Due to its geopolitical position, Turkey is considered to have a serious potential in the European market, it has the potential to turn into a serious production centrein line with the changing economic balance all in the world. Due to their cheap labour, world’s giants have opened production centres in countries with large and unlimited human resources such as China and India, but these countries are far particularly from Europe in terms of market. In addition, this causes high logistics costs. Cultural differences and communication problems can cause problems in projects. In addition to these issues, while uncertainty in Middle East continues, new markets to be formed in the coming years in line with changing balances increase the potential and what kind of preparations Turkey will make is vital.
Right at this point, we have an opportunity that cannot be caught once more even if we want to. Particularly relevant mechanisms of the state, its position in the automotive field, a serious test for the sub-industries and its suppliers operating in Turkey has begun. We are on the verge of a process that will completely change the balances.
Today, the limitations on carbon emission rates, although new in Turkey, are seriously controlled in large production points such as America, Europe and Japan, and are one of the important marketing tools of large automotive companies. Reducing vehicle weights has become increasingly important in terms of reducing these emission rates, and a serious R&D investment has begun to be made for the use of plastic and composite materials in vehicles. This ratio will increase in the coming years, especially with the introduction of electric vehicles. At this point, Turkey's sense of creating its own brand name at will and choice of energy sources (oil, hybrid, electric) will determine the momentum of the industry, especially in Turkey.
Moulds are one of the most important tools in the automotive industry. Sheet metal moulds, plastic injection moulds are also the basic elements of this sector. The most efficient production method used today for the production of plastic parts is the plastic injection process. Mould is the foundation stone of this process. Mould making in Turkey has completed its babyhood, has relatively increased its capabilities, has started to develop itself rapidly. However, to what extent the companies producing moulds for the automotive sector in Turkey are aware of the potential and to what extent they can meet the expectations of the main industry and sub-industries create question marks. At this point, the faster progress of moulding in Turkey will be parallel to the awareness and investments of mould makers doing business in the market. Because although there is a substantial business potential in Turkey even now, the scarcity of mould makers in a scale for one to be able work with and the fact that they have a perception that they get enough work, problems of capacity direct the sub-industries abroad and unfortunately undermine our growth potential substantially.
Recently, the size of the market has been tried to be revealed and be brought into the forefront in many sectoral publications, newspapers and magazines. In this sense, it can be predicted how big the potential is by perceiving that everyone who is closely interested in the subject has access to market-related data and the sector is open to development. So, what are the expectations from the moulding industry in order to meet the expectations, increase the market and become the production centre of Europe? Considering the classical project process, we can summarize these expectations as follows:
1- Bid and Cost Management:
Many projects start with the bidding process, with 2D or 3D data. This process can be carried out directly by the main industry, or together with the sub-industry, the said data is sent to the mould makers and they are requested to place an offer. In this process, it is very important that the offers received are competitive. However, especially since most of the mould makers do not have cost analysis and do not have a measurable and traceable planning method, mould makers put forth prices with high safety margin in response to these bid requests. Mould makers, who have previously manufactured similar parts, cannot calculate real costs due to the reason that they do not use basic elements and documents such as production memory, learning points and standardization, and they put forth predictive and reactive values. Considering cost reduction and competitive targets, which are the basic understanding of the automotive sector, the main and sub-industries have difficulty in finding companies that are specialized in their business and that they will work continuously for similar moulds. The main industry and sub-industry have always preferred to work with mould makers specialized in various product ranges. Companies that manufacture similar parts inevitably create a know-how, it becomes easier to anticipate problems at the beginning of the project, it takes a short time to come up with solutions, and as a result, projects are ensured to be created with less problems.
