat resin as a purge produced up to 400 to 500 scrap parts.
As molders become more cost conscious and business savvy, practices and products that were not standard procedure in the past are under increasing consideration. One such example is the use of purging compounds rather than regrind to cut down the time between color and resin changes and to reduce the scrap that can build up as a result of incomplete purging.

According to Shuman Plastics, makers of Dyna-Purge, regrind resin was never designed to clean process equipment. "While it may remove some of the offending resin," says Tim Cutler, business manager, "it will not clean carbon deposits and negative flow areas. Regrind has more value being reworked into finished parts or sold as surplus."

To illustrate that the use of purging compound is no longer a luxury, Cutler sometimes takes potential customers through a cost-to-purge analysis (see sidebar, below). "Although regrind looks like a bargain, it ends up costing processors more in terms of time and labor," he says. "Commercial purging products work faster using less material."

Why is the need to purge quickly and effectively rising among custom molders? Cutler believes JIT demands are one reason, calling for more frequent resin and color changes. Also, molders are no longer tolerant of the amount of scrap produced by ineffective purging methods.

It is important to note that there are many possible combinations of resin, equipment, and processing conditions, and that no one product, particularly regrind, can meet the requirements for all of these situations. As a result, purging compound suppliers should offer numerous products to fit different applications.

Field Use
To determine the effectiveness, economy, and ease of use of the nine most widely promoted purging compounds currently available on the market, Shuman Plastics commissioned a third-party independent study. The lab that conducted the study either purchased or obtained samples of the best grade from each supplier to purge ABS, PC, and nylon 6/6. All trials were run on an 83-ton Battenfeld press with a cold runner mold.

Each trial was identical, and included a molding step with black resin, a purging step per the supplier's instructions until clean, and a post purge with natural resin until purging compound is eliminated and the machine is able to run production-quality parts. Actual cost to purge for each trial was then calculated using the cost-to-purge analysis sheet.

Although Shuman's Dyna-Purge mechanical/nonabrasive product ranked first overall for economy, Cutler says, "What's most important is that molders who see this chart now realize that the commercial alternatives to homemade or regrind purging are actually more cost effective."


After the trial with a purging compound (Dyna-Purge P), Aakron Rule reduced scrap significantly and cut downtime by 75 percent.
Bob Williams, injection molding manager for Aakron Rule, a New York-based custom molder, recently sampled Dyna-Purge for a troublesome application. Aakron Rule produces nine different colors of the Flyer, a polypropylene aerodynamic throwing disk, at a rate of approximately 2000 per day. The disks are molded on a 375-ton Cincinnati Milacron press using a two-cavity hot runner mold.

This project required an extensive amount of downtime and there was a good deal of waste associated with each color change. In order to purge the old color out, Williams formerly used approximately 110 lb of PP. This took at least 2 hours to run and resulted in 400 to 500 defective parts being produced. As a result, it cost approximately $150 in lost material and labor every time the color changed. On an annualized basis, this equates to almost $8000 in purging costs.

Using 15 lb of Dyna-Purge P, Aakron Rule was able to clean out both the barrel and hot runner system in less than 30 minutes. This represented a significant savings, bringing the entire purging cost down to $70 per purge, with a $4000 annual savings or a 53 percent cost reduction vs. purging with its own resin.


Table 1. Results of independent study comparing costs of purging compounds




Contact information
Shuman Plastics Inc.
Depew, NY
Tim Cutler
(716) 685-2121
www.shuman-plastics.com

Prototyping makes noise with ultrasonic fusion process

Among the methods available to create direct-to-metal aluminum prototype tools, the competitive products aim for greater speed and accuracy. A relatively new technology developed by Solidica promises to exceed current limits in both categories.

The company recently unveiled its Formation 2030, a machine designed with a patented technology called Ultrasonic Consolidation (UC). Essentially, this system uses ultrasonic energy to merge layers of metal and create true metallurgical bonds. The unit also includes high-speed milling capabilities so that aluminum cores and cavities can be created in a single machine with a single setup. Feature-to-feature accuracies of the tools created are +/-.002 to +/-.005 inch over a work envelope of 20 by 30 inches.

By combining both machining and rapid tooling in one system, Solidica aims to reduce lead times, lower capital costs, and improve productivity. While this system currently handles aluminum tools only, other tooling materials are in the research pipeline, according to Dawn White, president and founder. "This method finally eliminates the need to create a plastic or wax pattern via SLA or SLS, make a mold, and then cast and finish a part," she says.


Aluminum prototype tools in days, not weeks? By combining milling and metal deposition in one machine, Solidica makes this kind of speed a reality.
Early beta testing demonstrates that the process cuts the time and cost of producing functional parts during the product development cycle by more than 50 percent. For example, manufacture of a 10-by-12-by-3-inch aluminum injection molding prototype tool typically requires use of multiple manufacturing processes over a period of two to four weeks at a cost of up to $20,000. Using Solidica's system, this same tool is built over seven days at a cost of $5000. Beta developers include Ivex Packaging, the nation's largest manufacturer of food, drug, and microchip packaging; Raytheon, a major defense contractor; and the gas turbine industrial power systems division of a Fortune 500 company.

"With this system, end users have the advantage of a single machine that can create deep slots and complex features, deposit material at high speeds, achieve the the dimensional accuracy of machining, and add conformal cooling to the mold," says White. "Since the early days of rapid tooling there has been a pent-up demand from manufacturers for a proven direct-to-metal solution that is accurate, repeatable, and reliable. Solidica has brought together some of the best talent in the business to deliver on that long-held promise of functional rapid tools."

Prior to founding Solidica, White held technology development positions in rapid tooling and other manufacturing areas with Ford Motor Co., MTS Systems, and the U.S. Army. "We believe our system will advance the way manufacturers produce aluminum tooling to a new level," she says.

