The following is an edited excerpt from The Business of Injection Molding, by Clare Goldsberry. The book is the first title in the IMM Book Club Injection Molding Management Series, published in 1998 by IMM and Abby Communications. While much of the focus here is on a custom injection molding operation, many of the points about plant layout, machinery and equipment required, and staffing apply to captive molding operations as well.
Two decades ago, a $30 million custom molding company was considered a top business. Today, as a result of mergers, acquisitions, and growth that has outpaced the national average, a company that size is considered small. So although an individual can set up a small injection molding operation for less than $1 million, unless the company has a special capability to offer or establishes a sound financial relationship with one or two customers, chances for success are slight.
In addition, entering custom injection molding with two or three presses and minimal capabilities means entering a highly competitive market already crowded at the low end with several thousand molders. Because many of these molders, with sales less than $1 million annually, offer little in the way of secondary services, they compete on the basis of price. This results in thin margins and a low survival rate.
When the demand for world-class molding facilities is added to state-of-the-art manufacturing capabilities, the bar for entry into the custom injection molding business rises considerably. Instead of being able to enter the molding business on a shoestring, as many did 30 years ago, a large financial investment is now required. This generally requires the cooperation of a bank, an equipment leasing or lending institution, and financial backing from private investors to pull together the funds needed to succeed. Likewise, the barriers to entry for a captive operation to provide a good return on investment are high. It's not enough to buy molding machines and auxiliaries and leave them in place without improvements for the long haul. Captive operations also must not only make an initial investment, but be prepared to stay technologically attuned.
Find a Niche and a Focus
Most custom molders in business today have found a niche. Through experience, the molder became good at molding a particular type of part or at molding a particular kind of material, or became astute in working in a specific segment of the marketplace. In other words, he acquired an expertise and stuck with it. A captive molder inherits a market or a range of products, but must develop the same expertise and focus that a custom molder does.
Today it's increasingly apparent that if you're starting a plant or a business, you are either given or must find a niche-a specific market or product line-and focus on molding for that market or customer. Will you mold large parts? Small parts? Do you want to be a molder of low-volume, high-dollar parts? Or high-volume, low-dollar parts? Most people would answer that they want to be a molder of high-volume, high-dollar parts. If only it worked that