Data is everything has become quite defferent over the years, and to us,  it is everything.  As you can imagine, this comes with several challenges, of which data is one. Other challenges for us include access to a limited number of mold and molding process industry experts to facilitate proper execution of a global mold management program.

Before seeking outside help, we used a traditional lifecycle management strategy — what hat we describe as capturing “the when, the what and the how” based on the use of mechanical cycle counters and physical on-site mold assessments to identify proper maintenance needs. The problem is that the OEM or owners of molds that place the tooling in third-party manufacturers, often do not have access to the data associated with mold condition or performance, requiring them to collect information by word of mouth or physical assessment. However, this strategy does not cut it when you have a global portfolio of molds responsible for ensuring a stable supply chain.

You can’t physically assess every mold in every location every year, So instead, we use a risk-based approach on when to revisit a mold with a physical assessment. We set a baseline with physical assessment checks and follow-ups as needed. Still, this approach requires reliance on information from the molder about performance and condition, which often is not at the frequency or accuracy we’d prefer. It also involves manually loading that information into a mold management system for analysis and decision making.

Although this traditional way of doing mold lifecycle management is a step in the right direction from a proactive perspective, users still depend on the molder instead of having data at their fingertips. Plus, this approach yields inefficiencies and ineffectiveness in lifecycle and performance management, maintenance planning, capital budget planning, goal setting and business continuity.

In a nutshell, from a general partnership and contractual perspective, incentivizing molders and mold builders to improve OEE or production levels with lifecycle management digitalization that creates feedback loops between the mold builder, molder and OEM is a win-win.

we decided to make a change. we started with a focus on digitizing cycle count information, which is critically important in managing mold condition, but does not take advantage of the digital capabilities and technology that now exists within the industry. Now, we are taking the mold digitalization efforts to the next level to find a solution for these five challenges presented by OEM management:

How do we unlock additional value within the mold portfolio?

How do we improve lifecycle management effectiveness?

How do we proactively impact and minimize business continuity risk?

How do we improve speed to market?

How do we improve end-to-end supply chain performance?

Industry 4.0. is a more comprehensive, interlinked approach to manufacturing. It brings together the physical with the digital and improves collaboration and access across departments, partners, vendors and people. It empowers companies to better control and understand every aspect of their operation and enables them to leverage instant data to boost productivity, improve processes and drive growth.

it refers to connections between people, data and equipment in manufacturing. “Industry. 4.0 is a manufacturing philosophy driven by technology but with a broader scope. it is manifested in equipment, whereas Industry 4.0 is manifested by buy-in among company management and leadership.

Applying Industry 4.0 concepts to its mold manufacturing process yields better control of the entire operation and instant data to improve productivity.

If you are dealing with archaic mold management tools and word of mouth, your supply chain is at high risk, We are seeing a trend toward proactive management versus reactive management, which is driving the need for your implementation that gives data access to the OEM, the mold builder and molder.

Industry 4.0 rconcepts include embedded sensors in a mold, automated data monitoring, and collecting and analyzing performance and lifecycle data elements beyond just mold condition. Examples of these advanced data elements and process monitoring include cycle count, cycle time, mold alignment, cooling performance, active cavitation, humidity/environment, ejection force, clamp force, unscrewing force, melt pressure, process time, venting and embedded cameras.

The technology used to apply these concepts that provides this data helps to manage the overall process for making the molds, which supply necessary components and are responsible for supply chain business continuity. These data points lead to state-of-the-art lifecycle mold management.

Let’s break down what you get with digital lifecycle mold management, First, when it comes to mold performance, you’ll have data to track system performance over extended periods and identify faults and predictive maintenance intervals. For mold condition, you will have data accuracy that empowers artificial intelligence to define actions for early identification of system degradation that could impact mold health. And, from a process perspective, you will have data to monitor and maintain production quality and process stability and identify poor practices that often occur in plastics manufacturing.

Tracking cycle count and cycle time data reveals exactly what is occurring in the mold during the molding process.

Because sometimes the molder may be running at a shorter cycle because they gain advantages in press utilization or they are shortening cycle time artificially, which could lead to a manufacturing issue or potential quality defects, Or how about runtime versus downtime? Where you see downtime, you will also see differences or issues in cycle time information.

