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This informative blog allows plastics professionals to discuss plastics training and technology. Brought to you by Routsis Training: the plastic industry's premiere training provider.

Tools of our Trade: Measuring Devices, Part 2

As discussed in our previous post, a good understanding of measuring tools is essential knowledge for your personnel — and critical to ensuring quality plastic parts wind up in your customers’ hands. Here, we will go into a bit more detail about fixturing the workpiece to ensure accurate measurement.

It’s Hard To Hit a Moving Target

It is very common to see someone taking measurements with a set of calipers in one hand and a plastic part in the other, yet this is not the best practice.

When someone holds something in their hand, it moves around — which causes inconsistency and potential inaccuracy when attempting a measurement. Holding both the measuring tool and product being measured in your hands compounds these inaccuracies.

The best practice is to keep either the measuring tool or the product being measured stationary.

Securing the Workpiece

Products such as a molded part, extrusion profile, or cavity block can often reman stationary by simply setting it on a flat table or surface plate. Awkward products can often set into a simple fixture or vise. When lots of measurements are to be take place, it is very common to have a custom fixture either 3D printed or machined from a block of plastic or aluminum.

Securing the Measuring Tool

In many cases fixturing the measuring tool can be easier. Tools such as height gauges and step micrometers are easy to just set on a surface plate to stabilize them. Measuring tools like micrometers, gauges, and calipers can benefit from the use of specialized holders and stands which hold the measurement device in place while the measurement is taking place. Essentially if the product being measured cannot be stationary, then the measurement device must be stationary to ensure the most accurate measurement.


Routsis Training has developed innovative hands-on training labs for Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced Measuring Tools. There is no better way to ensure your personnel know how to obtain accurate measurements. These training labs are also part of the Quality curriculum in our Professional Certification Portals, which deliver essential training and benchmarking to your entire workforce.

Tools of our Trade: Measuring Devices, Part 1

Of all aspects of our industry, quality is inarguably most important. After all, if you are not delivering quality plastics products to your customers, your customers will go elsewhere. But how can plastics manufacturers guarantee quality parts? In those most basic sense, we need to inspect parts and ensure they meet customer requirements. To accomplish this, we need to use various devices — the most fundamental of which are measuring tools.

Understanding Measuring Tools

At Routsis Training, we see it time and time again: Most of the people measuring plastic products know almost nothing about the tools they are using. This can lead to mismeasurement, improper readings, and inaccuracies due to misuse, damage, and premature wear.

Mastery of any skill begins with a basic working knowledge. In the case of measuring devices, this includes knowing the basic components and the terminology used to describe the device and its functionality.

The Path to Mastery

Understanding the basic construction, modes of operation, and expected accuracy of each device is essential, prerequisite knowledge: Employees need to properly understand these tools before taking a single critical measurement. It’s the only way they (and the customer) can have confidence in the measurements they obtain. The difference between good and bad measurements is the difference between good and bad product getting into your customers’ hands. And bad parts are bad business.

In order to ensure accurate measurements, your quality personnel need to know how the device should be held, how the workpiece should be fixtured, and how to correctly interpret the results. In addition, they need to understand the correct procedures for handling, storing, and maintaining the measuring device. Otherwise, factors such as corrosion, rust, damage, and warpage will render the tool useless — and possibly require expensive replacement.

Once they understand these essential points, they are well on their way to mastering the tool. All that’s needed is practice, practice, practice.


Routsis Training has developed innovative hands-on training labs for Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced Measuring Tools. There is no better way to ensure your personnel know how to obtain accurate measurements. These training labs are also part of the Quality curriculum in our Professional Certification Portals, which deliver essential training and benchmarking to your entire workforce.

Lean & Clean: How cleanliness and organization translate to greater profits

Does your company give lip-service to cleanliness and organization or does it take it seriously every day? In this post, we’ll take a look at ways in which tidiness can save your company time and money, and increase the safety of your workplace.

Merriam-Webster defines cleanliness as ‘the quality or state of being clean.’ A clean workplace is one in which normal operations can take place without concerns of contamination or injury resulting from the current state of cleanliness.

The expectations at each production facility are a little different, but the common expectations are as follows: clean floors, clean surfaces, and clean equipment. In practice, this means no oils, liquids, pellets, dust, or clutter anywhere on the production floor.

Clean Floors

All floors must be kept clean regularly with scheduled sweeping and mopping. Sweeping the floor is good, but mopping is one of the most effective ways to reduce the overall amount of dust and airborne particulates on the production floor. Never use air hoses to clean the floors, as they generate a large amount of airborne particulates that eventually become contaminate surfaces, internal components, and plastic materials.

Clean Surfaces

Every visible and accessible machine surface should be cleaned thoroughly. There must be a schedule and procedure for cleaning everything on your production floor: from wiping the tables to cleaning the protective guards on your machinery. When potential customers visit your plant, they check for dust in non-obvious areas, such as the top of your machine guards or behind an inspection table.

Clean Equipment

The equipment on the production floor needs to be in good working condition and look that way. Rusty molds, damaged robots, and red-tagged thermolators should not be commonplace in your production environment. The production floor is for things which are to be used for production.

