Coronavirus: An Opportunity To Rethink Your Supply Chain
For manufacturers that rely on overseas partners, the coronavirus (COVID-19) has put a severe kink in the supply chain.
In addition to protecting their employees, customers, and themselves from the coronavirus, manufacturers are also struggling with how to keep vital supplies flowing into their factories. For those that rely on single-source providers overseas, its putting a severe kink in the supply chain as they struggle to find domestic solutions with the capacity to keep production moving. And, while many are concerned about their tier 1 supply chain, the disruption must be addressed to the second and third tiers.
When a global crisis like COVID-19 disrupts how we manufacture, solutions that empower companies, like yours, are needed to bring products to market quickly and on budget.
Here are three main objectives to prioritize as you adapt to, and overcome, this new challenge.
#1 Create faster turnaround times
Choose suppliers with multiple locations to fulfill orders quickly. In addition to creating faster turn around times, it mitigates risk by lowering the likelihood that both facilities will be forced to close due to the coronavirus.
Maintain open communication along the entire supply chain. Be clear from the beginning about fluctuations in demand and let them know immediately if you are expecting an influx. Having a local or US-based manufacturer helps with rapid communication, transparency, and decreases the amount of time supplies are in-route.
Choosing domestic vendors shortens your lead time.
Yes, the global marketplace may offer lower prices but at what cost? Is it worth the wait for products stuck in customs or halted due to quarantines?
Companies are looking to the U.S. for materials right now as they have been feeling the impact of stalled Chinese factories that are only now beginning to ramp up again. According to an article in The Washington Post, it is about the need for raw materials to restore production, truckers, and functioning ports. It’s not just about the number of employees who are allowed to return to work. “For many U.S. companies, the coronavirus has exacerbated troubles they were already having manufacturing in China, after the Trump administration last year levied large import tariffs on Chinese-made goods.”
#2 Mitigate risk: prepare your supply chain
If you are dependent on an overseas supplier for all of your components, you already know you’re at risk. Even if your supply chain is primarily domestic, the growth of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. has put your supply chain in jeopardy. Harvard Business Review published an article on preparing your supply chain to mitigate risk. We’ve highlighted a few of the main points below:
Maintain healthy skepticism. “Impact reports tend to be somewhat rose-tinted. However, local people can be a valuable and more reliable source of information, so try to maintain local contacts.”
Run outage scenarios to assess the possibility of unforeseen impacts.
Create a comprehensive, emergency operations center.
Know all your suppliers.
Understand critical vulnerabilities, take action to spread the risk.
Have a second source outside the primary source region.
#3 Improve accessibility and availability
Whether you are adjusting to the current COVID-19 pandemic or making more long-term plans, remember that today is a new day with many opportunities for innovation. Every challenge requires a creative approach. Here are a few tips to keep you moving forward:
Have multiple sources for your larger volume components. Don’t rely on only one supplier, especially if that supplier is global.
Ask your suppliers where their components come from and be aware of any risks in their supply chain.
Bring in a surplus of supplies, about 30-60 days of inventory.
Keep communication open with your suppliers and work on the relationships. You want to be one of the first ones they call if their supply chain is at risk.
Be creative and open to new ideas.
Invest in local and U.S.-based alternatives.
The global impact of the coronavirus
What’s happening to manufacturing as the coronavirus spreads around the world highlights the uncertainty inherent in our supply chains. Working now to mitigate the impact during the slowdown as well as to prepare yourself to quickly ramp up production when the threat of COVID-19 has subsided will help make your organization more robust.
We’re all in this together and the health of our families, friends, colleagues, and customers is of paramount importance. If Xcentric can provide support to you during this challenge, please contactus.
It All Starts With The Fundamentals: Team, Team, And Team
According to an old adage, in business we are fortunate if we are able to choose any two of the following: speed, quality, or value. But in those rare instances where we are able to simultaneously enjoy all three, we experience a sense of fulfillment that keeps us coming back to that supplier or partner loyally. So how do companies achieve this, not just on the rare “good day”, but consistently over and over so that this becomes a core promise they can make to their customers? Not easily, so let’s go through it, step by step.