Contact information
Solidica Inc., Ann Arbor, MI
Jerry Janson
(734) 222-4680
www.solidica.com
[email protected]

Focus: Packaging Plant Tour: A jet-propelled packaging powerhouse

With minimal downtime, Hoop Roche, chairman/ceo of Erie Plastics, moved 64 presses, including eight new 440-ton Huskys, into a new, $15 million facility in three just weeks.
Erie Plastics celebrated its 40th anniversary last November with the dedication of its new global HQ and manufacturing facility in Corry, PA. The celebration drew 5000 well-wishers and dignitaries with one notable exception. P.C. "Hoop" Roche, chairman and ceo, says an old high school chum of his was unable to make the party—Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania. Understandably, Ridge was too busy at his new job, director of homeland security, to attend the ribbon cutting.

Privately held Erie Plastics moved from its 159,000-sq-ft Corry plant into its new 465,000-sq-ft facility in only three weeks. Remarkably, it sustained 60 percent of normal production during the move. Inventories were built way ahead of the time the trucks started rolling. According to Ron Walters—president, coo, a 36-year company vet, and a Corry native—the move was carried out with clockwork precision.

Ten 80,000- to 210,000-lb silos were installed, along with a rail siding to receive raw materials. More than 60 presses were trucked right into position, along with 400 auxiliaries, and about 60 automated decorating and assembly devices. The central air-conditioning/air-filtration system was installed by helicopter.

Roche says he purchased the abandoned factory that Erie Plastics now calls home a few years ago for just $1.00/sq ft. Today, $15 million later, it produces tens of millions of high-quality, thin-wall packaging and medical/pharmaceutical products around the clock with minimal human intervention. "Molding affordable solutions" is the company's mission statement. Want to see how they do it? Let's tour.

Innovation Central
Erie Plastics' move included the renovation of a 35,000-sq-ft corporate office building. Upstairs are conference rooms, video conference rooms, administrative offices, an auditorium, and training centers. Downstairs is its Customer Product Innovation Center (CPIC), which includes a sampling lab for testing prototype tooling and new designs.

The CPIC helps Erie Plastics speed its customers' products to market through concurrent engineering and a team approach to problem solving among its 20 members. Sales, customer service, and engineering all are in one department to facilitate teamwork. Such job function colocation is found throughout the facility.


The CPIC's QA lab is equipped with everything from programmable optical measurement systems from OGP and Nikon to a Kayness melt indexer for testing incoming resin.
Several different 2-D and 3-D design and modeling CAD/CAM systems are used at the CPIC, including Pro/E, AutoCAD, and Intergraph EMS. They also are used on portable computers onsite at customers' facilities as part of Erie Plastics' mobile "Design-a-bago" service. Back in Corry, there's even a Stratasys FDM RP system in the CPIC office for creating 3-D hard copies of 3-D models.

QA and continuous improvement are company cornerstones. Its quality systems operate on ISO 9000 standards. QA engineering works as one with the CPIC project leader to quickly transition jobs through the qualification cycle to production.

Manufacturing-driven SPC supported by the latest Infinity in-process product evaluation software packages linked to real-time process monitoring systems round-out the picture. No one at the Corry plant is ever out of the loop, art to part. Neither are customers.

Wide-open, upfront integration and communication works. For example, Erie Plastics is the only supplier to have won Gillette's Omni Mark award for on-time delivery with zero rejects 13 years in a row. And it did that before moving into its new and improved facility.

Jet-propelled Production
On our way to the manufacturing floor we see ample evidence of how well people are treated in the plant. Rather than bulletin boards, there are interactive TV monitors displaying the FAQs (frequently asked questions) of life in and around the factory, along with the answers. Erie Plastics is a union shop.


Vital Stats
Erie Plastics, Corry, PA


Square footage: 465,000

Annual sales: $85 million, including tooling

Markets served: Packaging (mostly caps and closures)pharmaceutical/medical, pens and markers

Customers: Proctor & Gamble, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Alcoa, and Colgate

Capital investment: $15 million
Materials processed: PP (homopolymer, copolymer), PE (high-density, low-density, linear low-density), nylon, PET, PS

Resin consumption: More than 60 million lb/year

No. of employees: 500
Shifts worked: Four 12-hour shifts, seven days/week

Molding machines: 64, 60 to 550 tons, Engel (34), Husky (21), Milacron

Secondary operations: Stacking/packing, printing, gluing, tamper band scoring, artificial vision inspection, fully automated high-speed assembly

Internal moldmaking: No
Quality: GMP compliance

A full-time company nurse is on staff. Shift crews have their own meeting and exercise rooms. The company has a laser-acupuncture program in place to help members stop smoking. A doctor visits weekly and a chiropractor comes in every other week. There's even a half-mile indoor walking track around the shop floor.

The 430,000-sq-ft factory is equally split between manufacturing and finished parts warehousing. Large support departments for maintenance, technical service, tooling, and automation also are in the factory. After donning a hairnet and stepping onto the floor, one word comes to mind: "Wow!"

From the big windows, the half-dozen 5- and 10-ton overhead cranes, and the banks of bright lights on the 32-ft-high ceiling down to the sparkling urethane-coated stonehard flooring, it's immediately apparent that Erie Plastics isn't just aesthetically appealing, it's efficient. And it's jet propelled.

Unlike other plants, the parts at Erie Plastics are pneumatically conveyed, too, not just the pellets. After ejection, parts are pneumatically conveyed through wear- and static-resistant butyrate tubes either directly to packing stations or to highly automated secondaries.

We see tips for bottled water spouts molded on one press, dust caps molded on another, and screw closures molded on still another machine conveyed to a single, fully automated finishing/assembly/packaging station. That's what goes on out there, 24/7. Erie Plastics does up to 24 inventory turns each year—20 to 30 truckloads of finished goods leave its docks every day.

Affordable-solution Molds
"For us, downtime is death," says Roche. To pump up to 30 million parts each day out of presses running on autopilot with little or no human intervention, your molds had better work. That's where the Erie Plastics Tooling Approval Procedure (EPTAP) comes in.

