How to Choose an Automotive Die Cutting Partner

An automotive company depends on their reputation for providing high-quality parts. Once those products are passed on to customers and installed in vehicles, it becomes their own reputation that is on the line which is why dealers, repair shops, and manufacturers expect quality. The market continues to demand quality in less time and for lower prices, which effects the entire automotive supply chain. One way that companies are achieving these goals are with their automotive die cutting partners.

The Cost-Effective Option

The advantage of using die cut automotive parts is that they are cost-effective to make. But there is more to choosing a partner than just someone who has the right equipment to get the job done. The ideal partner will have your needs in mind and work hard to improve the process. Part of die cutting parts includes assembly of the little pieces. This can become a tedious task that can require extra employees or an extra step in the automation process. To simplify the process and keep your business moving, the entire assembly can be done by the die cutting partner.

Knowing All the Options

Before you can fully utilize a strategic partner, it’s important to understand their abilities. Talk about the jobs you need to have done and any extra tasks, like assembly, that they can do in-house to simplify your life. Knowing what capabilities are important to you and being able to communicate those needs to a die cutting service will help you find the partner that is right for your business. While not every automotive part can be created with die cutting, it is ideal for certain parts, such as

  • Gaskets
  • Bumpers
  • Structural components
  • Motor housings

Each of these is an individual task with its own nuances. Most can be created in bulk and done in a short time frame.

Building a Strong Relationship

While each die cutting company will know how to create these automotive products, it is important that the relationship is solid. Staying in constant communication about needs and having a system going will help make everyones job easier. When there is a solid foundation to this business relationship, it strengthens both businesses because the supply chain is stronger. Each time parts touch another pair of hands or go through another step in the supply chain, it weakens just a little and increases costs. This is important because the quality levels in the automotive industry are set so high and regulated heavily. Creating finished products at the end of the chain is vital to survival in the field.

Shortening the chain is done by having fewer companies involved and utilizing in-house services before shipping the automotive parts. Contact Clark Rubber and Plastic today to see how we can help die cutting automotive parts for your business. We can save your company time and the need for extra employees. We work hard to forge stronger bonds and shortening the overall supply chain required for jobs. When you have more time and a reliable partner for quality parts, you can focus on growing a successful business.

Rubber Molding Versus Silicone Rubber Injection Molding

When placing an order for rubber molding, there are several different options between manufacturers. The right type of rubber for the job will make all the difference in the finished product, but which is the right one for your project? Here is a quick reference guide for your next rubber injection molding job.

Rubber Molding with High Consistency Rubber

The most common association that people make to rubber is referred to as high consistency rubber, or HCR. It is available in different thicknesses and usually comes in high viscosity sheets. It is gummier in texture and gives products a flexible quality, much like you’d expect in rubber tubing. This material is not commonly used in injection molding because it has such a high viscosity and takes a long time to cure. The HCR is great for certain applications and takes a long time to produce. It is labor-intensive to produce a finished product, but it is ideal for tubing and cording.

The other problems that companies come across is the amount of waste produced during manufacturers. This usually results in higher costs for materials, extra space, and labor costs for the company that is passed on to the customer.

Injection Molding with Liquid Silicone Rubber

Liquid silicone rubber, or LSR, is liquid, as the name implies. This is a great material for injection molding because it is easy to inject into molds than the HCR form into different shapes.

LSR starts as two parts that become solid once mixed together. Before combining the two parts, additives can be added and then machinery mixes everything together in precise amounts. The mixture is then pushed into molds and left to cure inside them. There is a low viscosity to LSR so the process is fast and requires less labor. This helps keep this type of rubber molding less expensive because there is less time spent on each order. Since molds are used to create the final product, there is less material waste.

Another benefit to using LCR is that the results are consistent. With HCR, the rubber is harder to form and is created with pre-created sheets. Production might vary between parts, which requires an extra step for trimming and quality control. LCR is used in the same molds, producing the same results each cycle, even with complex shapes.

Some of the industries that benefit from rubber injection molding include automotive, appliances, military and defense, and the solar industry, among others.

