To become a successful injection molding company, one must adhere to the highest quality standards and cultivate long-term relationships with suppliers, customers, and vendors. Mold makers must also supply premanufacturing and post-manufacturing services, such as product designing, mold building, and secondary operations.
In these circumstances, we will have to adopt management principles that are secure and practical while at the same time foresightful and expansive.
As a result, management teams need to focus on improving every manufacturing process to create effective management practices. This concept, then, becomes a moving target when performing daily routine duties as directed by the manager (or management team).
Guidelines for Effective Injection Molding Management
A management strategy must satisfy clients’ expectations about a manufacturing facility’s management. Several attempts have been made to qualify and quantify EMP(Effective management practices), but it may not be easy to qualify and quantify. Most EMPs meet some basic criteria.
EMP must first follow standards. A customer-driven EMP is second. Last but not least, an environmental management plan that focuses on quality is needed. In addition to the welfare of employees, suppliers, and stockholders, the EMP of a company must address other factors.
In every industry, companies must adhere to standards that encourage improvement. Specifically, injection molding clean rooms and specific molding procedure regulations are enforced by the FDA for the medical industry. To provide molded medical products, a company must examine the applicable industry regulations before soliciting work from prospective customers. Any industry is subject to this, of course.
Excellence-driven managers won’t blindly set their own standards without understanding the customer’s requirements. Custom molders often serve a wide range of industries, so it is often necessary for each customer to have specific requirements.
It is not feasible to attempt to apply the same standard to all industries and customers, as the highest standard (and associated costs) would be applied to all, and this would have the detrimental effect of deterring businesses from participating in our program from customers who do not require the same level of quality. The customer is likely to choose the store with the best deal.
Many molders are finding niches to serve, such as those already having a reputation for excellence or exclusive to certain industries or types of customers. Investing in these resources and equipment allows for a single standardization of processes throughout the entire injection molding facility, resulting in a focused and effective investment.
As a result of such a philosophy, the injection molding company may suffer from a lack of customer orders if there is a slump in the industry (such as when automakers and unions negotiate contract terms).
Ignoring the fact that a company can mold anything is a sure path to failure. As a result, there can be no expectation that a molder will possess the equipment, expertise, and talent needed to process all of these materials. Additionally, certain part designs require specific properties and functions. It takes less processing power to operate a set of disposable plastic tableware than it does to operate a set of medical implants.
The injection molding company will be directed to produce only certain products and select materials to ensure compliance with standards under the successful manager. If the customer’s products and materials do not fall under the company’s strategic initiatives, a company should not be afraid to reject them. Once the company has chosen specific market niches, it should stay with them for the long run while ensuring compliance with the industry standards.
The molder will expect a cooperative working relationship with its customers within the targeted industry(ies). To make this process as easy for the customer as possible, the EMP stipulates. Having to deal with multiple people when transferring information is a pain, for instance.
An increase in order, discussion of a potential engineering change, or quota request should not be handled by phone and by changing between people. A single source would handle all customer communications if effective management practices were implemented.
Therefore, this source would disclose information relating to or from individuals within the mold company.
Injection molding standards are not really known to many customers, and they are unsure where to find them. The Society of the Plastics Industry provides an excellent resource for this infor¬mation entitled Standards and Practices of the Injection Molding Industry.
Much of what a customer expects from a molding company should be determined even before a customer visits the facility. Examples of what should be identified include expected quality standards, types of materials required, an¬nual volume requirements, type of secondary operations needed, procurement policy for tools, special packaging requirements, and a timetable for production (and prototype if needed).
After these are identified, the customer tries to match his or her requirements to the molder’s capabilities, resources, and strategies. If there is a match, a visit can be arranged. If not, the molder may be willing to suggest a different vendor meet the customer’s requirements. This helps to foster good working relationships for any future opportunities and provides some excellent word-of-mouth advertising.
One method for determining compliance to accepted industry standards is benchmarking. While benchmarking results should preclude previously determined marketing and management strategies, they can be used to find new opportunities. A good source of benchmarking data is the monthly Injection Molding Magazine. Other sources are local government publications and studies and worldwide annual data from the Society of the Plastics Industry.
Benchmarking can be used to see how one company compares with other companies in a certain specialty area. For example, if the percent of parts scrapped internally at a company is greater than the industry standard compared to the total number of parts produced, benchmarking results will reveal that fact. Positive bench-marking results will show that the management practices are proper and moving in the right direction.
Quality and Environmental
There are many standard quality procedures and tests that the injection molding industry has adopted. These include the melt flow index as a material flow indicator, moisture analysis, and/or dew point measurement to determine the moisture content of raw materials and certification requirements for incoming and outgoing materials and products. The most commonly recognized standards are the ISO 9000 quality standard and the ISO 14000 environmental standard.
