The Gifting of a Tool
Supply chain shortages encourage reshoring parts back to the US, transferring tools
Here we are at the end of 2021 celebrating the season of giving. It’s hard to say which is better, isn’t it? Most of us truly enjoy giving as much as receiving. And, although we revel in the giving, it isn’t unusual for a molder to be on the receiving end and “given” a very special gift in the form of a “transfer” or “take-over” mold.
What is meant by “transfer” or “take-over” mold?
A plastic injection molding business model not only includes “new” projects but often includes taking on outsourced jobs or what Metro calls, “transfer tools” (not to be confused with transfer molding which is an actual molding process). Specifically, “transfer molds” are molds that have already been ran by another molder, or have at least been obtained to be ran, by another company. But, for one reason or another, they literally “transfer” the mold and the production job to a different molder.
There are lots of different circumstances that can lead to a job being “transferred” to another molder and, more often than not, it is a benefit to both the transferring company and their customer as well as to the recipient molder. Currently, supply chain shortages are penetrating the securities of several industries. Many manufacturers are being gifted transfer tools; Metro has been on the receiving end of this situation recently.
Now, you might be thinking if someone transfers a job to another molder, it must be a negative thing; it must represent a deficiency somewhere on the original molder’s part, but that’s not true at all! Here is a list of the more common reasons for transferring a tool:
One example that includes all of the afore mentioned reasons is when a company that primarily produces something…let’s say… metal parts, for example, needs a plastic part to go along with a metal part. Initially, they may feel they can help their client by producing the additional needed element which is plastic and they will absolutely give it their best shot! However, ultimately, they may find that it is better left to the experts of the respective field.
The financial investment to purchase an injection molding press will likely be the first stumbling block. Secondly, the maintenance of these machines has to be figured into the equation and the know-how and proficiency of maintaining them, as well. Employing someone else’s investment in startup, operations, and maintenance costs is one of the main advantages of outsourcing or transferring a tool.
Next, consider the training of the press operator, resource acquisition and allocation, exercising quality assessments, all of which are specialty areas for plastics. If you don’t have experience in these areas, what would you expect the outcome for the final product to be?
Another situation where a mold may be transferred is as simple as an actual plastic molder not having the capacity to continue to produce a part or keep up with increased production needs. An example of this occurred this past year for Metro Plastics and likely many others. Covid-19 caused a large increase of certain respiratory related parts being needed. Companies who routinely produced these parts were often not able to handle the increase in orders. As a result, they had to reach out to molders who didn’t typically manufacture this specific kind of product. You might think of it like this: you have one bakery that normally bakes square, chocolate cakes and another bakery that handles round, yellow cakes. Suddenly, there is a major surge of chocolate enthusiasts who order millions of chocolate cakes (it could happen). The chocolate cake bakery can’t keep up with this swell in production! They can’t expand the bakery and fil lit with ovens and bakers quickly enough to get the orders done! So, they make a deal with the yellow cake bakery. The chocolate cake bakery ships over some square pans and chocolate to the yellow cake bakery who then starts slinging out square chocolate cakes! See, easy! Chocolate cakes for everyone!
- The supply of yellow cakes needed did not suffer.
- The chocolate cake bakery customers are thrilled.
- Both bakeries get paid!
Win-win-win! This is pretty synonymous with one transfer mold scenario.
Finally, on a rare occasion, a molder may be asked to take on a job for other reasons that aren’t quite as positive. Something may have happened resulting in the customer being disappointed in the quality of the parts or maybe a molder has gone out of business. As a result, the customer transfers their mold to a new molder.
One thing to keep in mind that may not be initially apparent when a company receives a transfer mold is the mold, itself. Sometimes the mold is a real challenge. Remember, this mold was designed and produced somewhere else without the input of the new molder. The new molder may be faced with trying to produce perfect parts with a less than perfect mold. It happens, but if you pick a molder with decades of experience, like Metro, then you will get the best part possible.
The final perspective we want to present concerning “transfer” molds is a bit of commentary on the current supply chain shortages. There are layers of reasons for the current supply problems…Covid was not the only cause but it certainly exacerbated underlying systemic situations and brought them to the surface. The fact is, we no longer have an economy where we have manufacturing set-ups like Henry Ford. From start to finish, one factory produced the car. Now, parts are made by specialists all over the world. This specialization can have significant benefits but, as we are seeing, it can also lead to problems. Same goes for running lean…great results for the bottom line, but with no cushion in inventory…here we are waiting for products. Find a molder in the states who’s equipped with sustainability amid a supply chain shortage.
If you take anything away from this, we hope it’s that you are in control of your part’s success and your molder is there to help! If you are experiencing challenges with your current molder, consider transferring your tool over to a molder who can best assist you with expertise, years of experience, excellent communication and inclusion, and sustainability. Supply chain shortages are not an excuse for poor production runs. Also, chocolate cake is never a bad idea to include in metaphors, business model examples, and at the dinner table.