The Right Rubber for the Job

If you have a job that requires custom rubber molding, consider the two main options. The HCR is still ideal for many rubber products, but custom or complex jobs require a forming of liquid rubber into molds. Consider the pros and cons of each job and talk to the manufacturer about what they would recommend.

For the best custom rubber molding services, our customer service agents are happy to discuss options for your job. Our machinery is equipped to handle many different materials, including natural rubber, nitrile, neoprene, Viton, EPDM, and SBR. We can do repeat jobs and handle any size order- large or small. Let us know how we can fulfill your orders and help your company succeed.

The Link Between Transparency And Supply Chain

The Link Between Transparency and an Efficient Supply Chain

Consumers have become increasingly aware of how businesses work, not just what products they make and services they offer. The number of customers who care about a brand’s impact on the environment are growing every year. Cone Communication did a survey in 2015 that showed 81 percent of global consumers care about transparency, or how a company handles their corporate social responsibility and consider it in their buying choices.

For companies, this is a big number and reason to consider their own choices in buying and production. Sourcing materials or resources with any negative impact will eventually be uncovered and customers will find out and directly influence a company’s performance. Because of this, more companies are changing their supply chains to be more transparent, which also makes them more efficient.

The Role of Transparency

Some supply chains are more transparent than others naturally. Food chains are often transparent so that consumers know what they are putting in their bodies. A transparent supply chain in this industry helps provide a more efficient way to notify retailers and the public of recalls and contaminated foods.

Other industries, like construction and manufacturing, don’t naturally have a transparent supply chain. While this may have been an area consumers cared less about in the past, that is changing. With a more informed society, consumers are caring more about their health and the products around them. Instead of knowing that the suppliers are reliable, people like to know that the workers are treated well on the job and the conditions are fair.

Consumers who care about a company’s social responsibility will find out this information, but there is a bigger benefit for companies making themselves more transparent. When customers find out who has a greater sense of social responsibility, they feel loyalty to that business. Companies who make their supply chain more transparent will focus on improving these aspects and gain a more loyal base. With a higher public perception, they can gain more business.

The Benefits of Transparency

Manufacturers, companies, distributors, vendors, and customers all benefit from transparency. More than just creating a good public profile, each can gain the following benefits:

  • Reduces risk: When every part of the supply chain is traceable, risk is reduced almost entirely. It helps provide oversight for everyone in the chain. If there is a recall in any industry, being able to follow the products to where they ended up is valuable to keeping the public safe.
  • Keeps everyone informed: Each person in the chain is more informed on where the products are assembled, who packaged them, how it was transported and stored. For a product like food, the benefits of this are obvious, but it also matters in other industries. Aerospace, architecture, and engineering have products that require vigorous testing for quality and reliability. The proper care of machinery is vital to performing accurately.
  • Greater efficiency: With a more transparent supply chain, there is more information available. This helps identify problem areas where processes are slowed. If there is an area where things bottleneck in production, it can be solved and improved. Companies might also find steps that are unnecessary and can be removed entirely, speeding up the entire process.

Increasing Transparency

Companies often need help understanding how to increase the transparency in their supply chain. What tools are available to help and how do you implement them? When a product goes through so many steps, it can feel overwhelming to know where to start.

Thanks to the tech industry, there are many software programs and applications that aid in tracking. Data is more efficient to collect with these systems and are not hard to put in place. Putting a small tracker on a shipment helps track location, temperature, and conditions.

Blockchain is another system that helps to directly connect suppliers and distributors. It provides a secure, decentralized platform that helps eliminate excess.

Transparency provides more collaboration between partners, vendors, and suppliers. They work together with more efficiency and have more communication, speeding up processes and solving problems. Consumers can see where their products and services are coming from and purchase with more loyalty, knowing they are doing their part to be socially responsible. Transparency really is the key to a more efficient supply chain and a successful business.

Ways Simulation is Improving the Development of Products | Clark Rubber and Plastic

Ways Simulation is Improving the Development of Products

Simulations are taking over the entertainment world with improvements in movies and virtual reality in video games. One area that you might not expect to find simulation is product development. Not only is simulation a great tool for developers, but it is changing the industry as we know it. From engineering to avionics, the presence of virtual reality (VR) is increasing.