Customers are so adamant about quality and environmental standards compliance that consumers and the government are mandating adherence to rigid standards in these areas. The entire supply chain is affected; products can only be as quality and environmentally excellent as the vendors supplying those products.
Therefore, a molder should demand compliance from material suppliers, moldmakers, and any other vendor used. Compliance with quality and environmental standards will help reduce liability in product failure or environmental disasters and provide an image of the good corporate citizenry for the company and the industry.
EMP can play a major role in gaining allegiance from employees, vendors, customers, and suppliers by providing tactical programs that foster cooperation, opportunity, and prosperity.
Each molder should recognize the value of their employees and treat them accordingly. EMP offers more than standard wages and benefits; it offers bonus programs, annual awards, and recognition programs for employees of all levels.
Most companies invest some money in training, but on-site training of floor personnel is more effective than off-site management and supervisory staff training. Even so, floor employees are the ones who most benefit from a training program and are the most important. A significant majority of resources that are spent on training should go to lower-level personnel. All training programs should include certificates of completion, as employees well receive them.
All quality programs should have copies of these in employee files, so they are proof of compliance.
Considering employee welfare must consider the workplace environment. Employees need to work in an inviting and comfortable environment. Many molding shops use air conditioning and humidity controls to maintain a constant environment for equipment and mold machines. Employees are also more likely to attend work and be more productive in a comfortable work environment.
An EMP employee must answer the following question: Would an employee enjoy working here every day? This is the best indicator of whether or not the work environment is acceptable.
There are many ways to improve a process, procedure, tool, or procedure by obtaining input from employees.
Closer to the operation they are, the more effective and timely their suggestions will be. Employees of the company’s most direct departments ask for ideas regarding specific operations and reward implemented ideas with money, gifts, or promotions. If additional equipment, tooling, or procedures are to be implemented, floor personnel should provide comments and opinions.
Taking advantage of vendors is a good idea. To ensure the lowest possible price, best selection and availability, and quick deliver-times, EMP dictates continued and demonstrated loyalty to vendors. Late or slow payment of invoices is one of the most common complaints vendors have. When a vendor must continuously contact the customer to collect for a product or service that has already been delivered, it appears they are not concerned with the wellbeing of the vendor.
Consequently, the client will not be interested in placing another order with the vendor in the future. Profit is the primary motivation for vendors. The vendor may not have to lose money by negotiating, but the price may be reduced and lead times reduced. MEP endorsed the idea of making a reasonable profit without overpricing.
As part of the EMP process, vendors should also be involved when deciding which products or services to purchase. Involving vendors early will increase their responsiveness and reduce the probability of communication problems.
No business can survive without customers. All businesses depend to some extent on the presence of their customers. Typically, in the molding business, the role of the molder is to advise and guide customers until the part/requirements are correct. Seldom does a customer come to the door with a properly designed component for manufacturing and/or with the proper material selection?
It is the molders’ responsibility to facilitate the making of changes to designs or materials and provide feedback to customers on how to improve the quality, the cost, the delivery time, or the manufacture of the given product. As the customer gains more and more confidence in the mold’s operations, the mold builds long-lasting relationships that prove profitable for years to come.
Customer service can be challenging. In most cases, they generally lack the necessary expertise to understand the molding process, the methods of making molded products, and the needed tooling. Molders can assist by explaining what needs to be done and how it is done. Molders are doing this to enable customers to understand requests for certain design changes or to assess questions regarding tooling that seem high.
The customer expects to receive their products on time. On a purchase order, the delivery date is typically negotiated in advance. The molder, whoever it may be, is expected to meet this delivery date. Frequently, molders miss their delivery dates and fail to inform the customer that the delay is expected. A customer then starts up assembly equipment, hires assemblers, and/or makes other arrangements to deliver the incoming parts to a waiting market.
The injection molding customer usually loses a lot of money because of undeliverable parts. This cannot be allowed to happen. Delivery may not always be possible, but every attempt should be made an effort should be made to keep this from happening. It is the mold’s ethical (if not legal) obligation to inform the customer of any delay in delivery as soon as the news of the delay is known and what measures are being taken to expedite the process.
There will be a lot of upset customers. He or she can, however, adjust resources to minimize possible financial losses and accommodate the problem. Perhaps even the customer can help.
The customer may be willing to pick up the delivery himself or herself if the company truck breaks down. When a customer visits a facility, they sometimes expect to be served wine and dine. We should discontinue this practice since it is not a good one. Catered lunches, served in a cafeteria or conference room, are a good way to demonstrate the willingness of the company to address customers’ needs. According to EMP, all customers deserve equal treatment.
Gifts for the holidays also fall into this category. Most large companies prohibit their employees from accepting gifts valued at more than $26, and some do not allow any gifts at all to be accepted. The EMP recommends that all customers receive gifts similar in value and not exceeding $26. As a result, the company appears to be acting fairly and attempting to reduce overhead costs.