We keep hearing from the automotive industry that there is a shortage of moldmakers. Yet, moldmakers keep wondering where all the business is? Surely, if there's a shortage of moldmakers, there must be more business out there.
Darcy King, president and CEO of Unique Tool & Gauge, along with his director of sales and program management, Al Standaert and Joe Luckino, director of new business development, sat down for a conversation about finding and capturing new business. There are five keys to finding and capturing new business that King has found works for Unique, a mold manufacturing company that specializes in large-sized aluminum molds for the automotive industry.
1. Don't be afraid to expand your operations to meet capacity and technical requirements. King notes that every company with which he deals contacts him with the same concern: "How much capacity can we handle?" That's a tough question to answer because there are a lot of variables, including how much of the mold work stays here and how much will be off-shored. "In spite of the reshoring talk, there's still a lot of work going overseas," King said. "We have a really good niche, we work with both Tier 1s and OEMs, and we still see a lot of work going to Asia. That's a variable that we don't know - how much will go to Asia."
In spite of that uncertainty, King noted that moldmakers have really improved their capacity over the past few years. "We can certainly do more work than in 2009," he stated. "We've expanded our facilities, and our competitors have as well. The key to being able to grab the work is to transform your operations into world-class facility. Have good equipment and a good team focused on taking care of customers."
2. Have a good marketing plan and get the word out that your company is the best provider of the services your customers and potential customers need, and really push to get that out there. "That's part of the differentiation - keeping your customer base as large as you can so you can invest in technology and stay busy. The days of sending your brochure out and hoping someone will call or come knocking on your door are over. It isn't going to happen," Luckino said. "And winning the work is more than just about the cheapest price. Today, jobs are awarded from a group sourcing board that take into consideration service, equipment capability, tooling engineering and program management, tooling cost, and the overall confidence that our customers have in us to get the job done on time."
3. Agility is key; being able to move faster in every phase of the program, noted Standaert. "A customer will send us something to look at and quote, and we have to get the quote out accurately and very quickly. We have to adjust our schedule to their schedule and be able to turn the mold build around quickly," Standaert emphasized. "We try to limit the mold trails to one or two before the mold goes out the door and ensure the quality of the of part, and by shipping a more production-ready mold in a shorter time, which in turn limits the time they have to spend performing trials."
Today's large OEMs have a lot of inexperienced, younger engineers on their staff due to downsizing and the retiring of Baby Boomers, and that moldmakers are required to pick up that slack. "We have a lot of experience on our end and that can go a long way toward making their life easier," added Standaert. "Customers want full service suppliers. The time between when the OEM kicks off the program to full production is a lot shorter than in the past."
4. Meet lead times and deliver on-time, every time. The history that Unique has in delivering the job on time plays a big role in the company's ability get new programs from both new and repeat customers. "We have to be capable with equipment, engineering and program management. And It takes a well rounded team in order be busy all the time," Luckino said. "Tool builds are done a lot quicker in today's global market, and being able to meet their lead times results in customers gaining confidence in you as a supplier."
5. Offer customers solutions to whatever they require and make value-added services a key to your business development strategy. "We have the ability to offer services besides moldmaking. As an organization we're looking to provide full range of services to our customer for a one-stop shop, including gauges and fixtures, any type of mold build, as well as painting and assembly," explained Standaert. "We're doing more than what was done in the past. Everyone in our industry is tasked to do more work with fewer people. Instead of our customers dealing with two or three suppliers for one program, they deal with us. The customers' job just got easier. We're here to make our customers to look good and make their job easier. We're here to do a quality job, quickly, efficiently and make their lives easier. That's true with all facets of the mold build. If they want to go to China, we manage their program there. We've spent a lot of time researching China so we could come up with solutions for our customers who want to have molds built there. You can't fight a trend. Our customers are going to be asking about China and we're going to accommodate their request. There are things you might not want to do but to make customers happy you have to be able to provide these solutions."
King concurred. "We can have all the greatest equipment and technology, but if we can't provide the service they won't come back. That's the difference in landing a customer and keeping them happy so they come back time-after-time," he said.