Process Insights

Automotive Mold Manufacturing with Predictable Equipment ROI

Redoe Mold builds detailed ROI calculations for machine tool selection

Justifying large investments in automotive mold manufacturing equipment is a difficult but necessary task to remain competitive in today’s automotive market. While several factors should influence machine tool selection, none is quite as significant as return on investment (ROI).  For Redoe Mold of Windsor, Ontario, smart purchasing decisions are key to its long-standing success and financial stability.

Determining an accurate return on investment extends farther than just the machine’s performance specifications,” says Eric Leene, Redoe Mold shop foreman. “You have to also consider the financial impact a machine tool has on other aspects of your shop floor and ultimately the service you provide to your customer.”

To ensure the most accurate ROI calculations, Redoe Mold has refined its machine tool selection process by assembling a lean manufacturing team comprised of leadership from various positions across the shop floor. Together, they discuss how the performance of a potential machine tool investment could influence secondary machining operations, handwork, spotting and other post-processing labor of its automotive mold manufacturing.

“If you’re investing in capabilities that just simply get the job done, you may have dollars slipping through the cracks in other areas of your shop floor,” says Leene. “Our investments in high-performance machining centers from Makino have taught us that the speed, accuracy and flexibility of a machine tool can offer dramatic savings even outside of the work zone. So when you’re cutting out anywhere from 30 to 50 percent in manual labor on some jobs like we are, there’s a dramatic change in the profitability and return on investment the machine can offer.”

Making a Dollar Go Farther

Redoe Mold was established in 1969 under the namesake of founders and friends, Ed Regan and Pat Endo. In the early days, the two men commonly found themselves serving several different roles for 20 hours a day, seven days a week, to keep the business running smoothly. They frequently faced difficult financial challenges due to limited savings, but quickly learned the value of smart machine tool selection.

“Financial considerations have always been critical to this company’s success,” says Leene. “We do all that we can to make sound investments that add or improve capability to the shop floor while ensuring profitability. By being wise and responsible with our finances, we’ve always been able to keep reinvesting in our automotive mold manufacturing capabilities.”

With over 40 years of experience, Redoe Mold has now become a well-known and respected name across North America for its dedication to best-in-class on-time delivery, quality and service. The company’s knowledge and skills have provided it with the expertise for design and production of high-end injection molds and prototype molds. Redoe Mold specializes in surface-critical, multi-material and multi-color automotive mold manufacturing for plastic components, including headlamps, tail lamps and reflectors.

High-Speed Return on Investment

“When you’re working with optic lens molds, accuracy and finish are imperative,” says Leene. “Even the slightest inconsistency can be detected by light-refraction tests. For this reason, we needed to invest in new capabilities that could provide the best finishes possible, straight out of the machine.”

Starting in 2002, Redoe Mold began investing in new high-speed machining capabilities to enhance the quality of its molds. The first purchases included a Makino V77 vertical machining center, MCC2013 horizontal machining center and SP64 wire EDM.

“Because these machines were adding new capabilities and eliminating several outsourcing procedures, it was easy to justify our machine tool selection,” says Leene. “What we didn’t anticipate was the long-standing, dynamic impact these investments would have on our overall shop efficiency. In several jobs, we were able to eliminate secondary machining operations and handwork altogether.

“These machines provided a huge benefit with our optic lens molds, where we were previously receiving results that varied between 0.004 and 0.010 inches, and required extended hours of manual labor in order to meet required accuracies and finishes. Even after nearly 10 years of service, these machines are still providing bench-free surfaces and tolerances under 0.002 inches.”

Developing a Lean Cost Justification

After witnessing the results produced by its V77, MCC2013 and SP64 investments, Redoe Mold began to take a closer look at how it calculates its return on investment.

“For each machine tool selection moving forward, we decided to assemble a manufacturing team who could discuss current bottlenecks, share specifications and determine projected performance across the entire part process,” says Leene. “Upon gathering this information, we can accurately quantify how much the process is costing us with current equipment and the cost savings that could be realized with proposed equipment.”

The first investment opportunity to use the new, lean cost-justification process came in 2007 with the replacement of three vertical machining centers used in the production of small mold components.

“The manufacturing team determined two significant issues with our current process that needed to be resolved,” says Leene. “It was no longer feasible to have an operator stationed at each machine throughout the day, and inconsistent part quality was resulting in long hours of hand-finishing and spotting. As a result, we knew we needed a machine tool that could provide high productivity and exceptional accuracy and finish with little operator attention required.”

After conducting thorough market research and gathering data from friends in the industry, Redoe Mold decided to invest in a Makino a61 horizontal machining center.

“Operating nearly 24 hours per day, seven days a week, the a61 has delivered more than what our three previous machines ever offered,” says Leene. “Its automatic pallet changer combined with tombstone fixturing allows us to produce several jobs in a single setup with fewer operations. The accuracy and surface finishes it produces have reduced EDM and hand-finishing by up to 50 percent and fitting and spotting times by over 70 percent. Overall, the a61 has saved us nearly $300,000 per year.”

