Improve your Thermoformer Uptime with a Red Tag/Green Tag System

by George (Brad) Braddon III

Red tag/green tag is a lean process of making sure each mold and trim tool is ready to go when needed so the thermoformer will not suffer downtime because of tooling issues. If the tag is red than the mold has not been inspected and cleaned and is not ready to go into the thermoformer. If the tag is green then the tooling is ready for use.

Mold on work bench with red tag
A red tagged mold is on the bench waiting for a good cleaning and inspection.

Apply the red tag

The first step is the job of the setup mechanic. They simply add a red tag to the mold and trim tool when it comes out of the thermoformer. On the red tag, they can add any notes or information that they know about the tool. This might be something like: "The water fitting on the outlet on the top mold is leaking, Todd R. 8-30-16". The mold is then placed in a queue on the rack with the red tag showing.

Clean and inspect the mold

At Commodore, Joel does the mold maintenance. His inspection could be as simple as separating the mold halves, cleaning the mold surfaces, inspecting, and applying a green tag. Cleaning the mold after every use is a lot easier than waiting for a buildup.

Here is the simple checklist that we use to inspect our molds:

  1. Check that mounting thread inserts are in place and below flush.
  2. Check that all running stops, alignment inserts and logo plates are firmly in place.
  3. Inspect for damage that should be repaired before the next use.
  4. Check the water fittings for damage or leaks, replace as needed.
  5. Check the vacuum holes for accumulation of dirt. If dirty, perform a higher level of cleaning.

This list evolves over time as you become accustomed to the process.

Mold with damage to edge
This is an example of mold damage that will be repaired before the next run.

Clean and inspect the trim tool

A similar process is followed for the trim tool. Apply the red tag, do the cleaning and inspection, and apply the green tag.

Here is the simple checklist that we use to inspect the trim tools:

  1. Look for any loose bolts.
  2. Check for damaged teeth on the serrated steel rule die, remove burrs or replace damaged pieces.
  3. Check the moving side stripper rubber and replace if needed
  4. Check the condition of the stripper retaining bolts and replace as needed

This is a very simple technique that is easy to understand and implement, and it virtually eliminates having problems with the tool while it is in the machine.

Molds on rack with green tags
These all have green tags. Ready to go!

If you have any additional questions about our red tag-green tag process or any other best practices feel free to contact me at 585-657-7777 ext 223.