Benefits of Virtual Reality

Labs the produce products are finding that they can do more with VR. The main reason that augmented reality is beneficial is because designers can build and test products in theory before building a physical prototype or product. Manufacturers and designers are finding that it is more efficient and cost productive to take a VR route before a reality approach. There are four main areas that designers are finding the best use of VR in development.

Viewing Blueprints and CAD Designs. When customers come in to review their purchase orders, they want to see more than blueprint sketches. Instead, designers can pull up the design on their computer screens and show the customer a 3-D view of their product. This is a more realistic view of what the final product will look like and can show proper function better than a drawing or printing can show. Designers can spot flaws and adjust details easily in this form with less cost to the company and consumer. Customers can provide helpful feedback that can prevent problems after production. Together, they avoid miscommunication, and both save a lot of time and money in the end.

Smaller Scale 3-D Parts. One of the most expensive parts of design is creating scaled models of products before production. Sketches don’t give enough detail to those who are creating the parts and changes are more difficult. Using 3-D printing, engineers and designers can create smaller scale 3-D parts and test them out before creating a product to scale. This is a much more affordable option for companies.

Creating in a Virtual Space. Realtors and construction companies have been using VR to sell properties and show off homes pre-construction for a few years now. It has helped expand their potential buyers to those across the country, rather than limiting it to those who can walk through a model home. This same concept is open to other industries too. Cars, buildings, boats, and even small parts are easy to create and view in a virtual space for potential customers. The ways companies can save money in materials, storage, space, and resources are almost endless with VR.

Improving Prototypes. As mentioned, manufacturing and design companies have historically created products to spot problems and adjust designs. With more complex products, each piece is created individually to ensure they work together correctly. Simulation does more than create a 3-D model, it also allows designers to see how all the different parts will work together before creating the first physical prototype. Sizing of pieces is usually an expensive process to figure out, but with simulation, individual pieces are sized or alternatives found before creation to ensure the entire product functions properly. This saves recalls, tests, bad contracts, and most of all, stress.

Changing the Experience

Using VR in design and manufacturing is saving companies time and money. This allows them to create more products and earn more contracts. The digital transformation is improving the customer experience and changing the manufacturing market. The best part of all is that more superior products are created, helping everyone involved to succeed.

How Technology Makes Manufacturing Work | Clark Rubber and Plastic

How Technology Makes Manufacturing Work

Manufacturing is the backbone of America, playing a part in so many different industries. Evidence of its importance can be found on stickers at the bottom of toys, tags on clothing, and even political discussions over the last decade. With China being a major competitor, it’s small differences that can make a manufacturing company successful. Just like every other sector, technology is taking manufacturing companies and helping them become more efficient and a player in the large, global arena.

The Design Difference

The process and complexity of designing products vary between industries. Even within industries, companies often manufacture many different types of products. Traditionally, molds and prototypes are made multiple times until it is done right. With technology, the processes are reduced with programs that help designers create 3D visuals. Program inspections more easily find flaws which means less time, materials, and energy are required to create correct designs.

Another benefit of technology in design is that the programs used to create the designs can be synced to machinery. The syncing cuts out a lot of waste, streamlining the overall process. Manufacturers no longer have to spend time moving files over, inputting complex programming codes, or training workers on design details and expectations.

Adding Automation

The biggest benefit of technology and machinery is that it increases efficiency. When people are doing the manufacturing themselves or running machinery, it limits the hours that the facility is working. Automated systems are more efficient because they don’t require breaks and can manufacture different parts around the clock and every day of the year. The quality of the products is not compromised after long hours either, keeping standards high and the reputation of the company intact. With a higher production rate and high-quality products, companies can offer competitive pricing while still making a higher profit.

Automation is also great because it uses fewer materials in its production. Products that require complex designs are especially benefited by technology because fewer mistakes are made. The fewer materials that are wasted, the more money companies can save on their costs.