Preparation of detailed analysis is also a problem at the beginning of the project. Due to the large number of offers, detailed analyses take time, and it is even sometimes seen as a cause of loss of work. These analyses, which are inevitable for the main and sub-industries to systematically and technically compare the offers, are a kind of prestige of the mould maker contrary to popular belief. Technical purchasing agents who receive these analyses do not put forward the company that offers the low price, but the company that gives the right offer, they have to. This is perhaps the most important point in terms of getting the award. Therefore, the company requesting an offer should clearly define the quality expectation at this stage, if not, the bidding mould makers should indicate in their offers the visual and technical problems that may arise in the future in line with their own predictions. For example, if a part located in the highly visual area of the vehicle needs to be filled with more than one runner, both sequential runner and open-ended hot runner can be offered considering the weld lines. If the firm has made an opinion on the weld line, it will not make any sense to bid with an open-ended hot runner system. Because in the future, in line with this quality expectation, the problem of the weld line will come to the fore and it will be time-wasting for both sides.
2- Project Management
What I want to state with project management is not only planning, but also reporting planning, perceiving customer expectations, transferring them to company management and employees, customer focus and solution partnership. It is known that one of the important points that distinguishes countries such as Portugal, Italy and Germany, which have a say in the world, especially in the moulding sector, from us is their project management logic and style.
Project management is a powerful marketing criterion. Reporting the mould planning to the customer periodically, visually, in the desired language, notifying any problem that may cause disruption in planning with fast solution suggestions, approaching the quality expectations of customers with empathy and analytical approach are the basic expectations of the main and sub-industries. The project management logic, the firms such as the ones I have mentioned, are always preferred. It is clear that the transformation of offers into business cannot be achieved solely with price affordability. The main and sub-industries want to work with firms that they can speak the same language, react quickly to their problems and approach analytically. Average automotive project durations vary between 1 and 2 years, especially in the passenger car group. Production continues for 5 years after passing from the project to mass production. Project management costs, which arise during this production-based process lasting an average of 7 years, can exceed the mould investment costs at many points for the main and sub-industries, which makes the mould makers preferred, although they do not give the lowest price.
3- Quality of Workmanship
Unfortunately, there is a lack of experienced technical staff in the moulding sector in our country as in every sector. Although the mould is thought to be an industrial field in today's technology, the importance of workmanship in terms of mould quality cannot be denied. Mould collection and tryout processes, which are indistinguishable from craftsmanship, will not be able to get ahead of the skilled hands of masters for years, even in the case of using the most advanced technology. Perhaps it is the scarcity of experienced hands that we feel most lacking in Turkey. Mould makers’ shifting some of their shares from their budgets for machinery investment, especially to schools providing moulding training, will increase the number of workers and masters to be trained in the future, and will permanently close the lack of experienced intermediate staff in Turkey. The efficiency of in-company or external training on moulding and new developments within companies should be increased. Becoming a production centre that has a voice in the world and maintaining continuity in this field can only be achieved with constantly updated trainings.
4- Problem Solving
Know-how has a very important place in the moulding industry as in every sector. As I mentioned above, the main and subsidiary industries especially want to work with companies that have knowledge, can produce solution suggestions and record application examples for similar situations. Contrary to what is thought, moulds have an important place in the automotive sector when investment items are taken as a basis; but its place is very low within the scope of general project budgets. Visits made during the project phase, the number of tryouts, loss of time and prestige, reliability come to the fore at this point. For example, quickly solving the mould-based problems that arise in the tryouts after the moulds are completed will minimize the costs of machine time spent during the tryouts, raw material, engineer labour, reporting and visits, will both ease the general planning of the sub-industry and increase the reliability by reducing the project costs – which has a very important place in receiving new works - and it will also create time for the main industry to concentrate on the different problems of the project. This issue is an issue seriously dwelled on by the main industries and may be at the top of the supplier selection criteria list. The reduction in the number of tryouts is also highly dependent on the performance of the moulder. Companies that create and constantly update their internal information pool, anticipate how they will solve the problems they have experienced before, and directly reflect their knowledge of Fault Mode Effect Analysis (FMEA) in mould designs. If the part design is not suitable for this, they put pressure on the main and subsidiary industry to correct it, and with the quality of machinery and workmanship, they ensure that the product they will release is put into use with the minimum number of tryouts. It is clear that mould makers working in this profile will not have a work or profitability problem.
