Process Innovation: Tooling Data Automation is the First Step towards Industry 4.0

Updated: May 18

Why did Samsung Electronics decide to transition from manual mold data management to an automated digital mold management system?


Despite being one of the most valuable commodities OEMs own, most OEMs have limited or no visibility of their production tool performance data after dispatching them to their suppliers. Unless OEMs have its personnel overwatching the distributed tool in person, it is nearly impossible to keep track of its shot counts, cycle time, activity time and locations as they are spread across multiple layers of suppliers and around the world.


To make it even more difficult, production tools are moving in and out of the production cycle. Many OEMs have tried to overcome this through manual data input systems, and are having a very difficult time nonetheless.

Take a world’s leading printing manufacturing company as an example. A good portion of its printer's 20+ major and 100+ sub component parts are outsourced and produced by its manufacturing partners. For this, this company provides these partners with its molds and dies to mass produce the component parts. After its tool distribution for mass production, it has a very difficult time in monitoring their life cycle and minimizing its cost of ownership.

This OEM has very limited access to the tool performance data and its maintenance status as they can not access to the data directly, unless suppliers share its data. Even if suppliers provide tooling data on a regular basis, they are many times filled with inaccurate data combined with human errors and bad habit data manipulation activities.

Hey Mr. OEM! They are your valuable production tool and you need to manage them properly! Otherwise, you will be burning millions of dollars under your nose without you ever realizing this huge waste. How could this be possible? Are you checking and comparing the tool utilization and efficiency rate across your suppliers? If you are not measuring or do not know how to do this, you need to pay keen attention and find out how you can solve these basic but fatal issues: low utilization rates of production tools, parts production disruption due to unexpected tool failure and poor tooling asset management.

1. Molds are Underutilized

Molds are expensive assets and directly affect a large proportion of the costs in parts production, so OEMs always want their molds utilized at full capacity to manufacture up to the designed amount of parts. But in the real world suppliers can shorten mold life by 15 to 20 per cent from over-speeding cycle times and poor maintenance. Reduced mold life cycle, consequently, devalues the molds and remarkably increases the variable costs of parts production for OEMs.

To maintain high mold utilization rates, OEMs need to start measuring suppliers’ utilization rate of their molds. IoT technology built in wireless mold counters has become a perfect solution for global OEMs, because it allows online measurement of real-time cycle counts and direct comparison with designed maximum cycle counts to analyze suppliers’ yield rates and send maintenance alerts to suppliers. Suppliers with relatively low mold utilization rates are obligated to receive training from OEMs to collectively improve the efficiency of mold operation.

2. Production Disruptions from Unexpected Mold Failure

Let’s take a real life example, one of our clients used to outsource the production of an important component to a supplier in Mexico. However, 5 days beyond the agreed delivery date, our client was yet to receive the components. Although the supplier in Mexico reassured us that it was just a short delay in delivery, our client decided to fly to their facilities in Mexico and surprisingly found out that their machines are severely torn due to a recent earthquake. Obviously, the supplier could not deliver their promises and that unexpected mold breakdown and major production disruption led to a catastrophic consequence.

To prevent recurrence of such incidents, OEMs need to gain forward visibility into suppliers’ production schedule by acquiring real-time mold activity data. For instance,

If the OEM could simply compare the real-time shot counts of the supplier in Mexico with the contracted shot counts, or knew that the molds were not in operation, it would have taken precautions such as searching for another supplier who has the capacity to produce that type of components fast. This previously unavailable data would have given OEM the forward visibility and mitigate the risks of potential parts supply disruption and dramatically reduce the costs that might cause.

3. Poor Tooling Asset Management: Where are my molds?

IoT can also be configured to track where molds are. Molds are expensive. Outsourcing them to other companies - even if they are partner suppliers - will be excruciating for OEMs, as they have no guarantee of knowing whether in a few years their molds will still be operating or sitting in an inventory somewhere collecting dust.

IoT technology can detect low or nonexistent activity in molds and report it to OEMs. Also, the technology can be calibrated to alert OEMs if a certain period of complete inactivity is detected on a mold. In this way, OEMs can learn whether their molds are currently in operations or inactive.

Location also becomes important when reallocating molds according to the demands of suppliers residing in different regions. IoT devices enable OEMs to identify the regions where their molds reside. This allows them to better adjust to the changing demands of their suppliers, as a supplier in one region may demand more molds, while a supplier in another region may not.



Conclusion


To conclude, IoT in tool management brings higher utilization rate, forward visibility and improved tooling asset management to OEMs, which need to manage their extensive and sophisticated multi-tier supply networks. The return of investment (ROI) can be so quick as the cost-saving effect kicks in almost immediately when OEMs start to measure and utilize the mold activity data. That is also the reason that our solution has been favored by many large global OEMs including Samsung and HP.


If you would like to study more how Samsung and HP use wireless mold counters to measure supplier performance, conduct advanced mold management and gain full visibility in supplier production schedule, click here to learn more.


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