EPTAP confirms the molds it outsources are constructed properly. It identifies a capable process at which molds will produce parts to within key dimensional specs and tolerances. Optimum processing windows also are set. EPTAP is fully supported by QA engineering and the CPIC. An equally rigorous program is in place to qualify and verify the quality of design and workmanship in all of the custom-built, purchased automation equipment.

Erie Plastics has about 300 active molds. All are warranted for at least five years or for five million shots, whichever comes first (10 million shots on second generation). There's a separate grinding room for cold runner scrap, but most of its molds have hot runners, typically from Husky. Still, the company recently won the first Erie Country Guardian of the Planet Earth award for its recycling and waste management activities.

Erie Plastics has instituted what it calls its "Statue of Liberty" mold refurbishment program. Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled tons of fouled-up molds, it says. It promises to improve their production capabilities within 90 days.

Erie Plastics owns and operates another identically jet-propelled, 77,000-sq-ft facility in Westborough, MA, running 32 presses (28 to 500 tons) from Engel, Milacron, and Van Dorn Demag. Erie Plastics also operates sales, engineering, and product development offices in Cincinnati, OH for Midwestern customers.

The company also has four brand-new Huskys on order for its joint venture near Budapest, Hungary—an ISO/QS-certified 45,000-sq-ft plant with 21 molding machines and its own toolroom. Closer to home, the company is eyeing a possible move south to Mexico. Meanwhile, Roche says there's ample room in Corry to add 60 more presses.

The CPIC sampling lab houses a new three-shot, 100-ton Engel multimolding press; a new, 110-ton, Internet-capable Husky Hylectric hybrid; and a 60-ton Engel tiebarless for smaller molds.Valve-gated, 128-cavity molds are Erie Plastics' bread and butter. All molds feature a proprietary balancing system designed to ensure that all cavities fill at the same time.


Molded parts are pneumatically conveyed to fully automated finishing and assembly stations.Filtered positive-pressure impellers power the parts handling system.


Erie Plastics produces nearly 30 million parts per day on its 64 machines in Corry, PA, including these high-speed Engel packaging machines running high-cavitation molds.Resin, mostly from Huntsman and Dow Plastics, is pneumatically conveyed from 10 silos through this distribution system to any press on the floor. The closed loop material handling system is from Conair.


The company has upgraded the vision systems on its automated decorating and assembly systems, and on error-proofing systems that score several million tamper band caps every day.


Contact information
Erie Plastics
Corry, PA
Jane T. Roche
(814) 664-4661
www.erieplastics.com

Choosing the right mold shop: An OEM perspective

Coinco manufactures electronic bill and coin handling equipment. Its toolmakers are chosen on the basis of both price and lead time.
Often we look at purchasing a mold from the toolmaker's point of view and what the mold shop expects from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). IMM decided to turn that around and explore the step-by-step mold purchasing process from the point of view of one OEM engineer.

John Scherr, a design engineer for Coin Acceptors Inc. (Coinco, St. Louis, MO), the world's leading manufacturer of electronic bill and coin handling equipment for the vending industry, offers some tips on the process of selecting the right mold shop.

Scherr says the first step is to determine compatibility between Coinco and the mold shop. Some of the compatibility criteria include easy transfer of CAD data between Coinco and the moldmaker; capabilities to produce designs and molds for complex components as opposed to simple, straightforward parts; in-house mold sampling to eliminate shipping the mold back and forth if changes are warranted; and other value-added features such as electronic progress reports, including photos, via the Internet. "This last one can save lots of travel cost and time," says Scherr.

Second, Scherr recommends a visit to the mold shop to see firsthand how it operates and how compatible that will be with how the OEM operates. "Get references, and then actually talk to the references," says Scherr.

Traveling and Other Considerations
In spite of the fact that this is a global economy and molds can be purchased anywhere in the world, Scherr believes location is important. It's fairly well known that if a mold purchaser likes to travel, he or she will likely go further to obtain a mold. Yet Scherr believes travel is not the best use of time, and he prefers to use shops in close proximity.

When he does go out on shop surveys, he tries to evaluate several in the same geographic area. "Surveying shops in the same city can make travel more cost effective," he explains.

When it comes to the quoting process, Scherr says it's critical to make certain that each shop is quoting the same tool. That puts the onus on the mold purchaser to "be very specific with what you want" in terms of mold type, design parameters, steel parameters, and so forth.

Also, once you have quotes, be consistent with the vendors. "It isn't fair if the high bidder or the guy with the longest lead time is given an opportunity to modify their quote, but the others are excluded from the same opportunity," says Scherr.

Be courteous to the bidding shops and follow up with them on the quotes. While price is always important, lead time is often a deciding factor between competitive bids, Scherr points out.


Design Engineer John Scherr encourages courtesy, honesty, and organization for those involved in selecting a toolmaker.
"The shops not awarded the work deserve timely notification to let them know that the job has been contracted and why they were not the winning bidder," explains Scherr. "It builds good relationships for future work."

When awarding the contract, make sure to match the mold build requirements with the skills, equipment, and expertise of the mold shop. That's why doing upfront shop qualification is critical. Awarding a job to a shop that doesn't have the experience or equipment to handle the job just sets it up for failure. In that case everyone loses.

Manage the Process
During the mold build cycle, keeping track of the mold progress is key to success. To do this, Scherr has created a spreadsheet with all the vital information available at a glance: part name, part number, tool number, revision level, material, location (mold shop name), cost, delivery date, status, comments, and more. "Currently I'm tracking 39 separate parts at seven different mold shop locations," says Scherr. "All this information fits on two letter-sized sheets of paper."