Boosting the Economy

Technology is the key to boosting the economy. When manufacturing companies do better, they can offer more jobs to the communities that house them. The more successful they become, the more they can expand and create more products. Some companies manufacture all their parts while others outsource small parts and help build other companies in their products too.

The items that they sell help create value, but it isn’t always the thing that gives them the competitive edge in their industry. While many people believe that things like location, taxes, and labor rates are the biggest factors in determining manufacturing success, this isn’t necessarily the case. Some of the biggest influencing factors include quality design, unique ideas, engineering, marketing, material sourcing, and customer support. There are many qualities that work together still determine if the company will be successful in the long run.

Technology is a key that many manufacturers have found to make all the difference in the way they run their companies and benefit the economy. While it may not make the only difference, it is a tool that can help manufacturers succeed in a world where cheap labor is often the compromise.

How 3D Printing is Advancing Business Transformation | Clark Rubber and Plastic

How 3D Printing is Advancing Business Transformation

Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is no longer a distant technology, becoming more mainstream all the time. This printing uses specialized equipment to create a physical object from a digital model and processes that bond and mold materials together. The two main components that set this type of manufacturing apart.

  • Deposit Process: layers of raw materials are added a layer at a time then fused together.
  • Materials Used: metallic powders, polymers, and other solids, along with some liquids such as photosensitive resin, and ribbons and wires for any semi-finished products.

The main benefit of 3D printing is that any shape can be created because of the freeform designing abilities. It takes fewer tools, less time, and produces less waste. Comparing this type of manufacturing with the more traditional process, it makes a lot of sense for companies to consider switching their machinery.

The Benefits of Manufacturing with 3D Printing

While many industries have already implemented 3D printing in some areas like energy, transportation, and consumer goods, it is currently entering cutting edge fields such as aeronautics, space, and medical manufacturing. This process really shines in areas where there are custom, unique pieces required. More industries are turning their eyes toward this manufacturing because of three main benefits; cost, creativity, and environmental benefits.

Cost. While the initial cost of replacing current equipment is a concern for many companies, 3D printing can cut costs over the long term. The traditional form of manufacturing requires creating multiple prototypes to work out problems, then working in small-series parts to put the entire thing together. Companies often keep spare parts on hand with all the extra materials to save costs, but that requires storage. With additive manufacturing, production steps are skipped, less tooling and materials are used, and time is saved overall. Cutting costs and increasing production times means that companies can make more money.

Creativity. Since 3D printing gives more flexibility, manufacturing companies have more creative license with their products. With previous technological limitations, creating complex shapes or objects would take a lot of time and extra materials to figure out. When raw materials are added in, rather than cut out, they are layered using sub-systems. It’s also easier to switch or add new materials quickly during the manufacturing process.

Environmental Benefits. Switching from mass production to customization gives more flexible steps and improve capabilities. As mentioned before, fewer materials are used when added instead of cut from a solid block of material, which creates less waste. With faster production times, less energy is used and lowers the carbon emissions put out by the company.

While these three benefits have convinced many manufacturing companies to make the switch, 3D printing also builds a larger network of suppliers and distributors. When they work together, they can share materials to create less waste and optimize their costs. Another big benefit to collaboration is that customers are placed at the forefront with a more service-oriented approach to production. Customers have more input and take part in more of the creative process, approving and designing along with the manufacturers. With 3D printing, the sky is the limit.

Wearable Augmented Workforce | Clark Rubber and Plastic

Wearable Augmented Workforce

The days of the future have arrived. Using robots in manufacturing isn’t new, but the robotic technology is advancing. Instead of hydraulic arms along an assembly line, new robots are coming to town. The Ford Motor Company is piloting a new device that is an exoskeleton worn by assembly workers who do a lot of manual labor. The purpose of the exoskeleton is to specifically help assembly workers more easily lift their arms above their heads, which they do more than 4500 times a day.

The name of the tool is EksoVest and is made by Ekso Bionics, which is headquartered in Richmond, California, the same site as a Ford factory. It is worn only on the upper body and is currently being piloted at two Ford plants. It not only supports the worker’s arms, but it also relieves stress on the shoulders by assisting to lift 5-15 pounds per arm once springs are activated. Some tasks require lifting tools, like drivers, torque wrenches, brushes, drills, and paint sprayers. Having the assistance to lift tools that weigh up to 8 pounds, a million times a year, can relieve a lot of wear and tear on the worker’s upper body.

