Optimizing Mold Performance and Maintenance Efficiency: Part II

by Steven Johnson

Website-Only Content   Winter  2009

Previously, we discussed how each of these two elements is different, yet work hand in hand to impact the overall profitability of a molding company. We also discussed the first three steps (Clean-up and Organize, Stop the Bleeding, and Assess the Damage) of a six-step process and typical objectives to overcome.

In Part I of the article, a chart was shown that demonstrates how to assess the damage by tracking all unscheduled stop reasons to determine the most serious or #1 issue (based on tooling and labor or corrective action costs) that shut down production, and the total number of these occurrences. It also is important to remember that the corrective action costs do not reflect press downtime and lost production, which could add greatly to the overall cost of the unscheduled mold stop event.

Having access to the frequency, conditions, and contributing issues surrounding these stops represents the most rudimentary of initial steps to begin improving mold performance. When you acquire the ability to track and target unscheduled downtime events, you begin the process of moving from a completely reactive culture into a more profitable, proactive one.

Data as a Resource
In the US, the vast majority of mold maintenance shops do not have the luxury of being “over-staffed” and must learn how to use every tool available to troubleshoot effectively and optimize bench hours, whether scheduled or unscheduled. Again, data is necessary to accurately determine exactly where and how repair hours are being used.

Unfortunately, many companies are stuck in the frame of mind that if their repair techs would work a little faster and little harder, they would be able to stay ahead of the mold issues that cause unscheduled breakdowns in the first place and could simply “catch-up” if they focused on doing so.

This rationale will not prevent the same type of issue (electrical, mechanical, product) from reoccurring later on and possibly to a different mold under completely different circumstances, thus the importance of classifying and standardizing repetitive defects and mold stop reasons. The typical reaction to unscheduled breakdowns is panic, frustration, and immediately assigning blame. The reaction should be to use available data to “work the problem” to achieve root cause identification, if possible, or at minimum, better understand the variables involved.

Efficient and accurate troubleshooting is dependent upon our understanding of how the many molding variables, in conjunction with maintenance practices, impact the mold design features which prevent us from: A) molding our part to a spec. or B) running the mold efficiently. If there is no clear-cut resolution to eliminate the defect, then the next step is to better control the inconsistencies that exacerbate the design weakness. This is where categorized data earns its money. You simply cannot rely on memory or random journal entries (made manually or electronically) to make these critical decisions.

Step 4: Count the Issues
Once unscheduled mold stops are categorized, the next step is to count all occurrences to see where your problems really lie. Unscheduled mold stops should be documented at the press by process personnel into a system that organizes and tallies the frequencies.

It is here that most shops in the early stages of data assessments are truly shocked at the results. Things are never what they seem.Why? It is human nature for people to remember particular maintenance events more vividly, and many times differently, than others based on their own interaction with the event. For instance, repair techs easily recall procedures or events that cause physical pain such as skinned knuckles and pinched or cut fingers. Molds or components that are unwieldy or tedious to work on create anxiety that can bias opinions concerning labor hours required to perform simple tasks.

Conversely, issues that are readily corrected through a simple procedure or by installing new tooling are easily forgotten, even though the collective dollars involved put it at the top of the “things to be concerned with” list.

I always find it amusing when questioning a manager about the most frequent problem in his shop and, after a few seconds of thought, they point to a mold on the bench undergoing a repair and proclaim “uh…that one”. Rarely is it so.

After you have accumulated enough mold stop data to create a list of targets, the next step is to figure out what you want to go after.

Step 5: Prioritize
Prioritizing or setting a maintenance schedule for your shop will be dependent first upon production requirements. Determining this is not something a tool room supervisor will readily know (unless he molds mostly long running jobs) without first meeting with production and process personnel.

You would be amazed at the number of shops that do not even attempt to develop a production schedule, instead relying on a “shoot from the hip” mentality in terms of projecting sales and work load. Even a couple of days notice on a potential mold run would give many repair shop managers the ability to more wisely utilize the time they have a mold on a bench, through efficient job scheduling.

In last month’s chart example, Mold Damage was at the top of the list in both frequency (17) and corrective action dollars ($41,555.76). This would make it the likely #1 target for our shop. At this point, the Mold Damage occurrences would be sorted by distribution to see exactly what molds were stopped for damage, when, what tooling was involved, etc… to narrow the field down to a manageable goal, which according to our chart, would be the 51895-CN mold. See Mold Damage Distribution chart (sorted by repair costs).

This type of report also makes it easy to sort and filter different column headings to look for information that might be related to several of the mold stops, regardless of mold type.

Optimizing mold performance and maintenance efficiency should be taken one step at a time in order not to be overwhelmed and to maintain focus. If necessary, all documentation referring to the production run and relevant shop records should be collected and reviewed further for other linking information.

In prioritizing secondary targets, always look for maintenance items that could be eliminated or significantly reduced by simply making repair techs aware that an issue exists, such as the maintenance issues listed below. The types of issues that involve incorrect installation techniques or oversights cause much heartburn with the process. Though maybe not in the top five of occurrences, these issues always get a lot of publicity in the corner office, so that makes them viable targets in my book.

Target Maintenance Issues Second
Establish shop targets/goals based on frequency and simplicity of the corrective action first.

  1. Maintenance Mistakes
  2. Internal water or oil leaks due to missing, cut, twisted or wrong size o-rings and seals.
  3. Missing, loose or stripped SHCS’s.
  4. Repetitive electrical issues such as bad heaters, probes, thermocouples, and loose or shorted connections. (lack of Final Check procedures)
  5. Missing tooling or incorrect tooling/mold assembly
  6. Incorrect cleaning techniques (leaching solvent or un-cleaned vent residue)
  7. Incorrect greasing (too much or too little)
  8. Repetitive parts or runners sticking (no corrective action applied)
  9. Mold damage by improper handling (nicks, dings or burrs in tooling)

Step 6: Act
Now that you have targeted issues for your shop to investigate, follow through with mold maintenance plans that directly address these issues. Publicize frequencies, defect corrective action costs, and lost production calculations to give repair techs a sense of value to their actions vs. just printing out a work order that states “Clean and Rack” or “PM Mold”.

Many repair shop cultures today are so rooted in reactionary thinking that spending time on an issue that nobody is hollering about might seem, at first, a waste of shop time, so there will be an initial buy-in period before everyone is working proactively.

Changing Cultures Changing a maintenance culture to think proactively is dependant upon systematically choosing targets based upon accurate data, diligently going after them, and then continuing to monitor these defects for improvement or change.

Your shop’s mold maintenance issues will be defined by the types of molds you run and the products you manufacture… but the majority of defects will be repetitive. Be ready for them.

Click Here for Sample Table