Injection molding is a manufacturing process contained within a wide variety of supply chains across the world. While parts tend to be made cheaply and quickly, production tooling is a very large and sometimes inconvenient line item in the budget. Tools are also loaded with hidden costs associated with maintenance and transportation, and can become more than just a headache; they could dramatically affect the long-term profitability of a production program.
Many factors should be considered when sourcing tooling, but three simple actions will go a long way toward finding the most cost-effective solution for your organization.
3 Actions for Sourcing Cost Efficient Injection Mold Tooling
1. Involve Suppliers Early
The supplier-customer relationship is truly a partnership and should be treated as such. Involving a supplier or group of suppliers early in the project timeline is valuable for many reasons, but is crucial when selecting the right tool and toolmaker.
When sourcing in the United States, it’s still likely the molder elects to utilize a tool maker in a low-cost country, but the early engagement allows your organization to build familiarity with the eventual tool maker, especially if the molder used them in the past. Setting up meetings and design calls early in the process means the tooling quotes in the future aren’t just mysterious numbers in some PDF, but rather are trusted and make sense.
Involving suppliers early also allows your purchasing team to fully assess the design and engineering capabilities of each prospective supply partner. If the supplier can engage early in the process with constructive feedback and demonstrate a general understanding of the product to be molded, it’s more able to respond quickly to changes or identify potential quality issues that drive up hidden costs. This early involvement in the design may uncover in-house tooling capabilities. If the supplier can’t repair and modify tools in a timely fashion locally or in-house, the costs of transporting the tool to a supplier who could begin to add up.
2. Understand Quality & Volume Requirements
Part of sourcing tooling in a cost-effective manner is being realistic about the volume and quality requirements of the production program. For example, larger automotive companies have very strict quality standards for their parts, and therefore, have strict quality standards for their tools. A low-cost country may be an option, but the cost of higher quality domestic tools must be weighed against the cost of recalls or line shutdowns due to major quality issues.
If an organization doesn’t face this same type of scrutiny, then it may not be worth the cost to source tooling domestically. Many molders have relationships with both domestic and international sources and are happy to provide both prices.
Another consideration for cost-effective sourcing is volume. Simply put, if you don’t need one million cycles for the tool, don’t pay for them. To be cost-effective, only source tooling for the necessary timeline for your program, not falling short or exceeding it. This goes for cavitation as well; low-volume programs can get away with lower cavity tools. Paying for an eight-cavity tool to capture a unit cost break won’t provide the value you’re looking for if the volumes aren’t enough to compensate for the increased cost of the tool.
3. Forget the Family Molds
It’s tempting to maximize the cavitation of a tool by using a “family” mold. Family molds are designed to use a single tool to mold multiple parts, as opposed to an single part. However, maintenance issues associated with these molds are problematic due to their complexity and the effect they have on the entire family of parts. If a single-part tool needs repair, the remaining parts of the family can still be molded on the same line. In a family mold, this isn’t the case; added complexity means added maintenance, which will be a problem if the supplier’s in-house maintenance capabilities are not up to par.
There are many considerations when it comes to sourcing tooling, including the very material the tool is made of. But with most things, developing a relationship with potential supply partners early in the design process is key to successfully sourcing more cost-effective tooling and maintaining product quality throughout the life of the production program.