Systems Engineering Meets Moldmaking
Is systems engineering necessary for moldmakers? The answer depends on what you include and exclude from systems engineering, and on whom you ask.
A typical reply from moldmakers is, “We have been building molds here for 20 years. For even the largest and most complicated jobs, our customers know we will perform. Systems engineering is for inventing new things.” But as with so many other technical topics, the truth lies deeper.
To address this deeper truth, consider the large market for injection-molded automotive interior trim panels. These plastic trim panels that form the interiors of cars and light trucks are both decorative and functional. Interior trim surfaces can be important selling points in dealership showrooms, where appearances are anything but superficial. Much attention and expense are devoted to dashboards, instrument panels, headliners above the windshields, inner door panels and consoles between the front seats.
Trim panels are regularly redesigned to incorporate the newest ideas in luxury, such as leather-like textures or visually complex and appealing burlwood. Given the increased incorporation of electronics in vehicles, there are often new digital features to accommodate, while layouts of gauges, readouts and climate controls regularly need to be redesigned or refreshed.
In other words, complexity, continuous innovation and speed rule the interior trim moldmaking business. To cope, many moldmakers rely on systems engineering in some way.
Although moldmakers generally agree that systems engineering in its formal sense (see Figure 1) is best left to the OEMs, they still need a portion of the systems engineering Vee diagram. And those moldmakers who expect systems engineering to play a large future role in their business are steadily enlarging their understanding of its processes.
In the practical world of getting injection-molded parts out the door, moldmakers who use systems engineering note that it is linked to systems integration.