Tooling transfersTypical off-site mould tooling inventory. When it comes to off-site tooling, it pays dividends to know what you have, know where it is, and know what condition it’s in.
A typical medical device OEM owns 50 to 500 off-site mould tools that run constantly, with suppliers that run the gamut from a two-man shop to a top tier multi-national moulder. These tools get regular routine maintenance, however now they've got upwards of a million cycles on them, (like a car with 300,000 miles), longevity and risk come into the equation.
So how do you mitigate risk when you want a new supplier to run “used” tooling?
No doubt you’ve taken into account all the tangible benefits—lower part costs, closer proximity to supplier, improved part quality, just-in-time (JIT) control, lower inventory and shipping costs, IP protection etc—all very compelling reasons to move your tooling.
However, understanding the intangible aspects of a major tooling transfer, and an aging tooling inventory can make the difference between pushing the rope and pulling the rope. You can pass the “straight face” test if you’ve done your homework and factored in these few critical steps to a successful tooling transfer. You have:
- Performed a tooling audit, to capture the essential data points relative to hardware (mould tool and press outputs), peripheral equipment, spares, material designations, documentation, performance attributes and all relative intelligence prior to a vendor to vendor tooling transfer, or immediately before or after an acquisition.
- Completed a tooling evaluation to establish “current tool condition”, classification, age, number of cycles, and performance concerns that will enable action to address high scrap rates, mechanical breakdowns, and supply chain interruptions. This allows an OEM to preempt issues, understand risk exposure, and plan accordingly—and will often provide the justification to support capital appropriation and return on investment for replacement tooling where risk exists.
- Captured “tribal” knowledge from the outgoing supplier. Mould tool history, process parameters, handling techniques, fixturing, and inspection and packaging techniques typically don’t transfer with the tooling.
- Fulfilled a comparison analysis between your existing supplier and the new supplier. No doubt you have audited the new supplier, and you have a history with the outgoing supplier, but most often it’s the details that get missed that cause costly delays. Examples include capacity constraints, manufacturing end of arm tooling, peripheral equipment, clean-room procedures, and so on.
- Assigned an engineer that can focus on just this transfer. Assigning an engineer that understands the inherent issues associated with used tooling, and “speaks the language”, will always pay dividends.
- Developed a re-qualification plan. It seems simple enough, but more often than not little consideration is given to jigs and fixtures, measuring techniques and misaligned documentation.
- Forecast and balanced your inventory needs. Poor tool transfer planning often results in production line interruptions and missed order fulfillment.
Planning and executing a major tooling transfer doesn’t have to be like a walking in a minefield. By creating a robust plan, and engaging the right talent, you will alleviate the guesswork, cut costs, shorten your lead-time and mitigate risk.
About the author: Paul Mulville is the owner of Tooling Transfers, a tooling services company based in Maine, USA. A graduate of Carshalton College, Surrey, UK, his career has encompassed toolmaker, tooling manager, tooling engineer, and global project management (India and China). He has worked both sides of the fence—for custom and captive moulders, and also for giant OEM companies, serving medical device, consumer goods, electronics and automotive.