Editor’s note: In the first half of 2000, IMM outlined many of the challenges the molding industry faces. We explored some of the critical issues in management, sales and marketing, design, tooling, and manufacturing. As the last half of the year gets under way, we begin an exploration of how molders, moldmakers, and designers are meeting these challenges and thriving in this evolving industry. We start this month with management solutions, the strategies some molders use to keep their business in business in the new century.
Success stories in the molding industry aren’t hard to find. Large, high-profile, internationally located, multimillion-dollar molders are well-known and, thanks in part to M&A, growing by the day. Still, the molding industry is composed mainly of small- to medium-sized shops that don’t enjoy many of the perks that come with being a molding giant. But they face the same challenges, and then some, of running a plant, managing people, and growing the business. This month’s Blueprint story looks at several molders, all of relatively average size, and explores the strategies they use to help their businesses thrive.
|'We just couldn't keep doing this cyclical thing of bidding ourselves down. With this new business we can bundle services, develop partnerships, and create more value.'|
The first stop is Mount Prospect, IL, home of Advantage Molding & Decorating Inc., led by Penny Froh, president. Froh and Vice President Pat Ketner started the business on April Fool’s Day 1993 with one molding machine and one pad printer. And like many molders in the Chicago area, they began a life of service to Motorola, one of the region’s largest sources of molding programs, specializing in molding and decorating mobile phone lenses.
Within a year the company was making $2 million. By the end of 1995 that number reached $10 million, and is expected to top $20 million this year. Froh continually reinvested in the company, adding machines, people, and expertise. A second shop was opened in Naples, FL. Advantage was told by one Motorola division that it was "the best at molding lenses in the world." Business was booming.
Still, Froh says, Advantage competed on an essentially level playing field against many of the same molders for many of the same jobs. "Basically, we’re all just glorified job shops," says Froh. "We just beat up each other."
As the 1990s came to a close, Froh and Advantage realized that it would have to do two things to ensure its prosperity. The first was to diversify. The second was to start doing something none of its competition was doing.
The first was relatively easy. Advantage started chasing jobs in other sectors of the telecommunications and electronics industries, and started courting other Motorola divisions that could benefit from the expertise Advantage had developed.
The second part, doing something unique, was easy to identify, but harder to implement. "What our competitors don’t do is design," Froh says. So Advantage did what many molders are doing, or wish they could do. It added a whole new service to its