Marland Mold: Relentless Focus on Meeting and Exceeding Customer Needs
A quick glimpse into the history of Marland Mold explains why this company is so unique and successful. The company was founded over sixty years ago in a garage by two former General Electric moldmakers, who, upon their retirement, sold the company to a larger corporation. In 1992, threatened to be shut down, Marland Mold’s employees formed an employee stock ownership program to take control of the company. In 2010, Marland has joined forces with France-based Curtil to create a truly global presence and one of the world’s leading injection mold making companies.
“The Marland Culture” is manifested in the company’s day-to-day operations. By organizing work into self-managed teams, responsibility is pushed down to front-line employees. Employees at all levels are given the tools, training, and opportunities to be informed and active participants in the company’s operations and have a say in all important decisions, from management selection to investment in new equipment.
With a focus on satisfying clients, improving quality, and adapting to change, Marland Mold is an industry leader in their market. The company’s core business is serving the food & beverage industry, maintaining a reputation for producing high-quality, cost-effective closure molds for over fifty years. Today, Marland services a variety of industries, including personal care & cosmetics, medical & pharmaceutical, and household & industrial products. Building on its stellar reputation for quality, the company has expanded to serve customers all around the world, in locations ranging from Australia and Thailand to Argentina and Brazil.
Challenge: Maintain Market Leadership in the Face of Growing Competition
The biggest challenge facing the company continues to be from overseas competition. However, Marland Mold continues to prosper by concentrating on their customer needs and producing molds that enable these customers to engineer new product lines, reduce costs, and compress molding cycle times.
“We recently purchased a mold from Marland that required a tight delivery and higher capacity. They produced a mold with a significant cycle time improvement. The end result is almost double the capacity over our existing workcell while maintaining the same foot print.”
Stephen Renwick, Pano Cap Canada Limited, Canada
Understanding the unique challenges and needs of their customers sets Marland apart from both overseas and domestic competition. Every customer project starts with the assignment of a team consisting of a Sales Executive, a Design Engineer, and the Manufacturing VP. The mold concept is developed with a balance of cost, performance, and longevity to produce a mold with optimum value to the customer. This hands-on approach ensures customer success and generates substantial repeat business and referrals.
Most of the molds produced by Marland run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To support its customers’ needs for high volume food and beverage closure production, Marland must provide quality tools that are long-lasting and have very tight tolerances and interchangeable components.
Recent trends present additional challenges for Marland. Driven by the need for updated designs, faster cycle times, lower costs, and “greener” products, customers are designing smaller caps made of thinner plastics and with more elaborate shapes and styles that require tighter tolerances. “There is also greater demand for prototyping, as customers are looking to try out different designs before they roll them out to production,” says John Nykorchuk, who has been with the company for 35 years and oversees the tooling programming.
Solution: Utilizing the Latest Advances in Moldmaking Processes and Technologies
To meet these requirements, Marland applies the most rigorous standards to every aspect of mold design and construction, utilizing the latest advances in moldmaking processes and technologies. At the heart of this process is Marland’s modern 84,000 sf facility, with state-of-the-art CNC machines and measuring equipment, organized for lean manufacturing.
The Cimatron software plays an important role in this setup. “Cimatron covers every aspect of mold making. Cimatron’s powerful translators allow us to go back and forth seamlessly between different applications, which helps us streamline the entire process. Even our quality control department is working from the same 3D Cimatron model.”
The ability to make alterations and surface regenerations using solids is critical for Marland. Nykorchuk elaborates: “We hardly work with normal shapes anymore. What we see today are mostly webbed surfaces, blended surfaces, mixtures of round-to-square, and just about everything in between. We are often forced to work with surfaces that have holes and glitches or are bad models altogether. Cimatron is flexible enough to recognize any model. It allows us to go in and alter these surfaces so that we can machine them to meet our customer needs.”
A big reason Marland has been able to stay ahead of the competition is the endless strive for continuous improvement that runs throughout the company. Over the past few years, Marland has taken additional steps to boost productivity by adding advanced new machines, including a 5-axis machining center with robotic pallet changer and automated probing and laser measurement.
Marland Mold added the Cimatron 5-axis software to support the programming for the new machines. According to Nykorchuk, “A lot of the five-axis work we do here could not have been done without Cimatron. The software is powerful enough to handle the complex designs we get from our customers yet easy to operate. The productivity boost we get from Cimatron is significant; with just two programmers we can successfully handle all the programming needs for the entire shop running 2-3 shifts.”
“It is important for us to work with a software vendor that provides strong customer support and can partner with us the way we partner with our customers,” says Nykorchuk. “The people at Cimatron really know mold making and have a strong understanding of our challenges and needs.”
Results: Producing High Quality Molds in a Timely Manner
“The new 5-axis machining center eliminates the need to move the part from one machine to another. With that, we are able to eliminate additional setup time, remove the risk of operator error, and increase accuracy,” explains Nykorchuk.
“You can take a part that used to require three different machines and get all the work done on one machine with one setup, so that eliminates all the extra fixturing which can now be done just once,” adds Gary Cushman, one of Marland’s senior machine operators.
There are additional time savings, as programmer Steve Dix explains: “With the higher speed spindles, we are able to do all the work at once, eliminating the need for roughing operations prior to heat treat. That alone can save at least 40% of the time it used to take.”
“With the 5-axis machine, we are able to use smaller tools and tilt the part in such ways that we can machine all the corners and avoid the use of electrodes. As a result, a significant portion of the EDM work we used to do is no longer needed now,” adds Nykorchuk.
“I can think of one part that used to require five different electrodes that we can now do without any EDM and with one single setup,” recalls Cushman. “This has eliminated the need to design the electrodes, program them, and do the burning with 5 different setups. The time savings could easily be as much as 25% of the overall production time for that mold.”
Most importantly, using 5-axis technology helps Marland make its customers more successful. For these customers, a reduction of one second cycle time can translate to savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars in high volume production. According to Dix, “Faster cycle times require better cooling. With the 5-axis machines we can get more accurate with the angles and closer to the cavity and core surfaces, which allows us to get better cooling.”
And while speed is important, quality remains top priority for Marland and its customers. “Before anything goes to the shop floor it goes through the Cimatron verifier. The Cimatron software is so accurate that we can completely trust the programs that come out of it. When the operators get a program they don’t need to spend the time to prove it out. This makes for a smooth transition from programming to the shop floor and streamlines our manufacturing process,” says Nykorchuk. “We are also able to gain additional productivity and run the machines unattended, with complete confidence that the parts will be machined correctly,” adds Cushman.