Where Should The Focus Be?

Many of the stories in this magazine highlight methods shops apply to make parts more quickly and to speed change-overs for new jobs. These techniques are critical to maintain competitiveness as batch sizes continue to shrink and JIT and pull systems compress component delivery times.

Columns From: 4/2/2007 Modern Machine Shop, ,

Many of the stories in this magazine highlight methods shops apply to make parts more quickly and to speed change-overs for new jobs. These techniques are critical to maintain competitiveness as batch sizes continue to shrink and JIT and pull systems compress component delivery times. So in a sense, shops serve their customers by identifying ways to make the process of machining parts easier on themselves.

When I visited Ameritech Die & Mold, a mold manufacturer that was profiled in our January issue, I noticed a different mindset. The shop doesn’t focus on getting mold components on and off a machine tool as fast as possible. It combines precision milling techniques with the machining-to-zero-stock approach (which the shop refers to as “cutting to the model”) for one reason—to make the best mold it can for its customers.

That may mean that a mold component spends a little more time on a machine tool than it might at another shop. This is justified, however, because time-consuming hand work and spotting are eliminated. More importantly, though, the customer gets a mold that will produce quality plastic parts for a longer period of time.

For example, the shop’s molds have full contact at the parting line when closed. This enables 100-percent shutoff while reducing the chance that core and cavity edges will coin in, eventually requiring the mold to be pulled from production for repair. Accurate machining with the cutting-to-the-model method also allows the shop to use an uncommon, yet effective venting system that resists clogging during molded component production. Clogged vents would also require mold repair. And because cutting to the model means the exact location of all mold surfaces is known, the shop can make mid-process design changes for its customers quickly.

But in addition to those direct customer benefits, the molds just look nice. There are no grinding wheel marks to be found, just smooth, machined surfaces. This clean overall appearance might not have a direct impact on how a mold will perform in production, but it demonstrates the high level of care and respect that the shop has for its customers.

Focusing on ways to make life easier for your customers will establish a lasting relationship that will keep work flowing into your shop for some time.

In the end, building and maintaining relationships is what it’s all about.

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