Department Profile – Engineering Department
Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the mobility industry, believes that “Building an exceptional company is the result of building exceptional teams with exceptional people.” Today continues a series of articles profiling Team 1 Plastics’ teams – its Departments. Meet the Engineering Department.
Name of Department: Engineering Department
Team 1 Plastics’ Engineering Department’s main responsibility is New Product Launch – preparing new jobs for production. Working with the customer, the Team takes a new part from being just a design on paper to an approved sampled part ready for production. The Department currently consists of nine Team Members, led by Engineering Manager, Dave Seedorf. There are two Process Engineers, two Project Engineers, an Engineering Specialist, an Engineering Technician, and two Interns.
How does your Department support Team 1’s Customers? Simply put, the Engineering Department supports Team 1’s customers by providing successful New Product Launches. Many tasks go into a successful New Product Launch. According to Dave Seedorf, one such task is to obtain quality molds that will meet the customers’ goals and technical requirements based on part drawings and CAD data. Another task is to develop production processes, determining what supplemental equipment, such as conveyor belts, robotics, and packaging containers, will be needed.
After the mold is built and a process established, the part needs to be sampled and tested. And most likely, problem solving and engineering changes will be needed since most parts are not ready for production after the initial testing. The tasks of sampling and testing and making changes continues until the part meets the customers’ requirements and is ready to run efficiently in production. “Our department comes up with all the engineering changes and the process to run the tools,” said Intern Nishant Choudhury. “We come up with changes and processes that allows us to have a minimum cycle time.”
Other tasks in a successful New Product Launch include documentation – assembling and submitting PPAPs (Production Part Approval Process) for approval – and consistent communication with the customer. All of these tasks are designed to support the customer in “achieving success and feeling comfortable with their products in our manufacturing/assembly plant,” said Project Engineer, Curtis Long.
How does your Department support Team 1? According to Seedorf, readily taking on customers’ complex challenges is one way that the Engineering Department supports Team 1. He explained, “Some companies would find it very easy to turn their backs on customers because they want them to do something that is difficult. They will walk away from the challenge. We take a different perspective and actually want to take on the challenge. Customers come to us because they need help. We want to offer our help. I think that’s how the Engineering Department supports Team 1.”
Another way is by ensuring efficient and successful New Product Launches, saving money both upfront and through the life of the project and procuring additional jobs in the future. “We want to run the least amount of trials and establish a good quality process upfront so that in production, there are no problems, and you have a robust process throughout the life of the product,” Seedorf said.
Travis Castle, Project Engineer, added that successful New Product Launches create customer satisfaction which often results in securing additional work in the future.
Seedorf also mentioned that the Engineering Department provides support for the Production Department, assisting them “if they’re short-handed or helping them solve complex problems.”
Describe a typical work day in your Department. Having several different positions in the Engineering Department, a typical work day is not the same for each of the Team Members. As Manager of the Department, Seedorf monitors and oversees projects, ensuring that “we’re doing what we said we’re going to do, and we’re doing it in a timely manner and meeting the objectives and commitments.” He often works with customers, helping them with details and technical aspects of both new and existing products. In addition, he works on RFQs (Requests for Quotation), responding to customer RFQs and sending out RFQs for molds to Team 1’s suppliers.
A typical day for the Process Engineers, Chris Seidel and Mitch Hemgesberg, the Project Engineers, Travis Castle and Curtis Long, and the two Interns, Nishant Choudhury and Clayton Ameel, consists of conducting molding trials, updating documentation, and solving issues with processes, molds, or robotics. Castle also routinely communicates with customers, updating them on the status of their projects.
Tim Kilcher, Engineering Specialist, and Harry Martin, Engineering Technician, spend their work days reading prints, measuring parts, and using the CMM (Coordinate Measuring Machine) machines to ensure that the parts produced are exactly to the customers’ technical specifications.
Share an example of a problem/challenge that your Department encountered and how you solved it. Problem solving is a major component of the work done in the Engineering Department so it is not surprising that the Team Members mentioned several different examples of challenges that had been solved. For example, Seidel told about two parts that “had an issue with a knit line that broke when it was assembled with a bolt at a specific torque limit.” The solution? “We adjusted the gate size, then adjusted the wall thickness, and moved the knit line into a thicker area of the part, and it was able to meet the customers’ torque limit.”
