The best way to get new business is by word of mouth – hook, line and sinker.
Recently, a manufacturer’s tool builder told him that it would be impossible to make the plastic-injection mold for his fishing lures to meet the product design’s requirements. After losing an entire season of sales due to the tool builder’s delay in getting the mold to work properly, the manufacturer made one last effort to find a solution to make his lures.
He asked another supplier if he knew of anyone who could fix the mold he already purchased to make his lures. His supplier stated that if anyone could help, it would be the injection molding company he uses, Alexandria Plastics, a division of Alexandria Industries.
To gain the new customer’s trust and confidence and establish a good relationship, our Alexandria Plastics team needed to bring a solution to the table, and do it faster than a spinning reel so we could help the customer recoup his lost sales.
Our team knew that the best way to do this would be to bring everyone together to talk through the mold’s issues and possible solutions. The group included our mold builder and our internal injection-molding team, along with the new customer’s team and the customer who referred us. Providing access to our tooling supplier was risky because it could result in the customer working directly with the supplier, cutting us out of the supply chain altogether. In this case, we believed it was worth the risk because this provided the quickest way to solve the problem and gain customer trust.
Looking at the issues, we learned that the original tooling setup included both steel backer plates and bolted on aluminum mold cavity plates. The customer’s mold builder did not inform him that steel and aluminum expand and contract at different rates, which can affect product output. The mold also was the lowest cost option and it would have provided the shortest life span too. To run the mold as is, with hard steel inserts up against the softer aluminum, mold failure was imminent. He also did not know that there were other options to consider.
We recommended making the mold and the mold backer plates out of the same material to reduce any output variation. We also recommended making molds for all the cavities rather than just have cavities that bolt onto the plates. This adds a bit more upfront cost, but in the long run, the customer gains a reduction in piece-price due to a greater reduction in mold changeover time. The recommendations created a solution that would meet the product’s design requirements and help the customer get his new fishing lures to market as soon as possible.
It is all About Price…Or is it?
We have all made purchasing decisions based on getting the lowest price without fully understanding our options, such as how differences in material can affect a final product. The alternative – choosing the highest priced option – is not necessarily the best answer either.
With any tooling purchasing decision, it is crucial to understand the options and to ask questions. Why is one mold-making method or material choice recommended over another? What impact can the variables have on the manufacturing process? Why is one mold building method faster than another method? What should the mold life expectancy be? Will there be any mold revision changes in the future?
It is up to manufacturers to understand the reasoning behind their suppliers’ recommendations. They also need to understand how these recommendations will generate the best possible outcomes. It is up to the suppliers to ensure they are offering the best solution – one that will work and bring the most value to their customer. Without owning our individual responsibilities, the manufacturer-supplier relationship suffers and nobody wins.
To lower the risk when choosing a partner, it is critical to vet suppliers. Whether a manufacturer tosses a wide net and chooses the lowest priced supplier or selects a supplier recommended by a trusted source, knowing the project’s need is crucial to its success. The more prepared a manufacturer is when deciding to work with a supplier, could mean the difference between a season of lost sales, or launching a new product on time and on budget.
To build a new mold, our tool builder was able to reuse parts of the original mold, saving our new customer money. While our tool builder was rebuilding the molds, our internal team was working with the customer to determine the proper materials to make the lures. Within one day of having the new mold, we were able to produce quality injection-molded parts.
Like the game of Go Fish where players look for a matching pair, we wanted to be sure that every decision we made matched our customer’s product requirements. After many months of the customer trying to get the original mold working, Alexandria Plastics was able to solve the “impossible task” within a couple of weeks. We trusted our customer and he trusted us. After being impressed with our ability to quickly turnaround a new mold, our new customer asked us to review all of his other molds and present ideas that will help make the company’s fishing lures even better.
We are proud to have helped our customer find a solution that would meet his design needs and grow his business. Unlike the Department of Natural Resources’ limit on the number of fish we can keep, we do not have any limits on what we are willing to do to build a successful relationship with our customers, and our suppliers.