5 Questions to ask your manufacturer to understand if they can repeatably produce high quality parts.
The heavy gauge plastic thermoforming is an agile process capable of producing highly detailed, durable, and tight tolerance parts with almost limitless design possibilities. It provides a cost effective and fast to market solution for a number of applications such as Medical Devices and Rail and Aircraft Interiors. To take advantage of thermoforming, you need to leverage a team with the technical expertise and focus on execution and quality to ensure that you receive a high-quality product every time.
Not every plastic thermoforming processor is equally capable. Issues could arise from poorly designed tooling or poor tooling mediums, lack of processing controls, lack of quality controls, or no repeatable work instructions. Have you ever eaten at a restaurant where the food quality depends on the chef working? You want to ensure you receive the same high-quality product every time.
1. Does the manufacturer have an accredited quality control program?
Ensuring that your manufacturer has adopted an accredited quality control program, such as ISO 9001, will indicate that the company has an active quality control process in place that has been evaluated and certified by an industry recognized third party. The accreditation documentation, often available on the manufacturer’s website, will give you detailed information on what aspects of the company have been certified and supporting quality documentation can often be requested from the processor.
2. Is the manufacturer’s facility organized and clean?
This may seem like a trivial point, but it can be a key indicator to a company’s commitment to quality. A company with a well-organized manufacturing floor is much more likely to take quality, efficiency, process improvement, and safety seriously. If you are not offered a tour of the facility, ask for and witness firsthand the quality control measures in action. Cleanliness and organization are vital since thermoforming is an “open mold process” meaning airborne dirt could end up as an inclusion in the finished part and become a cosmetic flaw.
3. Does the contract manufacturer utilize efficient manufacturing methodologies and conduct process improvement events, such as Lean Manufacturing and Kaizen events?
Lean Manufacturing focuses on the removal of inefficient practices in manufacturing, management, and administration operations, with regular evaluations of current processes with emphasis on continual improvement. Companies that are committed to following Lean Manufacturing techniques tend to have very efficient manufacturing operations, greater investments in equipment, and produce quality parts with a low rejection rate. This will lead to lower part costs from labor as well as a higher on-time delivery percentage.
4. Does the thermoforming partner have dedicated engineering experts to provide tooling design and construction project management?
Properly designed and constructed tooling is the foundation of plastic thermoforming and is essential to producing a high-quality consistent product. Poorly engineered tooling can result in part dimension variations, surface abnormalities, and other defects. See 6 Common Thermoforming Quality Issues Actually Caused by Improper Tooling. Tooling is also a byproduct of part design and leveraging experts can help avoid downstream issues.
5. Does the processor conduct a “Define and Discover” Innovation Engineering approach to seek avenues for collaborative project development and management?
Collaborating early on helps to ensure that the appropriate decision is being made and executed. We for example: start with the question, is this a good application for thermoforming? Sometimes we find ourselves recommending other processes, as your partner should be someone you can trust and leverage.
Ultimately, each project is unique. A commodity type part will likely not require the same level of quality in detail and precision as a multi-part medical device assembly. Finding a partner that can tailor a solution to your specific needs will help you to reduce costs while meeting quality requirements consistently.
At Productive Plastics, we go to great lengths to ensure quality
- ISO 9001:2008 certified thermoformed plastics manufacturer and designer
- Lean Manufacturing committed enterprise – Implemented 1998
- Comprehensive Quality Management System (QMS)
- Over 6 decades of thermoforming process and quality refinement (oven calibration and thermal environment management, ultrasonic measurement of material sag, and more)
- Industry leading quality management procedures in every stage of the manufacturing process from design to delivery – High level of documentation, standardization, and tracability.
- Tooling and Design
- Dedicated part and tooling engineering team managing supplier performance and tooling construction. Design reviews to ensure expectations are met.
- Investment in Technology
- Continual investment in technology, such as the newest sensors, to ensure repeatability.
Have more questions about the role of quality manufacturing for your parts and components? Interested in exploring plastic thermoforming solutions for your OEM product?
Please contact us.