Scherr also keeps an electronic folder for each vendor and for each part/mold. Inside each folder he stores and copies all files pertinent to the particular part/mold, including the RFQ, CAD data, approvals, layouts from the vendors, and all correspondence such as e-mail or letters associated with the tool build. "This has proven very valuable in tracking down details of what, when, where, why, who, and how of the build cycle," Scherr notes.

To ensure good communications with the moldbuilder, Scherr always follows up his phone calls with an e-mail correspondence. "This establishes written documentation of actions, confirmation of dates, and so forth," he says. "Vendors have told me they appreciate the e-mails and have learned to expect them."

Never assume that "no news is good news," Scherr states emphatically. "Talk to the vendors at least once every week and more if needed. Insist on regular and timely progress reports. The best shops itemize by job tasks such as design, order material, and program electrodes—not just 'mold 25 percent done.' The percentage game can be very misleading."

Following these guidelines has helped Scherr stay on time and on budget with his mold shop vendors. The result is that everyone comes out a winner and good relationships are built between the moldmaker and OEM.

"Experience is always the best teacher, but following a consistent procedure, documenting all communications, and having respect for all parties makes for a win-win situation for everyone," Scherr says.

Contact information
Coin Acceptors Inc.
St. Louis, MO
John Scherr
(314) 725-0100
www.coinco.com

IMM's Plant Tour: Making the impossible look easy

Molding floor consistency is the heart of operational excellence at Classic Industries.
It sounds like a contradiction, but in fact, it is the goal that custom molders in the medical industry (and others) are now targeting: Increase quality while taking cost out of process and product. At Classic Industries, a privately held custom molder established in 1972, this seeming disparity becomes reality for 400 million parts produced every year because both quality and cost are considered at every step of the art-to-part cycle.

According to president Jay Policastro, this dual focus is a common thread throughout product design, development, manufacturing, and project management stages. "Our customers are major medical device OEMs, and theirs is a world where cost and quality rule. We need to focus on these issues up front," he says.

At the same time, Policastro realizes the paradox these two goals create. "It's a fact of life that quality and the systems required to maintain it cost money, so we have to be creative in cost cutting."

To learn more about the specifics of Classic's creativity, IMM's recent tour of its East Pointe facility in Latrobe, PA focused on following parts through their life cycle, from concept through production. The journey begins with a visit to the plant, where white floors and cleanroom molding mimic a hospital operating environment. East Pointe, which opened its doors late in 1999, is an exact copy of another Classic facility in El Paso, TX.


An innovation from Classic manufacturing engineers is this system monitor that allows production personnel to view the status of all systems, including material, dryers, and other auxiliaries located on the lower level.
"One of the recurring comments from potential customers after visiting our plants is that they probably won't be able to afford us. When we give them a quote, however, they're surprised at how competitive we are," Policastro says. Our tour will uncover the ways in which Classic maintains its competitive edge in the face of stringent regulatory and economic demands.

Design Dynamics
Beginning in engineering, it becomes clear that producing the lowest-cost parts depends on Classic's designers being involved in the project from the start. But even when an OEM wants to control the entire design, project engineers can complement customers' efforts to varying degrees.

For example, at its concept stage, a design can be fine-tuned for functionality, cycle time, and automation of both process and value-added operations such as assembly or decoration. These added engineering perspectives help improve quality while taking out cost. Even when a design is optimized, however, Classic designers can and do take an out-of-the-box approach that may include automating the process, changing the material, or tweaking the tool design. In addition, tool designs go through moldfilling simulation to help reduce molded-in stress, find the best process window, determine optimum cavitation, and reduce costs by minimizing runner size and wall thickness.

When a consensus is reached on design details, project engineers manage the toolmaking process. According to David Smith, business unit manager, no two customers have the same tooling needs, so Classic works with toolmakers around the world to source the best mold for the job. Because all tools are equipped with cavity pressure transducers, they are fully integrated into Classic's process monitoring system when production begins.

Once tools are built, designers work with the metrology department to validate the tool. Key dimensions are measured as part of the first article inspection, while critical factors are identified and coded into the process monitoring system. Metrology workers also perform a capabilities study, FMEA, and a DOE verification study as a means of ensuring an optimum process.

Manufacturing Marvels
All molding at Classic's East Pointe facility is done in a Class 100,000 cleanroom, with some areas at Class 10,000. A powerful ventilation system complete with Hepa filters maintains the stringent air quality requirements.


Vital Stats
Classic Industries East Pointe, Latrobe, PA


Square footage: 26,000 (158,000 company total)

Annual sales: $45 million (company total)

Markets served: Medical devices, dental, pharmaceutical, specialty automotive

Capital investment: $4.5 million to build East Pointe facility (not including machinery)

Parts produced: 400 million/year (company total)

Materials processed: PC, nylon, acrylic, ABS, LCP, PP, PE, PEI, acetal, flexible PVC, polysulfone, polyethersulfone, Teflon-impregnated PEI and PC, polystyrene, PBT, PCT, PET, PETG, polyurethane (neat, glass, and long glass), TPE, SAN, cellulosics

Resin consumption: 4.25 million lb/year (company total)

No. of employees: 200-plus (company total)

Shifts worked: Three shifts, 24/7

Molding machines: 75 company-wide, 22 to 400 tons

Secondary operations: Assembly, final packaging, ultrasonic welding, pad printing, heatstaking, logistics services

Internal moldmaking: No

After a production design review in which the customer approves initial parts and future production, project engineers turn the tool over to operations. At this point, a process has already been established and automation, if indicated, has been built and added to the appropriate press.

Each of the 17 presses is equipped with Ranger robotics for part removal and degating, and runners are automatically sent to a grinder in the lower level, where all auxiliaries are located. Machines are also fitted with a one-shot hopper fed pneumatically by a dryer-hopper (AEC Whitlock) also located in the lower level.

A device called the Smart Chute, designed in-house, automatically shuttles parts that do not meet specifications to a diversion chute on each machine. If a shot is out of tolerance, for example, those parts will be diverted. If barrel temperature strays by 3F (and tolerances are set to +/-2F), again the part diversion system is activated. Process monitoring indication lights are standard on each molding machine as well.

