Tooling for injection moulding can be expensive and it can often be very challenging to forecast the return on investment for the capital expense, especially if it’s a new product. This is where prototyping comes in. As the name suggest, the process of prototyping is to produce smaller batches of the product, in a rapid production, therefore the manufacturing process is shortened. Plastic prototyping is a process often used to verify and validate the initial design.
There are, however, many more benefits involved in prototyping that aren’t always considered – and these can often outweigh potential cost benefits that can appear attractive with mass scale.
The benefits of prototyping are achieved throughout the different stages of the product lifecycle, starting with the design process, which is a lot more flexible when you are prototyping. It is also very risk adverse process, which can definitely mean a cost benefit. When you combine this with the shorter time to market, you begin to see the benefits echo throughout the entire supply chain.
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Here are some of the benefits you can achieve from prototype tooling
During product production you might go through a number of design alterations and iterations, in particular for new products. A great benefit of prototyping is that you can make adjustments to designs if you’re producing in low batches. It enables you to prove before production, testing the processes of design, tooling and moulding. It’s a good practice before you eventually roll out to production tooling, if required.
Reduce your initial capital investment
In plastic moulding, many production companies will own mother tools, which means you only have to invest in the insert that goes into the mother tool. This can often be a significant cost-saving benefit in the early stages of manufacturing. Cost effective tooling options from the right supplier will minimise initial outlay, reduce prototype lead time and potentially reduce the cost of the production tooling.
Higher quality parts
For parts that require tight tolerances or need to be produced at the highest of quality, prototyping is the only way of ensuring consistent high quality standards. With this process, not only are quality checks more stringent, but the very nature of low volume ensures a better quality finish for every part that’s produced.
Shorter lead time/ first to market
With prototype tooling you are dealing with a very short and optimised supply chain. It’s a brilliant way to get to market quickly and effectively. In addition, the production of smaller volumes in itself means a shorter timescale. This means that lead times can be days instead of potentially months.
De-risk your inventory
Many manufacturers order their supplies in regular small batches. This means a steady flow of inventory, without a build-up of excess stock that’s sitting on your balance sheet. Not only does this ensure a cash flow benefit, it also frees up storage space, which is another space saving and cost saving benefit.
Optimise your cash flow
As mentioned above, there is a definite cash flow benefit from producing in small volumes. By ordering smaller batches of your product, you can free up cash that would otherwise be invested in a large one-off production run.
De-risk your capital investment
Starting with prototyping means that you don’t have to start with a high risk of investing in an expensive tool. Whilst you’re going through the learning phase of your new product or part, prototyping not only gives you flexibility but it ensures that, when the time is right to invest in production tooling, your ROI against the capital will be optimised.
Reduce your costs
There are substantial cost benefits from prototyping. Most are a bi-product from the benefits mentioned above. An obvious one is that you limit your investment exposure. Going beyond this, working with prototypes ensures your final products are produced to high standards of quality and this means a lot of cost saving is achieved because you don’t have to write off parts that aren’t fit for purpose. Most of all, don’t look at the price per part – this is a short- term view. Your cost reduction will be achieved throughout the product lifecycle of production, with your supply chain partner working proactively to find cost-effective ways to manufacturer your part and by also maintaining a high level quality output.
In summary, by starting with prototyping, you are preserving your cash flow, de-risking your inventory, reducing your investment exposure and optimising the design and performance of your product.
If you’d like to know more about how ENL Group can help you with your prototyping, tooling or production requirements, please get in touch.