What injection molder capabilities spell success for you? We're halfway through our tips for choosing a plastics partner and we consider not only the capabilities of your potential partner, but also the availability of their team, as well as their relevant experience.
Choosing a Plastics Partner: Tips 2-5
What injection molder capabilities spell success for you? We’re halfway through our tips for choosing a plastics partner and we consider not only the capabilities of your potential partner, but also the availability of their team, as well as their relevant experience. All of these aspects play a crucial role in determining the success of your next project.
Tip 2: Consider Project Scope
Consider the entire scope of your project. Can the potential supplier scale with your product’s lifetime demand efficiently? Consider everything from test samples (machined, additive manufacturing, quick and low-cost tooling through low volume, moderate and high volume). Many injection molding businesses are efficient at certain volumes of manufacturing, but few are capable of efficiently scaling manufacturing from prototyping through very high volumes.
Tip 3: Ask About Team Availability
As you navigate the introduction process, ask who would be in the introductory technical meeting with your team. Is the meeting with the potential supplier’s salesperson, or with a cross functional team including people with part design skills, tool design skills, general application knowledge, materials experience, and design for manufacturability experience? Funneling information and communication solely through a salesperson typically wastes time, is counterproductive and error prone. Are the company’s personnel resources readily available to you?
Tip 4: Discern Team Capabilities
In your search for a potential plastics supplier, it is sometimes difficult to discern the capabilities of the team. After your initial meetings and phone calls, do you feel they are being transparent about their experience and capabilities vs. the old sales line of “we do that all the time, with our eyes closed”?
It will be rare when a supplier has solved the exact problem that you have. A good supplier should be transparent about this, while confidently demonstrating how they will solve your problem by leveraging their problem-solving skills, plastics materials knowledge, communication, intellectual curiosity, tenacity, and willingness to take ownership of the problem.
Tip 5: Share Problem Ownership
Tip five is to evaluate the willingness of the injection molder in question to treat “your” problem like “their” problem. Are they taking ownership and a vested interest in solving your problem? If your potential supplier is asking a lot of questions about what you have tried and haven’t tried and how the part works in the assembly, it’s a great sign that they are genuinely invested.
Also consider if the potential supplier is identifying your unarticulated needs. In most cases plastics design and manufacturing are more foreign to the customer than customer applications are to a good plastics supplier. Therefore, it is usually difficult for a customer to provide all the information that is needed for the supplier to start thoroughly problem solving. Success relies on the supplier to ask probing questions with their knowledge of plastics and customer applications to unearth these unarticulated needs.
Finally, consider the follow-up after the introductory technical meeting. If your potential supplier follows up with more clarifying technical questions or ideas the next day this is a good sign that they kept thinking about the problem after they signed off the meeting. If the potential supplier is willing to put “sweat equity” into concept development prior to asking for a P.O. / payment, they present a true win-win partnership.
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