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The Real Cost of Outsourcing Production Tooling to the Far East

When large OEMs such as JLR are ‘waving the flag’ in building a UK based supply chain, we are right to be more optimistic about the future of our Toolmaking industry.  But do you need ‘deep pockets’ in order to be patriotic and support the cause?

We have spoken to a number of leading UK Toolmakers and put together a short blog that will hopefully help with your justification to ‘Buy British’.

The obvious stuff!  On the face of it, tooling produced in the Far East is going to be cheaper.  That said, some of our PlastikCity Partner companies firmly believe that once you factor in costs such as travel expenses, increasing shipping costs and having to deal with the usual post-delivery ‘tweaks’ and unexpected problems, true cost differentials are typically only around 10%.

Longer term costs.  These are not always apparent from day one, but if a tool is correctly designed and specified, longer term productivity and reduced maintenance costs come into play.  To drive this excellence of design you need to fully understand the end product and a client’s long term expectations. Duncan Faulkner, Managing Director of Yorkshire based Faulkner Moulds commented, “We always consider tooling design with a view to efficient manufacturing.  This helps to ensure reliable, smooth-running production in the long term.  The care we take at the design and product development stage ultimately helps to reduce downtime, eliminates unnecessary design improvements, and increases the lifespan of the tool”.

Getting it right builds success.  Developing a close working relationship with a customer can be key to a successful business.  A good example of this is demonstrated by Telford based Sprint Tool & Die.  The company manufactures all tooling in-house,and has recently re-located to larger premises and invested in new equipment.  Managing Director Ian Amos commented, “We have a proven track record for working closely with our customers, something that is difficult to match if operating from a great distance and with the associated barriers of language and time-zones.  We believe that  this philosophy is the biggest contributor to our success,”  Sprint have entered the ‘Toolmaker of the Year’ category of the PIA’s twice in recent years, going on to win on both occasions.  The main judging criteria are based on a partnership between the toolmaker and their customer.

A UK managed solution.  There are obviously some excellent toolmakers based in the Far East, so if your project is managed by an experienced UK based team, there are certainly times when outsourcing is advantageous.  Nick Skidmore of Fenton Precision Engineering commented, “, we still occasionally source certain types of tooling from the Far East especially if say a suite of 20-30 moulds are being placed with Fenton, we sometimes need the Far East toolmakers to support. Over the years we have established suppliers who understand our build requirements and support with overflow work. Cores and cavities can be air-freighted over to be bench fitted to our ready and waiting tooling bolsters. We need to offer this service as it’s very difficult to foresee what tooling orders will be placed during normally quarterly cycles”.

Time is money!Depending on complexity and size, typical tooling lead-times for UK suppliers are between 10 and 12 weeks.  Unless you go to the extreme expense of air-freighting complete tools from the Far East, this is going to be attractive.  And what if there is a major issue with the tool, and you have bought directly from an overseas toolmaker?  In reality, you will probably end up having to have any corrections made in the UK at your own expense.

Other considerations.  If you still aren’t convinced by the above arguments, then also bear in mind other factors such as

  • Some Far Eastern toolmakers are closing, and they require funds in advance.
  • Intellectual Property. The associated laws are far stronger in the UK and Europe.
  • If you are developing a new product, straightforward communication with a knowledgeable supplier that knows your market is a big help.
  • The Environment. Sourcing within the UK will greatly reduce your Carbon Footprint for the project.

Visit the PlastikCity Toolmakers, Mould Accessories & Supporting Services section to see the best that the UK Toolmaking Industry can offer.


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