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Transfer your tooling or manufacture new? Tips for switching to a new progressive stamper

April 2, 2020

Change is inevitable in manufacturing. Whether you’re bringing a new product to market, re-engineering an existing one, or just need to find another supplier for your components, chances are you’ll have to switch from one progressive stamper to another at some  point in time.

Once you’ve decided a change is necessary you face another decision: transfer your existing tool or have the new stamper build one? It might seem obvious that transferring the tool you’re using now is easier and less expensive, but that’s not always the case. Here’s what you need to consider.

Why change progressive stampers?

Customers switch progressive stampers for a variety of reasons:

  • stamper reliability: differences in expectations or inability to keep you in the loop on changes to production or supply chain schedules
  • late or missed deliveries: for regular orders or temporary/one-off production increases
  • supply chain: delays obtaining materials such as metal sheets or plating/coatings or ancillary supplies such as specialized packaging
  • part quality: too many defects or rejected parts leading to rework, delays, or recalls
  • cost: an effort to reduce costs you know are too high or just to “shop around” for a better price

As you’re vetting new stampers, factor in the condition of your existing tool. If it is not producing parts to spec is it being properly maintained? Or is it approaching the end of its useful life? A new stamper may not be able to achieve better or different results with a tool in poor condition. In contrast, if the tool is producing good parts, it’s likely to work well in the new stamper’s press too.

Press speed is another critical factor. Your quote should include the expected production speed based on the existing tool. Sharing the expectations upfront allows the stamper to define the speed that needs to be attainable, and if not, gives you the opportunity to discuss pricing based on what’s actually possible.

If your existing tool cannot be run at the specified rate to make the set number of parts per hour, the cost per part increases. Further, if your existing tool requires extensive time for repairs or in order to fit into a press, costs increase. By spelling out the requirements and expectations up front, you quantify what the stamper is required to meet, and sometimes the easiest way to do that is by making a new tool.

No matter if you transfer tooling or have new tooling made for the job, create a batch safety stock or bank of parts to last until production is under way. This encompasses the time it takes to manufacture a  new tool or prepare/adapt the existing one, plus time for Production Part Approval Process, or PPAP documentation, and bringing production up to full speed. Often this will take four to six weeks for “hit and ship” parts that are complete right out of the press. If any secondary processes such as plating or heat treating are used, it could take as many as nine weeks. And it’s always a good idea to add a safety net of a week or two just in case.

Tips for a smooth tool transfer

A successful tool transfer actually begins before you’re even considering a switch, when you first take ownership of a new tool. Keeping an updated catalog of tooling and related equipment (such as fixtures or dies) makes it easier to describe your existing tooling to potential stampers and makes it easier to identify and keep track of what you own. Remember most of these tools will not reside in your facility during their useful lifetime, so it’s critical to have a good record of your property and where it is.

The best records include tooling dimensions, identification numbers (etched, attached with a plate, or even written with a permanent marker), a written description including typical tonnage and press speed, and photographs. For example, your records could indicate you have an 18 inch long, eight-stage progressive tool that typically runs at 200 strikes per minute with a 60 to 80 ton press, and which is used with 0.036 inch thick steel, with a 2 inch slit width. When possible, include the date the tool was first put into production and any other records of usage your stamper provides (such as maintenance, repairs, or total strikes).

Clear communication and information sharing are the keys to a smooth transition. Tools commonly arrive at the new stamper’s facility with little or no background information. Fitting it into the presses and making sure it will work as intended can be a matter or trial and error. What’s more, a stamper rarely has an opportunity to see the tool in action, when extras like fixtures or chutes may be in place.

And, while most tools can be adapted to fit most presses, prior knowledge of the physical details of the tool saves time and money in getting production up and running faster. It’s in your best interest to provide as much information about the tool as possible early in the process.

Keep in mind that PPAP documentation may be required for tooling transfers. This standard industry practice requires a stamper to show they can meet manufacturability and quality requirements, provides evidence the stamper understands the design and specs, and that their manufacturing process can meet the requirements during an actual run at the quoted rate of speed. Both the stamper and customer sign off on the PPAP documentation.

The PPAP work is performed by your stamper; however, plan to discuss the costs involved and who will be responsible for them. In the case of a tool transfer, PPAP costs are not built in (as they would be with a new tool), so pricing must be negotiated. The cost can be several hundred dollars and impact your price per part, so it’s worth your effort to stay aware of this aspect of the transfer.

Why you shouldn’t rule out building a new tool

Progressive stampers may have a preference for building new tool. Generally speaking, building a tool from scratch means they can optimize it for their presses and production speed. This includes the tooling itself plus any extra fixtures or equipment needed to create your parts efficiently.

In many cases, the customer takes ownership of the tool that’s built, but some stampers retain ownership instead. The advantage here is that you probably will not be charged the full price of the tooling and any extra equipment. What’s more, if repairs or changes are made over time, you’re unlikely to be charged again because the stamper is repairing their own tool. Considering repairs and modifications can cost $1,000.00 or more, the savings may be considerable.

If tool ownership is a priority for your company, be sure to ask if the stamper is willing to change the policy. This may or may not affect pricing.

Some stampers will include a plan for long-term tool maintenance when manufacturing a new tool. That can impact unit cost because if the tool is not able to run at the stamper’s usual speed, the price goes up. Be sure to clarify if your stamper will maintain the same tool over its useful life, making repairs or recutting sections as needed, or if they will make a new tool after a given number of hits. Lifetime maintenance can be cost-effective, especially for high-volume runs.

The decision between transferring a tool and manufacturing a new one might be more complex than you initially thought. Keeping the big picture in mind when it comes to condition, production expectations, and maintenance will help you make an informed choice that’s right for you. For more information about tooling, progressive stamping, and CEP’s capabilities, please contact us.

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