Moving plastic injection molds your company already owns from your existing molder to a new supplier can be a tricky process. You are not satisfied with the service, quality, lead times, etc. you are receiving from your current vendor and have decided it is time to make a move, but you are not sure how your existing supplier will respond once it becomes aware they are losing the work. And, you need product and cannot afford to have any delays in the supply chain.
Not to worry; with a little planning, transferring your tooling to a new injection molder can be done in a relatively easy and pain-free way. Here are some tips to help make the transition a little smoother:
1. Gather Mold Data. One of the first steps is to compile some important information about the tooling, so the new molder can provide you with a quote for production. That information includes the number of cavities, the type of gating, and the mold dimensions. If you have or can get a process sheet from your existing supplier, that would be great, although they usually are not available. One approach is to tell your existing supplier that you need photographs of and data relating to the mold(s) for tax or insurance purposes (which you might), if you want to try that method. Additionally, of course, the new vendor will need product information, such as 3D files, inspection drawings, material specifications, and any assembly, secondary operations and/or packaging requirements. Also, you should make note of the annual usage, order quantities and frequency, and shipping guidelines. We have a handy form you can use for gathering the necessary information, which you can get HERE.
2. Research Other Molders. While putting together the package of tooling information, you can start doing the research to find a potential new supplier. When evaluating molders, there are many factors to consider. Preferably, you can find a nearby company that has experience with your industry. The location of your new molder can be especially important if you have large parts, as shipping costs will factor in. Transportation costs for small parts will have a lower overall impact. Also, obviously, the company must have the necessary equipment to produce your product. So, if there are unique aspects to the parts, e.g., size, tight tolerances, overmolding, insert molding, etc., make sure the potential molders can accommodate those needs. Further, if the program has a high demand, make sure the molder has the capacity to handle high volume production.
3. Obtain Quotes. Now that you have identified a few possible candidates and have all of the relevant information regarding your program, the time has come to submit your requests for quote. If the supplier has a Request For Quote (RFQ) page on their website, that is a good place to start, although you might want to call and talk to someone first. If you do, pay attention to how they handle your call. Are they friendly and knowledgeable? If you leave someone a voicemail message, how quickly do they return your call? If you submit an RFQ, how soon do they say they will respond, and do they contact you in a timely manner? How the company handles your inquiry most likely will be how they handle your business.
4. Evaluate Suppliers. Once you have obtained quotes, you need to evaluate the them and the vendors themselves. If possible, you probably should make a site visit to see the suppliers’ facilities and to meet the personnel face-to-face. If you are going to do business with this company, it is worth taking the time to get to know them on the front end. Regarding the proposals, you will look at the pricing, of course, but there are other important considerations, too. Most importantly, how do you feel about the company and the way they operate their business? Is their facility clean, controlled and organized, or is it messy and chaotic? If it is a smaller company, can they really handle the demands of your program? On the other hand, if it is a larger supplier, will you get the attention you deserve or become just another customer? What kind of quality management system to they have? In addition, look for other important information contained within the quotations. Are there any hidden fees or extra charges? What is their stated lead time for production? Do they perform maintenance on the tooling and, if so, do they charge for that? (Also, do they have an in-house tooling department, or do they send the mold out for maintenance and repairs?) Will they store the mold and, again, what is that fee? Do they deliver product, and what does that cost? Lastly, what are the important aspects of your program, what are the things that are important to you, and are the suppliers equipped to meet those needs?
5. Make the Move. Hopefully, your search resulted in you finding a vendor who you trust to handle the job. They do work for other companies in your industry, provide quality products on time, their customer service is responsive and helpful, and their pricing is fair, which might end up not being your main focus, if everything else is good. Once you have chosen your new supplier, let them know you made the decision to move your tooling over to them and ask about lead times until they can start delivering product. Based on that information, it is a good idea to build up a little inventory to cover that timeframe, if possible.
Next, give your existing molder something in writing (either a letter or email should be fine) stating that you will be scheduling a truck to come pick up your mold(s) and asking them to let you know when the tooling will be available. They most likely will want all invoices paid up, so be prepared for that, too.
Lastly, if your product requires a custom material compound or color match, it is good practice to consider purchasing any inventory the current molder has on hand (ask for original invoices as proof of cost) and transfer it along with the molds. Doing this will help maintain a good relationship between your company and the old supplier, and it will remove variables and simplify the transfer to the new molder, ultimately saving time, money and facilitating a seamless transition.
Moving your plastic injection molds from an existing supplier to a new one can take a little time and planning but, if you are not getting the type of products and service you want now, it is well worth the effort.