When manufacturing specialty commercial and municipal vehicles, a key challenge lies in sourcing large plastic parts for aftermarket production when series tooling reaches the end of its life. Particularly items like bumpers, side boards, electrical routing boards and large covers the sourcing is significantly higher because there are fewer potential suppliers and higher delivery costs than internal components. This challenge often necessitates costly refurbishments or tool replacements, leading to financial strains for businesses in a cost-competitive market. rpm rapid product manufacturing GmbH (rpm GmbH), a contract manufacturer with over 25 years of experience, offers pragmatic and cost-efficient solutions to produce these parts while serving the unique demands of companies producing utility and municipal vehicles in small series.
The Challenge: Sourcing Complex Parts for the Aftermarket Sales
In the specialized field of municipal vehicles, precision and durability are paramount. These vehicles will be used year-round in demanding conditions and for often unpredictable tasks. Any replacement part needs to withstand those challenges over a long usable lifetime. That is why when metal series tooling for high-pressure Reaction Injection Moulding (RIM) nears the end of its operational life, companies often face a difficult choice. The cost of tool refurbishment or purchase can be very high in relation to the part cost, particularly when the demand for ongoing production and replacement parts is in the hundreds, rather than thousands. This challenge highlights the need for innovative, cost-effective solutions that can ensure continual access to spare parts and retain profitability for the manufacturer in the aftermarket production for municipal vehicles.
When producing municipal vehicles for street cleaning or all-weather work, another layer of complexity emerges. Quite often custom orders and specialized components tailored to the unique requirements of each city are required. That means small batches with different paint treatments or specialized assembly steps that are not attractive to most suppliers. The need for adaptable, German-sourced solutions becomes even more critical to maintain a strong market presence.
Small-Series Production from One Flexible, Technical and Competent Partner
The solution is one that rpm GmbH, a small series contract manufacturer who have been delivering spare parts into the mobility industry using low-pressure RIM process for over 15 years. With a focus on serving brand name automotive and commercial vehicle companies, rpm brings a deep understanding of the challenges faced by businesses in the specialty and municipal vehicles manufacturing. Instead of relying on costly tool refurbishments or replacements, rpm GmbH’s approach is to work with plastic moulds for producing sets of 200 – 400 parts with series-equivalent materials. Their parts have been part of driving systems throughout Europe for decades.
What sets rpm GmbH apart is their extensive track record, wide variety of in-house technologies and deep technical expertise. Their production is calibrated to the strict and unique demands of low-volume parts for the automotive industry. They are able to pivot between technologies based on volume and timeline of the replacement parts. Their approach isn’t just about addressing the current demand but also drawing from this expertise to craft solutions that ensure long-term value.
For several customers, rpm solution of RIM tooling and part production is meeting the production needs for 3-5 years before needing to invest in additional low-cost tooling. They then provide various add-value services like assembly of electronic components or metal frames to reinforce the product and high-quality automotive-quality painting for use on the road. By keeping all production at their central location in Helmstedt they hold the product quality high and can quickly react to the new challenges. By providing this solution with low-pressure RIM, especially as several prominent players permanently shut their doors here in Europe, rpm helps their customers mitigate the risk of rapid obsolescence and ensures that businesses can maintain profitability in their aftermarket production processes.
Engineering Excellence: Adapting the Part to the rpm Technology
Working with a new solution always brings some challenges, but rpm has the technical expertise to quickly pivot to solutions. The materials used in RIM by rpm are series-near but slightly different than the performance of the series production parts. Especially for municipal vehicles that are working day and night in often extreme weather conditions, it is critical that they also perform equivalent to the series parts.
rpm also has the in-house expertise to engage in a rigorous process of iterative design and engineering to reach a solution. This often includes the redesign of the components by their engineering team, adding support structures using a combination of simulation and experience to propose a reliable solution. The new designs are then first tested with in-house rapid manufacturing technologies like Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printing. The parts then receive testing under extreme conditions ensures the reliability and quality of these components both by rpm and the end customer. When they arrive at a solution, that becomes the approved design for the aftermarket part and the knowledge can be applied to other similar items to extend the aftermarket part portfolio.
Enabling Companies with Series-Ready Solutions
rpm GmbH’s combination of engineering and production experience makes them a strong and reliable partner to deliver series-ready parts for aftermarket sales. They provide the full service that particularly the mid-sized manufacturers in specialty and municipal vehicles need from production to assembly services and rigorous quality inspection. From affixing screens or incorporating stability-enhancing metal frames to integrating metal inserts and installing electronics, rpm GmbH can delivery installation ready parts into the field.
In an era where businesses must navigate rising costs for tooling, production materials, and shipping, the value of partnering with trusted manufacturers like rpm GmbH cannot be overstated. By providing cost-effective solutions for large components in small series, rpm GmbH empowers businesses in the specialty and municipal vehicle sectors to thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape. Their approach delivers both business benefits and the peace of mind from working with a partner who understands the specific demands of the industry.