A common problem that our clients come to us with here at Sofeast is the thorny topic of how to safely move plastic injection molds and tooling from one Chinese factory to another one if you’re changing suppliers.
Keep reading to see them here…
Why this is a tricky situation for importers
We have been tasked to move plastic injection molds and tooling from an old supplier to a new one’s factory by our clients on a number of occasions. It’s absolutely possible, but there are risks.
Assuming that you own the molds (you should for the security of your IP), you do not want:
- To lose your mold to your old supplier when starting production with a new factory as they could start making and selling your products even after your relationship has ended.
- To swallow the potentially high costs of making brand new tooling and molds.
Due to these two costly issues, we must be careful. So how is moving the molds best and most safely done?
10 Tooling and mold transfer tips
Where possible, importers producing plastic injection molded products and components should follow the following tips in order to have a smooth transition when preparing to move plastic injection molds and tooling.
1. Work out if you’re dealing directly with a factory
This is one situation where trading companies usually cause issues. They seldom have contracts with the manufacturer. So, even if they promise that you own your tooling, the manufacturer that they’re outsourcing to might believe otherwise. Just another reason to consider avoiding working with trading companies.
2. Arrange a legally watertight contract in advance
Set up a contract with your current supplier before they start making the tooling. It should be clear who owns the mold and the supplier should have an obligation to return it at your request, without extra fees. For more details, read this article on the China Law Blog.
Furthermore, some non-legal tactics (e.g. having your company name engraved on the mold) are helpful too, but they are not sufficient to protect you alone.
3. Record information about the mold
Make sure you have the mold 3D files, and that you know the mold size as well as the injection parameters and the type of plastic used.
4. Build inventory to cover yourself while the transfer happens
When the transfer takes place, there might be no production for some time. The transfer itself can take between 1 week to 3 months depending on the situation. Make sure your inventory can cover the worst case scenario.
5. Perform new supplier qualification
Evaluate your new plastic injection molding supplier to ensure they can meet your target. An effective supplier evaluation includes:
Spend the time to do this right. Hopefully, you can find a reliable manufacturer that can support your business into the future.
6. Announce the transfer to the current supplier
Justify the reasons for transferring the mold. If they had performance issues, list them out. If you decided to launch production in your home country, explain your plans. Keep the conversation focused — it is usually smart to avoid saying “your prices are too high,” even if that’s true.
7. Agree on the last financial exchange
No matter what the contract stipulates, the current supplier will try to benefit from the transfer in any way they can. For example, you might hear “the mold cost more than we invoiced,” “you need to pay for storage and maintenance,” or “the transfer will take us time and resources.”
It might be smart to agree on a small payment rather than playing hardball at this point.
8. Arrange mold pickup
We have written an entire procedure for moving tooling/molds. Even if you don’t follow it, there is one thing you need to keep in mind.
If the new supplier arranges the mold pick up, make sure they are doing so anonymously. You don’t want your current supplier to change their mind at the last minute!
9. Be aware of a new supplier’s fees
The new supplier will often claim a trial cost, generally 300-500 USD, for evaluating the mold and, if needed, suggest improvements. This cost is reasonable.
10. Control the first samples
A different supplier often means a different plastic brand and different injection parameters. These might affect your product’s quality and dimensions. At that stage, we typically conduct a “first article inspection.” The new factory makes a few samples for confirmation of quality.
Editor’s note: This post originally appears on QualityInspection.org as 10 Tips for Transferring Molds between Plastic Factories, but has been updated and edited for Sofeast readers.
Learn more about the plastic injection molding process
Watch this video playlist to learn more about this important manufacturing process. By better understanding your suppliers’ processes and how to inspect molded plastic quality, you will certainly have a better grasp of your supply chain.
- The injection molding process
- Plastic types and common applications
- Common molding defects
- A quality inspection guide for molded products
- A look into the 9 injection gate types
This blog post about tooling management also provides a lot of guidance on risks you face and how to overcome when them when manufacturing and using plastic injection molds.
Get help with your mold and tooling transfer
Are you in a similar situation and unsure about how to proceed?
Sofeast has dealt with this before for clients. Here’s what we’ll do:
- Speak with you and get to understand your situation, and see if we can help with the transfer
- If yes, we can confirm that the tool properly maintained, still in good shape, etc… with the current supplier
- Help plan the next moves
- Work with the new supplier to make sure that they can use the mold and that production can begin again
Just click here to speak with us. We’ll subsequently arrange a consultation to listen to your situation and suggest how we can help you.