As recently as a couple of years ago, it took engineers days or even weeks to obtain a quote for a custom plastic injection molding project. Today, the quotation processing time has been compressed to just a matter of hours. In fact, some systems return a quote instantly. With online systems, the automation of the quotation process has revolutionized the plastic injection molding industry.
The Need for Speed
Think about how quickly new models of cellphones hit the market, in all of their variations, colors, and the multitude of customizable accessories. We now have an unprecedented number of choices to personalize products, and the constantly changing product mix means that manufacturers are required to design, collaborate, and source at ludicrous speed.
Time-to-market greatly impacts competitive advantage, and manufacturers and suppliers are leveraging the immediacy of virtual connection and collaboration to do business. Ten years ago, only about 10% of businesses used online tools for sourcing manufacturing services; today, 90% do.
Technology has given buyers all sorts of online tools that increase their efficiency in finding suppliers, securely submitting RFQs, and receiving quotes online.
The shrinkage of the manufacturing time window has particularly affected the plastics industry. Due to the increased demand for high-specification products with short turnaround times, the need for fast prototyping and rapid production of plastic parts is greater than ever.
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Although 3D printing and additive manufacturing seems to be all we hear about these days, injection molding is here to stay. It is one of the most basic, reliable methods for manufacturing plastic parts, and it starts with a CAD drawing from an engineer.
The Connected Engineer
Engineers are online and using a variety of digital resources to perform work-related tasks more effectively and efficiently than ever. They include web searches for product availability information, equipment, services, and suppliers. Most important, they are using digital resources to request quotes from suppliers. In fact, according to the IHS Engineering360 research report, "2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector," 75% of technical professionals use supplier websites for information, and 62% use the Internet to request a price quote.
In the not-so-distant past, the quotation process had multiple steps, had to be touched by multiple people, and typically took multiple days. An engineer sent off an email to the custom molder with an attached CAD drawing and the part specifications, and there might have been some additional back-and-forth emails or phone calls to clarify the specifications. Then the request might have been forwarded to another person who actually worked up the quote. The quote might have come in the form of a spreadsheet, which then had to be converted to a quote form and finally delivered to the customer.
Today, however, technology and the advancement of complex, sophisticated online quotation systems have compressed the quote processing time from days to minutes.
Online Quotation Systems
A handful of the largest custom plastic injection molding companies, including ICOMold, have developed interactive systems with very large backend databases to automatically provide quotations, which in many cases require little to no human intervention.
Customers (engineers) typically upload CAD files to these systems, use dropdown menus to choose all the specifications like quantity of parts, plastic material, color, and finish. Multiple injection mold projects can even be included in the same RFQ. When all the options have been selected, a click on the Submit button sends the information to a huge database.
Requests are processed against data and cost information in the system to return quotations automatically. And today, the customer is not necessarily always the engineering type. Sparked by the likes of TV programs such as Shark Tank and crowdfunding, entrepreneurs are using online quotation systems to source their custom plastic products.
And the Online Interaction Continues
One unique aspect of the ICOMold online quotation system, in particular, is that it serves a dual purpose. Not only does it serve as an interactive quotation tool, it functions as a project management system once the project is launched.
The customer can track project status through the system, and communicate with the sales engineers and project managers on a discussion board. This eliminates communication delays that can happen with emails and phone calls. It also allows users to upload important files and documents, keeping all project information in one place that’s easily accessible by all parties.
Online quotation systems have transformed the process for getting quotes for custom plastic injection molding projects, shrinking timeframes. And the plastic parts themselves are getting produced faster. It’s hard to imagine how technology could make this process even faster, but it surely will happen.
Denny Scher is the Marketing Manager for ICOMold, a custom plastic injection molding company based in Holland (Toledo), Ohio. ICOMold manufactures plastic injection molds, plastic parts, and CNC machined prototypes for a variety of industries. Its online quotation system provides fast, interactive quotes and also serves as a project management platform. For more information, visit ICOMold.com.
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