Increasing Efficiencies with Synthetic Dies

December 1, 2001
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TG Green is proving that synthetic dies can offer quick paybacks in production and quality improvements.

Synthetic dies help TG Green achieve high levels of quality on products such as the Antique Herbs tableware, shown above.
For more than two centuries, TG Green, a Cloverleaf Group Ltd. company based in Swadlincote, Derbyshire, England, has been producing a range of stoneware and earthenware products, including storage jars, tableware, mixing bowls, ovenware and Cornishware. The company has long been renowned for its skills and craftsmanship in producing ceramic products. Like many traditional ceramic manufacturers, TG Green used the RAM™ process* to press its products using plaster dies made in-house. But by the early 1990s, the company began struggling with an increasing labor shortage and the need to streamline production efficiencies in order to remain competitive.

About that same time, Porvair introduced a new synthetic die that could significantly extend the die life compared to plaster. All that was needed was a manufacturer willing to try the new dies and document their benefits. Porvair approached TG Green with a proposition to try the new synthetic dies and offered to help pay for the up-front tooling costs associated with switching from a plaster to synthetic pressing operation. TG Green agreed.

“Like a lot of companies in the UK at the time, we were looking for ways to try to reduce our labor requirements,” said Jeremy Redshaw, TG Green’s operations director. “It proved to be much more cost-effective in the long term to stop making our dies on-site, particularly for products that had long production runs.”

The dies could be used on the same RAM pressing equipment already in place, but a new die conditioning area had to be built to keep the dies clean and damp while they were being stored. Still, for Redshaw, the investment was easy to justify. “Using the synthetic dies would prevent us from having to recruit and train new employees to make plaster dies, so it was well worth the cost,” he said.

The synthetic dies last significantly longer than plaster dies, leading to reduced die costs per piece of ware produced.

Reaping the Benefits

It didn’t take long for Redshaw to start reaping the benefits from using the synthetic dies. On average, the new dies, which were made from a porous resin material, lasted over 15 times the number of pressings of plaster, leading to reduced die costs per piece of ware produced, improved yield, and the elimination of plaster mold-making costs. Additionally, the porous resin die material had the added benefit of flexibility. When the die halves contacted each other on or off the press, the die gave slightly rather than fracturing as it would have if made of plaster or another rigid material.

The dies could be cleaned and stored for use at a later date without noticeable die deterioration, and damaged dies could easily be restored and put back into service—a trait not shared by the conventional plaster dies. The flexibility of the dies also provided a closer bite-off on the ware, resulting in less fettling and sponging and therefore lower labor costs for finishing. And because the dies lasted longer and were not changed as often as plaster, TG Green also achieved savings in machine setup and teardown time, which translated into more machine use in longer production runs.

Because of these benefits, the new dies quickly paid for themselves. “We were able to achieve a payback in less than 12 months,” Redshaw said.

Remaining Competitive

Early versions of synthetic dies were quite expensive, but by the late 1990s, another supplier had entered the fray, and increased demand soon created better pricing and a competitive atmosphere. In June 1999, TG Green began obtaining its synthetic dies from ResTech, based in Drayton, Shropshire, England. “ResTech’s dies are very similar to the dies we were using before, but their prices were more in line with the sort of savings we were hoping to achieve,” Redshaw said.

As competition in the tableware and giftware markets becomes more intense, the synthetic dies continue to provide TG Green with benefits that help the company retain its competitive edge.

“TG Green strives to provide a high level of customer service while reducing our manufacturing costs so that we can remain competitive,” Redshaw said. “The synthetic dies help us achieve those goals. We’ve realized savings both in labor and in increased production efficiencies. Additionally, the quality of our products is far superior to what we were producing with plaster dies.”

For More Information

For more information about synthetic dies, contact ResTech-US, 1091 Stimmel Rd., Columbus, OH 43223; (614) 443-0626; fax (614) 443-4813; e-mail info@restechus.com; or USG Corp. - Industrial Products Division, 125 South Franklin St., Chicago, IL 60606; (312) 606-5691; fax (312) 214-5805; e-mail dbrandt@usg.com.

*The RAM Process and RAM Press are trademarks of RAM Products Inc., Columbus, Ohio.

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