Deliver a Product that Makes You Proud

By Martin Spencer, Unique Roto

Adjustable height and angle jig to aid careful trimming.

Adjustable height and angle jig to aid careful trimming.

If you have followed my articles over the last 12 months you will be aware that I have taken you step by step through the complex, time consuming process of designing and developing a product. The goal is an end product that meets the demands of the market and your customer, whilst being economic to produce and without stifling innovation in design and the production process.

We now have this carefully thought through product emerging from a mould on your production line. In this article, I will offer some thoughts and ideas to take this moulding and then delivering a final product to the end user that will make you proud as a moulder to have produced.

Detail of Glink parting line hidden on corner transition from polished surface to textured.

Detail of Glink parting line hidden on corner
transition from polished surface to textured.

During the design process, the position and aesthetics of the parting lines will have been carefully decided as will the surface texture of the product. It is therefore important that the parting lines and surface texture of the moulding are not damaged or scuffed during the demoulding process. Operators need to be provided with clean gloves that will not mark or stain the product if the aesthetic properties are important. The product needs to be placed in a jig or on a suitable surface to complete the cooling process without any damage occurring. Even with large products, such as tanks or containers, if possible these should not be placed on a concrete floor as this can cause not only uneven cooling and warpage, but also will inevitably lead to scuffing and scratching of the product.

Operators need to appreciate that whatever the end use of the product and however quickly it will become scratched and scuffed in use, the customer will expect it to be in perfect condition when delivered. The customer is paying (hopefully) a good price for the product so will expect that product to be delivered in pristine condition. This can be likened to your operator purchasing a new car or piece of furniture. Both will inevitably become scratched, scuffed, or chipped in time with use. But the operator would not be a satisfied customer if the purchase was already damaged in any way when delivered.

I have visited many rotational moulding factories where mouldings, particularly large industrial products, are treated very roughly, dragged across concrete floors, and allowed to get dirty before arriving at the despatch area with the attitude that in service they will be treated like this so it does not matter. Whatever the end use a product may be put to the operator should be made to feel proud to produce a product in pristine condition for despatch to the customer. Always have in your mind that damaging and scrapping a product at finishing stage costs twice as much as producing a good product. Not only have you scrapped one almost complete product, but whilst moulding the scrap product you could have been moulding a good product.

Complex packaging designed before production commences to ensure product arrives in pristine condition.

Complex packaging designed before production commences to ensure product arrives in
pristine condition.

As I have discussed ideas for the design of the product to facilitate production, I have also mentioned the idea of minimising finishing. This can be achieved by reducing the handling of the product post moulding having designed out as many finishing steps as possible. This in turn minimises the possibility of damage occurring to the product between demoulding and despatch. If the product can be designed to mould in any holes or cavities required rather than achieving this with post moulding finishing, then this all helps to keep the product in good condition. This of course is not always possible. If essential drilling, routing or machining is required, jigs and fixtures should be designed to protect the finish of the part whilst holding it in position for finishing. Hole starts for drilling and guides for routing, and machining can all be moulded into the part to facilitate quick easy finishing. When parts have complex parting lines that need accurate trimming, ensure that your operators have the optimum tools to achieve the finish required and have benches or jigs to hold the part at the best height and angle to allow the operator to achieve the finish required. On many occasions, I have seen operators struggling on hands and knees trying to delicately trim a product with a knife that is unsuitable or simply not sharp enough. It is unreasonable to expect good quality finishing if you do not supply good quality tools and working conditions.

Glink roto sinks and urinals.

Glink roto sinks and urinals.

Rotational moulding factories are often dusty, and can be relatively dirty environments. Products when demoulded often carry an electrostatic charge, which can attract this dust and dirt. Products need to be protected against this by placing them in plastics bags or covering in some way whilst they progress through the finishing processes. This dust and dirt can easily become engrained in the surface of the product detracting from its appearance and making the product appear to be used or damaged stock rather than the new shiny product expected by the customer.

Once the product is moulded and finished to specification we then need to design packaging that will ensure that the product arrives with the end user in the condition they are expecting. With some products, this can be as simple as placing on a pallet and shrink wrapping. Other products will need complex packaging designing to ensure that whatever the transport conditions the product arrives in optimum condition.

The product should be packed, despatched and transported with care and it is a good discipline to have the final inspector or finisher initial the product on a small label as this helps instil pride in the products being manufactured and despatched.

Whatever you produce every employee from the directors to the shop floor workers should be proud and happy to be associated with all the products being despatched.