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Why quality is essential when it comes to plastic moulded parts

The plastic moulding process is a complex cycle starting from design, right through to tooling and production (and the many steps in between). Throughout the cycle, its imperative that good quality measures are put in place at each stage.

Marc Bowyer-Briggs is the Quality and H&S Manager at ENL. He’s been with the company for 15 years and here he explains the importance – and the benefits – of quality management throughout the entire mouldings process. He also gives guidance as to what you should ensure a plastic moulding supplier and a tool manufacturer has in place to deliver good quality parts.

Poor quality can be costly, in many ways

“Manufacturers without stringent quality processes in place can result in high levels of quality recalls. They’re also putting customers at risk of poorly produced products and parts.”, explains Marc.  “Sometimes companies can be purely price-led in their decision making, when selecting a manufacturer for plastic moulded parts. Unfortunately, this can result in poor quality components, which is highly frustrating for the customer as they can end up paying a lot more to resolve the problem and, in some cases, forced to render the stock not fit-for-purpose, having to start all over again”.

Choose a supplier with high quality standards

Manufacturers who work to higher quality standards offer greater reassurance for customers who require precision, accuracy and longevity of the plastic component.

“You should always check they have ISO9001 as a bare minimum.” says Marc. “In addition, you should also ask the manufacturer what other quality certifications they have, or standards they work to. For example, ENL has AS9100, which is an aerospace standard. It essentially adds in a lot of additional criteria, making it more stringent and enhanced quality process. However, our entire customer base benefits from this – regardless of their industry – because we follow the quality procedure in every instance”.

“A good quality management system helps to streamline manufacturing. In addition, it ensures the finished products meet both the customers’ and the manufacturers’ standards. The higher those manufacturing standards, the better for the customer. Ultimately it provides the customer with an extra layer of assurance that the processes they use to manufacture are conducted in the correct manner”.

High quality suppliers will have high quality reputations

Marc goes on to advise that there are other things you should check out when working with a new supplier. “An important indicator can often be the supplier’s customer base. You should be looking at what sort of industries they work within. For example, if they have customers in the medical, aerospace, defence or automotive sectors then they will be working to a higher standard of quality measures than just ISO9001. You can also check if they have a respected reputation. A great way to do this is to look for reviews or to check out their website for testimonials or case studies. Also, how long have they been in business for? Manufacturers who have been in operation for decades will offer the assurance of experience, knowledge and expertise”.

Where and how is quality measured in the process?

Although there are three primary operations – design phase, tool making and production – there are also a number of secondary operations involved in the moulding process.

“A proactive supplier will work with a customer to identify the key quality criteria in great detail, all the way through the process”, explains Marc. “This includes the user expectations and the physical look and will be defined with the customer all the way through”.

Marc then goes on to stress that quality goes beyond the physical product. “A high-quality part is the symptom of stringent processes and a high-quality culture”, insists Marc. “Quality encompasses the whole business, in every role and every process. It involves auditing, regular reviews as well as supply chain best practice, including the traceability of materials”.  

“Some companies may also have a process for new products. At ENL, for example, all new products go through ‘New Parts Intro’, or NPI. This is a six-stage gated process incorporating PPAP (production part approval process) methodologies. Essentially you can’t move onto the next stage until the current stage is signed off by all parties. This significantly reduces the risk for both us and the customer”.

High quality standards bring many benefits

Inevitably a customer significantly reduces their risk if they work with a supplier who has higher standards of quality. Aside from the quality end product, you can expect your supplier to deliver:

  • A pro-active approach to problem-solving.

  • Less waste due to higher accuracy.

  • Quality inspection on every product run (at multiple stages).

  • High precision, high quality tooling (that lasts).

  • High quality and precision throughout every process.

To find out more about ENL and its quality processes, or for further information, please contact us