Over the last few years, we’ve seen OEMs take a more active interest in Tier vendors’ design, engineering and production. They know that if the tooling’s not right, it doesn’t matter what else is. Beyond that, they’ve seen what well-engineered tooling can do for part quality, lead times and costs.
If you’re running final assembly and dealing with part quality, production volume or lead-time problems, follow the trail back to the tooling. Chances are, it’s where you’ll find your solution.
You can’t mold around a bad tool
This trend started for us when we helped an OEM solve quality problems within their thermoplastic base (spoiler alert: it was the tooling). Once we became a Tier One vendor, we started working with OEMs and their Tier vendors, and we could see where the needs of both parties come together in part design and manufacturing feasibility.
This doesn’t always happen, because of the Tier vendor’s two-tiered acquisition of tooling. Engineering and purchasing have a budget and they buy the tool. The tool’s built, it’s shipped to the plant and problems begin with production. Manufacturing might have problems, but the tooling project’s closed.
That’s why as much as twenty percent of production can wind up failing internal quality audits and being shipped anyway, to delay or make things more interesting in final assembly. You can see why OEMs might be unhappy. You can’t mold around a bad tool and you can’t fix it either, but you can demand better design for the next generation and think in terms of preventive engineering.
Better tooling — the gift that keeps on giving
Making room at the table for the tooling engineers gives you the chance to solve all kinds of quality problems — dimensional instability, surface blemishes, short shots. Good tooling reduces or eliminates those problems, as long as the tooling engineers are willing to stand behind their data.
Experienced tooling engineers can do more than deliver the quality you need. They can work with Tier vendors on part design to spec the right material, reduce waste, and drive cycle times lower. Optimizing part design improves quality and cuts cycle times for more production capacity. If the tooling engineers really know what they’re doing, they can help improve manufacturing and margins on rapid prototyping through high-volume production.
When this works, Tier vendors make high-quality parts that support problem-free OEM production. Plus, they make more attractive margins while keeping their costs competitive. For this to happen, however, tooling buyers need to recognize that, despite the old saying, they aren’t always right, especially when the data tells them they’re wrong. If you’re buying tooling and you think you know more about the subject than your tooling company, that’s a sign that one of you is in the wrong job. And if you’re right, then you definitely need a new tooling supplier.
How to find the right one is a topic for another day.