"During the validation process for each tool," says Policastro, "we develop upper and lower control limits. Using our production and process monitoring system, which is installed on each machine, we can track up to 32 of these factors. The system monitors each shot and each parameter, and when any one of them varies outside of preset limits, the part is diverted. When our customer assembles parts we have molded, it has less scrap because parts are consistent, and thus a lower total cost. This is one of the ways we are able to control quality economically, because we have the systems in place to do so."

Bringing Six Sigma methods to the shop floor is yet another creative approach aimed at process improvement to meet both quality and cost targets. Six Sigma "black belts," people specially trained in this system, work with cross-functional teams to reduce variation in both parts and processes.

Classic chose Netstal Synergy machines for thin-wall, high-speed molding, and Ferromatik Fanuc Roboshot all-electrics for general purpose molding. Classic makes a point of replacing a machine after 60,000 hours of use.

"Within five years, we will have converted to electric machines only," Policastro says. "The reason is that we get precision and high speed with energy savings."

Tooling Techniques
Believing that quality doesn't stop when the tool goes into storage, Classic has designed a temperature- (70 to 72F) and humidity-controlled (50 percent) room for its 400-plus active molds. After a production run, each mold gets an immediate inspection, maintenance, and cleaning in the tooling department, where four toolmakers are on staff seven days a week.

Each mold has a job packet associated with it, containing a blueprint, any required forms, a revision history, and inspection requirements. A tagging system identifies the tool's status: red for work needed, blue when fixed, yellow for preventive maintenance needed, and green for production-ready.

A mold maintenance database contains maintenance history logs. It is also used as a training tool because it contains a mold-specific checklist of what needs to be done, whether it's a fix, PM, or periodic maintenance requirement for the tool.


Classic specializes in molding for Fortune 500 medical device and packaging manufacturers. Among the products shown here, several belong to endoscopic surgical devices that help minimize invasive medical procedures.
Business Blueprint
Even though the journey of a part through a molding facility usually ends at the shipping dock, our tour continues on to the president's office for more specifics on the business of medical molding. Policastro explains that while Classic has a large support department, there are only five key executives along with Joe Policastro, Jay's father and ceo of the company. Keeping the hierarchy to a minimum has helped Classic work with each customer in a one-on-one relationship.

In 1992, Classic began to specialize in medical device molding, and in 1995, a new management team came up with a long-term plan to succeed in this market. Part of the current five-year business plan includes a strategy to evolve into a contract manufacturer for several medical customers. At present, Classic does this type of work for one customer for whom it designs, builds tooling, molds, assembles, and packages an eyewear component.

"Contract manufacturing is becoming more attractive to our customers," Policastro says, "because it helps them to achieve a higher earnings-per-share figure. Instead of investing capital in depreciable equipment, these OEMs turn to contract manufacturers for a better return on their dollar."

Being involved in new product development from the start helps Classic Industries produce the highest-quality parts at the lowest cost. Here, members of engineering, production, tooling, and quality departments discuss a project at the concept phase.Automation designed in-house helps assemble a critical medical device with no deviations.


Each press is equipped with closed loop regrind and robotics for part removal and degating. Both systems are aimed at maintaining process consistency and quality.With customized hardware and software, Classic is able to monitor up to 32 variables on its PM system.


A diverter chute sends good parts to a blue bin. If the process monitoring system detects any parameters drifting outside of preset limits, however, parts are diverted to a red bin on the opposite side.Portable dryer-hoppers and color mixing equipment are some of the auxiliaries located under the molding floor.


Netstal Synergy machines were chosen to run high-speed, thin-wall applications. All machines are replaced after 60,000 hours of use.Indicator lights on each press give a quick visual check on production. Red means that the press has stopped, yellow means that parts are being diverted, green indicates smooth production, and blue indicates the end of a production run.


Quality inspection areas located on the molding floor help ensure that periodic checks are conducted with a minimum of disruption.Vision systems set up at the press keep production running smoothly.


Contact information
Classic Industries Inc.
Latrobe, PA
Spencer Siegel
(724) 532-4399
www.classicplastics.com
[email protected]

Safe, tough, and clearly entertaining

Graco's newest mobile entertainer features a clear plastic window molded from Eastman Chemical's DuraStar material. Its engineer says the patented design ensures safety and increases the play value of the unit without raising costs.
Most design engineers have one target customer group in mind when bringing a new product to market. Jamey Hutchinson is one design engineer who has to satisfy several groups with each product he designs. Hutchinson is the design manager at Graco, a leading manufacturer of children's products.

While balancing the needs of children and their parents, Hutchinson and his team must first design products that are safe. "Our products' safety requirements are extremely high," he says. "There are no accidents when it comes to children. We hold safety first above all else, but our toys and products must also be durable and engaging for a child. Finally, we must find a way to make these products cost-effectively."

Winning Idea
Safety was the first and foremost consideration for Graco's latest-model mobile entertainer. Formerly called a walker, all products of this type went through extensive redesigns in the late '90s for safety. "The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Assn. issued a new standard in 1997, one we helped author, that adds fixed back wheels and a skid strip on the base," says Hutchinson.

Second on the list of requirements for the mobile entertainer was a means of adding more play value and increasing infant stimulation. "We hit upon the idea of a clear window tray," he says, "which allows the child to see his or her feet and the ground beneath as the unit moves. We do research with parents on a regular basis, and most of them said the idea was a good one because while the toys on the entertainer are static, the floor and scenery below change."

The window was designed as tongue and groove with a few fasteners. Graco designers patented the idea and then looked for the right material for the job. Initially PC was a candidate, but at annual volumes of 150,000, designers began looking for a less costly option.

