How moldmakers evolve to become mold manufacturers

By: 
July 08, 2013

Are you a moldmaker or a mold manufacturer? And what’s the difference? Some companies prefer to be called mold “manufacturers” rather than mold “makers” or mold “builders.” In fact, one company that has “builder” in its name (M.S.I. Mold Builders) likes to be known as a mold “manufacturer.”

As mold companies become larger and more sophisticated, and implement more technology that enables them to increase throughput and boost productivity, they are tending to think of themselves as mold manufacturers. And while a company always needs good moldmakers, what they require as their businesses evolve are people with good management and operations skills – people who know how to run a manufacturing plant.

Making the transition from moldmaker to mold manufacturer requires different skill sets in planning, management, scheduling, inventory control, and sales and marketing. Steve Kimm, operations manager for M.S.I. Mold Builders (www.msimoldbuilders.com) says, “It takes additional skill sets and experiences than are normally seen in a traditional mold shop.”

M.S.I. is in the final stages of completing a plant expansion and added larger equipment to expand it capabilities to make even larger molds than the company does currently. Kimm’s focus is systematizing processes and procedures, facility, standardizing work and implementing it.

“I need people who can recognize waste streams and create value-added processes,” Kimm says. “We need managers with experience in establishing metrics and measuring systems so that we can know we’re doing better this year than the year before. We want to monitor processes and how these are being followed, and maintain and sustain our business growth.”

The company conducts regular reviews of all of its processes, procedures and metrics. “People will do what you review,” Kimm says. “We establish front-line leadership with expectations on a daily basis. They teach and ‘sell’ the manufacturing process.”
   
While implementing new processes, procedures and making changes are important, Tim Peterson, VP of Industrial Molds Group (www.industrialmolds.com), notes that you have to be careful. “We saw a lot of things that didn’t work in our company,” he says. “It starts being the flavor of the day and sometimes people are too quick to make a change for the sake of change.”
   
Peterson recommends that companies begin implementing a quality process in which everything is done the same way every day. “Define your process,” he says. “We have ISO certification, and as a moldmaker I thought it was a waste of time. Now I see how valuable this system is.”
   
Another key to Industrial Molds’ success is its people. “We never stop investing in people,” says Peterson. “It’s about having the right people in the right job. It’s also about taking small steps. We didn’t go from being moldmakers to mold manufacturers in a year. It took methodical planning and selling the plan to our employees along the way. We have to evaluate and re-evaluate that what we’re doing is right today for the challenges of business.”
   
Industrial Molds Group has also worked hard on developing a team culture. “We’re all in this together so if one person drops the ball it hurts all of us,” says Peterson.
   
Rick Finnie, president of M.R. Mold & Engineering Corp. (www.mrmold.com), depends on the input of his employees in all the decisions he makes regarding mold production. “I never make a lead-time promise without asking ‘can we do this?’” Finnie says.
   
Four Tips for a Successful Mold Business

Dan Mishek, managing director and co-owner at Vista Technologies (www.vistatek.com), has four tips for creating a more successful business:

1)    Track trends:  Tracking trends is important because it can help business owners make better decision about the things that are impacting their business.  For example, the problem isn’t so much why we can’t get young people into manufacturing, but the methods we’re using to attract them. “How many of us are on twitter?” he asked. “We have to be where the young people are and be creative in attracting them to manufacturing.”
2)    Think beyond today’s workload: Mold makers tend to put some things on hold because they’re so busy, and even make poor business decisions such as laying off their sales people because they’ve got a six-month backlog. “Put people where they belong doing what they do best,” Mishek said. “Mold companies often put the highest-paid people doing quotes.”
3)    Match up like personalities when engaging the customer. People do business with people, not companies, so it’s key to match up your sales person with a purchasing person or engineer that has similar interests. “You don’t want to send a sales person who will talk about the deer he killed over the weekend to talk to a customer or potential customer if that person is an avid animal protector,” he said.

Make partnerships and friendships. “Be givers, not takers,” Mishek advised. “Take people to lunch, send thank you notes, show appreciation for their business.”

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