Regardless of the endeavor, especially the grandest technical, commercial, and societal undertakings we are familiar with, they invariably have a common element: strong teams of complementary contributors. It all starts with the fundamentals: team, team, and team.
Landing men safely on the moon a few short years after the call to action is perhaps the single most incredible example of team effort in modern human history. Without enormous effort to align within and between hundreds of companies, thousands of teams, and hundreds of thousands of individuals, reaching the moon – or even low earth orbit, would still be in the realm of science fiction.
You may counter with instances of sole contributors having achieved great things: perhaps the Dutch master Rembrandt. But he too was often supported by teams of understudies who did much of the foundation work, preparing canvases, mixing paints, with the master adding the defining flourishes to elevate the work to a transcendent level.
Shared goals and distributed efforts have made some of the most incredible individuals who they are.
When it comes to executing at a high level in business, it is naturally also all about the team. Strong organizations put intense focus on elevating the performance of their teams as one of the top corporate priorities for good reason.
Performing consistently at a high level requires everyone to understand and execute their individual role well, communicate with their peers to remain coordinated, understand the objectives, and embrace the strategy and tactics to achieve those objectives as individuals, sub-teams, and as a complete organization.
This is why sports analogies are used so often in business. We have all seen how effortless the pros make it look even when they execute complex plays against extremely capable adversaries. This doesn’t happen by accident or based only on the raw talent of the individual players. It comes from intense dedication to the results of the team ahead of the results of the individual, years of training and bonding as a unit, and strong leadership to focus the team’s energy on achieving the goal. We have all seen how fluidly plays evolve, seemingly telepathic connections between the players as they advance, adapting, acting, and reacting as a group until they succeed.
It can be breathtaking. Conversely, we have all seen a team out of sync with itself, unable to win even if the individuals are superstars. Teamwork is above all else the key to success.
The best team still needs the right approach to achieve its full potential
Continuing with sports, we have all seen the overwhelming favorite team adopt the wrong strategy for some reason, or make an incorrect adjustment to the current flow of a game, only to lose to a much weaker opponent who works well as a team and deploys the better approach. How do the teams that win championships year after year avoid this? Systems and discipline.
Systems are necessary to instill the best possible practices consistently throughout an organization. Systemic transfer of knowledge, systemic approach to strategy development, systemic product development processes, systemic refinement of manufacturing processes, systemic targeting of customers, suppliers, and partners. It is all about weaving a systematic approach to virtually everything an organization does into the fabric of the company and its culture.
This is not to say that systems should be limiting or burdensome, quite the contrary. Some systems are designed precisely to foster freedom of movement and thought. Some of the most successful design consultancies have very well-defined approaches to getting the maximum creativity out of their teams, encouraging unstructured exploration in certain defined phases, because this is what is needed to consistently arrive at novel solutions to design problems. The same genius designers without process would be much less likely to arrive at beautiful and clever results as frequently.
Discipline is simply a non-negotiable “must” for any high-performance organization. There are very, very few examples of Olympians, World Champions, virtuoso musicians, Nobel Laureates, or bestselling authors, to name a few fields, who are not extremely disciplined in their approach to success. Naturally, their approaches may be wildly different, but to get to the top of any field of endeavor, the team and the individuals must maintain discipline to do the work, follow the strategy, trust their teammates, and follow the system in order to achieve the maximum possible result.
So how do these fundamentals result in achieving speed, quality, and value in our industry?
