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.

Choosing the Right Training Provider

Most companies understand that training is important. But what are the specific requirements you should demand from your training provider? In this post, we will look at some important aspects of a successful in-house training program — and why it’s critical to choose the right provider for your operation.

Industry Best Practices

There have been many advances in the plastics processing industry over the past 30 years: processing equipment and machinery, process controls, process documentation, processing theory, and troubleshooting techniques. The best practices of 30 years ago are not the best way to meet the ever-increasing demands of customers today.

It’s not always a matter of right and wrong with respect to processing. But your technicians and engineers must have the knowledge and skills to implement better ways to establish, document, optimize, and troubleshoot your processes.

In-House Skills Development

It is obvious that technicians need skills to do their jobs successfully. But how do they acquire these skills? Many companies send their key employees offsite for training seminars. Not only are such sessions often inconvenient and expensive, there is the question of how relevant the training is to your operation.

Every processing facility is unique. The best, most efficient, and safest way for your techs to develop advanced processing skills is to conduct the training in-house — using your company’s own production equipment, molds, and materials.

Scientific Processing Methodology

As we have discussed in previous posts, a modern manufacturing facility needs to take a scientific approach to process establishment, documentation, optimization, and troubleshooting in order to remain competitive. Your training must be focused on data-driven scientific processing.

Quality assurance can only occur when the technician ensures the process matches the documented standard each and every time the mold starts up or when troubleshooting the process.

Measurable Results

Training is not just some buzzword or busywork: It is essential to meeting customer demands and growing your company. Improvements should be obvious. And you should demand positive results from your training provider.

Unfortunately, most plastics training is focused on traditional processing techniques. Such techniques, at best, can only help you maintain the status quo. For example, most troubleshooting focuses on making process changes until the part looks good. We refer to this as ‘traditional troubleshooting’ because it revolves around simply making adjustments to the process — putting all the responsibility for good product on quality control.

The industry’s best practice is to have a Documented Standard Process to which the current process can be easily compared. The standard is then matched and maintained each and every time the process runs. This is essential to providing actual quality assurance to your customers. Training that is focused on this scientific approach will deliver results almost immediately. And it will not be difficult to see the improvement to your bottom line,

The right training will help leverage the skills of your entire production workforce and take advantage of the equipment that your company has already invested in. A skilled and confident workforce is the key to your company’s continued growth and competitiveness.

We encourage you to take a look at Routsis Training’s company-wide training in-house training systems — including our Certification Training Portals, which are the fastest, easiest way for your company to train and benchmark its employees.

Traditional Molding vs. Scientific Molding, Part 3: Troubleshooting

Can your process techs quickly and effectively troubleshoot molded part defects? If not, they are probably relying on ‘traditional’ troubleshooting techniques.

The Traditional Troubleshooter

A traditional troubleshooter does not know the history of the process and is only concerned with fixing the defect — not investing the root cause. By making changes based solely on past experience without a documented standard, the effectiveness of each change cannot be verified.

Traditional troubleshooting may result in a part that looks good. But each time the process is adjusted to solve a defect, you are effectively creating a new process. In such situations, it is impossible to maintain confidence that the parts you are molding now are the same as those produced during the last successful run.

The Scientific Troubleshooter

A Scientific Troubleshooter knows the history of a given process and determines the cause of a defect before making any changes. All adjustments are based on knowledge and are appropriately documented. By doing so, Scientific Troubleshooters are able to verify the results of any change against the documented standard.

Routsis Training has identified 7 steps that ensure good scientific troubleshooting. Managers should expect all their technicians to follow this systematic approach every time they troubleshoot a process.

  1. Develop a reliable Scientific Molding process that can compensate for normal variation.
  2. Establish a Documented Standard Process by properly recording all relevant process outputs. Such documentation ensures everyone knows exactly what process results in good product.
  3. Examine the defective part and rule out obvious causes. More experienced technicians always do the best in this step.
  4. Compare the current process with the Documented Standard Process and find out exactly what is different.
  5. Return the process to the Documented Standard. This may require just a few parameter adjustments — or it could involve changing or repairing something a water temperature controller or barrel heater band.
  6. Verify the part and process to ensure the relevant process outputs match the Documented Standard Process.
  7. Document all changes made to the process (or system). This will ensure you have an accurate record of the production run. If similar problems arise in the future, such documentation is essential for quick troubleshooting and resolution of the issue,

These steps are covered in more detail in our Scientific Molding courses. Please check out Routsis Training’s extensive Scientific Molding training library, which includes both online courses and our exclusive SkillSet™ hands-on training labs.

Traditional Molding vs. Scientific Molding, Part 2: Process Documentation

In any manufacturing application, it is essential to maintain accurate, relevant documentation. In this post, we will take a look at two vastly different approaches for documenting an injection molding process — and we’ll cover how only data-driven, scientific process documentation is suitable for modern manufacturing applications.

Traditional Process Documentation

Traditional molders put all their focus on documenting the machine settings — or process inputs — when a new process is approved. Inputs are parameters which are entered into the machine controls such as: speeds, temperature settings, timers, and positions.

