The idea of improving mold performance and maintenance efficiency is an easy buy in for anyone in the molding business. Actually doing it is another matter. The distance between rhetoric and practice continues to grow as companies talk incessantly about the need to improve maintenance and mold reliability, and then bicker over the burden of any changing job responsibilities. “Oh, you want me to enter the data?”

So it becomes easier to just do nothing while the enthusiasm dissipates and maintenance stays the wavering course of reactive firefighting.

Surfing various maintenance Web sites reveals articles that contain volumes of information concerning how to improve maintenance efficiencies and asset reliability be it pumps, motors or molds, and they all carry the same theme, which basically goes like this:

• No one performing maintenance in a reactionary culture today will ever see far enough down the road to significantly reduce unscheduled downtime events, control costs or improve asset performance and reliability. It also will be difficult to utilize technological advancements, or to quickly resolve any new issues that may arise from doing so.

So without a baseline of data to measure where you are, there can be no hope of measuring the impact of processing, engineering and maintenance initiatives on product, mold and employee improvement.
And there will be no baseline of data established unless someone in the organization champions the idea and:
Establishes a maintenance system.

Trains specific employees to navigate in it.

Collects mold performance and main-tenance data.

Analyzes the data for trends, costs and to set goals and measure results.
Utilizes the data to make smarter and more accurate daily mold repair decisions.

As more companies adopt lean practices to increase their competitive advantage, employees sometimes undergo job description changes that usually mean taking on different and more responsibility within the organization. This can lead to spirited water cooler discussions over what someone else should be doing or how this new task does or does not fit into their daily job functions.

If the new task is not a mandate from the corner office, and if the added burden of the task has seemingly no quick payoff for the employee charged with its implementation, or data responsibilities, any initial enthusiasm will fizzle out within a couple of months.

The idea of data collection and utilization among maintenance personnel will undoubtedly cause more anxiety than excitement. Some do not subscribe to the idea that accurate data will make their job easier or make them better at it. It is hard to convince most trade skill employees that a computer is anything but a pain. And those whose job performance is sometimes in question will not warm to the idea of repair criteria broken down into measurable categories, thus providing comparable, gradable data for managements review.

And while it is true that employee repair results may highlight that further training is necessary in some cases, in a systemized maintenance environment, the cream will still rise to the top, and now it can be verified.
Job Description Versus Real Duties

I have had many discussions concerning the variety of job responsibilities that make up a normal day for a process or tooling engineer, a mold repair supervisor and the mold repair technician working in a typical (captive or custom) plastics manufacturing company. In many cases, there is little thought given to how to best organize data responsibilities in a maintenance system because of the variety of tasks required to track a mold through the run/repair cycle.

Electronic maintenance systems usual-ly only come to mind right after a mold breaks down several times for the same issue. Then, they are previewed, bought and installed. If nothing happens on its own or if data doesn’t miraculously appear, the system is simply ignored and put into the “soon as we get time” category.

Implementing a mold tracking system in a busy plastics facility needs to be taken in incremental steps as not to overwhelm employees. Let’s look at what happens after the phone rings in sales.

Scheduling determines what part needs to be made.

Someone decides what mold /configuration will be set and where to run the required parts.

Mold is set, started with or without incidents.

Mold runs with or without unscheduled downtime issues or blocked cavities.

Someone determines (if it is a long run) when/if the mold should be pulled for cleaning or repairs.

Order is run, mold is stopped, pulled, and taken to the shop or a red tag area.

Mold is cleaned, repaired and returned to storage green tagged and ready to run.
It is easy to see why data entry responsibilities in all of the above events can be a gray area that few want to voluntarily assume.

To add some fodder to the cooler discussions, the next couple of articles will deal with further breaking down these events and who should be responsible for what kind of data, and how each relates to and provides assistance for the performance and maintenance of molds.

Using accurate data throughout these events can change a reactionary environment to one where 90 percent of downtime is scheduled, corrective and preventative actions are clear, budgets are maintained, molds run better and the troubleshooting skills of all your employees are continuously enhanced. After all, great maintenance tools don’t always come from a toolbox.