Defining the Data Barrier, Part 2: Standardizing Maintenance Terminology

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Editor’s Note: This is a multi-part series about improving mold performance and maintenance efficiency. Be sure to also read:

Part 1: How to best organize data responsibilities in a maintenance system

Part 2: Standardizing maintenance terminology

Part 3: Utilizing data to set goals.

Changing a mold maintenance culture from reactive to proactive requires more effort than just installing an electronic database and turning the dogs loose. Purchasing the system is a necessary first step, but unless data responsibilities are outlined and terminology is standardized early in the process of implementation, electronic maintenance systems will consist of inaccurate and vague data entries that will serve no purpose other than to add stress and frustration to your day, while wasting company dollars.

Standardizing data terminology simply means employees use exactly the same terms to describe repetitive mold-related events concerning performance and maintenance issues.

In typical database systems that have the functionality to create reports based on specific data entered, non-standardized data poses a real problem.

When a defect report is created, the software counts the defects separately based on characters and spaces—meaning the user must go through and manually group and recount the defects to get an accurate idea of what is going on with the mold. This is when the frustration kicks in and the user gets discouraged and quits entering any data...period. Hence, the system is ignored and dies, and the user goes back to the memory-dependent, reactionary maintenance culture.

Good Data Requires Discipline

Garbage in; garbage out is the mantra of computer geeks everywhere. And it makes sense. Mold repair personnel must acquire a portion of this data discipline in order to reap the huge advantage of electronic maintenance systems.

Limit the number of employees with data input ability. The initial standardization of mold terminology responsibilities should be given to those few with a broader knowledge of past mold maintenance issues and standard mold tooling, and who have better-than-average PC skills. All other employees should be instructed to merely choose from the list of available terms this person creates. If what they need isn't on the list, then contact the main data person and let them enter the new listing that is correctly spelled, capitalized and spaced.

After the majority of known issues get named and entered in the database, the remaining employees will begin to see the value of standard terminology as they can now quickly track past issues and corrective actions much faster, minus the typical confusion and data doubting. No longer will vague terms just get stuck in there without careful consideration.

Continuous Editing

To be effective, mold maintenance data needs to be continually monitored, edited and updated to keep the information accurate and to transform lengthy explanations into concise key phrases that make sense.

In the plastics industry today, the majority of maintenance record keeping is handled through various types of off-the-shelf or homegrown work order systems where descriptions for work needed and performed are typed into a text field. Even the larger, expensive ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems provide little more in a maintenance module than customizable text fields for the user to try and figure out how best to populate and utilize. Smaller companies use logbooks or notebooks where someone will simply write down their observations or actions.

This makes typical maintenance records particularly susceptible to ambiguous data entries because the people and departments involved have developed their own language for mold and product defects, scheduled or unscheduled events. When someone from engineering, production, Q/A, process, mold setups or mold repair inputs their own lingo into a manual or electronic database, it makes it difficult—if not impossible in many cases—to understand:

  • What exact date and time did the mold run and for how long?
  • How did the mold perform during the run?
  • What maintenance/servicing was needed/performed during the run?
  • What issues/defects should the mold repair shop focus on?
  • What did the mold shop eventually do to the mold?

Answering the above—and very basic—questions will have you hunting down the person who entered the data to help you clarify information as you sift through pages of unintelligible notes, or sort out inaccurate code inputs. More than likely you will just give up altogether or wag any information you might need.

In mold repair, guessing about when tooling may or may not have been replaced, or whether or not to install more tooling in a mold to correct defects that may or may not be there will inflate tooling and labor costs, and the mold won't run any better. Not an efficient way to run a repair shop. But walk into almost any mold repair shop today and ask to see a summary of mold performance issues and subsequent repairs for the past six months and the answer will be "Records? No time for that. We're too busy fighting today's problems."

So before tons of inaccurate info muddies up your new system, and so that meaningful reports can be created and utilized to target areas that need improvement, standardize terminology that deals with molding basics like:

  • Mold Stop Reasons (scheduled and unscheduled downtime)
  • Part Defects (flash, shorts, burns, etc.)
  • Mold Defects (mold frame tooling issues)
  • Corrective Actions (what was done)

Mold Stop Reasons
The ability to track, trend and put a cost to why molds are stopped before they have completed their scheduled production run is the most important aspect of improving mold reliability and production efficiency. Yet it seems one area that is taken for granted simply because management is much more concerned with doing whatever it takes to get the mold running again and less with why it's not or preventing reoccurrences of problems. The majority of mold stop reason terminology should originate from process personnel supervisors, lead techs, etc. A list of typical, generic Mold Stop Reasons that may be helpful in setting up your database can be found in Table 1.

Part Defects
Part defect terminology will be specific to the mold cavity tooling and process. Name defects carefully. Saying a part suffers from "flash" is not enough information when analyzing six months worth of defect data, nor when it comes time for the repair technician to fix the flash.

Multiple pieces of tooling can form the top or sides of a part so the defect description must contain a clue as to the location and direction of the flash relevant to how the part is molded and viewed. Top, bottom, open end, closed end, skirt, threaded end, etc. are common terms to describe an area of the part. By adding either "vertical" or "horizontal" to the flash description will further point to what tooling or shut-off area of the mold is involved in creating the flash.

