Software Organising a shop’s entire production process

Editor: Eric Culp

SF Moldes, a mould manufacturer in Oliveira de Azeméis in northwestern Portugal, uses software from Tebis from start to finish, relying on programs from the point of job planning to actual manufacturing.

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One of the shop’s tools, made to the requirements of some of the world’s biggest and most prestigious carmakers.
One of the shop’s tools, made to the requirements of some of the world’s biggest and most prestigious carmakers.
(Source: Tebis)

Despite all the advances in mould making, some parts of the industry are still lacking, according to António Rocha, managing director of SF Moldes. “High-quality, all-around service isn't a matter of course today.”

Related: Portugal mould sales rise 15% in 2013

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Rocha is a man who has seen plenty of changes in the market, giving him insight into what it demands. As a subsidiary of Germany’s Schneider Form, SF Moldes continues to run the business of CRMoldes, a firm that Rocha himself founded in 1980. Thanks to Rocha and his team, CRMoldes was able to rise to an position in the upper ranks of Portuguese mould manufacturers, even before the takeover in 2006.

Supplying top carmakers

The success of the company, which currently has 200 employees, speaks for itself. SF Moldes manufactures products that include plastic and die casting molds for the electrical equipment and electronics industries. However, the largest portion of the company's revenues – 97% – comes from the automotive sector. The company’s products wind up in models from some of the world’s most famous badges. Customers include Audi, Jaguar, and Volkswagen as well as Ford and BMW.

Rocha views the comprehensive customer support as one of the main reasons why SF Moldes was able to establish itself as a manufacturer of top technology: “I really believe that this distinguishes us from the other mould manufacturers: Our goal is to consistently deliver the best to our customers.” But there’s more, he said. “Customers should be satisfied not only with the products themselves, but also with the service we offer afterward. This is how a company gains credibility. If a company values quality, good service, reliability, and an after-sale warranty, they turn to us.”

This mindset was at the forefront when the company selected a software vendor, Rocha explained. “Why did we choose Tebis? Tebis pursues a customer strategy similar to our own.”

When making the decision, the Portuguese subsidiary is said to have drawn on the experience of its parent company, which in 2011 decided to use Tebis throughout the group. An initial analysis revealed a six-figure savings potential per year. The analysis was performed jointly with the vendor based on data, provided by Schneider Form employees, about time, effort and costs. The results of a benchmark test with other CAD/CAM systems pointed in the same direction: In terms of calculation time and surface quality, Tebis outscored its competitors.

Rocha noted that the vendor offers a large portfolio and covers the necessary CAM spectrum for tool and mould making. “Today we have six workstations for 3+2-axis milling and one for 5-axis milling, an electrode module, two Simulator licenses, and a measurement point generator. This is exactly what we need at the present moment. It’s nice that all the modules are part of a higher-level process. The software effectively thinks along with us.”

Intelligent process tools

He highlighted the job manager, said to be the system’s central organisation and control tool, one that can be accessed from every workstation. NC templates ensure safe, standardised workflows, Rocha noted, adding that for the shop, this means the communication between the employees involved in the process is better than ever before. Changes are immediately fed back into the information chain. “Tebis has really managed to virtually map all of our processes – from job planning, to NC programming, all the way to manufacturing – and make them accessible to everyone.” This has motivated shop staff, he added.

The other Portuguese mould manufacturers have also recognised that good software is much more than the sum of its parts. Investments are currently being made in software at a very high level. Rocha's take on this: “The companies are wise to always use the latest programs. Ultimately, the software must support the company's development in order to pay off over the long term.”

Rocha underlined the improvements at the plant since choosing the software. “Production has increased by 20% to 40%, depending on the application. Overall, our machining has become more reliable and more routine.”

Partners through and through

Rocha said the working relationship with his software vendor has played an important role in the shop’s success. “The co-operation based on partnership, the support before the sale, and especially the support we receive after the sale are especially important to us. These factors instill a sense of security and trust, which keeps our minds free so that we can concentrate entirely on our core tasks. We know that Tebis closely observes the market, flexibly responds to new trends, and continuously evolves.”

Moreover, the vendor remains engaged, and offers help and advice, Rocha said. “We work to solve our problems together.”

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