Tackling Requirements
Toughness was a major requirement for the PC alternative. Says Hutchinson, "Our concern was that the child would have all kinds of things handed to them, and then they would bang things down on the tray. The material needed to be tough enough to withstand this treatment without shattering." The design team developed a ball test that it used to check acceptable materials for impact resistance. It was a specific weight and height drop test to simulate the velocity and force of a toddler banging a toy.

One of the materials tested, DuraStar (a copolyester) from Eastman, met all of the requirements. Graco conducted impact resistance tests on several grades of this polymer and selected 2010, a high-impact-resistant grade that includes a mold release. At the time, it cost 20 percent less than PC, passed the toughness test, and provided the clarity needed. Eastman market development representative Ann Mathis says, "The polymer's long-term clarity and resistance to household cleaners make it ideal for children's products because they tend to get handed down from generation to generation, and it maintains its clarity without yellowing or hazing."

Perhaps most importantly, Graco's molding partners were able to run the material immediately without any snags. "We mold a lot of our own products," says Hutchinson, "but this product was molded by one of our partners. [This partner] sampled a number of materials, and with Durastar, was able to put it in the machine and run parts immediately."

"The polymer was easy to process, and the part readily released from the mold," says Al Schmidt, Graco manufacturing engineer. "We had a smooth transition to the manufacturing process and plan to use the polymer again on several other clear parts." Schmidt added that Graco's product also meets FDA safety requirements.

Contact information
Eastman Chemical Co.
Kingsport, TN
Fern Hamilton
(800) 327-8626
www.eastman.com
[email protected]

Molding for quantity and quality

Bemis teamed with John Deere to create this tractor hood assembly. It was awarded top prize in the agricultural and single part categories at SPI's Structural Plastics conference in April.
Back in November of 1998, Gary Vande Berg, director of engineering for Bemis Mfg. Co., took John Deere's initial proposal as a challenge. The agricultural machinery OEM was looking to replace the stationary steel hood on its 8000 Series tractors with a lighter apparatus that would pop open like a car's. John Deere had approached Vande Berg and Bemis after weighing several different options in materials and processes.

"[John Deere] had looked at steel, SMC, and RIM," Vande Berg says. "All three of the processes had deficiencies or problems either in tool cost or part performance, or [the process] couldn't meet the form, fit, and function."

Vande Berg and his team at Bemis countered with an injection molding proposal that impressed John Deere. A long examination process ensued as the involved parties tried to determine what it would take to make the project happen.

"We went through about an eight-week intense study looking at cost, options, design, problems, and tooling issues," Vande Berg explains. Consultations with GE Plastics helped decide the materials that would be needed, and flow simulations indicated the machine size necessary to mold the backbone component for the hood assembly—6600 tons.

Bemis had taken on some large-part programs, but nothing of this scale. The prospect of the massive project gave Vande Berg and Bemis pause, if only momentarily.

"It's not to say that there wasn't some concern along the line," Vande Berg admits, "but we approached it as a challenge."

Nearly three and a half years later, Bemis answered that challenge and was honored by the SPI Structural Plastics Div. at its annual show in Dearborn, MI from April 14-16. The hood assembly took top honors for an agricultural application, and the space frame that served as the assembly's backbone was awarded best individual part. In the time between the initial proposal and accepting two awards on the Structural Plastics podium, Bemis and John Deere took a project from rough concept to rigorously tested assembly that would be recognized by their peers.

Radical Redesign
The original structure was really only a hood in name. The fixed steel assembly could be better described as an engine cover, since farmers who wanted to service their tractors were forced to unscrew and remove various access panels to get at the motor. Popping the hood wasn't an option.


This coinjected space frame, weighing 60 lb and measuring 9 ft, was molded on a 6600-ton Milacron press and serves as the structural backbone for the John Deere tractor hood assembly.
"[John Deere] was updating the machine entirely for the next generation," Eric Keen, a John Deere design engineer, explains. "Our customers wanted the increased service access from a tilt function."

The new hood assembly would have to be lighter to make that tilt function feasible, but it would also need to be rugged enough to handle work in the field and have high enough temperature resistance to enclose a hard-running tractor engine. Keen says underhood temperatures run continuously at 100C with spikes reaching as high as 130C.

John Deere and Bemis began simulation work on a main backbone part that would have the bolt and latch hardware attached to it as well as decorative body panels. Ultimately, the backbone would not only have to support all of the exterior components, but also act as a heat shield and protect them from the engine.

"We needed tremendous rigidity because this is kind of the backbone structure for all the green cosmetic panels," Keen explains, "and it shields them from the heat, because they can't take 100C continuously."

So, not only would the backbone structure be stressed by abuse in operation, but with two side panels, a plastic hinge block, a lift and latch system, headlight bezels and assemblies, and a grill frame mounted to it, the part would have to be, in a word, sturdy.

"You know the Saturn commercial where the kid's throwing the baseball against the side of the car?" Keen asks. "We were looking for that kind of toughness." Keen says Bemis and John Deere needed a material with a rigidity of 800,000-plus-psi flexural modulus. Given that and the temperature resistance requirements, Bemis opted for a 30 percent glass-filled PBT from GE for the backbone and a PC/PBT blend for the body panels. John Deere's trademark green was molded-in and painted over the body components to protect against harmful agricultural chemicals.

We're Going To Need a Bigger Machine
With Bemis and John Deere settling on materials and design, they now needed a machine that could mold the underhood space frame, which, according to designs, would weigh 60 lb and measure 9 ft tall and 30 inches wide.

Simulations suggested 6600 tons of clamping force would be needed, which is what Bemis asked of its machinery supplier, Milacron. Bemis wanted to use coinjection to save on materials, but Milacron had never made one that large. After consultation, Milacron delivered with a 6600-ton coinjection machine, but first it had to wait for Bemis to find somewhere to put the colossal press.

"We put on a 60,000-sq-ft addition to house this thing," Bemis Market & Business Development Manager Steve Kolste explains. "This was partly because we didn't have the space, but mostly because we needed 5 ft of concrete footings under the machine."

