It's the age-old story. You win a mold contract, you work on the designs, the measurements and the tolerances, and then you think you have it all together and you're ready to roll. But are you?
More times than not, customers come rushing over or calling on the phone with an urgent polishing and plating job that has to be done yesterday. We all understand that today, time is critical - it's money. OEMs and other customers expect first-quality products fast, cheap and easy. How can we consistently ensure that this happens? It's all in the details - the ones that we tend to leave to the last minute, that is.
A mold shop essentially farms out four things: heat treating, texturing, polishing and plating. The very first thing that must be determined is the order in which these need to be done. Good planning means good timing. Think it through. When you get to the polishing and plating issue, consider some of the following advice.
Think Polishing or Plating Early
Save some valuable time right from the start by considering the metals that you are constructing the mold with and the properties of the plastics that will be molded in the molds. What types of parts are being molded? Given that you usually know these things when you get the job, it should make sense to consult with your polishing and plating vendor to find out what is recommended for optimal production times. Sharing information from prints or piece parts - since doing so will help your vendor to accurately choose the correct finish or coating - is recommended.
The key here, however, is not just optimal production times for your customer; it's optimal production times for you, too. Time-to-market is a relative term for anyone who is in the business of manufacturing, whether it leaves your shop for another one or it goes directly to the retail store. Planning ahead for the "finished touch" on your molds is the trump card that can win you the timesavings game.
Taking It a Step Further
Take the early planning strategy a step further. In a situation where you are building a multi-cavity mold, it can be a major timesaving move if you schedule polishing and plating services during the manufacturing process. In other words, send mold components out as they are completed, in partial shipments.
Forget waiting until all of the cavities are built. Why would you let finished cavities sit on the shelf collecting dust when they could be easily "fed" in partial shipments to your vendor while you work on the remaining cavities?
Consider this example: If you have a multi-cavity mold that will require chrome plating, send a finished cavity to your vendor early so that the anode can be constructed. While you finish the rest of the tool, your vendor is preparing for the first shipment and he'll be ready when you are.
It's a common sense, timesaving solution. When your vendor knows the components are coming, he can plan at his end so you'll be sure to get them back in a timely manner, ready for assembly.
The importance of early communication with your vendor can't be emphasized enough. It is time-consuming, and therefore expensive, to mask a tool. It would be an expensive mistake not to be sure what you require until after work like that is done, so discuss this ahead of time.
Features of a "Time-Saver" Vendor
It can't be stressed more - do your homework when searching for a vendor, who you need to depend on for every valuable aspect of the mold building process.
In the case of polishing and plating houses, take a look at the following features, which could make a difference in the timing - and quality - of your finished mold:
Do They Have Extended Hours?
It can be of great benefit to you if your vendor has a second or third shift. Not only can they better guarantee that your job will be done when you need it, but if you do find that you are running late on a mold, the extended hours can save you when the customer comes calling.
Are They a Full-Service Shop?
A vendor that offers services beyond the standard hard chrome, electroless nickel and/or diamond polishing is a vendor that may give you a leg up on the competition. There are an amazing number of specially developed finishes and coatings out there today and the opportunity to choose the right one will optimize the production value of your mold and make you look good to your customers. You typically only find those choices if the vendor you choose has it all - both polishing and plating services - under one roof.
How Experienced Are They?
It's true of most things. When you have the choice of working with a company that has a long-standing reputation for quality and one that may not have as much experience in the field, which are you likely to choose when time and quality make a critical difference?
What About Ancillary Services?
Does the vendor offer repair work, micro TIG welding, pick-up and delivery, and payment options?
Are They a Detail-Oriented Shop?
Ask about ISO certifications and find out what the vendor has in the way of in-house quality control programs. A shop that has a dedicated quality and inspection operation will catch mistakes and other details before the mold reaches your customer, saving your reputation and valuable time.
Your success depends on your ability to meet the demands of your customers. It has always been that way, but it seems like today, more customers are demanding more. It's a very fickle marketplace and competition is fierce. Finding ways to stay on the leading edge is imperative and locating the right polishing and plating vendor is one way to do it.
Not every polishing and plating company has around-the-clock service, nor are they all full-service, but if you can find one that fulfills your particular needs, you are on the path to success. Decide what your company needs most and then research your options. If you make the time to do this, you'll most certainly save time when it counts - in the production process. Remember that it's all in the details.