Henkel Proper mould maintenance takes more than just the right technology

Author / Editor: Tony Deligio, senior editor, Plastics Technology / Barbara Schulz

USA - As it expanded its moulding operations, US-based Henkel realised it would need to add more than moulding machines - namely, a toolroom.

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In addition to a 10-ton overhead crane, Henkel Richmond’s toolroom is outfitted with grinders, mills, lathes, EDMs, drill presses and a laser welder.
In addition to a 10-ton overhead crane, Henkel Richmond’s toolroom is outfitted with grinders, mills, lathes, EDMs, drill presses and a laser welder.
(Source: Henkel)

Robert Gattshall has been in injection moulding long enough to know a skilled toolmaker is a moulder’s best friend. When job No. 1 is running quality parts, and you know that isn’t possible without a functioning, well-maintained tool, you begin to appreciate just how important it is to have a mould maker on staff.

In April 2014, Greg Krueger, director of operations for Henkel’s Richmond, Missouri, site, recruited Gattshall to manage the engineering group for the Adhesive Technologies operation of the German conglomerate. Krueger’s big-picture plan was to establish an in-house toolroom, and bringing in Gattshall was just the beginning. As new products began launching, the absence of a toolroom became more and more problematic for the plant, which specializes in making bonding, sealing and surface treatments.

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When it initially ramped up injection, Henkel outsourced tool maintenance to Chicago-area mould makers that were more than 500 miles and seven-plus hours away. “It was identified that there was no way we could continue to do business having all those tools trucked to Chicago for repairs,” Gattshall says. Back then, it could take five days just to ship a mould to Chicago for maintenance, given the size of some of the tools Henkel deals with.

Converted from an old storage space, the toolroom went live in January 2016. It was designed by Gattshall and journeyman mould maker Craig Linhart, who was hired in April 2015. Henkel Richmond continues to round out the toolroom staff with the addition of five full-time employees and plans for eight total in the near future.

Putting in a preventive maintenance program

The changes at Henkel Richmond are new enough that a blueprint of the plant floor’s altered layout still hangs on Gattshall’s office wall. Green, blue and black markings denote where storage would become moulding bays and where the new toolroom would be carved out. Next to that is a schematic of the newly realised toolroom. On the top of the 8-by-11-inch black-and-white sheet is a design layout, while below it equipment is listed by “item,” “quantity” and “voltage/amperage.”

“We didn’t just put in a toolroom,” Gattshall says, “we put in a state-of-the-art toolroom.” Equipment on the floor in the newly refurbished space includes grinders, mills, lathes, EDMs, drill presses and a laser welder, while a new 10-ton overhead crane looks down from above.

Adding the requisite equipment is just the first step in creating an in-house tool-maintenance program. The next is to form a program that occupies that equipment, and the individuals running it, in the most efficient manner possible. The addition of the toolroom coincided nicely with Henkel’s bid to change its manufacturing culture from one of fixing the symptoms of faulty processes and equipment, to fixing the faulty process or equipment.

In the past, confronted by flash, for example, the company would assign a worker to trim it or alter the process to try to make it go away. Today, empowered workers make a decision based on a troubleshooting checklist that isolates the root cause as being related to process or tooling, or the machine.

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