Reinvesting in Machinery, Processes and People Adds to Bottom Line
Rexam Mold Manufacturing (RMM; Buffalo Grove, IL) is a full-service mold manufacturing company that designs and builds high cavitation injection molds servicing customers worldwide. As a 90-plus man operation, RMM has the capacity to handle full turnkey programs—including part design, prototype, and build of pre-production and production molds—culminating with full mold and part qualifications. Specializing in high precision molds with interchangeable components, RMM has supplied the industry with a wide variety of tools including, single face, stack, unscrewing, multi-material, rotary cube technologies—and considers its customers’ needs a number-one priority.
Cap and closure, home and personal care, and medical are the primary markets RMM serves. In order to continue providing the best customer service to its current customers as well as widen its customer base, the company continues to focus on a number of continuous improvement programs with its people, the purchase of new machinery and processes. In place is an ongoing apprenticeship program where the company takes individuals with a variety of machining talents and exposes them to the various facets of moldmaking. “They spend time in the milling, grinding and assembly areas that may last for a month or two,” explains RMM Sales Manager Jeffrey Barhoff. “After one year in the program, they move on to more advanced machining—taking on greater responsibility in the shop. The overall duration of the program is five years.
“It also is a regular practice with the general population of our facility to cross-train our employees on various machinery and moldmaking practices,” Barhoff continues. “This practice provides greater flexibility in scheduling man and machine as well as provides variety for our employees.”
Continuous Improvement Programs
First, RMM added the Charmilles 350S and 550S, which Barhoff believes puts the company in a more powerful position in what is a very competitive marketplace. “The improved efficiencies by running faster with greater accuracy have allowed us to be more aggressive in both pricing and delivery,” Barhoff continues. “For instance, on the EDM machines pulse rates are faster, tool changing is faster and electrode wear on certain burns is improved—requiring less electrodes. We recognize that in a slower economic climate it is an opportune time to take advantage of the aggressiveness of the machinery and equipment companies to negotiate a strong agreement with the purchase of new equipment since the equipment manufacturers have provided more competitive pricing trying to move more of their equipment.”
In addition to the changes in the EDM department, RMM found it had to better monitor certain processes in the shop such as the aforementioned electrode manufacturing. “We were looking to improve our processes for electrode manufacturing by adding a new CMM-Zeiss Contura G2 with articulating stylist to our electrode manufacturing cell and relocating two of our high-speed milling machines to this cell—where we perform a 100 percent inspection of each electrode to ensure accuracy,” Barhoff states. “We can now accurately and consistently process a greater number of electrodes automatically, documenting sizes with improved quality. This helps relieve any bottlenecks we have in our EDM’ing system. With the purchase of the new equipment and relocating this equipment into one cell, there also is a tremendous time savings for those operators involved in electrode manufacturing. Included in this cell is the individual who programs the CNC Makino machines.”
The new Charmilles machines in RMM’s EDM department equipped with technology for improved control and burn cycles has decreased the company’s time in the machines on particular jobs by 30 percent, and reduced the number of electrodes needed for each burn by an average of 25 percent, Barhoff continues.
The company also added a five-axis Integrex Mazak Lathe to reduce multiple set-ups on various machines down to a single set-up on this machine. “With the Mazak we are able to take a part that typically would require three set-ups on three different machines and reduce it to one set-up on one machine,” Barhoff emphasizes. “For example, we were able to take a core from one of our molds and reduce the turning, milling, drilling and tapping from 2.5 hours to 44 minutes.
Employee education and training goes hand-in-hand with new technology and processes, “We sent our people to a four-day training course at the Charmilles facility,” Barhoff elaborates. “Charmilles personnel provided detailed instruction on how to run the faster machines we had purchased. While the training was demanding, our operators are quite skilled, and armed with this new knowledge, were able to fully utilize this technology in the weeks following EDM school. They were able to program, set up and run production the week following the training. This all equates to faster turnaround time in the EDM department and contains our cost to our customer—which ultimately provides a more competitively priced mold. This training, along with employee training on the Mazak and our two Makino V33i Grafite machines, allowed us to move directly into a production mode upon its completion.”
The Bottom Line
“As all investments require an improvement right to the bottom line, our customers realize these benefits through added value in our ability to build molds with longevity in mind—along with improved leadtimes and consistent dependable performance,” Barhoff affirms. “Our new and improved processes are reflected in our mold pricing along with aggressive delivery schedules. Being able to reduce the man and machine hours on various processes like EDM or five-axis CNC lathe work with fewer setups allows us to be more aggressive on mold pricing.”
RMM’s plan is to continue to reinvest and grow the company. “We must continue to increase our sphere of influence with our customers by working with the latest mold designs and materials,” Barhoff notes. “For example, on closure tooling a slight design change or alteration in our unscrewing mechanisms may improve our molds; or possibly the use of material with better heat transfer properties may improve cycle time. While some changes appear to be small, they can be very significant in improving our product to the customer and providing them with greater value for their investment in injection molds.
“It is essential for moldmakers to continue to reinvest in people, machinery and technology,” Barhoff concludes. “It is a tremendous undertaking—but when done properly—the rewards can be great.”
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