Busy Work No More

Let an expert manage your inventory so that you can concentrate on the craft of moldmaking.

Today's economy, coupled with increased foreign competition, is changing the way moldmakers conduct business. Fewer people are trying to get more work done in a shorter time period. Why not find someone skilled in inventory management to take over this time consuming yet vital task so that your mold designers and builders can concentrate on getting the molds out in order to keep your business thriving?

RF Flood Supply Corp. (Ivyland, PA) - a provider of a variety of tooling products and accessories for 33 years - is doing just that for moldmakers. According to President Tom Flood, the ideal program involves sending an inventory management specialist to a shop on a regular basis to manage the inventory and keep things running smoothly. It's a program that is very well received, Flood notes, because of its myriad of benefits - including lower cost of ownership; drastic reduction in out-of-stock emergencies; elimination of freight charges; increase in worker productivity; decrease in wasted, unnecessary spending; improved inventory control; measurable and quantifiable savings; and personalized expert service. Additionally, Flood points out that the inventory specialist also should possess a great deal of industry knowledge and can thus assist moldmakers in solving tooling problems and challenges.

"It's a relationship that must be viewed by both parties as a partnership," Flood explains. "The supplier must possess the infrastructure to serve his or her customer base - providing not only the relative mold building items but also the wide variety of perishable tooling items, including cutting tools, abrasives, measuring tools and a complete indexable milling and turning insert line, to name a few." What sets this type of program apart from the catalog houses and large, integrated supply chains is the product knowledge and industry application expertise that the specialist should have. It's one thing to have these products available, but another to be able to interface with a customer's shop staff and be qualifiable with understanding how these products can best be used.

The Big Picture

When looking for an inventory management service provider, you need to look at the big picture. First, seek out suppliers that possess the correct mix of products to suit your needs and inquire about their experience in the industry. Then, ask for a written model worksheet so that you can fill in the blanks and actually see the net savings you will derive from using this approach (see Figure 1).

With this type of inventory management service, a specialist visits your shop - as often as you and the specialist decide is necessary - to manage your inventory and anticipate your future needs. "The moldmaker should select a few key employees from his staff to work directly with the specialist," says Flood. "That way, there's a select number of people within each organization that the specialist can go to with questions and concerns, or they can come to him or her. If there weren't specific people to work with at the mold shop, everyone would approach the inventory specialist and spending would get out of hand, and that's not what this program is about.

"Finally, establish any site-specific guidelines with your specialist," Flood explains. "Our experience has taught us that the system implementation - from start to finish - takes about three months of participation by all parties." Other factors to consider are storage needs and a labeling system or part numbering system. "The most important thing to remember is that production must continue uninterrupted," Flood emphasizes. The staff should basically blend into the shop and tailor the system to meet the customer's expectations.

Flood points out that if his company can replace any tools with a more cost-effective model, they will suggest alternatives to the moldmaker. The moldmaker will then have the opportunity to try the tool, and if he likes it, Flood sends the other tools back to his supplier, who will then buy them back from Flood. "It's like a zero risk trial where a customer cannot be hurt," he says. Moldmakers should find a company that works with a variety of suppliers, and that has what the moldmaker is currently using, or can recommend quality alternatives.

Taking inventory management out of your hands is a smart business move - it not only drives your costs to acquire tools down significantly, but you also never run out of products. Additionally, someone else is shopping smartly for you - getting the highest quality products at the best prices. Machinists' time is much better spent working at their stations, not researching catalogs and the Internet.

"In short, a knowledgeable sales staff makes the difference," Flood concludes. "Today, most people in the moldmaking industry just want to get something accomplished and off their desk as quickly and efficiently as possible. If someone else can help them do that, it's a real value-added service."

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