For example, "Horizontal Flash Top Skirt" points to flash on a skirt at the top of the part and between the A side cavity and the B side cavity or stripper bushing or parallel to the plane of the main parting line (face of the mold). "Vertical Flash Top Skirt" means the flash is between tooling, usually a core and sleeve that is perpendicular to the face of the mold. Horizontal flash is affected more by mold clamp pressure, parting line condition and tooling stack out. Vertical flash is affected more by dynamic (part ejection) wear and relative tooling/plate positioning within the mold. Obviously, there are other mold or process conditions that are probable causes for part defects, but history will tell you where to look first.

Descriptive defect listings make it easy to analyze specific defect trends and patterns through accurate reporting, in turn improving accuracy in daily mold repair decisions.

Other concerned people in the mold chain—such as mold designers and builders—consider defect data invaluable when making mold improvements through mechanical functions, steel types, platings or coatings.

Mold Defects
Mold defects cover issues that deal with the frame tooling or mold base. Problems such as bad heaters, probes, thermocouples, return pins, water and oil leaks, plugged gates and bubblers, broken shoulder bolts, stripped knockouts, pins, bushings, interlocks, etc. should be categorized and tracked separately from part defects to keep reports shorter and clearer.

Standardizing the terminology for these issues is just as critical for determining frequencies for in-press servicing and out-press cleaning and inspection levels in order to truly become proactive and head off issues that will come by the cycle, hour or day.

Corrective Actions
These terms are used to describe what was done to resolve an issue. They can allow the user to see what type of actions the shop takes during a single repair or all repairs over a particular time frame.

Acquiring data discipline and training shop employees in the language of mold maintenance requires an initial persistence that will pay great dividends in whatever maintenance tracking system you use by making the system useful.

Table 1
Scheduled Mold Stop Reasons Typical Mold Defects Corrective Action Terms
Clean Only & Run
Color Change
Cycle Limit
D.O.E. Complete
Install Sample Tooling
Material Trial
Not Scheduled
P.M. & Rack
P.M. & Rack—Run Complete
P.M. & Run
Plant Shut-down
Press Change
Press Maintenance
Qualification Run Complete
Remove Sample Tooling
Sample Run Complete
Ship Mold To Vendor
Bad Heater
Bad Manifold Heater
Bad Thermocouple
Bent Main Core
Bent Valve Pin
Bent/Broken Ejector Pin
Blocked Air Blow-Off
Blocked Fluid Path
Blocked From Tool Room
Blows Fuse
Broken /Jammed Rack
Broken Blade
Broken Cavity Block Bolts
Broken Cavity Ejector Pin
Broken Center Runner Bar
Broken Core
Broken Gate Insert
Broken Gear Rack
Broken Latch-Lock Components
Broken Probe Tip
Broken Push Pad
Broken Runner Ejector Pin
Broken Shoulder Bolt
Broken Sprue Bushing
Broken Tab
Broken Valve Pin
Broken/Cracked Gate Insert
Damaged Electrical Connector
Dinged Tooling
Drag At Gate
Drag on Flange
Drag on Frosted Skirt
Drag on O/D of Body
Drag Top Skirt I.D.
Drag Top Skirt O.D
Drag/Pulled Thread
Ejector Plate Won't Function
External Oil Leak
External Water Leak
Failed Proximity Sensor
Galled Core to Sleeve
Galled Jaw Slide
Galled Leader Pin
Gate Pin Not Shifting
Horiz. Flash Open End
Horiz. Flash Top O.D.
Horizontal Flash Top of Frosted Skirt
Vert. Flash (Small Open End) Bottom
Vert. Flash at Stripper Ring
Vert. Flash O.D. Small End
Add Vents
Adjust Process
Braze & Bench to Fit
Changed Tooling Configuration To ?
Clean & Inspect Only
Clean, Measure and Record
Clean Only
Clean Only In-Press
Clean Vents
Cleaned Mold Level "1"
Cleaned Mold Level "2"
Cleaned Mold Level "3"
Cleaned Metal From Gate
Electrical Check---All OK
Fabricate New
Lap Only
None Taken - No Time
None Taken - No Tooling
None Taken - Press Maintenance.
None Required - Restart Mold
Polished Tooling
Regrind Vents
Repaired In-Press
Replaced & Lapped
Replaced In-Press
Sharpen Gates
Shimmed In-Press
Stone & Fit Tooling
Stone & Polish Tooling
Stoned Burrs
Unblock Cavity
Remove Jammed Plastic
X-Unscheduled Mold Stop Reasons
X-Black Streaks
X-Degraded Material
X-Dimensional Issues
X-Ejector Plate Won't Function
X-Electrical Issues
X-External Oil Leak
X-External Water Leak
X-Finish Issues
X-Flash Issues
X-Flashed Manifold
X-Flashed Mold
X-Galled Tooling
X-Gas Burns
X-Gate Issues
X-Heater Issues
X-Incorrect Mold Assembly
X-In-Press Repair
X-Internal Water Leak
X-Metal in Gate
X-Mold Damage
X-Mold Over-Greased
X-Mold Set Issues
X-Mold Won't Close
X-Mold Won't Shoot
X-Nonfill Issues
X-Particulate On Parts
X-Parts Sticking
X-Press Problems
X-Residue Leaching Out
X-Robot Issues
X-Runner Sticking
X-Scuffed Tooling

Next: Part 3, Utilizing data to set goals.