White Paper: Tool Transfer Protocols to Avoid Pitfalls

Description

Every mold transfer is a challenge. Transferring tools from one plastic injection molding company to a new supplier, with uninterrupted production, requires up-front planning and effective communication for a successful outcome.

 

Changing vendors may be necessary for a variety of reasons. When a company completes a merger or acquisition, additional supply chains are inherited. Consolidation of the supplier base may be necessary to lower cost, reduce administration or improve logistics. A supplier could have undergone recent changes, such as a plant closure. There may be dissatisfaction with a current supplier as a result of cost increases, service or quality deterioration, or stagnant technology growth.

 

Whatever the reason, minimizing risk or impact on production and having a streamlined process improves the likelihood of tool transfer success.

 

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Preparation

 

When switching suppliers, time is of the essence. The process starts with establishment of a transfer management team to define the scope of the project, develop a road map for success and collect necessary information. That team may include purchasing, quality, engineering, management and others.

 

After the team is established, conduct an onsite assessment of the manufacturing process at the current vendor’s facility. This may be the only opportunity to gather the wealth of information that often hasn’t been properly documented.

  • Record the processes needed for manufacturing and secondary operations, including trimming or decorating, as well as validation, packaging and shipping requirements.
  • Identify the molding machine size for capacity or equipment purchasing purposes.
  • Establish asset ownership.
  • Inspect the molds for tooling condition issues. Also note any modifications that were made to the tooling.

 

In addition to the information documented at the on-site visit, it’s beneficial to provide as much of the information and items listed here as possible to the new supplier.

  • Part specifications (blueprints), material selection, part weight, color standards and 3D CAD files.
  • Molding process cycle sheets.
  • Past approved first-article reports.
  • Fixtures needed for assembly, printing and testing.
  • Tool drawings with specifications, including tool type, design, size, description and a CAD file of the mold, if available.
  • At least three to 10 complete shots made with the current tool.
    • If the current shots do not meet quality requirements, detail issues and locate a sample of a part that adheres to standards.
      • This may be an opportunity to correct any deficiencies in the part. Additionally, monitor status of safety stocks and inventories.

 

Look at the backlog to determine how much supply you will need while the transfer tooling process is being completed, samples are approved, and production can begin. Typically, a threemonths’ supply is required. This is dependent on several factors, such as the number of parts being transferred, complexity of the parts, tool quality and material delivery dates. By providing sufficient information, your new supplier can assist you with a time frame estimate.

 

Supplier Tool Transfer Process

 

Request a documented tool transfer protocol from the new plastic injection molding company. The supplier will also appoint a tool transfer team, which often includes knowledgeable individuals from sales, customer service, engineering, tooling, quality, processing and others.

 

Request a documented tool transfer protocol from the new plastic injection molding company. A typical tool transfer process includes the following steps:

  • Conduct a review meeting with sales, tooling, production and quality control personnel.
  • Develop project time lines and tracking for priorities and progress.
  • Review resin selection, parts geometry and quality specifications.
  • Log receipt of the mold, other documentation and samples.
  • Evaluate the part for manufacturability.
  • Photograph the mold.
  • Disassemble and clean the mold.
  • Detail gates, steel type, mold finish, ejection type and special features.
  • Identify and record potential issues, repairs or required modifications for use on the new supplier’s injection press.
  • If there are areas that need repair or modification, the customer should receive a quote for approval.

 

Identifying and repairing or modifying tooling avoids time wasted sampling a mold only to find out that there are issues. After any needed modifications or repairs are completed, the mold is ready to sample. Once samples are produced, the first-article inspection report (FAIR) is prepared and submitted to the customer for approval. 

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