Our clients come
to us looking for very specific solutions related to launching their new
products. Most are under intense time pressure due to the normal course of
business, and some are needing help in recovering lost time in their project
where the pressure is even higher. In every instance, our clients expect us to
deliver what we agreed to do, on an accelerated timeline, and for a competitive
Fortunately, we have the privilege of serving thousands of clients each year from a wide range of industries – aerospace, automotive, consumer goods, defense, industrial, and medical, representing a broad spectrum of applications. The only way we can succeed at this consistently is being great at the fundaments: team, process, and discipline. Fall short on one of these, and we will not maintain delivery schedules, or perhaps the quality will slip, or our costs would become uncompetitive. Our domestic and foreign competition are constantly raising their games to try to catch us, so we must do more every day.
comprises professionals with decades of experience in our field, years of tight
collaboration together, recurring formal and informal training at all levels,
and a very strong sense that we are working
together towards a common mission of enabling
our clients to bring their products to market as quickly as possible. This
explicit focus on our clients’ objectives is the “guiding star” for the team in
helping stay aligned on what is important and right in every project. Just as
in sports, the more obvious the objective, the more aligned the team will be in
getting there in the most efficient and effective way.
Excellent communication is absolutely essential to teamwork and coordination with our clients. We invest the time in every client engagement to explore their project objectives, the context of the project, and the definition of success to be sure we are aligned. This may seem extreme when we are “just making a few plastic parts”. We don’t see it this way.
We are making components on the critical path of our clients’ multi-million-dollar product launches, so understanding what is needed and why is commensurate with the value of the projects we are doing. Once a project starts, we ensure tight communication between all team members and our customer contacts, facilitated by our proprietary enterprise management system. Should course corrections be necessary, we tighten the communication loop even further to be sure our clients are fully informed and involved at every step.
Secondly, our process to achieve speed, quality, and value relies on streamlining every project phase as far as possible without cutting essential steps. Just as an Olympic sprint relay team moves with incredible speed and fascinating precision with absolutely zero extraneous movement from start, through several hand-offs, to the finish, our team moves from step to step doing only what has been proven to be the most effective activities. Design for manufacturability enhancements, mold design accelerating methods, CNC code generating routines, machining setups and tooling optimization, molding press operation simplifications, and logistics enhancements all have been developed to save hours here and minutes there with the ultimate goal of repeatable success as quickly as possible. When the team deploys this streamlined process with discipline, it is unbeatable.
Our organization’s success in delivering consistently has been built over time through continuous improvement initiatives. The philosophies that drive the organization have been steady for many years, however our approaches, processes, and technologies have always been under the microscope for ways to improve. It was not an exaggeration to state that we look for minutes of time savings across entire projects, or ways to improve quality further by a few percent. These matters are discussed and acted on daily by our teams. Without this level of attention to detail we cannot hope to meet the ever-increasing time pressures of our clients.
Summary: striving to continuously deliver faster, better, and more valuable services is central to Xcentric’s culture
become a leader in our segment of the product development and manufacturing
industry because of our team, systems, and discipline. We do our utmost to
exceed our clients’ expectations through excellent communication, streamlining
every aspect of our organization and processes, and repeatedly ask ourselves
what more can we do to be better. We have the drive and ambition to be the best
we can be for our clients. That is Xcentric.
Design Optimization: Increasing Performance Through Substituting High-Performance Plastics For Metal
High-performance plastics may allow reduction in weight and cost while maintaining mechanical performance
Part count reduction may further reduce weight and simplify designs
Elimination of secondary operations saves time and expense
Production cost and production rate improvements with injection molding
The cost of prototyping and tooling for injection molding is not prohibitive
Progress often dictates reevaluating fundamental decisions
Design and manufacturing professionals are constantly challenged to improve the performance of their products, whether it be reduction in fuel or energy consumption in transportation applications, comfort in wearable devices, or the efficacy of medical equipment and medical devices.
In the ongoing reevaluation of what can be done to improve product performance, one of the most fundamental questions to ask is, “are we using the optimal material for this application”?
This is no simple matter since in many instances, entire factories and their related supply chains are literally tied to the material selection of a core component. Think of cast aluminum induction components for internal combustion engines for example. However, to improve functional and financial performance in a meaningful way, material choice must frequently be reevaluated objectively.
