Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) today face at least three hurdles unheard of in previous generations: 1) Hyper economic globalization means OEMS must battle for market share with competitors from myriad geographies while, 2) managing an increasingly complex supply chain with suppliers located all over the world. And, 3) End consumers continue to demand more from the products they buy, compelling OEMs to deliver more features and new designs – at the lowest price possible without sacrificing quality.

OEM Mabe is no exception. Headquartered in Mexico City, Mabe is a leading manufacturer and exporter of home appliances throughout Latin America and beyond.

“In 2020, we wanted to change the appearance of our washer and dryer models,” said Carolina Trejo, Innovation Leader for Clothes Care at Mabe. “We were looking to achieve a look that wasn’t available anywhere else in our market.”

The company decided to introduce a printed brushed metal pattern that would give the appliances’ backsplashes a high-end look without the expense of incorporating chrome. Trejo’s team approached suppliers from Mexico, the U.S., Japan and Spain to see whether they could create and print a consistent backsplash pattern within Mabe’s specifications.

Uneven brush pattern (front) compared to approved brush pattern (back)

All but one struggled to meet the parameters – DuraTech.

“The molding process was very exacting and none of the other suppliers complied with our specifications,” Trejo said. “Also, the only design suggestions our Industrial Design Operation (IDO) team was okay with were DuraTech’s, and they quoted good prices compared to the others.”

Account Manager BJ Tully led DuraTech’s new design and printing project for Mabe.

“In the summer of 2019, Carolina’s team came to us saying they wanted to introduce a facelift program that would make half of their current production obsolete,” he said. “They wanted to use a printed brush design that wasn’t available anywhere in the market and asked us to create a few custom patterns for their IDO team to consider.”

“BJ was very responsive to our needs,” Trejo said. “He would provide us with a lot of comparative quotes – five or six different options across 50 SKUs. It was a very detailed quoting process. We were in touch via conference calls and virtual meetings with his team two or three times a week, which made it easy for the IDO team to make decisions and move the program forward.”

Once the IDO team selected a few pattern concepts to consider, Tully traveled to Mexico to hand deliver samples.

A personal visit from an international supplier is unusual, Trejo noted, especially when the samples could have been delivered by courier. “Having BJ working with us there in our facility was so helpful,” she said. “We needed to make decisions according to our timeline and the only way to achieve that was by seeing the physical samples under specific lights. Our face-to-face discussions with BJ allowed us to move quicker because there was no need to spend valuable time triangulating information remotely.”

Example of the brush pattern being washed away in areas

From creating samples to full production

Initially, Tully suggested the use of a brushed PC or PET film, which was already being incorporated in the market for commercial laundry systems. These films were physically brushed on the first surface during the extrusion process, which meant the brush pattern would be everywhere on the in-mold label (IML). However, it was imperative that the brush pattern was select, because Mabe wanted to incorporate mirror chrome, text, LEDs, and display windows in their design, but did not want the brush pattern in these areas.

“We produced the pattern samples on liberator film,” he explained. “The difficult part of the process was figuring out how to print the pattern in a production setting via silk screening. That was challenging because the pattern required a lot of detail, with many lines being less than .010 of an inch.”

“It was a long development process to lay down the ink precisely,” Tully added. “We struggled during the launch of the pilot because the pattern was inconsistent. Many of the lines would be washed away during the prepress process, which would leave large areas of the background void of the pattern.”

Because of this precision detail, standardizing the look from part to part was also challenging. To ensure that quality measure was met, DuraTech adjusted the stroke of the artwork to make it more “printer friendly” to the silk-screening process. DuraTech also incorporated a quality system during the prepress step to ensure lines less than .010 of an inch were not washed away during the development of the screen. “That way,” Tully said, “before the part went to press, we were sure to get at least .007” inch line widths, which enabled us to standardize the product for Mabe.”

Close-up of brushed pattern on Mabe appliance

The final results

To date, DuraTech has printed millions of IMLs with the new brushed metal design for Mabe, enabling Trejo’s team to exceed its program goals. What’s more, Mabe now also has a menu of light and dark color ink combinations, ranging from silver to black, to meet increasing customer demand for customized looks.

“BJ’s professional support was central to Mabe’s success on this project,” Trejo said. “He had a very good understanding of Mabe’s needs and was always looking to provide the best service.”

The intense collaboration between DuraTech and Mabe empowered Mabe to surmount three of today’s OEM challenges: 1) Differentiating from increased competition by creating a new custom appearance for their washers and dryers, 2) Simplifying a complex global supply chain through regular communication and attention to the smallest detail, and 3) Meeting customer demand for new and unique design features.

Is your company struggling with similar modern OEM challenges? Contact us today to learn how DuraTech’s dedication to collaboration, personal service, uncompromising quality and competitive pricing can help.