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  • Writer's pictureElite Precision Plastics

What Start-to-Finish Means in Plastics Manufacturing



For original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), each new product development process is a journey. Every journey is different, but all have the possibility for unexpected hurdles. The likelihood of setbacks and problems increases dramatically when multiple vendors are involved at various points in the manufacturing process. Issues related to multiple suppliers can quickly derail the timeline, compromise quality, and escalate costs.  

 

An injection molding partner who can go from prototype to production simplifies the development journey, reducing the risk of issues that can interfere with success. Working with one partner from start to finish gives the OEM significant advantages in cost, compliance, accuracy, and safety. Many of these benefits extend to the OEM’s customers. 

 

Explore the benefits of a contract partner that can take your product from concept to completion and learn what common pitfalls can occur when OEMs work with multiple vendors.


Partnership from concept to completion


Collaboration that starts during the initial consultation allows OEMs to harness the manufacturing partner’s knowledge and skills from the get-go. A start-to-finish manufacturer has multidisciplinary expertise, which helps them prevent issues before they occur and find quick solutions if problems arise. That expertise is available throughout the journey — from the earliest conversations right up to when the completed product ships. 


Building a genuine relationship


Forging an authentic connection from the first consultation results in a robust partnership that supports each production stage. Consultations, facility tours, and in-person meetings allow both parties to learn about each other and establish a basis for communication. 

 

“Having really honest conversations on the front end helps set a precedent,” says Nate Schlauch, Director of Manufacturing at Elite Precision Plastics. “It establishes that we’re really investing in their product. Not just in the part, but in who they are, why they do what they do, their direction, their future.”


Communication


Early conversations are vital to steer the process toward excellence, efficiency, and quality. As the process unfolds, communication becomes even more critical. Working with one manufacturer facilitates highly effective communication.

 

“If there’s a problem, you only have to come to one place,” says Schlauch. “If there are multiple vendors and there’s a problem, you have to find out what happened. The OEM has to go ask their other suppliers, and they have to investigate and get back to them. It can go back and forth multiple times. We eliminate all that. We can also bring the OEM into the facility to discuss and address the issue directly.”

 

Furthermore, when the OEM can’t get information from the manufacturer, it has nothing to tell its own customers. Establishing clear lines of communication with one manufacturing partner supports the OEM’s relationship with their own market.


Eliminating long lead times


Coordinating and shipping between multiple vendors often results in long lead times and unexpected delays. Working with a full-service manufacturer simplifies the production process, resulting in significantly shorter lead times. 

 

Timelines improve as a result of:

·       Better communication 

·       Minimal in-process shipping

·       Cross-functional expertise

·       Efficient mold design

·       Robust partner supply chain

 

A start-to-finish partnership centralizes project management, streamlining scheduling, tracking, inspection, and more. It also leans on a single supply chain, vetted by the manufacturer.


Vetted suppliers only


Unknown suppliers during product development increase risk for the OEM, the manufacturer, and the OEM's customers. Using multiple vendors increases the chance of an unvetted supplier entering the supply chain. Even if the injecting molding partner adheres to regulatory protocols, an inferior material or component from another supplier can take the entire part out of compliance. If the after-market part fails, the OEM will be held liable.

 

A quality contract manufacturer will have a reliable U.S.-based supply chain with well-vetted suppliers for every aspect of the production cycle. Vetting should ensure the supplier meets regulatory standards so the final part is fully compliant. 


Engineering from a multidisciplinary perspective


A standalone engineering firm does one thing — design the product model. But, a start-to-finish contractor approaches engineering from a multidisciplinary perspective.


Part design


“Without that concept-to-completion experience, you lose an understanding of the part,” explains Justin Heileman, Chief Strategy Officer at Elite Precision Plastics. “Because of our investment on the front end of the partnership and the communication between our teams, we understand the ‘why’ behind the part design.”

 

Because the full-service manufacturer understands both the design and the injection molding process, they can create a model that maximizes functionality while optimizing mold design and material usage. The manufacturer can also offer expert advice for types of materials, ways to enhance form, fit, and function, and techniques that reduce scrap, improving the product while lowering costs. 


Mold design


Designing an effective and efficient mold benefits both the manufacturer and OEM. However, an external mold designer has no incentive to think ahead, so they’re unlikely to design with the manufacturing process in mind.

 

Beginning with part design and continuing with mold design, the concept to completion manufacturer stays a step ahead. Because they know what’s involved in the next step, they work to eliminate separate molds and minimize excess cavitation. This optimizes machinery time and capacity during production, shortens lead times, and saves money for both partners.


Part Production


Part production reflects the integrity of the earlier development process. Efficiency, accuracy, and consistency are necessary to achieve high-precision plastic components.


Quality


A partner under contract for the full production cycle considers the quality of the final part at every stage of the process. To achieve consistent precision, especially for parts requiring tight tolerances, the manufacturer will likely have invested in measures to ensure the quality of each product.

 

Examples of quality-driven investments include:

·       Comprehensive OQ/PQ validation

·       Robust quality management system (QMS)

·       Coordinate measuring machine (CMM)

·       Precision injection machines

·       Blue light 3D scanner

·       5-axis robots/automation/Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm (SCARA)

·       ISO 13485:2016 & 9001:2015 certifications

 

If a problem occurs, the full-service manufacturer can easily review the mold, the QMS, and any other aspect of the previous process to determine the exact cause. It’s much faster and easier to solve production problems in-house rather than having to communicate extensively with multiple vendors.


Secondary services/assembly


Sending the product out for post-production services can lengthen the final time-to-market. If the pre-market product leaves the factory, it must be returned to the manufacturer for final testing and quality checks. A part might be shipped to more than one vendor for secondary services, further increasing the risk of damage and delays. 

 

A full-service manufacturer can provide precision assembly or secondary services, such as epoxy/light curing, soldering, heat staking, ultrasonic welding, pad printing, and more. This eliminates extra shipping times and costs, potential communication issues, inconsistent quality control, and other issues.


The takeaway: outstanding service, exceptional quality


When OEMs partner with one manufacturer from concept to completion, they can expect personalized service, a more efficient process, and a higher-quality product overall. From consultation to completion, a full-service injection molding partner sets the product up for success. The OEM can pass those advantages on to their customers, gaining a competitive edge in their market.


Elite Precision Plastics is a concept-to-completion injection molding manufacturer specializing in high-quality, precision plastic components. Contact us to learn more about comprehensive, start-to-finish manufacturing services.

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