Peter Ulintz Peter Ulintz
PMA Technical Consultant

New Business Producing Existing Parts

March 29, 2024
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Any company welcomes the award of business for any new product. But such awards require time to build tooling and submit initial samples to customers. Weeks or months may pass after receiving customer approval for production demands to reach a level that provides the desired cash flow. 

As an alternative, some companies pursue new opportunities to supply existing parts. The award of business may be described using terms such as reshoring, resourced tooling, supplier relocation, or offload or takeover tooling programs. Regardless of the term used, all can be classified as, “new business producing existing parts.” This type of new business provides immediate revenue for companies—an attractive proposition that often produces an urgency to close the deal. However, metal formers should proceed with caution, as such propositions entail risks.

Gaining new business producing existing parts demands a well-executed plan with a clear understanding of the associated risks. Companies must have the foresight to use plans and tools that ensure success in incorporating others’ problem jobs without adversely affecting their own operations. Skip this step and your existing production may soon become someone else’s new business.

Collect Data

When accepting new business producing existing parts, collect as much information and material from the customer as possible. This includes part drawings, tool designs, press-setup sheets, sample parts, etc. Speak to the customer’s product engineer(s) to understand the part’s design intent. If possible, visit the customer’s facility to where the parts will be shipped. Oftentimes, acceptance criteria for work relocated from one source to another is “as good as or better than that from the previous supplier.” This may imply that parts do not meet print specifications, adding even greater importance to attaining a clear understanding of how the parts will be used at the receiving plant and what matters to assembly-line personnel. 

Learn as much as possible about the product, the customer’s needs, and any previous experiences with the parts that the customer can share. The objective: Build a cooperative working relationship and shorten the learning curve.

Determine the level of available inventory, including work in process, and develop a timeline to fulfill the customer’s need for good parts. Collect asset lists (customer-owned tooling) for all parts of the process and a bill of materials for spare parts.

Evaluate the Opportunity

Evaluate the new business opportunity based on your company’s experience and capabilities. This is a crucial step. Play to strengths but, most importantly, do not ignore your company’s limitations for the sake of acquiring new business. Limitations eventually will surface, and the customer may feel deceived when they do. 

After identifying limitations, develop a well-defined written plan to convert them into strengths. A carefully written plan enables the successful address of corporate limitations, acquisition of new skills, development of new capabilities and integration of new business all at the same time. 

Review staffing levels and plan for additional training and/or additional staff, if required. Some companies overlook the human element in their haste to bring in new work. This can have a detrimental effect on employee morale as well as on part quality. 

Form cross-functional project teams to plan and track project status. Proper planning demands involving all departments. If everyone takes ownership of the project, the probability of success increases exponentially. Don’t forget to involve the supply chain, including logistics and packaging suppliers.

Implement a Project Plan

When the tooling and equipment arrives, thoroughly document (including photographs) their conditions. Prepare a detailed report for the customer outlining any shipping damage, die damage (including any welded die components), missing parts and obvious signs of abuse before running the tools or equipment. Spend an appropriate amount of time on this task, as it represents the only opportunity to document the condition of the tooling and equipment when they arrive. Provide the customer with a detailed cost estimate for every item requiring repair or reconditioning, and make notes about other items of concern, including: 

  • Guide pins worn on one side, indicating severe off-center loading or the running of the die in a poorly maintained press; 
  • Welded or other obviously repaired or altered die sections; 
  • Excessive shimming; 
  • Missing dowel pins; 
  • Missing pilots; 
  • Visually weak die conditions that could cause downtime issues during production; 
  • A bent stripper plate or a stripper with excessive travel, causing spring wear or breakage; 
  • The use of coiled die springs instead of nitrogen pressure under a draw pad, leading to the inability to alter draw-pad forces to correct wrinkles and splits. 

These represent only a few of the many possible items that may require documentation. A best practice would be to prepare a detailed checklist for evaluating each die, tool or fixture.

After the first parts have been produced and shipped, the customer may request cost and timing to bring the parts back into specification. Work with the assembly plant to ensure that “parts to print” will not cause assembly issues. That plant may have made compensations in its assembly jigs and other processes to accommodate nonconformances of which purchasing is unaware. In these instances, corrective changes to the part may affect adversely the assembly process and final-product quality.

The project plan should not conclude with the submission and approval of sample parts. As the final steps in the plan, take care to identify and eliminate waste, reach quoted production rates, reduce die-maintenance costs, and commit to reduce part-to-part variation. MF

Industry-Related Terms: Die, Draw, Plate, Stripper, Surface
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms

Technologies: Tooling

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