Material substitutions require careful reflection
Considering the implications of substituting a new material for a product or sub-component noted above, the threshold for an acceptable benefit to cost ratio must be high. In some applications, the reward is obvious: saving a few kilos in a race car means winning or losing, reducing the time to assemble a product might make it commercially viable or a no-go, improving the ability to sterilize a medical device could accelerate adoption. In marginal cases, the math becomes more difficult, putting pressure on designers to seek fractional performance gains wherever they can be found. In many important cases these gains are found in substituting older metal designs for high-performance plastics.
High-performance plastics have many advantages
Although high-performance plastics are no substitution for metal alloys for many applications, there are countless applications where metals cannot perform the role of a polymer. It is between these two spaces where either a polymer or metal could perform the desired functions at an acceptable manufacturing cost in commercially meaningful volumes. So, when one looks to achieve a high benefit, cost outcome by transitioning from metal to plastic components, where does one start?
Evaluate a simple material substitution of the component design – Can a meaningful improvement be achieved with an engineering-grade polymer with essentially the same physical / geometrical design? This is not often the case due to the much different mechanical properties between metals and high-performance plastics, but it may happen where the initial metal design was far from optimal, making a substitution of a lighter and less expensive-to-manufacture plastic component possible.
Evaluate a redesign that takes the advantages of molded plastics into account – Plastic injection-molded components can be very complex at high production rates and low per part costs once the injection molding process has been proven out. This allows the designer to consider reducing part count in assemblies by combining functions into a single component. This saves weight, production time, additional project logistics, and ultimately cost. Additionally, molded polymers can incorporate aesthetics via more complex organic shapes and molded-in colors that again reduce secondary operations. Finally, the wide spectrum of mechanical, physical, and chemical properties of polymers opens many new avenues for clever design not possible with metals.
Evaluate combining the best of both worlds – Polymer components with overmolded inserts can combine the benefits noted above from the use of injection molding and those of metal features in certain critical areas such as threads, embedded wiring, metal tubing for fluid or gas lines, heat dissipation features, or aesthetic elements.
Once the rudimentary analysis suggested above is done, the detailed work starts. From the design perspective, the full analysis of the static and dynamic performance of the component under the foreseen environmental conditions must be simulated, tested, and validated. In parallel, the manufacturing team must plan the component substitution, estimate tooling, training, and production validation timelines and capital and operating costs. Ultimately, the commercial team will merge the data from the design and manufacturing teams to generate an expected return on investment (ROI) for the substitution, essentially the mathematical calculation of the benefit: cost ratio.
Companies frequently substitute high-performance plastics for metal
Just think about the many products that were once metal that have been replaced by a superior injection-molded plastic component: consumer products, medical devices, sporting goods, and automotive components, all have excellent examples of significant improvement through substituting high-performance plastics for metal. However, there are far more untapped applications that may seem mundane, where the real potential still lies, and the cost of conversion is far lower.
For example, we have helped clients in the electrical industry convert sheet metal assemblies with multiple fasteners and manual assembly, to sculpted single components that do not require assembly, painting, or electrical insulation.
The direct per component cost is lower, assembly time is shorter, and the entire manufacturing logistics chain is simplified, all while delivering a superior end product. This is the power of high-performance plastics.
Actually, incredibly often. Just think about the many products that were once metal that have been replaced by a superior injection-molded plastic component: consumer products, medical devices, sporting goods, and automotive components, all have excellent examples of significant improvement through substituting high-performance plastics for metal. However, there are far more untapped applications that may seem mundane, where the real potential still lies, and the cost of conversion is far lower.
For example, we have helped clients in the electrical industry convert sheet metal assemblies with multiple fasteners and manual assembly, to sculpted single components that do not require assembly, painting, or electrical insulation. The direct per component cost is lower, assembly time is shorter, and the entire manufacturing logistics chain is simplified, all while delivering a superior end product. This is the power of high-performance plastics.
