Above: MGS’ in-house tool shop, located within its molding facility, is the first stop for any transfer program. Here, tools go through a rigorous inspection and maintenance process while MGS’ cross-functional team designs and builds out the optimal work environment.
PHOTOS: MGS MFG GROUP

When it comes to tool transfer programs, there are many reasons you may be looking to move your project to a new supplier. You may be experiencing issues with quality, rising program costs, or missed deliveries. Or you could be an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) looking to reshore your medical molding due to COVID 19-related supply chain issues. Whatever reason, the most critical aspect of your transfer program is selecting the right contract manufacturer to successfully take over your program.

For medical device manufacturers seeking an alternative source of supply, consider these three attributes in a potential contract manufacturing partner:

    • Proven process to handle tool transfer, whether it’s 1 or 100 tools

    • In-house capabilities to support each aspect of the program

    • Real, practical success stories demonstrating an ability to achieve your goals

1. What is your process for tool transfers?

The biggest indicator for a supplier to successfully take over your molding is the team’s documented tool transfer process. Absent this well-articulated, proven approach, you’re leaving program success to chance. The right outsource partner will have relevant experience that leads to a naturally developed and refined process to help anticipate and overcome potential roadblocks.

What should this process look like? Everything from initial tool assessment to launching the first molded parts off the press, each step of the process must be defined – no matter the complexity of the program. This starts with an initial discovery meeting allowing both teams to ask and answer critical questions to ensure compatibility and understanding.

For example, MGS has in-house competencies to repair tools, build new manufacturing environments, and launch molding programs against tight timeframes. Having completed dozens of transfer programs, we have a clearly defined process that has been tested through:

    • Initial on-site assessment to evaluate manufacturing operations

    • Development of a realistic transfer schedule

    • Setting expectations for safety stock

    • Full inspection and tool repairs

    • Validating new cells, launching production molding

The criticality of doing a tool transfer right the first time shouldn’t be overlooked. Even more valuable is a company that’s defined a process through years of experience and is able to anticipate where things can – and will – go wrong.

 

As one of the 10 largest tool shops in North America, the MGS Tooling Technology Center brings together age-old craftsmanship and state-of-the- art technology to design, build, and maintain sophisticated, complex molds.
PHOTOS: MGS MFG GROUP

2. What capabilities do you have to support my program?

Typically, a tool transfer program isn’t as simple as hanging your mold in a new press and launching production. You may need a partner who can redesign or repair tools, deliver more optimized molding processes, or introduce new capabilities to further reduce cost and increase part quality and consistency.

At the most basic level, seek a contract manufacturing partner with sophisticated tooling and molding expertise in-house to ensure parts are made on-time, on-budget, and at high quality. You may also find a supplier who can introduce more sophisticated processes – such as automated assembly or visual inspection systems – that speed cycle times, eliminate defects, and streamline processes.

You should also examine your contract molder’s facilities to ensure they have the capacity and competencies to support your program. For example, an in-house tool shop solely dedicated to preventative maintenance and repairs can drive greater value than working with a company exclusively focused on molding. Your tools will be evaluated and repaired on-site to ensure overall condition and correct potential problems to ensure tools are production ready. Having this capability on-site helps shorten timelines and minimizes complexity that comes with managing multiple suppliers.

For some programs, it may also be important to ask:

What is your global footprint? This is important for programs that serve multinational, growing companies.

Are you able to immediately leverage cleanroom or white room capacity? You can accelerate the transfer process by designing the work environment as tools are being inspected and repaired.

Can you invest in my program? Uncover the supplier’s ability to make upfront investments in the program before the mold is mounted in the machine.

Who are the key members of your team? Identify the breadth and depth of the team, uncovering critical and unique expertise that will make your program a success.

Vertically integrated manufacturers often bring competencies to the table to drive greater value for customers. MGS brings these capabilities together under a single, dedicated project lead through its iMGS program where the team manages complex programs – such as tool transfers – with little interruption to our process. Bringing together experts in tooling, molding, and automation technology upfront, we recognize and identify potential risks, allowing us to troubleshoot these issues before the process begins.

As a vertically integrated contract manufacturer, MGS brings together competencies in tooling, molding, and automation to exceed stringent quality requirements of healthcare parts and products.
PHOTOS: MGS MFG GROUP
Building dedicated customer work cells like the one pictured here, is just one approach that MGS takes to support original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) looking to transfer their molding programs.
PHOTOS: MGS MFG GROUP

3. How have you handled programs like mine before?

More important than a list of instructions or the capabilities to build and run a tool, is evidence of these processes and capabilities in-action. Every transfer program is unique, but the basic principles of each program remain.

For some contract manufacturers, the process may depend upon the type of transfer. For example, MGS has four distinct tool transfer approaches:

Through the wall: An extension of its customers’ day-to-day operations.

Strategic location: Manufacturing at an MGS facility in close proximity to your business.

Dedicated work cell: Developing a custom, dedicated work cell or bay at an MGS facility.

Strategic purchase: Purchasing your existing facility and taking over manufacturing operations.

We have put our process to the test many times to help customers stabilize their supply chain and improve part quality. One customer, a $52 billion pharmaceutical OEM, needed a molding partner who could support the transfer of its in-house molding of IV bag components to an ISO Class 8 cleanroom environment.

Choosing to purchase the originating production facility to take over existing assets, the team then completed a $16 million buildout at its flagship molding facility with a 15,000ft2 cleanroom to transfer production. This contained 25 new injection molding machines, a fully automated material handling system, and three automation cells.

The team was able to earn its customer’s trust by demonstrating their proven ability for successful transfer.

Taking the next step

The decision to transfer your program to a new supplier can be challenging, but you can make it easier by ensuring you’re properly vetting your supplier to understand how they can help with your program.

Upfront, you must identify the capabilities most critical to your program – whether it’s engineering to drive better solutions, automation to streamline processes and reduce cost, or advanced molding capabilities that streamline validation. An equally important step is to define your own business goals – lowering costs, freeing up internal resources to focus on development, driving new product innovations – and find a contract manufacturing partner who can help you get there.

Whether you’re molding at a captive facility or working with an external supplier, transferring production to the right partner can help you:

• Streamline, stabilize your supply chain to drive reliability, eliminate management of multiple suppliers, find suppliers closer to home

• Increase quality with consistent, reliable manufacturing processes, ongoing process improvements

• Reduce cost by eliminating excess scrap, program downtime, unanticipated rework

• Speed time to market through on- time part delivery, faster innovation

From initial assessment to production launch, you need a supply chain partner who can help minimize risk and drive the most successful tool transfer program.

MGS Mfg. Group
https://www.mgsmfg.com

About the author: Mark Ypsilantis is the MGS’ director of sales, North America. He can be reached at mark.ypsilantis@mgsmfg.com.