Is Custom Masking Right for Your Process?
Posted on Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Because custom masking can
involve an investment, some
companies shy away from it. To
cut costs in the long run as well
as simplify the finishing process,
custom masking just might be
the solution. Read on to see if
custom masking is right for your
The goal in every production
process is to keep it simple.
To do this there is a need to
break the process down to simple
steps. Steps that are easily documented
can be consistently repeated and are
easy to teach.
When it comes to masking, however,
the reality is far from that. “We
aren’t sure how to mask them as Joe
normally does those,” “I’m not sure
how we did that batch last time,”
In order to cut your finishing costs,
you need to make the masking process
easily repeatable. You need to remove
the complexity. Of course, custom
masking can involve an investment,
but it can bring the time it takes to
mask a product down from several
minutes to seconds. That time savings
alone might justify the investment.
Consider the typical masking environment:
the part is placed on the bench,
tape is applied to the part, and the tape
is then trimmed with a knife. Compare
that to the rapid peel-and-stick
of a custom die-cut mask or the rapid
push-on of a custom molded cap or
plug, and custom masking can reduce
errors, ensure consistency, speed
up the process and deliver a quality
For example, think about a product
that takes 4 minutes to mask by hand.
Investing in custom masking may reduce
that time to 30 seconds per item.
If you run 500 parts each month, that
custom mask will save you in excess
of 29 hours per month. Multiply those
savings by the number of times you
run the product over its lifetime and
it’s not difficult to calculate the time
savings and the impact of custom
masking on a job like this.
Die-cut masks can dramatically impact the speed of masking and bring order to the process.
And it’s not only jobs that have a
lot of parts or that repeat month after
month where custom masking can
help. Over and above the obvious savings
at the masking stage are the savings
that can be seen by bringing consistency
to the process. Those savings
can be seen in many areas throughout
the business. Inspection times can
be reduced, as there is confidence in
the process. Reworks, which often
include costly stripping processes and
risk damaging the component, can be
eliminated. Production planning can
be easier and more precise: knowing
that the process has consistency means
production times become known and
are repeatable. Customer service is
improved, as customer service agents
are no longer dealing with issues
regarding badly masked products. Accounting
people are no longer spending their time researching and issuing
credit notes. Quality control personnel
are no longer completing non-conformance
reports for customers. Good
masking can positively impact all the
areas of a business.
If you are experiencing any of the
following, it’s time to consider custom
It’s never good when a customer
complains. That customer can be the
end user of the product or it can be
the department who has to perform an
operation or process on the product
after your department has finished
with it. If you are experiencing customer
complaints where the root cause
involves masking or the finishing
process, it’s time to look for a custom
Lead Time Issues
Long lead times or production
bottlenecks in your finishing department
can be addressed. As you have
read, custom masking can dramatically
save time and can therefore impact
lead times. Custom masking can also
reduce bottlenecks in the flow of the
production process, ensuring that
parts pass freely and quickly through
the finishing area onto the next step of
You may want to increase production
of a particular product, but there
simply aren’t enough hours in the day
using the masking methods you are
currently using. If that is the case, consider
using a custom masking solution
to free up more hours in the day and
increase your capacity.
Sometimes customers want to give
you more work, but they can’t because
you can’t get to it or they know it will
overburden you. If that is the case, you
may only be getting a small percentage
of the work that your customer has.
Could you consider custom masking
for a few items in order to gain more
work from a customer that you enjoy
A custom plug can quickly go from concept to reality.
Do you seem to be constantly reworking parts due to
bad finishing? Could custom masking help reduce the
rework? It may be that the part requires a human touch to
get the masking line absolutely perfect, but could a custom
cap, die cut mask or plug cover 80 percent of the part and
give the masking person time to do a better job on the 20
percent of the part that requires human intuition.
So the question becomes not why to consider custom
masking, but how to consider it. That is where a good
masking company can help you. A good masking company
understands your problems and is able to listen to your
concerns. They will be able to help you review the jobs
you are working on and suggest custom masking solutions
that will remove the complexity and simplify your process.
The advantage of working with a masking company is they
know what can and cannot be delivered in terms of design,
materials and tolerances.
For a good masking company, custom masking isn’t
only about providing an unusual shaped die cut mask or
complex mold. It is about being engaged with the customer.
It is about listening to the customer’s needs and providing
a solution based on those needs. It may even go beyond
delivering the custom product into assisting with application
instructions for the product.
So take the time now to review your production and see
what steps are involved in the process. Then talk to your
masking company to see how they can help you reduce the
complexity of those steps. This will start you on the path to
reducing your costs and simplifying your finishing process.
John D. Gill is an engineer with experience in masking and
product protection throughout the United States and Europe. He
can be reached at www.johndgill.com and via www.caplugs.com.