A more fortified infrastructure was also needed to support the 80-metric-ton crane that would pull the massive 121,000-lb space frame mold. Four tiebars with just less than 10 ft of spacing support the machine's 140-inch platens, which, opened fully, expose 17.5 ft of daylight. This all fits neatly within a 2100-sq-ft footprint.


This view of the hood assembly, minus its top piece, reveals the space frame, which acts as a backbone and heat shield for the hood's body panels.
The new space also had to accommodate a six-axis 6400 Series articulated-arm robot from ABB. The robot is the largest made by ABB, and it uses its maximum end affector capability of 222 lb to pull the backbone piece from the mold. Tracks were built so the robot could move between the platens to remove the part at its center point.

Final Exams
With the machine, mold, and materials in place, completed assemblies were integrated onto the tractors and given rigorous testing.

"We do full-vehicle acceleration or shake test where we've taken measured field loads, and we hook hydraulic cylinders up to each corner of the vehicle," Keen says. "We replicate our worst fields conditions." According to Keen, a month of accelerated testing can simulate 6000 hours of customer use. "Essentially we test the life of the vehicle in 30 days. It looks terrible because we've picked out all the damaging loads, and we just run them one after another. You'd never really see this kind of abuse consecutively—normally they're spaced one every 10 to 20 hours."

Eighteen months of field tests followed, and the end result is a very successful product. The original assembly weighed in at 220 lb, with 56 parts, while the new hood is 160 lb with only 29 parts. The agricultural community might seem a reluctant participant in such a massive encroachment by plastics in an application traditionally filled by steel, but Keen says they've been very open to the redesign.

"It's been very well received," Keen says. "The customers are perceiving the plastic as tough and less likely to be damaged. They've really been pretty accepting, and they'll all agree that it allows us improved styling."

After tackling such a huge part, Vande Berg says there are only two hindrances to the size and end function that molded parts can achieve. "My opinion is, basically, that with parts like this, you're limited only by your imagination and your pocketbook," he muses.

Contact information

Bemis Mfg. Co.
Sheboygan Falls, WI
Steve Kolste
(920) 467-4621
www.bemismfg.com

Ferromatik Milacron North America
Batavia, OH
(513) 487-5000
www.milacron.com

ABB Automation Inc.
Norwalk, CT
203) 750-2200
www.abb.com

Dressing to impress and cut costs

A six-color press prints 300 tubs/min and lines them up in rows so that operators can stack them in boxes for shipping.
An average grocery store contains more than a few products molded at Berry Plastics' plant in Monroeville, OH. Formerly called Venture Packaging, this 150,000-sq-ft facility produces millions of tubs and lids each year for products ranging from ice cream to detergent. Today, nearly 75 percent of these packages are decorated via printing press, a secondary operation that adds to the product's appeal on a grocery store shelf at less cost than a customized package.

More than ever before in the history of injection molded packaging, decoration has become an essential for products vying for consumer appeal. To differentiate these products without adding excessive cost, global IM packaging giant Berry Plastics (headquartered in Evansville, IN) has invested in extensive decorating capabilities. "Among our 14 facilities worldwide, we have every major decoration technology, including one of the only 10-color offset printing presses in the world," says Ira Boots, Berry's president.

He explains that Berry invests capital back into business to achieve the level of cost control required by the industry. "Our customers expect that the packaging will be cost competitive so that the price they put on the product can also be competitive."

With decorating techniques from offset printing to thermal transfer, Berry produces creative and innovative packages that have a custom appearance. Instead of cutting a new tool for every package, most customers opt to use stock products for which tools are already built. Other cost reduction methods at Berry involve investment in plant, processing equipment, and tools, as IMM's recent visit through the Monroeville facility illustrated.

Decorator Secrets
Twenty printing presses populate the decoration department at this facility. Most of them are offset printing presses, several of which are capable of printing six colors, an industry standard. Several smaller presses are responsible for skirt printing, a term that refers to printing around the edge of a lid. An eight-color and nine-color press are not so standard; they are responsible for some of the more eye-catching graphics Berry produces here.

Plant Manager Howard Weatherwax explains that each printer is able to handle different sized lids or tubs. During an average day, each press runs six or seven jobs. Once each job is set up, the process is highly automated. The setup itself, however, takes skill and experience.

Plates must be produced for each color, and operators have to register each one on the tub or lid. Printing on the sidewalls of tubs, a more popular option today, is the trickiest due to the tapered surface. Tubs are stacked and automatically routed first to a flame-treating station to prepare the plastic for inking. Plates transfer the inks to a rubber blanket on a revolving drum, which then transfers ink to the tub. A UV light cures the inks, and the tubs are then ejected to a stacking system.


A state-of-the-art water cooling system from Engineered Process Cooling Systems allows Berry to regulate temperature and flow at every machine.
Creating the graphics themselves is a project Berry often shares with its customers. A graphics department at the Evansville headquarters helps determine what can be done given Monroeville's technical capabilities. Alternatively, larger OEMs tend to send completed proofs to this department, looking simply for a thumbs-up.

Success in the Details
Monroeville is a showcase facility for Berry Plastics in terms of up-to-the-minute technology and its ability to manufacture and decorate at low cost. It is equipped with the most modern machines, molds, and decorating processes known to the industry. Molds are typically high-cavitation stack molds designed for fast cycle times on large Husky presses. (In fact, 80 percent of the world's 800-ton-and-larger packaging presses are owned by Berry Plastics.)

Weatherwax believes that the success of the operation lies in a comprehensive approach to reducing costs and increasing quality. "For example, in addition to modern equipment, the workforce at Monroeville is highly trained and skilled. We use ISO 9002 operating systems, and two years ago, we incorporated Six Sigma. These two methods have made a major difference in our efficiency, and our people made this possible."

