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When a mold stops producing parts to conformance, mold refurbishment can be a cost-effective solution. But, will you still need to qualify the mold afterwards?

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When parts are produced in an injection-molding operation, the work product is continually checked for conformance to specifications. When part non-conformance is detected, experienced operators inspect their molds to determine issues that may be contributing to the problem. Following inspection, a detailed action plan must be established to correct these non-conformances.

Corrective actions for problematic molds may include:

  • Refurbish: Such action can consist of a major overhaul of all mold systems and restoration of molding surfaces to production-worthy condition.
  • Repair: This is limited to correcting specific failures, which can include one or multiple mold systems.
  • Upgrade: Implementing improvements to the tool. This may consist of system upgrades to improve productivity and reduce instances of common component failures, or replacement of commercial components that are no longer available.
  • Replace: This most often occurs at the end of a mold’s life cycle, or when there is a change in volume requirements that the existing tool can no longer meet. Mold replacement offers the opportunity to incorporate upgrades for productivity improvements.

Corrective actions for molds that are producing non-conforming parts

OptionDrivers/reasonsCostTimeExtent of qualification required
RefurbishUseOne-third the cost of newMedium Dependent upon components that are refurbished
Repair• Catastrophic event
• Normal wear and tear or damage to specific components
MinimalMinimalLimited
Upgrade• The need to integrate new technology
• Parts are no longer available
• Change in design or utilization
Medium Medium Limited to full
ReplaceThe mold is worn and refurbishing or repair is not practicalHighHighFull

What is the extent of mold qualification necessary after refurbishment to guarantee that the mold once again can produce conforming parts?

First, let’s look at when mold refurbishment should be considered:

  • The tooling is no longer capable of producing conforming parts, or efficiencies drop due to downtime and reduced quality.
  • A tool has reached a designated or recommended number of cycles that require the components to be refreshed to ensure that the mold will continue to be viable for an extended period of time. Operators should not wait until components are worn out because the parts can no longer be refurbished; they can only be replaced.
  • Whereas the option of repairing is localized to just mold components, refurbishment is a holistic approach to maintaining the mold. Refurbishment is not the same as an upgrade.
  • Refurbishment does not include modifications that happen within the mold.

A mold refurbishment is approximately 30 percent of the cost of purchasing a new mold. So it makes good practical sense for operators to keep a close eye on the condition of their molds. COAST Systems can be of assistance in this regard by implementing a regular inspection schedule for a given mold—or molds—based on usage or number of shots. Such a schedule will aid in determining whether to refurbish, repair, upgrade, or replace a mold.

How will you know whether your refurbished mold will require qualification?
The short answer is…it depends. And it depends mostly on whether the refurbishment affected the molding surfaces. If the molding surfaces have been affected, then a mold qualification is advised since finished part geometry could be impacted by the refurbishment.

However, if the refurbishment did not affect the molding surfaces, then qualification is unnecessary. In a mold refurbishment, all components–including worn-out items–are refurbished or replaced to OEM specifications, which enables the mold to again deliver conforming parts. Mold refurbishment offers cost and time advantages over mold replacement and enables the tool to again deliver conforming parts.

If a mold requires qualification, what should that include?
Using an agreed-upon validation process, assess the components for:

  • First article inspection (FAI):
    • Define cavity-to-cavity variations in dimensional stability, typically validating all product drawing variable attributes, for three to five shots of product. Process capability metrics (Cpk) and process performance metrics (Ppk) are beneficial to define stability.
  • Process development study:
    • Qualified process review–As molds wear and degrade over time, it is not uncommon for the master process to be modified slightly to overcome deficiencies in the mold, such as cooling efficiency. Refurbished molds should always be requalified against the original master process parameters.
    • Weight variations–Measuring part weight by cavity, using an electronic scale to three decimal place resolution, can be valuable as a process control.
    • Flow of materials–Short shot studies help define flow balance conditions that may occur due to change/repair of hot manifold systems, runners, or gate geometry.
    • Part functionality–First-shot samples may require assembly functionality testing before a refurbished mold is approved.

The bottom line: Make sure your molds are delivering conforming parts
When an injection molding operation identifies non-conforming production parts, experienced operators inspect their molds to help determine the problem. Following inspection and upon identification of specific issues, corrective actions for problematic molds may include a repair, refurbishment, upgrade, or replacement. A mold refurbishment can be a cost effective way of returning a mold to its original performance specifications, but a refurbished mold may need to be qualified, depending on whether the mold surfaces were affected by the refurbishment.

Contributing author: Iynesh Kumar – Senior Qualification Analyst

In addition to leading the maintenance management market with a highly rated CMMS software solution, COAST Systems offers global mold asset management to assist manufacturers in the maintenance planning and tracking of their critical mold assets. Partner with COAST Systems to optimize the value of your investments in mold tooling.

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Using a CMMS can help companies achieve ISO certification

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Implementing a quality management system according to ISO 9001 – or an asset management system according to ISO 55001 – can take anywhere from three to 15 months, depending on the size of your organization. The process for achieving either of these certifications is complex and requires stringent record keeping and documentation.

Auditors rely on evidence-based data to demonstrate compliance with everything from manufacturing processes and equipment repair to safety activities, product functionality, and asset maintenance. Without a dedicated computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), companies often find it difficult to provide detailed information that’s not only current but relevant. For instance, your company may have multiple sites with thousands of assets, but auditors may only be concerned with the ones that are ISO-critical. A robust CMMS software solution can identify those assets and their usage, linking all their activities into one central database.

Aside from facilitating centralized data, implementing a CMMS platform leads to better manufacturing practices, processes, and asset life when utilized as a preventive maintenance and asset management tool. Maintaining ISO compliance requires continual improvement which a CMMS platform can positively impact and verify the results.

