Just in Time
If you ask die manufacturers and converters what the most important emerging trend in the diecutting market is, you’ll understandably get a variety of answers. This market is as diverse as the applications that use dies in their finishing processes. The name of the game if you’re a converter or die manufacturer these days is adaptation. Gone is the separation of church and state between large-volume and small-volume diecutting operations. Now, large volume converters can take those last minute jobs and use lasers on their presses to run the smaller jobs.
Die manufacturers are also learning to adapt. Rotary die makers must address the emergence of flexible dies and their effect on the rotary die business. Some, like Gerhardt International, manufacture flexible dies and magnetic cylinders, along with solid rotary dies.
The driving forces behind these trends are many, but one common thread pervades the diecutting market today: converters are running smaller volume jobs and are switching tools more frequently. “Our clients, the converters, are switching set ups more frequently and running smaller quantities for just-in-time (JIT) delivery,” says Garrik Kumjian of General Metal Engraving. “Everyone in the business is trying to lower inventory and increase flexibility. Packaging and branding are becoming more customized and shorter runs are more common.”
Lower volume jobs mean more frequent tool changes, which means that diecutting products that help converters achieve the quickest set-up times possible are a must. More frequent tool changes also necessitate clear, concise communication between converters and die manufacturers to ensure dies arrive without imperfections, which requires education.
Educating the manufacturer and end user
As converters continue to reduce their product runs, communications between them and their die manufacturers becomes increasingly important. Communicating well requires converters to know the materials they’ll be cutting, their machines, and in particular, how to select/spec the right die ahead of time. Robert Weidhaas, president of the Weidhaas Group LLC states, “Everyone wants to get the job on and off the press as quickly as possible because the volume of sheets continues to drop.” The materials being cut also impact the diecutter. “There are a lot of plastics being cut today. Plastics will react differently than paper products,” says Weidhaas. “When you get into plastics, you really have to know your machine well, because the trend is fast set up.”