Process inputs only reflect what is being entered into the machine and not the actual process that results from these settings. While this data is great information for a die setter who’s installing a mold, it is useless for troubleshooting the process.

Scientific Process Documentation

For Scientific Molders, process outputs are of primary importance. Process outputs are machine-independent, process-specific parameters. These parameters represent what is actually taking place within the process: the parameters necessary to consistently make good product.

Once the process is approved, this data forms the Documented Standard Process — a process that is easy to troubleshoot and replicate. This documentation includes measured temperatures, actual times, plastic pressure, product weight, etc. — and any additional information that’s important to the product or process.

You should have a Documented Standard Process for each product line. Furthermore, the process should be documented at each first piece approval. Scientific Molders use the process outputs to verify the correct process is being used each and every time a product is run. This Scientific Documentation should be used to verify the process matches the standard — during each startup and when troubleshooting part defects.

Documentation and troubleshooting are covered extensively in Routsis Training’s Scientific Molding training library, which includes both online courses and our exclusive SkillSet™ hands-on training labs.

Traditional Molding vs. Scientific Molding, Part 1: Establishing a Process

Scientific Molding is nothing new — yet many companies still rely on inefficient, outdated ‘traditional’ molding procedures. In this post, we cover the difference between these two methodologies and discuss how a scientific approach to process development can save time, money, and a lot of headaches.

The ‘Art’ of Traditional Molding

Traditional Molding involves processing each mold for a while, tweaking the settings until good parts come out. Once quality approves the parts, the process technician documents the machine settings and moves on.

This method of processing is inadequate for production because the processor does not learn enough about the process to answer to critical questions, such as:

  • Am I using the best injection speed?
  • Is the gate correctly sized?
  • Could the mold benefit from better venting?
  • Does the transfer position compensate for variation?
  • Does the packing pressure center the process window?
  • Is the gate sealed?
  • Should the gate be sealed?
  • How much tonnage is actually needed?
  • Am I running the fastest cycle within reason?
  • Am I using too much back pressure?
  • What is the optimal melt temperature?
  • Has screw recovery been optimized for maximum efficiency?
  • Is this process reliable?

Not every mold needs all these questions answered, but most of these should being asked when qualifying molds at your facility.

Scientific Molding: Good Parts Without Guesswork

Scientific Molding uses a systematic method of developing each phase of the process using the critical process data and information available. A Scientific Molder develops a robust, reliable, and data-driven molding process to establish:

  • 1st Stage Injection
  • 2nd Stage Packing
  • Part Cooling
  • Shot Recovery
  • Part Removal

Once a stable process is developed, the actual process outputs are documented. This makes troubleshooting a lot easier. And unlike traditional molding, a scientific molding process is machine-independent — meaning the process can be easily re-established or ported to another molding machine.

When compared to old-school traditional molding, a properly implemented Scientific Molding process will dramatically reduce scrap and downtime — resulting in a substantially more profitable molding operation. It’s critical that your engineers and technicians understand how to correctly establish and document a Scientific Injection Molding process.

The concepts discussed in this post cover only the most basic aspects of the Scientific Molding methodology. Please check out Routsis Training’s extensive Scientific Molding training library, which includes both online courses and our exclusive SkillSet™ hands-on training labs.

5 Simple Rules for Effective Processing

To put it bluntly, if your technicians and engineers are not following these 5 simple rules, your company is losing money. Although these are just basic best practices for our industry, there are very few companies that consistently follow all 5 of these steps. Those who do are some of the most competitive companies in the plastics industry.

Change One Aspect at a Time

When adjusting a process, change only one aspect of the process at a time. This allows time for the specific adjustment to take place — allowing you to be more deliberate in your changes. Most importantly, it avoids confusion and allows you to determine the exact cause and effect of the change you made.

Make Significant Changes

Your changes must be big enough to actually see something happen. If you adjust your mold temperature by only 2 degrees, that is not significant enough to notice any change, as temperatures can fluctuate as much as 5 degrees under normal conditions.

If you believe something is going to help, make a big adjustment and see what happens: If it went to far, you can always dial it back a little. If it didn’t help, go to the next rule.

If a Change Does Not Help, Change It Back

If a change does is not effective, you must change it back. Unnecessary changes cause the process to drift further and further away from the standard process.

Properly Document the Process That Makes Good Parts

While a simple setup sheet with all the process inputs is great for die setters, processing and troubleshooting require documentation of the actual process outputs that makes a good part. There should be a standard documented process for each mold — as well as a process sheet generated each time first piece approval occurs.

Document all Changes to the Process

Any and all changes that occur after first piece approval must be documented. Process changes are important, but also include anything else that affects the system, such as: repairs, cleaning, mold adjustments, and equipment changes. Every molder should have a documented process at first piece approval — along with a list of all changes for every single production run.

The steps outlined above are an important aspect of the Scientific Molding methodology. Please check out Routsis Training’s extensive Scientific Molding training library, which includes both online courses and our exclusive SkillSet™ hands-on training labs.