Injection molding tools, especially for prototypes and short run production, can be very cost effective
Returning to the benefit: cost calculation, the amortization of tooling costs is a big factor in the denominator of the equation. Even if these costs are capitalized, it is still a cash outlay that must be factored in to project planning when comparing machined, cast, metal injection molded (MIM), or stamped metal parts (to name a few of the most common processes). For high volume production, the impact of a polymer solution can be dramatic, but even for low volumes due to advanced mold making and molding processes, like those employed at Xcentric, the costs to switch to a plastic component can start to pay off quickly.
Firstly, Xcentric tooling costs a fraction of that of hardened steel tools and are producing end product literally in a matter of days for simpler projects, and two to three weeks for very complex products. This accelerates cash generation for the customer and gives early feedback about the viability of the substitute component. If additional iterations are needed for testing or validation, the lower difficulty of making modifications to the prototype tooling and process parameter changes keep costs under control and the project on track (for more information on project timelines in injection molding click here). When these factors are combined with the direct and indirect manufacturing gains and end use enhancements, injection molding tools are well worth the investment.
Summary: Substituting high-performance plastics for metals can really pay off
Whether it be increasing the performance of the latest sporting equipment, or making the new kitchen appliance more attractive, or reducing the cost and weight of an aircraft interior component, plastic injection molding has proven endless times that it is a viable substitute for metal in very demanding applications. So, the next time you and your team is considering methods of improving the performance of your products, consider every area where a plastic component might bring a performance or economic advantage. You may be surprised that the benefit to cost works out very well indeed.
Custom Injection Molding Project? Speaking With A Sales Engineer Will Yield Better Results Than An Automated Quote
Product design teams are required to consider the manufacturing lead time and cost implications of their designs, necessitating the submission of multiple requests for quote (RFQ) to suppliers for prototype and pre-production components. This can be a time consuming and difficult process, hence the recent race by suppliers to shorten the time to provide quotes, with some even offering “instant” quotations. But is this really a good thing for complex, custom injection molding projects? Instead, invest the time to work with our team for a custom quote.
The constant pressure to deliver information faster is very real
In almost everything we do as consumers today, we demand instant feedback, one click ordering, immediate information, and around the clock personal support. Accelerating this responsiveness arms race further, the pressure to actually predict our desires before we have them, and present solutions proactively is real and increasing. These demands are fueled by the successes of Amazon, Google, and myriad others who have trained us that we can inform ourselves, make purchasing decisions, and have them fulfilled immediately regardless of where we are, 24/7, with incredible accuracy and delightful convenience.
Fast does not necessarily equate to good
These B2C expectations are naturally being translated to B2B customer interactions as well, but is instant gratification universally good in business?
Certainly, the argument can be made for standard, off-the-shelf products that are simple and well understood, the immediate fulfillment of specifications and pricing information via self-service downloads or web configurators: e.g. “How much does the new iPhone 11 with a silver case cost?” But what about truly customized products (as distinct from configurable products)?
But what about truly customized products (as distinct from configurable products)?
For many industries, including custominjection molding, the need to convey and confirm understanding of complex information regarding primary and secondary specifications between the customer and supplier is critical to the successful outcome of the project. It is currently not possible to have this level of understanding between remote parties via any automated quoting tool, primarily due to their inability to capture the nuances of what is important. So while they may return a result very quickly based on a few parameters, the result should be considered as directional at best, and misleading at worst.
The value of investing in a custom quote is high
We know that our customers’ custom injection molding projects are very often part of large multimillion-dollar product development efforts, so the benefits of investing a few more minutes are much more valuable than offering an instant, yet unrefined quote. While we understand the need to get information back “up the chain” quickly for decision purposes, we feel it is better for our clients to take the few extra minutes to discuss and eliminate an extra iteration or two from the process.
Quoting accurately as fast as possible for custom injection molding projects
Expertise on demand
At Xcentric, everything we do is custom and done on an extremely short timeline. And it is precisely due to these factors that we take as much time as needed to properly understand our customers’ requirements for every single project during the quotation phase. The more we invest with our customers at this phase the higher likelihood that we will meet the overall project timeline and budget.