Broken or faulty equipment is effectively clutter if it is just sitting around on the production floor. Keep in mind that your customers usually won’t tell you the place is dusty or cluttered — they will just start moving their jobs somewhere else.

Organization

Organization is not a static state, but a continuous process: The goal should always be continuous improvement. There are multiple levels of organization, the first is to determine what things below, second is to have that place for things, and third is to always look for better places to keep things.

Everything on the production floor should have immediate purpose. Organization starts with only having what you need on the production floor. Everything that does not belong is either thrown away or stored somewhere else.

Next, each important item that remains on your production floor should have its own convenient, specifically-designated place. ‘A place for everything and everything in its place’ has additional meaning when applied to a production environment.

The most important part of continuous improvement is to find better ways to do things. This includes better ways to store and access things on the production floor. You may keep tools like brass rods and wire brushes in a box near the machine — and this may be helpful and convenient — but a shadow-board on the machine where items can be accessed immediately might be even better.

Always keep an eye out for better ways to clean and organize the production floor: improving accessibility, using the available area more efficiently, and reducing the chance that conditions will degrade.


These concepts are part of the 5S lean manufacturing methodology. Routsis Training has developed an excellent training series, The 5S System. Based on our exclusive SkillSet™ learning model, these innovative labs combine online training with hands-on worksheets.

Scientific Molding Pocket Guide: Now Available in Spanish

Routsis Training’s popular Scientific Molding Pocket Guide is now available in Spanish.

“It’s really amazing how popular our Pocket Guide has become,” says Daniel Stephens, Vice-President of Routsis Training. “Our customers can’t seem to get enough of these,” Mr. Stephens continued — adding that over 50,000 copies of the English-language version have been printed to-date. “We were constantly being asked if we can provide this same information for Spanish-speaking employees, and we’re really excited to be able to deliver these to our clients.”

This translation was developed in collaboration with Blackberry Cross, who represents Routsis Training in Mexico, Central America, and South America. Extra care was taken to ensure this Spanish translation includes accurate, real-world terminology used in both Latin American and U.S.-based processing facilities, according to Mr. Stephens. Blackberry Cross is located in Costa Rica.

This convenient injection molding reference guide includes the following chapters:

  • Understanding Plastics
  • Plastic Materials Overview
  • Properties, Additives & Preparation
  • Establishing a Scientific Molding Process
  • Seven Steps to Scientific Troubleshooting
  • Scientific Troubleshooting of Molding Defects
  • Basic Mold & Part Design Guidelines
  • Common Units and Conversions

The guides are available in both English and Spanish on Routsis Training’s online store — either in 8-packs or boxes of 50. Your purchase includes free ground shipping within the contiguous United States. Options for quantity and language can be selected prior to purchase.

The English-language version guide is also available as a free app for iOS™ and Android™ devices. Routsis Training plans to create a Spanish version of this mobile application in the near future, according to Mr. Stephens.

Plastics Processing: How To Succeed In An Ever-Changing Industry, Part 3

As discussed in our previous posts, technicians are the key to implementing sustainable change. This is undeniably true. You need competent techs to succeed. And managers that insist otherwise are simply finding excuses for maintaining the status quo. We hear it all the time: “You don’t understand, it’s different here… we don’t have a lot of people to choose from in our area!” The truth is, you’re not alone: Finding and keeping talented techs is a challenge for companies all over the world.

A contributing factor is this challenge is the fact that there are fewer and fewer publicly-funded avenues to develop the technical skills that we need in our industry. Many vocational schools, community colleges, and training centers are still using very outdated materials to teach plastics, assuming they are teaching plastics at all.

Furthermore, a significant percentage of our skilled workers will retire in the next few years, further reducing the available technical talent pool. There is a famous book that came out a few years ago called Lost Knowledge that describes the nightmare of losing key workers and relying on just a few key techs.

To make things more difficult, these key technicians are often overworked get burnt out: You’ll notice their productivity declines and tasks tend to drag-out. And these employees ultimately take more sick time, move on to another company, or retire earlier than planned. The knowledge is lost — at least to you.

Rising to Meet the Challenge

Once management accepts the need for new talent, they must look for ways of acquiring it. The choices here are pretty simple: You can poach employees from your competitors, or develop talent in-house.

Poaching

If you do find a good technician who works for someone else, you typically have to overpay to steal them from their current employer.  Here’s the simple truth: If you can poach a talented tech from another company, then someone else can poach them from you. It’s not a sustainable solution.

In-House Training

The best long-term solution to obtaining competent technicians is to train and develop them in-house. You already have a reliable employees who know your customers’ parts, the quality requirements, your in-plant documentation, and your company culture. These people need to be trained and developed into competent and capable technicians. With the proper training, many of these people can become your materials handlers, die setters, and process techs.


For over 30 years, Routsis has been helping plastics manufacturers all over the world develop and retain skilled employees. Take advantage of our experience and unique services — and help your company achieve meaningful, lasting, positive change with a commitment to constant improvement.

We are proud to offer RightStart™ — our flagship training service that delivers a complete, customized in-house training solution. Please contact us: We are happy to discuss practical, effective ways for you to acquire and develop talent at your facility.