Although its tools are made by partners, Monroeville created a toolroom where tooling engineers can make mold components and spare parts as well as clean and PM every tool after a run. Also, each employee receives 20 hours of training per year in tool maintenance. Weatherwax credits this program with the plant's record of maintaining 100 percent cavitation in every mold. "Our volumes are high, and if we're down even one cavity, it can affect our productivity greatly," he says.

Plant Specifics
Productivity is a key word here. To maintain it, the high-cavitation molds must run continuously and reliably throughout the 24-hour workday. Weatherwax found that one factor slowing down an otherwise smooth production was the company's old water cooling system. "Three years ago, we replaced it with an installation from Engineered Process Cooling Systems," he says. "Since then, we haven't had one problem. We control temperature and flow at every machine, and each machine gets adequate water for cooling the mold. In our entire system, there is only a 3-degree differential."

As for molding machines, the plant contains 25 presses, most of them from Husky, ranging from 225 to 900 tons. All of the larger-tonnage machines have CBW robotics installed for automated production. Many of the stackers and sorters added to each press are built in-house, or designed here and then built by a supplier.

Most of the material processed is either HDPE or LLDPE, and the plant contains enough silo capacity to store 13 railcars, with rail siding capacity for another 13. Materials handling equipment (from Universal Dynamics) is located on a mezzanine above the molding floor, and each press receives material via vacuum pump from the silo.

In addition to Monroeville's extensive decorating capabilities, it becomes clear that every system in the plant has been installed or designed to speed production and improve quality.

Specialized end-of-arm tooling on the CBW robot uses suction to pull 4-quart tubs off a 2+4 stack mold, which includes beryllium copper cores for faster cooling.Stack molds are the norm at Berry Monroeville, such as this 8+4 tool that produces 32 lids/cycle.


Productivity enhancements include automated tub sorters built in-house.This nine-color printing press produces an OxiClean tub. Each press includes a flame-treating station prior to printing so tubs will accept inks.


Contact information
Berry Plastics Corp.
Monroeville, OH
Howard Weatherwax
(419) 465-5293
www.berryplastics.com
[email protected]

Moldmaker adapts to automotive winds of change

Apart from making large molds, the Sermo Group says it too must be big (and global) to match the consolidation and globalization of the entire automotive business.
In 1966, Claude Nerriere started what is now the Sermo Group believing two things: Industrial and automotive applications for plastic would increase; and such industry in France would not remain concentrated in the south of the country. He was right on both counts. The automobile industry grew near Sermo's headquarters in western France and the company began to specialize in that market in the 1970s. At the last Euromold fair in Frankfurt, Nerriere and Managing Director Didier Crespel laid out Sermo's strategy for dealing with more recent changes in the automotive supply business.

The trends Sermo is working with now are concentration, specialization among suppliers, and globalization of the entire business. Through it all, Sermo's goal is to be the leading European supplier of molds for large auto assemblies like front ends, bumper groups, and instrument panels. However, all of this requires having facilities outside Europe. This was triggered by concentration, says Crespel, and is typified by mergers like DaimlerChrysler and Renault-Nissan that in turn pull suppliers to new countries and continents.


Though very visible, bumpers and other body parts are only about 30 percent of Sermo's output. Almost half its molds are for internal car components, and the rest are for under the hood.
Meanwhile, automakers are making cars more sophisticated and higher performing. Also, the model life cycle of cars is decreasing. The result is fierce pressure for cost reduction to pay for all the models and features therein. Specialization, says Crespel, has become necessary for the suppliers to compete. Moreover, as the primary suppliers concentrate on core business, moldmaking is transferred to secondary suppliers—and the associated design, development, and testing that goes with it.

Specialize, Globalize, Grow
Moldmakers in Europe have generally been small to medium companies. In France, for example, Crespel says only three moldmakers have revenues of more than 20 million euros ($19 million). Sermo's turnover is about 65 million euros. This money is needed to meet customer demand for cost reduction, globalization, and increased services.

With both Tier One and OEM companies expecting moldmakers to globalize along with them, the resource needs rise even faster. Sermo has already started to spread itself out. The company has more than 630 employees, of whom more than 90 are involved with mold design. In addition to the two manufacturing facilities and the tryout center in France, Sermo opened a factory in Poland in 1996 that now has 170 employees. In 1998, it opened Sermo do Brasil to provide tools for European automakers there. That facility now employs 65. Another factory is currently coming online in India, and there are design/service centers in Germany and England. The company also has working partnerships with Matriceria Austral in Argentina and Delta Tooling in the U.S.


Sermo's multiple locations allow high-tech production in some facilities, like this one in France, and simultaneous use of low labor costs in its Polish and Indian plants.
In either case, being large and diverse allows the moldmaker to make the needed capital investments.
Besides facilities to supply large multimold assemblies and the financial support it requires, Crespel says quality and time/cost reduction are the other critical elements to success in this market. Sermo has ISO 9000 certification in most of its facilities and is working on the others. The factory at the Saint-Hilaire headquarters is QS 9000 certified and is being recertified to ISO 9001:2000. A program of continuous improvement generated by the workers is in place, and 250 improvement ideas have been submitted in the last six months. Nonconformance management, automatic inspection, and project-specific action plans are also among the quality tools Sermo uses.

The list of Sermo's locations is proof of the company's effort to mix low-cost locations with high-tech factories in Europe. The former keeps costs low on small to medium molds and relatively simple molds. The latter uses technology such as high-speed machining centers to reduce time in both the design and manufacturing phases of large and/or complex tooling. Having outlined all that, Crespel finishes by emphasizing that the moldmaking business is still one of expertise. Sermo has an ambitious program of staff improvement as well as profit sharing and participation schemes to keep its employees' skills and motivation at the top of the class.

Contact information
Sermo Group
Saint-Hilaire-de-Oulay, France
Patricia Beauchene
+33 (2) 51 43 06 06
www.sermo.fr
[email protected]