The moulds, which have many problems after the injection tryout, entering the moulding room many times and the previous operations on them will cause deviation of the general planning foreseen in the moulding room. These inefficiency-based processes, which cause a serious loss of profitability, are very dangerous because they cannot be calculated clearly. The consequences can lead to loss, loss of prestige and hence work loss. Today, mould makers in Europe are in a serious dilemma in terms of labour costs, but they get works and try to survive with the help of the information pools and problem-solving skills they trust. If we want to have a say in this sector, we need to constantly fill our knowledge pool and make a difference with this information.
5- Financial Challenges
I would like to state that the payment approaches of the automotive companies in general have a serious impact on the moulding industry in Turkey. During projects that last 1 or 2 years, payments are made when certain milestones are achieved. Therefore, the expansion of the payment of the moulds, whose production is completed within 6 to 20 weeks on average, to 1.5 years causes the mould makers with small turnover to experience financial challenges. This problem is actually one of the biggest problems of the major sub-industries and has always been the subject of discussion with the main industries at the beginning of the project. Another reason for mould makers, who have been serving the automotive industry abroad for years, to get work is that they can endure these financing challenges. At this point, I think that the visits Mould makers will make to the main and sub-industries under the UKUB roof will be beneficial and they can meet on a common ground. In addition, it is a fact everyone will accept that a study work to be conducted with the Ministry of Industry to provide special tax opportunities is inevitable and vital for the development of the sector in Turkey.
6- Technical Equipment and Moulding Sub-Industries of which the Deficiency is Felt
Ultimately, the point I want to focus on will actually be on the deficiencies we encountered during the mouldmaker visits made by the OSD-TAYSAD-UKUB Evaluation Committee last year.
Although many companies visited had a much higher number of machine parks than expected, it was observed that there was a serious deficiency in terms of tryout press. It has been observed that companies that rely heavily on CNC machines, which provide very precise processing opportunities with the developing technology, have put the tryout presses into the background. Investing in tryout presses, which is one of the biggest obstacles to the lack of experience especially in high tonnage mould production, may provide a serious strategic benefit in terms of positioning the mould makers in the market. It should not be forgotten that many large moulds purchased from abroad have cost-generating processes such as maintenance and engineering changes. In investment decision calculations, apart from the processing of large moulds, these maintenance and modifications should also be evaluated.
Especially in plastic injection moulds, the most modified and most tempered with parts are runners and runner systems. In the Mould Draft Design meetings held immediately after the part designs are completed, the choice of runner system, which emerges in line with past experiences, directly affects the number of project tryouts and the quality of the part obtained in the first tryout. For this reason, the program and technical analysis made by the mould makers will make a difference in terms of labour investment, profitability and prestige. When filling, cooling and distortion analyses are made before the mould making phase, the mould quality will increase, and the mould improvement process will decrease. Thus, as the mould makers who analyse the subject gain more knowledge, the expectations from runner systems suppliers will increase day by day. The synergy that companies will achieve mutually in terms of solubility will increase the profitability of both sides, reduce time losses, and create capacity to get more business.
Concluding my words, the last thing I want to mention is the role of UKUB in terms of promoting moulding in Turkey and revealing its potential. The coming together of the mould makers is very important, especially in terms of state support and being a single force. Particularly, the fact that mould makers in Europe are supported by the state, and special opportunities in the taxation system are offered has been made possible thanks to such organizations. In this context, it is of vital importance for the sector to act in unity in order to receive state support, to establish moulding departments in universities and technical high schools, to increase R&D opportunities, and to eliminate the deficiencies.
In summary, the mould is one of the most important tools for the sub-industries that have started to have a say in the automotive industry, which is one of Turkey’s locomotive industries. Considering Europe and other developed countries, Turkey has a serious potential due to low labour and engineering costs and it is in its own hands to turn this into an opportunity. As I mentioned above, the expectations of the main industries are very basic and clear. In this direction, companies that make investments, create their own information pools, meet the globally accepted project management criteria, follow technology closely and make their investments in a continuous efficiency manner will grow; others will be lost as they cannot create value and difference.
Ali Özgür BOZKURT