Factors outside of the information conveyed with a 3D model and 2D prints can often be make or break for product development timelines, particularly when subjective aesthetic considerations are in play, or where the customer is not familiar with the nuances of injection molding. In CAD everything looks perfect, but to achieve close to perfection in the real world one must apply considerable human expertise still well beyond the best automated quoting engines today.
Experts backed by leading technology
The complexity of considering the many factors that go into quoting the production of injection molding tools and the production of parts from those tools is very high. Xcentric has built its business on streamlining the entire production process from quotation through to final delivery of injection molded parts.
Our experts are supported by Xcentric’s proprietary quoting engine which is linked to each step in our internal mold-making and molding departments, bringing years of past experience and technical detail to bear on each project to augment the judgement of the quoting engineer, not to replace it. Truly the best of both worlds.
Getting it right quickly is better than getting something instantly
While we strive to do everything as quickly as possible for
our customers, we are focused on the ultimate goal: completing each project as
quickly as possible in the required quality.
This means that we may take time at certain critical phases in the project
to be sure we have everything we need to then execute extremely
efficiently. The most important of these
steps is right at the beginning when we collaborate with our customers on
creating a custom quote for every valuable project.
Xcentric Offers New 13-Day Standard Delivery for Injection Molding
We are excited to offer injection molding customers Xcentric Fast shipping, our new 13-day standard delivery – a full 48 hours less than the previous standard delivery, to support their clients in meeting growing customer demands.
“Most of our clients have expressed their struggle to meet the increased market pressure to get products to market faster,” said Mark Strobel, Vice President of Marketing at Xcentric. “Our new, 13-day standard delivery time is a business solution that helps our clients meet their customers’ demand for a near-continuous flow of new products and enhanced features.”
By meeting this need, Xcentric is able to provide services that are even more customer focused. This is all part of the company’s desire to create lasting relationships with their clients and to let customers know that Xcentric is more than just aware of current customer needs – they’re doing something about it.
Xcentric actively works to continuously improve their production process. The reduced standard delivery time applies to the most common sizes of injection-molded components that are produced in one of more than 50 stock materials.
When speaking to clients about how this new decrease in shipping will positively affect their bottom line, Strobel said, “[It’s] 2 full days off our previous standard delivery times. That means you get 2 additional days to optimize your design, conduct what-if analysis, or squeeze in that last new part feature while still meeting your go-to-market targets.”
Additional shipping options allow customers to select even faster, expedited levels of shipping which can reduce shipping time to as few as five (5) business days. These expedited shipping options are based on the complexity of design and materials chosen.
Xcentric Mold & Engineering was founded in 1997 as a quick-turn plastic injection molding manufacturer. Since then, Xcentric has expanded its services to include CNC Machining, Rapid Prototyping, and 3D Printing. From Fortune 100 companies to start-ups throughout America, Xcentric creates parts for customers in a wide variety of industries such as healthcare, aerospace, automotive, and defense.
To learn more about Xcentric Mold & Engineering’s faster delivery time, or to speak with a team member about how this change can affect your business, contact us at 586-598-4636.
Developing & producing injection-molded products follows a proven process
The process for launching a product that includes injection molded components has been continuously developed for decades, and most commonly includes the distinct phases seen in the graphic below. Each phase builds on the last, generating additional information necessary to bring a high-quality product to market in commercially relevant volumes and at an acceptable cost. Prototype tooling plays an important role in this process.
The time, energy, and expense associated with each phase is of course highly dependent on the design and functional parameters of the desired product, but for the sake of our discussion, we can employ the oft-used rule of thumb that the time and cost of making changes to a product is roughly 10X that of the previous step. While this is clearly a gross oversimplification for any complex product, it does serve to illustrate a few key points that are relevant to product designers, project managers, and business unit executives: 1) More information earlier in the project reduces risk 2) Earlier identification of design and manufacturability problems reduces overall project cost 3) Changes are much less expensive earlier in the process
Skipping steps must save time and money, no?
