Today we will discuss the control of mold costs.
Firstly, a fundamental question: what is the cost of molds? Some might answer without much thought: the cost of molds is the cost of mold materials + processing fees + taxes.
Of course, there are also labor costs, which can be considered as part of the processing fees, and design fees.
From a narrow perspective, this answer is not wrong, but if this is the case, then besides cutting corners and evading taxes, what other methods can be used for cost control or reduction?
This is a joke. To truly discuss the control of mold costs, we must carefully analyze the various factors that affect mold costs.
1. Reasonable Design of the Product
I believe many people may not agree. How can the rationality of product design be the biggest factor affecting the cost of molds?
At first glance, the blame is placed on our automotive factory, but if we think carefully, if the product is designed poorly, it will create a major disaster for the mold enterprise.
After many years in the mold industry, I have experienced many such cases where costs increase multiple times just to achieve a small design detail due to poor communication between product engineers and mold designers.
A product designer should try to understand mold knowledge as much as possible so that the designed product fits well with mold engineering and does not unnecessarily increase the difficulty and cost of mold production.
Communicating effectively with the mold department on the premise of meeting the requirements of the entire vehicle assembly is the most effective and direct measure for reducing mold costs.
There is also a philosophical issue with productivity and production relationships. Some product engineers believe that mold costs are the responsibility of the mold company and have nothing to do with them.
But what if production relationships are restructured so that the production and mold companies are one? In fact, this is a societal trend.
Currently, the well-functioning companies are those that combine product and mold companies into one. Purely existing to produce molds has become difficult.
Therefore, an unreasonable product design will directly increase the cost of molds.
2. Product Design Changes
Mold companies often encounter situations where, in the middle of a project, the mold has just been designed, and the castings have been completed when the client sends a request for design changes. If it is a minor change that does not affect the overall mold structure, then it is not a big deal.
However, sometimes the situation is more serious, and due to the change in shape of the product, mechanisms must be added to the mold, which greatly increases the cost.
Therefore, it is necessary to try to reduce design changes. Nowadays, there are many ways of rapid prototyping. Before making the mold, a 3D model of the product can be made using a hand model, and the entire vehicle assembly can be carried out.
Correcting the product’s 3D design in a timely manner can maximize the reduction of cost increases caused by changes in product design.
3. Whether the Mold Design Is Perfect
This can be analyzed in two situations: the reasonability and processability of the mold design.
In general, mold companies have design teams that include experienced and senior designers as well as young engineers who have just come out of school. It is not reasonable to demand that young engineers who have just joined the company can independently design high-level molds.
Experienced mold engineers may also produce mold structures that are not perfect due to some overlooked details. The most important and effective method is collective review.
Nowadays, there are many outsourced SE companies that can help avoid some design defects in the early stages, which can maximize the reduction of cost increases caused by unreasonable mold design.
The second situation is design waste. If the mold user only needs 500 sample products for market development, but we design the mold with a lifespan of 300,000 strokes, the cost will be high, which is a case of design waste.
4. Try to Minimize the Number of Mold Trials
Many mold companies calculate processing fees based on the number of days from the order of a mold to its successful delivery, and the more trial runs a mold undergoes, the higher the processing fees.
Of course, the cost of trial runs is also considerable. Therefore, multiple or uncontrollable trial runs are a major blind spot in mold cost control.
Let’s analyze the reasons for the high number of mold trials.
First, the mold design did not undergo sufficient collective review, and the mold structure is unreasonable, resulting in multiple improvements after trials, which leads to mold costs exceeding the budget.
If it can be solved after several improvements, that is considered lucky, but there are many cases where the outcome is unsatisfactory, and the mold needs to be scrapped and rebuilt, making the cost uncontrollable.
There are also cases where the mold design is good, but the processing and coordination of the mold are not in place, leading to an unnecessary increase in the number of trials, thereby directly increasing mold costs.
This issue is beyond dispute, so many mold companies have increased their investment in inspection equipment and personnel.
Secondly, the wrong process parameters and press models were chosen during trial runs. The mold may have been made well, but the resulting product does not meet requirements.
This increases the number of trial runs and directly increases mold costs. If there is a significant difference between the model used and the customer’s desired model, the final acceptance inspection will be more difficult, and the prototype will need to be reevaluated, which is a common problem for small mold factories.
Thirdly, there is insufficient knowledge of the physical properties of materials, leading to the use of alternative or similar materials. Although a prototype is produced, acceptance as a finished product is a potential risk.
Therefore, the trial mold material must be provided by the customer or purchased as per the specified material requirements, to effectively reduce the number of trial runs.
5. Procurement of Mold Materials and Standard Parts
It is essential to choose stable and reputable suppliers. If we are too greedy for bargains and make hasty purchases, causing mold problems, it is very unfortunate. In fact, this situation is quite common.
Although suppliers can be held responsible, the greatest loss is still for the mold company and its customers.
In summary, to effectively control mold costs, it is necessary to:
Reasonable product design, minimize design changes, perfect mold design and processing procedures, and good communication between product engineers and mold engineers.
To ensure the cost of molds, cost control is proportional to quality and delivery time.
If the mold quality is done well on the first attempt, there will be fewer modifications and shorter delivery times, thus reducing manufacturing costs and increasing profits. This will give the enterprise a unique competitive advantage in the market order acquisition process.
Conversely, if the enterprise cannot achieve this, not only will there be no advantage, but it may also lose money.