Most manufacturer-supplier partnerships don’t start with a multi-million dollar brownfield installation. They grow through simple installations of durable equipment and years of strong service. Partnerships that grow from simple equipment installs to full-scale facility setups make a huge difference for any company — and for American manufacturing as a whole. To reach that point, the manufacturer must grow their business, and the supplier must earn trust and prove their fit.
Where off-the-shelf plastic parts manufacturing takes constant optimization, custom injection molding also requires adaptability. Success in the custom market results in an ever-growing slate of projects with unique equipment and production challenges.
A custom injection molder’s dream partner:
- Has seen and solved it all with a wide range of equipment
- Has the resources needed to complete large-scale projects quickly
- Constantly innovates and enjoys engineering away problems
This case study follows the growth of our relationship with one of our longtime customers, a custom injection molding company with multiple facilities in the Midwestern United States.
Growing a partnership with right-fit equipment
The relationship started slowly, with piecemeal work at first — a conveying line here, a silo there.
Then the custom injection molder bought what their facilities manager called “a mothballed injection molding facility.”
“A lot of the infrastructure was there,” he said. “But the old controller for the old system that was there was antiquated and wouldn’t work properly.”
To resolve the challenge, they installed a Conair FLX control system and integrated it into the infrastructure already at the plant. Choosing Conair came down to two main factors:
- Our Wave ConveyingTM product to handle abrasive materials with standard components
- The customer had used a Conair control system before and trusted it to perform
This custom injection molding company worked frequently with abrasive materials. The facility they purchased was filled with the industry-standard equipment used for dilute-phase conveying. Wave ConveyingTM allowed the customer to make use of the equipment at hand without suffering through the dust, angel hair and equipment wear problems associated with that process.
On top of the system’s capabilities, Conair had established a strong track record of engineering and building equipment that truly worked. The injection molder was familiar with Conair’s equipment’s operation and trusted its quality.
Delivering on our guarantee
Shortly after a smooth install and integration, the control system started to malfunction, and we received a call from the injection molder.
We had built our relationship with the customer on equipment that was trusted to work. What now?
Because our equipment comes performance-guaranteed, there’s no back-and-forth or finger pointing when equipment fails. We just fix it.
The service team we sent to the facility determined that the fix would be twofold: We would make programming changes and upgrade wiring to mitigate noise interference in the plant. This straightforward problem-solving experience has been typical of our relationship.
“We’ve worked together pretty well to make Conair’s system do what we needed to do and to make any necessary modifications,” their facilities manager said. “And the equipment has been reliable, in addition to that.”
“It means I get less phone calls at night…”
Beyond equipment that works, plastics processors need access to straightforward and effective support when it doesn’t. On large projects, the cost of downtime due to lackluster problem-solving can get extreme.
Scaling up the partnership
Building a strong, lasting partnership with an equipment supplier allowed the custom injection molder to develop greater operational continuity even as their business experienced rapid growth. The facilities manager said new equipment is easier to install and integrate when it comes primarily from a single partner. “I have maintenance guys, operators and technicians and supervisors, and it’s easier for all of them … It means I get less phone calls at night about stuff.”
Since the custom injection molder manufactures various products according to demand from the market, they need to manage their equipment and operations responsively.
On choosing a long-term partner, the facilities manager said, “You have to find a company that keeps up with newer technology and a company that has a broad enough range of equipment for when our needs change.” Partnering with an industry-leading equipment supplier helped them take advantage of market trends and technological shifts to drive constant growth.
This growth led to the company’s largest project yet: a new 112,000-square-foot facility to cope with overflowing packaging demand.
Delivering on the value of turnkey installation management
The custom injection molder had a massive project on its hands, and the facilities manager worried that they didn’t have the internal resources to run a successful facility setup during the first holiday season of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I really wanted to get this plant up and operational as quick as possible, and I didn’t have enough internal people to do that.”
So they turned to their equipment partner. “I did not get competitive quotes,” the facilities manager said. “I had gotten competitive quotes in the past, so I knew Conair would be competitively priced.”
And he saw the value in handing off project management in the midst of a packed production schedule, complete with a pandemic-driven supply chain crisis.
“If I’m going through [Conair] to supply a contractor, then they’re going to make sure everything is wired properly, that it interfaces and works the way it’s supposed to. Versus me hiring an outside contractor where I take all the responsibility for that,” the facilities manager said.
Trusting Conair meant he could focus his energy on their other operations.
The project started with alignment on the basics. Conair presented isometric drawings to detail plant setup at full capacity (20 injection molding machines). Then came the installation itself. Silo lead times were extreme, making a tight setup timeline impossible. But dedicated project management to handle micro-level details and a single primary source for equipment kept hiccups from disrupting the installation timeline.
Once every last flange was tightened, both teams signed off on a successful project. But a strong partnership doesn’t stop there. Later on, some of the custom injection molding company’s operators noticed rapid wear of hopper egress equipment and called Conair.
The most significant difference between a worthy long-term partner and a typical equipment vendor shows itself in moments like this. The project had been signed off on, but Conair wanted to do better than pointing to the contract and taking another parts order.
We took a look, designed a custom ‘Y’ tube for the bottom of their hoppers and recommended a temporary fix while they waited for the custom parts, sent free of charge. The custom parts solved the equipment wear issue, and the custom injection molder continues growing into an industry leader.
Still looking for a long-term equipment partner?
More and more, plastics processors are seeing the competitive advantages of partnering with a single capable supplier for equipment upgrades and integrations along with full-line, turnkey installations.
With the right partner, you could protect your team’s time during growth projects while gaining access to on-demand engineering and the resources the best equipment partners have at their disposal.
If you’re interested in working with us, reach out. We’d love to talk shop and specs.