It may seem logical to think that skipping steps in the process would reduce the time and cost of bringing a product to market. Certainly there are examples of this, perhaps a simple bottle cap that has only minor changes in lettering or texture from previous versions, where the molder has sufficient experience to go directly from CAD design to production tooling.
However, for most complex designs, say for an ergonomic consumer product with unique features, past experience, simulation, and rapid prototyping might not provide sufficiently accurate predictions of how the product will appear, what critical dimensions will be held, or how it will function when molded in the production material.
Rectifying problems in production tooling is difficult, expensive, and time consuming
Once a design for a high
productivity steel injection mold has been completed and mold production
starts, the costs to make changes becomes much more expensive simply due to the
time and effort it takes to make even minor, much less major, changes to the
tool. Additional CNC, EDM, benching, and
texturing time add up quickly. The very
nature of hardened tool steel, especially if it has been highly polished or
textured, makes it difficult to modify.
Compounding this is the time it takes to remove the tool from the press,
return to the mold making department (if in house) or transport to an external
mold maker for modification. All of this
can easily add up to weeks of delay even with minor modifications, especially
if the production tool has been sent to another country for molding operations.
How does investing in prototype tooling save money?
Firstly, let’s define prototype tooling, since it means different things to different people. In the case of Xcentric, it means high quality injection molds produced with state-of-the-art CNC equipment and finished by master mold makers. The mold material is a premium grade of aluminum developed specifically for injection mold applications. You can read more about the Xcentric mold making process here.
Xcentric prototype injection molds help our clients save money in the following ways
Reduce the cost of making corrections to injection molded components during validation and pre-production
Reduce the cost of exploring design and material options
As noted above, the costs of
making changes to a production tool are many multiples of making changes to prototype
tooling. In the case of a multi-cavity
production tool, the costs are similarly multiplied should a change be required
in the design of the tool or part.
Secondly, if there are still open questions about the design of the
component including material choice, the cost of doing this experimentation in
hardened steel is typically prohibitive.
Validating or correcting early in the process is extremely valuable
In the case of Xcentric, we
typically turn around injection molded projects in under 13 business days, and
upon request for certain products in under five business days. Even if done sequentially, this is time well
spent because this activity is completed so early in the project. Problems can be identified and corrected weeks or months before the
same issues would have been uncovered in production tooling. While it is fully understood that there is
not a 1:1 correlation between the performance of some aspects of prototype
tooling versus production tooling, particularly related to high cavitation fill
balancing, feedback on dimensional issues, material behavior, shrinkage, warp,
sink, splay, and aesthetics can all be gathered in the desired production
material in an Xcentric prototype mold.
The graphic below illustrates the standard process versus a process imagined to save time by skipping prototype molding. Important points to note are: the time to a) recognize and b) correct for problems is weeks earlier, and depending on the severity of the change required, the overall project time can be shorter even including making changes to the prototype tooling.
Reducing product launch risk is even more valuable
By identifying and addressing
production issues early in the process, project managers help to de-risk the
overall project by giving themselves enough time to react. Executive management and down-stream
customers do not typically respond well to learning just before the originally
scheduled product launch that there are delays due to production tooling that
may push back launch by several weeks.
It is generally accepted that significant delays in new product introductions
in many industries have a huge deleterious effect on the total net present value of the product launch. Inevitably the questions come like “Why wasn’t
this caught earlier?” One difficult to
explain answer is “Budget for prototype tooling was eliminated.” (that would
have been a small fraction of the cost of the production tool changes and
product introduction delay). In this
light it is fair to say that prototype tooling is a valuable insurance policy
to help reduce the risks associated with new product introductions.
Key takeaways about the money and time saved by prototype tooling
Including the process step to
validate designs, identify improvements, and avoid downstream problems using
prototype injection molding has been proven on innumerable projects to save
both time and money. Learning and
correcting early in the process pays dividends for project risk
mitigation. Ultimately it is all about
bringing the best possible product to market as quickly as possible, which
happens to be Xcentric’s mission.