Go Big or Go Home

The success of Redoe Mold’s lean cost justification continued in 2008 with an investment in a robot cell featuring a Makino E33 graphite machining center and EDNC85S sinker EDM.

“The E33 was intended to be a standalone investment to replace our outdated graphite mill,” says Leene. “However, the machine’s accuracy and repeatability provided us with the ability to completely eliminate benching and CMM verification from our electrode production. We took the opportunity to go bigger and better by adding subsequent investments to build a robotic cell that could directly feed fresh electrodes to an EDM.

“The EDNC85S machine tool selection was a simple decision. A test piece made from P20 featuring a 0.027-inch rib with 0.5-degree draft and a depth of 1.6 inches was sent out to six different EDM suppliers. The size of the rib did not permit manually finishing, so we needed a machine that could achieve a 12 RMS finish throughout. Makino’s EDNC85S with HQSF [high-quality surface finish] and rib-head technologies was the only machine surveyed capable of meeting our requirements fully unattended.”

In 2010, Redoe Mold was on the market again to replace its large work-zone sinker EDM. With 70 percent to 80 percent of its large automotive mold manufacturing applications featuring deep ribs, the investment team quickly reflected on its experience with the EDNC85S and Makino’s high-speed rib-head technology.

Designed to eliminate the traditional compromise of speed versus accuracy in sinker EDM machining, Makino’s high-speed rib-head technology uses a linear motor-powered W-axis located within the Z-axis to achieve jump cycles up to 1,600 ipm, which is eight times faster than a stand-alone Z-axis. This high-speed motion, in turn, reduces the length of roughing processes, cuts down on out-of-cut time and flushes the workpiece more effectively, especially in smaller details, thin ribs and deep cavities.

“After our previous EDM broke down, we were forced to outsource several large EDM applications, so it was imperative that we made a machine tool selection quickly,” says Leene. “And while we typically conduct thorough evaluations for each machine tool investment, we knew from our experience with the EDNC85S that Makino’s rib-head technology could reduce our rib roughing times by 80 percent or more. This led us to invest in an EDNC157, one of Makino’s largest sinker EDM machines. With performance like that, no other machine could compare.”

Investment Demonstrates Commitment

Automotive mold designs are continuously growing in complexity with longer, deeper three-dimensional shapes and fewer draft angles, making it increasingly difficult to meet time-sensitive orders with 3-axis machines. In order to meet these demands, Redoe Mold also needed to invest in multi-axis machining capabilities.

“When it came to our more complex multi-axis jobs, we were sacrificing time and money by outsourcing 3- and 5-axis work and using less efficient methods, such as picker head machining, that required us to perform several setups on multiple machines,” says Leene. “Neither of these solutions delivered on the quality, lead-times or competitive pricing our customers have come to expect from us. To maintain our reputation as industry leaders and reinforce our commitment to quality and service, we assembled our manufacturing team to research a machine that could truly set us apart.”

Redoe Mold’s manufacturing team spoke with several machine tool manufacturers and visited several other shops to determine the features and technologies they wanted from their investment. In order to produce the highest quality possible, they knew they needed a single, large multi-axis machine that could complete even their largest jobs as a one-piece fixture assembly.

During the search, Redoe Mold heard that Makino was working with a large car manufacturer to develop a new technology for machining complex, limited-draft deep-section tooling, similar to their lighting molds and fascias. In reaching out to its local Single Source Technologies representative, Redoe Mold found out about the Makino MCC2013-VG 6-axis horizontal machining center.

“The MCC2013-VG was very similar to our current MCC2013 but included several unique features and technologies that we hadn’t seen anywhere else,” says Leene. “While many of our competitors have invested in 5-axis machines, no one in North America had the 6-axis capabilities of the Makino VG technology, with respect to accuracy and rigidity. We knew that a machine tool like this would not only meet current market standards, but create a new market advantage that would exceed our competitors’ current capabilities.

“To determine the impact the MCC2013-VG would have on our shop floor, our manufacturing team worked closely with Makino to test several of our most complex 3-D applications. The results were nothing short of astounding. By investing in this machine, we’re expecting to reduce semi-finishing and finishing times of cores and cavities by 50 percent, while eliminating almost 100 percent of our previous secondary machining operations and associated setups. These new capabilities will also allow us to substantially reduce outsourcing and cut out all related handwork and spotting. As with all our high-speed CNC machines, we anticipate it will run close to 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for a total cost reduction of 35 percent with full return on investment in approximately three and a half years.”

A Guarantee for Success

For Redoe Mold, investing in capital equipment is more than just meeting expectations. It’s a sure-fire way to secure the future of the business. Its ability to calculate the true value of a machining center enables the company to continuously improve its efficiency, profitability and competitive stance in the global marketplace.

“Even if you go to a bank, you have to show some type of justification and return for your investment; a machine shop shouldn’t operate any differently,” says Leene. “And while we always conduct thorough evaluations for each machine purchase, it’s no coincidence that Makino has frequently come out on top. The products and services they provide reflect the same quality and service we aim to provide for our own customers.”

Redoe Mold
Windsor, Ontario
(519) 919-7855