For many years, Mack Molding has been an extension of its customers, bringing customer products to life through its vast array of contract manufacturing services and expertise in developing injection-molded plastic parts. As their customers bring challenging and complex designs, Mack Molding’s team needs to be ready to turn those challenges into products.
There are many steps that go into producing a product for a customer, beginning with design review, design for manufacturing, and establishing Bills of Materials (BOMs), just to name a few, but it gets real for the customer when the program is launching. Launching products requires different considerations than production. “To launch, you need speed. You need flexibility. You need to just be able to react on a dime whereas, in production, you want structure, you want consistency, and stability,” explained Joan Magrath, Vice President of Sales and Engineering at Mack Molding.
Decoupling the process of prototyping and production by creating a New Product Introduction (NPI) lab would enable them to do a lot of legwork upfront before moving to a production line. To achieve this, Mack Molding needed manufacturing software that could provide flexibility and agility, production-ready stability, and structure.
Creating Work Instructions in Mack Prototype’s New Product Introduction Lab
By separating NPI from production, Mack Molding can focus on prototyping and testing new products without disrupting the normal production process. This allows them to quickly identify and address any issues that may arise, ultimately leading to faster time-to-market for their customers.
One of the key tools that Mack Molding uses in its NPI process is Tulip's Frontline Operations Platform. Tulip enables flexibility and agility in the prototyping process, allowing Mack Molding to quickly make changes and improvements to its products.
Greg Cebular, President of Mack Prototype immediately noticed the value. “Why this is so valuable for our organization,” he explains, “is that we’re able to use it to work hands-on with our customers to create work instructions that help cut down on the training curve when we are cross-training our team.”
Additionally, Tulip provides real-time visibility into the production process, allowing Mack Molding's customers to track the progress of their products and make informed decisions about their production timelines. Mack’s customer products can have hundreds of different molded and electronic components often assembled for the very first time with a new workforce.
With Tulip apps created alongside parts and products, Mack Prototype is able to work hands-on with its customers to create work instructions, cutting down on the training curve. The team at Mack is able to get up-to-speed and bounce around from project to project as needed with up-to-date, error-proof instructions.
The team at Mack, in addition to building work instructions, creates and uses Tulip apps for component, subassembly, and final acceptance testing where test results are recorded in Tulip. Barcode scanners and unique barcode labels, along with defect assignable cause, are used during product testing to provide real-time visibility into component issues. Mack, and its customers, can see trends and nonconformities in real-time to identify and trace the issues down to components or processes using Tulip analytics.
Tulip allows the team at Mack to create versions of apps, and store all of the iterations and changes during the prototyping process. Customers have access to a Mack Prototype dashboard with up-to-date information on complete units and defects, giving them an understanding of how production for their prototype is running. Having dashboards to track progress through a production run eliminates lengthy back-and-forth correspondences and provides peace of mind as customers can get updates directly from the dashboard.
Handing Off Production-Ready Apps in the Cloud
Documentation and work instructions built in Tulip apps link new product introduction space and Mack’s headquarters facility, which is focused on full volume production.
Once the prototype design iterations stabilize, the product is ready to transition to its initial production run. Manufacturing engineers at Mack Molding’s headquarters in Arlington, Vt., begin to set up a production assembly line, transition work instructions apps created at Mack Prototype over to the new line, and begin training operators on the process of building product at scale.
Because of Tulip’s cloud-based approach powered by Amazon Web Services, transitioning apps to prepare them for the production line can happen in only a few clicks.
A Digital Toolbox for Manufacturing Engineers
Before implementing Tulip, Mack Molding operated with a paper-based system.
Mack is able to use barcode scanners, printers, and cameras to:
Verify task completions
Track tools and tooling
Capture data from test results
Train operators through every step of assembly
Being able to see trends and cycles in their data has helped the team at Mack build more products while saving time and cost, all while delivering products on time to customers around the world.
How Mack Molding’s Manufacturing Engineers Use Tulip in Their Operations:
Digital Work Instructions
Visual apps for guiding operators through the assembly of complex products with hundreds of parts
Intuitive Data Capture
During product build and testing, the Mack team is able to use barcode scanners at the edge to capture data, verify test results and report quality
Dashboards with data from every workstation provide real-time visibility into quality and production for Mack and their customers
Across their facility, Mack Molding has deployed mobile workstations with touchscreen Tulip apps and barcode scanners. With larger products, operators can easily adjust their workstations to be in their line of sight to interact with the Tulip apps.
In addition to deploying standardized work instructions, the manufacturing engineers at Mack are always looking for new ways to adopt Tulip in different processes around their facility. Scott Hodges went on to explain, “I often talk to my engineering group about how the limitation isn't in the software, but it's really in your imagination. With the ability to connect through all Internet of Things (IoT), we can really do some incredible things to improve production on the floor.” As their team begins to adopt new solutions like computer vision, they are able to iterate quickly and collect feedback from operators at every step to ensure the solution is improving the manufacturing experience.
Supporting Business Development With Traceability and Visibility
Tulip’s value in the NPI lab and on the manufacturing floor has begun to spill into the rest of the Mack organization. Having Tulip as a selling point in customer relationships has been a win for business development. Mack Molding is able to offer more structure and control and improve communication with clients and their teams. More accurate capacity data now backs up decision-making that the team is able to do, so customers can have realistic timelines and dates as they plan their production.
The ability to decouple NPI from production, combined with the flexibility and real-time visibility provided by Tulip’s Frontline Operations Platform, have allowed Mack Molding to quickly and effectively bring new products to market as they continue to serve emerging technology customers with reliable communication and transparency. Creating work instructions through the NPI process at Mack Prototype allows the Mack team to train operators, and bring products to market faster than ever, with a more reliable and repeatable process.
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