Throwback Thursday: The Black Art

With my mold maintenance champion returning to the pages of MMT next month with his new "Maintenance Matters" series, I thought I'd revisit the start of his original series with us back in 2004.


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Across the Bench was a series of articles directed at improving efficiency in your toolroom and the performance and health of molds that began in the January 2004 issue of MMT by Steve Johnson of MoldTrax. Steve is very passionate about mold maintenance and that was evident when we first met. I knew immediately that he could offer our readers an across-the-bench view of their maintenance struggles and challenges while providing valuable insight and solutions.


Steve's first article included a sidebar on The Blark Art of mold maintenance:

Mold maintenance is considered a black art because there are very few formal training programs for repair technicians or management to attend in which to study standard practices and procedures. There is no mold maintenance bible available to consult when a mold oozes plastic from the top of the electrical box during a critical production run. Proactive, predictive and preventative normally surround anything mechanical in the industry and until mold maintenance is understood, knowing how to make them work will remain a mystery.

The range of perceived qualifications in the industry is incredible. Many employers aren't sure what background prospective repair technicians should have, while employees are getting bogged down and burned out. Poorly equipped shops fill up with half-assembled molds waiting on tooling that should have been in stock, molds victimized by unnecessary and costly mistakes or molds that are run to death. Backup molds are never available. It's easy to understand why freelancing repairs and firefighting hot problems are accepted solutions for many companies.

Typical mold maintenance functions such as disassembly, troubleshooting, repairing, cleaning and assembling can and should be standardized, formalized and followed by all shop employees. This will significantly reduce labor hours, tooling and defect frequencies, and in some cases eliminate specific defects, thus improving quality, performance and reliability of molds. An efficient mold repair shop collects and uses accurate mold performance and repair data while trained personnel work together in a well-designed repair shop.

Quality craftsmanship can no longer be an elusive skill companies only hopetheir technicians have; it must be a requirement. Maintenance technicians must be held accountable. This can be accomplished by gradually shifting to a systemized approach to understand and correct mold and product defects. A shop's operation is in management's hands. Supervisors must be able to measure mold performance and repair criteria. As the old saying goes, 'You cannot improve on something that you cannot measure.'

Take a look at his entire first article here