Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) Insight
Currently working for an OEM, I know that “Speed wins,” which is a nice way of saying “Hurry up or die!” Having internal mold-building capabilities is a time-to-market strategy for OEMs. You can see proof of this as many take steps to selectively integrate key engineering activities that directly impact and reduce overall time and costs while adding clear value.
When evaluating what it takes to design, develop, commercialize and launch new products, OEMs must examine the structure of how and why they do what they do. Often, the design and development process is a bottleneck for achieving this objective. To be more specific, look at an area that typically relies on a strong supplier but is out of the OEM’s control, and therefore has a dramatic impact on product-launch timing and development. I am referring to the job shop.
This industry has expanded and contracted many times over the last few decades, and with this, so has the focus on OEMs maintaining active job shops for their new-product development. While there are many great resources that can, and do, meet the needs of product development teams, there are also those critical core product launches that can significantly benefit by having this resource in-house.
The new product introduction (NPI) cycle has five key phases: 1) design, 2) development, 3) mold build, 4) qualification and 5) transfer to production. The longest and most controllable phases for an OEM are design and development. Here, you can make or break the launch timing if you cannot continue to concurrently design, engineer, evaluate and re-design in a uninterrupted manner.
Having a shop in your backyard during these two phases can greatly reduce time lost to adding middlemen to the mix. From prototype development (3D printing) to rapid tools (prototypes) to bridge tooling, an OEM shop can focus on critical parts in the process while allowing the less critical ones to be managed with suppliers. Being able to design and then 3D print a part while concurrently working on a prototype tool enables direct management and control of developmental engineering change notifications (ECNs) that would normally require higher costs and delays if done outside the facility. Once this is managed, bridge tooling can be easily (and concurrently) built to further reduce time lost in a traditional, outsourced value stream. As with all strategies, this is not for every OEM or for every new product development.
When it comes to your mold business, speed is also a high priority, so maybe it’s time to examine your current processes and products to discover other internal capabilities that can help serve your time-to-market strategy.
As you consider your options, focus mainly on the parts of your product that will need the most support, then develop the resources to meet those needs. And, yes, that means spending money on the right equipment, software, tooling and, most importantly, the right people, as they will make or break the whole process.