Moldmakers express their opinions on industry issues


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As a follow-up to the article Sacrificing Quality for Cost, submitted by Dennis Swanson in the October 2001 issue of MoldMaking Technology magazine, I agree entirely with the point that 'cheaper is not always cheaper.' The article makes reference to using overseas tool builds that are of marginal quality in an effort to cut costs. However, I also see the same issues of poor engineering and poor quality proactively carried out from various mold shops and molders within the U.S. While there is no mystery that a properly designed and manufactured mold will produce the best parts while yielding the most proficient cycle times, there are many tool builds that begin with 'I don't have a lot of money for this' or 'we need to keep costs down.'

I fail to understand how building a mold with foreseeable maintenance problems and insufficient cooling can be cost efficient in the long run. Purchasing agents can direct a shortsighted approach that may ultimately make it less profitable to produce parts. The decision to place an order with the lowest bid should be scrutinized relative to the total calculated costs including mold down time, reject rate and repair. Principal fundamentals of the decision making process used to award suppliers with an order should include experience, track record and accountability. In most cases it will usually cost more up front, but will have a larger impact contributing to the overall profit.

Several times so far this year I have reviewed mold designs where the molds were designed and manufactured in the U.S., but were not reliable or able to run acceptable cycle times. I was asked to quote redesign or offer suggestions for improvement of processing conditions. In one case, a mold producing a large, relatively complex part was built without cooling lines in the cavity inserts. How can up-front cost cutting be justified when the end result may be that the mold could be worthless? As the old saying goes, 'there is not any value to things that do not work.' Cycle time, fallout rate and maintenance should be key issues prior to mold build, but these items are not always considered when the bottom line costs are evaluated. These items create success or failure during processing and will dictate final profit.

The procedures of generating mold designs efficiently are constantly changing and consistently being refined. As a mold designer, I am continually faced with the same challenges of reducing design costs and mold build costs through design. Therefore, the design should be specific to manufacturing techniques and engineered for optimum mold processing.

I believe that better planning, procedures and service will achieve the productivity needed to keep U.S. molders and mold builders successful. Arbitrary up-front cost cutting is for vendors content to have their moldmakers stare at a design wondering how to build it or a molder hoping that his tooling holds up just before it fails. As a mold designer I'm not sure how inferior tooling can be a bargain, but as a consumer I'm sure that I'm paying the price.

Robert Lippert
President, Northern Design, Inc.

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