The preliminary tests are showing that the hydraulic, non-powered vest helps assembly line workers reduce strain and risk of injury from tasks that are done on the frequent, short tasks that are so typical of assembly lines. This can help boost worker longevity and morale, allow workers to stay in their jobs for more years, and reduce injuries. In fact, workers are missing fewer days of work, transferring departments less, and are requiring fewer work restrictions. This helps keep workers safe, happy, and feeling valued.

While increased safety is a major benefit, there is another one that speaks to many manufacturers bottom lines; productivity. When workers are assisted in their work and can move more easily, they move faster. The faster they move, the faster the tasks are completed, and the production rates go up. This helps to create a more finished product without overburdening workers.

The idea of EksoVest brings an important issue to the manufacturing world. While automation seems to be the way of the future, there is value in augmenting a human workforce too. Robots that assist in the work are a valuable resource and help create a more economical answer to expensive automation concerns. With a human physically wearing the robotics, they have more control while still having the physical help from a machine.

For now, the two pilot programs are at factories in the United States. Ford is hoping to expand the technology to more of their factories and help give support to even more of their assembly line workers. Meanwhile, the manufacturing world will watch and wait to see how an augmented workforce influences the overall company.

MES and the Future of Manufacturing

Global manufacturing is continually growing and expanding to include new technology. Since incorporating the use of manufacturing execution systems (MES), growth in the manufacturing sector has only increased. In 2014, the global MES market was valued at around $7.86 billion and is projected to be worth $19.36 billion by 2023. To understand the full picture of where the MES market will take manufacturing in the future, it is helpful to understand its role in the past.

The History of MES

In the 1970s, software first entered the manufacturing scene. It helped take some simple tasks, like accounting, inventory, and other housekeeping items and automate them. While this was helpful, it wasn’t enough to help with more substantial tasks like tracking, controlling, and planning materials.

In the last ten years or so, MES software hit the manufacturing industry with some big promises to fulfill. Operations department were needing something that could help with the substantial areas, like planning, quality control, tracking information, and handling manufacturing indicators. MES was developed to be able to tick all the boxes. This helped companies monitor all this information, along with connecting the information between different complex systems.

As more innovations in technology came around, the potential grew. This has attracted attention from other software developers, bringing more options at differing price ranges to manufacturers. Cloud-based systems and storage expanded a lot of options for managers to access information at any time, in almost any place. Artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and IoT portions of software were able to help increase automation, cutting back on precious work hours for employees. As the manufacturing industry has grown globally, the contributions of MES software has become more important than ever before.

The Future of MES and Manufacturing

A very telling number shows that 34% of manufacturers use MES software already or plan to in the near future. Once a software becomes standard in the manufacturing industry, it becomes even harder to function without it. As manufacturing reaches more countries and becomes even more global, MES software becomes even more vital to keeping up with production.

The two biggest benefits of using MES are increasing efficiency and cutting costs. Efficiency is improved by improved production planning, streamlined workflow, and resource optimization. Whether it is in the back office or on the plant floor, MES software is becoming invaluable at reducing scrap, rework, and holding times on products while also maximizing throughput and use of materials. While each of these improves efficiency, they also help cut costs for materials and the amount of labor involved. Overall, employees are less stressed, and companies are better able to hit their targets and follow regulated compliances standards.

MES software will continue to grow and offer a greater ability to keep factories, plants, and head offices connected to make faster decisions with information that is quickly available. More MES software options are always being developed to help companies of any size, all around the world. Lower prices and help to install the complex systems will also help businesses implement the right MES software for their needs, including manufacturers in many different industries.

While no one knows for sure what MES will look like in a decade or two, it is obvious that MES software will hold an important role. Keeping manufacturing companies connected to each function in their entire plant or factory is an important part of being successful. As technology improves and expands, so will the abilities of the manufacturing industry.

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