Leadtime Leader Q&A: Service with a Smile

MoldMaking Technology's 2003 and 2004 Leadtime Leaders reveal the value-added services that keep their shops busy and profitable.

Each month the winners of MoldMaking Technology magazine's Leadtime Leader Award Competition assemble in this regular column to discuss matters relevant to the industry. The award—designed to recognize outstanding U.S. moldmaking shops and their ability to succeed in today's global mold market—highlights a number of shops that showed outstanding performance in the following areas: leadtime, current and projected sales growth, innovation in the moldmaking process as well as innovation in the business side of moldmaking, technology, industry involvement and customer service.

This time around, our esteemed Leadtime authorities share the variety of value-added services their shops offer—from part/product design to mold sampling. For more information on how to enter next year's contest, visit our website at www.moldmakingtechnology.com.

Steve Johanns, managing director, business development, Advance Tool, Inc. (Blaine, MN)
The addition of value-added services to ATI's portfolio of solutions is part of a core strategic plan. Today, our portfolio of value-added solutions revolves around four synergistic business units: 1) Product Design, 2) Prototype Tooling and Development, 3) Production Tooling U.S. & Asia and 4) Global Service & Support.

Because of our size and global reach we are focused on bringing a unique value proposition to our customers that allows them to plug us in anywhere along their product development cycle—whether in the U.S. or abroad. We always have been recognized as a premier production mold builder, but more and more customers are realizing the benefits of tapping into our engineering talent earlier on in their product development cycle. While it is always hard for large OEMs to make commitments to large molders too early, it is much easier to bring in an experienced moldmaker to help make a product manufacturable without sacrificing design. Our relationships with OEMs and some of the best molders in the world can be a win-win-win when done right. The goal—help the team save time and money so we can all make more money and have more time.

Jason Jepsen, Tech Centre manager, Eimo Americas (Vicksburg, MI)
We have a department that we refer to as Product Data Management (PDM). The members of this department have strong backgrounds in tooling and part design. They work with our customers in the beginning stages of part design. PDM is responsible for the final part file that our mold designers work with when they begin to design a new tool.

In essence, PDM adds value to the part file well before we begin to design a mold. They work with customers to finalize part files to ensure that they are "toolable" and that part files are in good working condition before they are released to our CAD department. They do such things as: 1) add or remove draft to part files, 2) add coring to thick areas prone to sinking, 3) evaluate designs to eliminate potential thin steel conditions, 4) evaluate part thicknesses and their relationships to intersecting walls, ribs, bosses, etc., 5) review part tolerances, 6) establish gate locations, 7) evaluate shut-off integrity, 8) perform mold filling simulations and a whole host of other items as well. All of this work is done in collaboration with the customer and involves sending data back and forth numerous times until a final file is agreed upon.

We feel that this upfront work is crucial to the success of any new project. We see this as value-added because it helps to educate our customers about what makes for a good tool design. It also adds value in the sense that it directly affects the end goal—which is a well-built tool that will last over the life of a given program.

Rich Burman, president, Graphic Tool Corp. (Itasca, IL)
The main value-added service we provide is early supplier involvement (ESI). We go to our customer's facility, or vice versa, and review their product design with them as they develop it. This enables us to recommend changes that will make their product better, and the mold more trouble free. We look for thick wall sections that should be cored out to minimize sink marks, poor draft conditions that could cause the part to stick and scuff or distort, undercuts that could be redesigned to eliminate the need for side actions, areas that would create thin steel conditions thus making the tool vulnerable to breakage and cooling difficulties. These are just a few of the many things we as toolmakers are able to recommend, to help our customers. We feel our expertise enables us to minimize problems and cut costs for our customers.

Tim Windingstad, operations manager, M&M Tool & Mold, Inc. (Green Bay, WI)
There are a few services we provide that add further value to our services. We have a 150-ton press at our Germantown facility for initial sampling of tools. This primarily has been of interest to our customers that are further away; however, it certainly is not limited to those customers' tools. We feel we offer strong engineering support and can offer creative solutions for the difficult-to-mold parts. If needed, we can get involved with customers from product conception and remain involved while the product is being brought to market. We are able to provide input for resin selection, processing and moldability—which helps aid this process. In short, we want to be seen as a resource for timely information and solutions to our customers so that projects can move along smoothly.

Gene Bruce, co-owner, Summit Molds Inc. (Post Falls, ID)
We offer maintenance agreements at a reduced shop rate for our customers. While many of them have their own maintenance people, some prefer to have us clean, maintain and—when necessary—repair some of the more complex molds we have built for them. This includes whatever record keeping they may require for their records. It has required us to schedule some of our people to be on call weekends for rush repairs, but it also has helped establish a closer relationship with our customers.

Wayne Shakal, business development manager, Ultra Tool Group (Grantsburg, WI)
Serving not only the custom molding market—but also the captive and OEM markets—requires that we offer additional moldmaking services. From a tool and part qualification standpoint, we offer in-house mold sampling, first-article inspection, CpK, SPC and capability studies. This affords our customers the benefit of receiving completely qualified tooling and molded parts. Our in-house technical center also offers moldflow analysis and process optimization services.

Another area that we provide a unique service is turnkey solutions. This service is usually geared toward extremely high volume molding and multishot applications. This typically involves providing our customer with one of our proprietary tooling technologies integrated with a molding machine. Additional items have included robotics and downstream automation. These systems are delivered completely qualified and production ready. It is also not uncommon for us to guarantee the performance of the system, whether it is cycle times, part quality aspects or both.

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