Castle mentioned lighting issues that a customer had experienced. Team 1 “ran multiple material trials that required blending of two different materials,” and found a solution to the issue.
Martin shared about the challenge of checking the inside dimensions of parts. Team 1 needed a way to cut the parts so that the insides were exposed. The solution? “We purchased a small bandsaw.”
Seedorf mentioned a current challenge which Team 1 is working through with its customer. “We have a problem with parts breaking. It’s been occurring for a couple of months. Our customer had asked us to make several engineering changes to try to strengthen the parts, thinking the issue is with the part design.” What has been determined, however, is that the issue is not with the part design, but with material breakdown. “This breakage is caused by hydrolysis and paralysis of the material,” Seedorf said. The customer needs parts immediately, and the normal solutions to this type of problem won’t work in time to meet the customers’ deadline. Seedorf said, “My recommendation was that we run 10 shots and then we stop the injection molding press and purge all of the material out of the machine. And, then we will put in fresh material in the machine and run 10 more shots. And, then we’ll purge all the material out again, and then put fresh material in again. We’ll keep doing that until we produce the required amount of parts.” Seedorf said that the customer – someone who specializes in hydrolysis and paralysis of material – “was absolutely floored. It’s out-of-the-box thinking because you don’t want to interrupt your process, but we all agree that we’re going to have better results.”
What is One Noteworthy Accomplishment by your Department in the recent past? Several Team Members shared noteworthy accomplishments from their personal perspective. The first was by Seedorf about a solution that “Mitch and Curtis spearheaded and did a great job with solving a problem for a customer.” He explained that Team 1 had built tooling and produced parts for a new job for a customer in Mexico. “At the last minute, there was some panic that the parts did not have a manufacturing date on them. This was a requirement that the customer had not communicated to Team 1,” said Seedorf. “We started investigating a laser etching machine. We did some sampling and testing and sent them samples and pictures. Mitch and Curtis did all the programming. Ultimately, the customer agreed to it as a solution.”
Seedorf said the solution went above the requirements of the customers and provided additional data. “They were looking simply for a date of manufacturer, and we provided a date, an hour, a minute, and a second. We’re able to etch all that information within the cycle time, and we have now a true traceability right down to the second. I think that was an accomplishment. It was quite impressive, and this is a new capability for Team 1 Plastics.”
The second noteworthy accomplishment is the success of Team 1’s Internship program with Ferris State University. Two former interns, Long and Hemgesberg, are now Team Members in the Engineering Department. Seedorf said, “I think the Internship process for us is a home run. I think it’s a great accomplishment!”
A third noteworthy accomplishment was the success of implementing some new transfer work. A customer recently transferred the production of several parts to Team 1 Plastics from its other suppliers. Seedorf said that the goal is to make the transfer from the other supplier to Team 1 “to be as seamless as possible. I think our Team has worked really well with the customer to make sure we were on top of things and to advise and address any concerns or issues that they had as quickly as possible. I think that’s been a good achievement for us.”
What are the Current Goals for your Department? According to Seedorf, the Engineering Department’s goals align with its KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). These are meeting its time commitment to its customers in “first-time sample obtainment and PPAP obtainment.” Seedorf said, “We have done some tracking over the last couple years and have some great information from which to build. There’s a lot of work to be done, and there’s improvement that needs to be made to make this happen because we’re currently not meeting all of our targets. We set targets because we want to meet or beat them, and we’re not meeting them right now. I take that to heart. We’re going to make some changes and make this happen.”
What does your Department take pride in? The Team said, “We take pride in our ability to come together and problem solve, thinking outside of the box, and coming up with processes and engineering changes that are beneficial for the company and the customers. We take pride in our ability in CMM programing and dimensional layout, and producing accurate and timely reports and checks. We take pride in our knowledge and experience. We take pride in meeting all of the customer’s requirements and in customer satisfaction. We take pride in working together to accomplish the goal of an on-time successful New Product Launch. We do a great job when we work together as a team.”
Department’s Random Poll: My First Car Poll
1 Never had any car!
1 I spent more time repairing it than driving it!
3 I am still in love with it
4 It’s just a way to get about