With Industry 4.0 technology a shop can measure water temperature in the mold, which can help establish a baseline for proper cooling temperature and performance。

One example of these advanced data and performance management abilities is that end users can also measure or monitor the water temperature. The curve in the graph on the right represents one profile or one cycle of a mold. The cycle time data is captured by monitoring the thermal cooling performance. The area under the curve graphically represents the thermal properties of the mold.

when this information is coupled with a physical mold qualification, the baseline can be set for proper cooling temperature and cooling performance. Now, performance is detectable and can be used to manage product quality and process stability, and identify potential defects before they leave the molding site and reach the OEM.

From a digitalization mold management system perspective, not every supplier can see everything. Each supplier and location have access to the tools at their location. So, as we generate and gather data, they can see the same things we see so we can collectively proactively manage the lifecycle and performance of these molds.

Partnership is the Key to Success

Although it is not typical for someone from an OEM like Johnson & Johnson, that manages molds, to ask the plastics industry to understand their needs and consider adopting new technologies, this is an opportunity for positive change. Mold builders and molders who use this digitalization technology and adopt new concepts will create competitive advantages and long-term sustainability with OEM partners.

the biggest challenge is molder resistance to sharing lifecycle and performance data and concerns over the visibility of hidden costs like piece price and mold cost. He also says that on top of that is the incorrect perspective that cycle time is proprietary information.

From a cycle time perspective, a molder’s job is conversion. They will develop the process to run your mold, but they have no process without your mold. So, there is no way cycle time can be a proprietary piece of information, The intention around digitalization initiatives is collaboration and information sharing with molders and mold builders. OEMs don’t want to police molders on price. We want collaboration and information-sharing to help us manage mold lifecycle and performance effectively.

A big obstacle to adopting a digitalization mold management system is a molder’s resistance to sharing lifecycle and performance data, which I believe is based on an incorrect perspective that cycle time is proprietary information.

we manage a global capital budget consisting of millions of dollars every year and includes new, replacement, refurbished and repaired molds. So, he is looking for accurate capital budget planning, and lifecycle management digitalization is key. It will improve production planning because he can be more predictive based on mold performance and react to production issues more quickly and accurately.

And OEMs are investing lots of money to get this visibility. It is not something that they take lightly, Sherman points out. They are unhappy about not getting the information they want and are ready to invest in getting that data. Every one of our clients has active global projects for enterprise management with this type of information on molds.

OEMs are investing lots of money to get this visibility. It is not something that they take lightly.

In a nutshell, from a general partnership and contractual perspective, incentivizing molders and mold builders to improve overal equipment effectiveness (OEE) or production levels with lifecycle management digitalization that creates feedback loops between the mold builder, molder and OEM is a win-win. This partnership also offers them a competitive advantage as a preferred supplier to OEMs long into the future.

Considering the strategies being deployed by OEMs to reap cost savings and decrease supply chain risks while managing the lifecycle of their expensive tooling assets, it is highly likely that OEMs will find partners that better align with their corporate strategy of digitization. So, ask yourself, will your business be a part of this trend to new business opportunities or not?

Lifecycle Management Digitalization Advantages

One of the significant benefits of a mold for a molder is simply that the mold is running. If you have downtime with a mold, that molder is not making money, We are just trying to be proactive about managing that lifecycle of the mold so that it does not go down and they continue to make money, but we need the right access to the right data to do it.

it’s also about performance. As you increase OEE and productivity at a molder, you are gaining time that they can either run other molds for you or molds for other companies on those platforms.

Other benefits of digitalized mold lifecycle management include the following:

Cost savings from reduced maintenance costs.

Better control of mold performance and condition speeds, troubleshooting reaction time and increased lifecycle extension by 10-15%.

Enhanced production planning at the molder via known OEE metrics.

Reduced operating costs due to fewer breakdowns and restored mold health.

Enhanced mold design through data analysis and collaboration with moldmakers.

Longer mold warranties by sharing detailed data and mold health information with the molder.

Increased workforce knowledge and productivity at the molder, who uses the data to better understand the process and improve employee training.

Advanced production alerts that ease fault or system degradation areas more easily for a quicker response.

Increased productivity and OEE for suppliers which yield advanced notifications of mold health issues.

More effective mold performance assessments using data when doing physical assessments or gathering information from the molder.

Component rapid release opportunities by embedding more sensor technology into molds. These sensors can measure and monitor enough mold data that Johnson & Johnson match with data from a physical mold qualification to help determine an acceptable mold qualification, and then use that data as the baseline to monitor the process going forward. For example, avoiding some of the long lead times related to metrology at the molding facility, and getting the parts from the molds so OEMs have faster speed time to market.

Continuous improvement by partnering with moldmakers and molders on the data, acting as partners.