By Kim Dykman, Apex Purchasing/Supplier Development, on May 10th, 2021.
Need help with motion?
You are a plastic components manufacturer in the Midwest. In fact, you are the best in the industry. You know the in’s and out’s of plastic components, but when it comes to motion solutions (springs), you lack expert knowledge. Recently, one of your best customers has a concept that requires a plastic part to move back and forth. You know that to make that motion, you will need some sort of spring clip or wire-coiled spring. In this scenario, what do you do?
It’s an opportunity that cannot be ignored, but requires an expert to provide a quality solution. This is where Apex steps in. Our team of engineering experts are the perfect partners to assist in this scenario. Apex is poised to support projects from start to finish and everywhere in between. How does that work? Let’s take a deeper look at Apex’s process.
It all starts with a conversation, not a pitch.
Our team is made up of trained and certified engineers. Whether your project requires a face-to-face visit, an online video, call or a simple phone call to discuss your needs, they will set a time to discuss your needs, understand the scope, and brainstorm solutions for your project.
Getting to know YOU.
In order for Apex to develop a customized solution, we have to understand you and your product. We will walk through a series of questions to understand your organization, plastic parts, and dig into details about performance, strength, and other end-use questions. Your customers’ satisfaction is of equal importance to us, so we spend the time to ensure that we create a part that meets the requirements. As a benefit, we do not require a print part!
It’s time for Design!
Our engineers start working on designs using our specialized CAD program. In this phase, we will suggest material options, draw your print, and provide samples for prototyping. The design can be adjusted throughout the process to meet the needs of the application. All of this happens right here at our manufacturing offices in West Michigan.
Approve, Quote, and Go!
Once a design (including print and/or samples) is approved, a competitive quote is created for the project. In this process, Apex uses a cross-functional team to perform APQP (Advanced Part Quality Planning). This is a system used to ensure that every one of the project requirements can be executed with excellence by each department.
Get to Work!
When a PO is received, we get right to work at Apex’s in-house tooling facility. Keeping this step of the process in-house can shave off several weeks of lead time compared to competitors. Our specially trained team will even do the EDM work on-site, which is a rare benefit in the manufacturing industry. Many companies outsource these services, but when you work with Apex, you get this benefit every time you work with us.
It’s Tooling Time!
Now comes the exciting ‘part’! 😊 The tool steels are made and the tooling is carefully put together. Once the tooling is finished, our toolmakers walk the finished tools across the plant and install them into a machine. This is once again, a great benefit of having an in-house facility! The tooling is observed as samples are built, tested, and measured repeatedly. Apex is committed to quality and has invested in a NEW Optical Comparator that is used in the process of our stress and strength testing. When the toolmaker is confident with the part, it’s off to qualify for additional testing!
Quantity Deserves Quality.
Your parts are measured again and again to make sure all the specifics are met. If requested, Apex will also conduct a FMEA (Failure Mode Estimated Analysis) and PPAP (Part Production Approval Process). When standards are met, the material is then ordered based on the specifications of the part. These materials are meticulously inspected upon receipt and then assigned a unique lot number. The machine is then turned on to produce additional samples that are once again measured and reviewed for accuracy.
Ready, Set, APPROVED!
Once the testing is finalized, a first piece approval is done (the part is retained) and the parts start running. Every project has dedicated machine operators that are responsible for running parts. This is not the only job they have though. These skilled operators perform SPC checks and enter data every two hours to ensure that the parts continue to run to print. Each data point is carefully reviewed to watch for trends and on target CPK numbers. If it’s found that a part is not being produced at the most optimal level, machines are shut down and adjustments are made immediately. Timing is important and our priority is to keep your order running.
From First to Last.
Once an order is run, the last piece is once again reviewed and inspected. This part is then retained for unique lot traceability and our records.
Box them up!
Parts are handed to Apex’s shipping department where every part is counted and packaged. Dock orders are created and off they go! Parts are shipped to meet the delivery deadline.
Apex has a facility located in Howard City, Michigan that is specifically designed to support assembly work. If a project requires assembly, Apex can do it! We can put together a “multi-part system” using Apex parts, customer-supplied components, and/or components purchased for a project. Assemblies can be custom packaged in special cell packs or kits. The same level of quality is applied to all assembly projects, which receive final inspections before they are shipped.
In the end, Apex can execute and deliver a project from start to finish in less time than other suppliers.
So, if you are ever in the scenario where a motion part is required, the Apex team is ready to help. Apex can be the difference you have been looking for to help win that next customer. Let’s connect, start the conversation with one of our Sales Engineers today!