COAST Systems offers a highly-rated maintenance management system that’s easy to deploy, user-friendly, scalable, and configurable to help companies optimize performance and achieve ISO certification. Besides offering a proven software solution, COAST provides high-level consulting services for plastics manufacturers to help them solve complex engineering and processing issues that can also remove barriers to compliance.

A more in-depth look at ISO 9001 and ISO 55001 certifications, as well as how a CMMS can improve your chances of compliance, are featured in a new COAST Systems white paper that highlights:

  • Explanations of both types of certifications
  • Ways a CMMS can help achieve certification
  • How to select a CMMS software platform

Click here to view or download the white paper.

Contributing author: Jerry Sherman, President, COAST Systems

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Plastic Mold Management Explained

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Tooling assets can represent a large portion of investment for companies who rely on them for their manufacturing operations. These physical assets typically include molds, dies, and other forming tools or assemblies that are stored at some location and removed for plant floor use. Once on the floor, several things can happen to them. They can be used, inspected, serviced, reconditioned, transferred to another location, or even decommissioned. Hopefully, they will get returned to their original location but it’s not uncommon for companies to have difficulty finding their assets when they are needed. It can be especially challenging for businesses that have multiple manufacturing locations or use third-party resources that may or may not share tooling assets.

Knowing where your tools are affects productivity and profitability

A key concept surrounding tool asset management that manufacturers need to realize is utilization. From the people responsible for allocating tooling budgets to plant floor workers, everyone should be fully aware of a tool’s activity, use, and condition. Without knowing a tool’s whereabouts, it’s impossible to know its lifespan, maintain business continuity, or make informed decisions for future spending.

As an example, a consumer packaging goods company received a high-volume order for an over-the-counter medication product. The product is sold in plastic bottles that must meet stringent compliance regulations, including tamper-resistant packaging (TRP). When it came time for production, the bottles were leaving the line with a flash molding defect. It was discovered that the mold was not in optimal condition. Because there was no mold preventive care program in place, the manufacturer was not able to fulfill the order on time, resulting in loss of profits and an embarrassing disruption to its supply chain.

Drawing upon lessons learned from situations like these, companies should examine the real cost of their physical tooling assets and be able to answer the following questions at any given time:

  1. How many assets does your company have and what is their total value?
  2. Where are all of the assets located?
  3. What is the condition of each asset?
  4. What is the cost to maintain the assets?
  5. When should the assets be replaced?
  6. Do you have a viable Preventive Care Program in place for maintaining your assets?
  7. Do you have a work order system to record and track events on assets when issues arise.

Creating an effective tool asset management program

For medium- to large-scale OEM and molding manufacturers, the process begins with taking an inventory of all assets, inspecting, and assessing their condition. Asset identification numbers, and work order processing, generate real-time data of an asset’s history, cost, and status.

A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), will improve manufacturing efficiencies, and drive best practice maintenance processes globally.

It can be challenging for companies to develop effective asset management programs themselves. Consider working with a consultant who can customize a global mold asset management solution with dedicated services and a robust CMMS platform to achieve the following benefits:

  • Establish universal rules for tool use, maintenance, and storage
  • Centralize management of global assets
  • Control who has responsibility for tooling assets, create accountability for tool condition
  • Gain automated inventory control
  • Move toward data driven predictive maintenance
  • Increase the value of tooling assets (extended life = more output)
  • Maintenance costs become planned events, not a reaction to emergencies
  • Develop standardized processes for tool repair, reconditioning, decommissioning, and reordering
  • Planning for adequate lead times, removes bottlenecks in manufacturing
  • Improve tool life understanding between purchasing departments and plant floor users
  • Empower collaborative solutions with an effective tool database with greater visibility
  • Reduce errors with access to related support document library
  • Avoid a tool crisis on the plant floor
  • Experience faster problem-solving
  • Support ISO certification with proven documentation

For more information on how COAST Systems can help you gain control of your company’s tooling and mold assets through our customized service, Coast Mold Visibility Program (C*MVP) and our proven CMMS solution, contact us at 1-877-262-7801.

Contributing author: Jerry Sherman, President, COAST Systems

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High-volume injection molding manufacturer implements CMMS software and improves overall equipment efficiency (OEE) to 92%

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Production uptime is critical for injection molders to remain competitive and profitable. Without a robust computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) in place, preventive maintenance activities tend to be reactive and calendar-based, leading to unnecessary interruptions in output.

Fourmark Manufacturing, a premier injection molder, was experiencing an overall efficiency rating of 85.6%. The Ontario-based company was introduced to COAST Systems, in hopes that COAST could develop a maintenance management solution that would integrate existing data acquisition technology with its cloud-based software to improve manufacturing operations.

COAST collaborated with Syscon International, an industrial controls leader and long-time supplier of Fourmark, to integrate COAST’s proven CMMS software with Syscon-Plantstar’s data collection modules located throughout Fourmark’s plant. The seamless integration allowed for a shift to a more proactive approach to maintenance management with a greater focus on asset utilization.

Since the integration, Fourmark has increased its overall equipment efficiency (OEE) rating from 85.6% to 92%. Equally impressive is the company’s rate of completed work orders, which increased from 70% to 90%!

The details of the Fourmark CMMS project are featured in a new COAST case study that highlights:

  • Unique challenges of the injection molder
  • COAST CMMS implementation and plant details
  • Total OEE increase
  • Increased rate of completed work orders for routine maintenance
  • Reduction in the frequency of repairs

Click here to view or download the case study.

Contributing author: Jerry Sherman, President, COAST Systems