Customers come to MGS Mfg. Group (Germantown, WI) with engineering problems and ask the group to quote a solution. Rich in resources, the group can adapt itself to developing just what its customers need.
Ask where you can find the best multishot product development, tooling, machinery, and parts molding the world has to offer, and many will probably answer, âGermany.â Ask major multinational OEMs actually sourcing multishot engineering and manufacturing services the same questionâOEMs like Motorola, for instanceâand theyâll probably answer âGermantown.â
Germantown, WI is home to MGS Mfg. Group Inc. Never heard of MGS? Itâs the number one moldmaker for many OEMs. Itâs also a moldmaker for the TXM industry. Still not ringing any bells?
Maybe you read about the glass mold it built for John Bozzelli last year (see âA Mold With a View,â December 2002 IMM.). No? Well, maybe you know it better as Moldmakers Inc., or as TecStar Mfg. Group, or Statistical Plastics Corp. Those are three of the most popular members of the group, a group some call the best-kept secret in the business.
|MGS Mfg. Group, Germantown, WI
Square footage: 300,000 sq ft (including Moldmakers Inc.,
Mark G. Sellers, founder and CEO, started out in 1982 in the Milwaukee area with a handful of other skilled toolmakers. MGS Mfg. Group has locations in three states today with close to 500,000 sq ft of total floor space. Itâs a full-service supplier, to put it mildly.
It still builds molds, though. Does it ever. It has the capacity to deliver
$1 million worth of molds every week. Last year, MGS built more than 340 molds and 50-plus rotary platens.
Though itâs based in Germantown here in the New World, the group has adapted many Old World business practices, some that have earned molding operations in countries like Germany a reputation for excellence.
Topping the list is a commitment to cultivate skilled craftsmen dedicated to delivering exactly what customers expect exactly when they expect it. Weâre expected. Letâs tour.
What is MGS? âWeâre an engineering and manufacturing service provider,â says our host John Berg, marketing director. âWeâre generally recognized as being the sixth or eighth largest moldmaker in the U.S., depending on the month the surveys are taken. We run a product development lab like no one elseâs in the business. We have three large-scale injection and blowmolding facilities, and weâre also a machinery OEM. Basically, if the customer needs it, we can make it.â
In a nutshell, he says the group provides the following:
This monthâs story focuses on the core of the companyâs many competenciesâits moldmaking, or, to be more specific, its moldmakers. In Part 2 next month, weâll set our sights on MGSâs injection molding activitiesâits multishot molding activities, in particular.
Raising the Bar
People are the groupâs true strength, according to John J. Hahn, VP of engineering. âAnyone can have high-tech, high-speed, leading-edge systems for making molds. But when things get out on that lunatic fringe you have to talk to the guys on the floor and say, âOK, who wants to sleep here tonight to get this job done?â We know our guys will raise their hands.â
Weâre told that Sellers pays his people well. âHe wants the top 20 percent, the cream of the crop, the Michael Jordans and Tiger Woods of the moldmaking trade, and he wants them to stay,â Hahn says.
Most of all, Sellers wants moldmakers on board who are willing to teach company newcomers to do a better job than they can do themselves.
The life span of many of todayâs parts is shrinking. The group believes that it canât offer the same kind of tools and parts it did just two years ago. The tools it sells today canât look like the tools itâs selling two years from now. Training raises the bar.
âWhen you walk out on the floor everyone is your boss,â Hahn says. âMarkâs goal is to continuously raise the barâto train someone else to become better than you. He supports everyone 100 percent to learn and to grow. And he expects us to assume the responsibility to continually monitor, evaluate, teach, and learn. We are all accountable and responsible.â
âWe have a corporate employee services department, not a human resources department,â says Berg. âMark doesnât believe his people are âresources,â like capital equipment. People are the key to our success.â
Lunch Is Served
Wisconsin has a state-sponsored apprenticeship program for toolmakers. The group has its ownâthe MGS Internal Trade Program. âWe support the state program, but we add our own on top,â Berg says.
When weâre escorted to the Moldmakers Inc. cafeteria, we see why we were invited to tour on a Thursday. Every Thursday the new moldmaker trainees serve lunch. âLike in everything else around here, the lunch teams of interns work as a teamâa primary worker, a backup, and a backup to the backup,â says Berg.
âThereâs no cutting corners. You simply cannot tell people here, âSorry, lunch will be late today.â The same sorts of disciplines are involved making molds. They distribute the menus personally and through e-mail, take the orders, get the food, cook it, serve it, and clean up afterwards. And it better taste good, too. Doing things like this reinforces skills theyâll needâcommunication and commitmentâto get a quality tool out on time.â
If newcomers are good, the group wonât let them go. Berg says MGS hires people they want even if they donât immediately have a place for them.
The company has more than 30 engineers and 100-plus toolmakers. Its engineers have ample
3-D CAD/CAM/ CAE capacity at their fingertips, including workstations running complete suites from Unigraphics, Pro/Engineer, SDRC, AutoCAD, SolidWorks, SolidDesigner, Work NC, Mastercam, and SurfCAM.
Mold manufacturing in Germantown is done at Moldmakers Inc., TecStar, and in the MGS Technical Center. The company builds multishot, multicavity, and auto-unscrewing molds. Multishot molds are its specialty. It even holds in-house seminars on multishot tooling. The group also builds molds with hot runners and molds for insert molding, thin-walling, and prototypes.
Stack molds and blowmolds also are built here, as are tools for diecasting and magnesium molding. MGS makes many of its own mold bases.
Last year the company built about 350 tools. Multishot tooling represents more than 40 percent by dollar volume of all the tools it builds. More than 25 percent of its molds are exported.
How many active tools does the group have? People just shake their heads. No one knows for sure. âThousands,â is one personâs guess.
The folks on the floor investigate, specify, and select which mold manufacturing equipment the company buys. It buys the best. Nothing in the shop is more than five years old.
Machinery replacement reportedly lets the company reap the best ROI, and keeps it up to speed with the latest technologies. Over in the molding divisions, the average equipment life span averages out at seven years.
Passing one automated high-speed machining cell after another, you think youâve stepped into a sci-fi movie about the future of moldmaking. Berg tells us setting up the cells was hardly a matter of plug-and-play.
Employees had some trouble getting the System 3R robots to talk directly to the high-speed mills. A gifted programmer on staff hacked his way in through the existing passwords. Theyâre running smoothly now.
Back in the cafeteria, we discover that it serves yet another purposeâitâs also the tool tracking room. The job scheduling chart hangs on the lunchroom wall. Everyone in the shop sees it, every dayâguaranteed.
When customers stressed out over time-to-market pressures ask him whether or not the group can deliver a mold or part project on time, Bill Mentzer, program manager, asks them, âHow big is your pipe?â
Heâs talking about the money pipe.
âSure we can do it, Iâll say. But then Iâll ask them if they are willing to pay for what it takes.â
âThis business is about quality, cost, and delivery,â says Hahn. âOn quality and delivery, we are uncompromising. Neither quality nor delivery is negotiable. But price? Thereâs where we can talk. Price depends on what the customer wants for delivery. We will never miss a delivery.â
Reverse scheduling is how they do it. They begin at the end of the day. âWe plan everything out first, long before we ever start making chips,â Hahn adds. âWe start scheduling in advance of the first sampling press, and then we plan mold assembly, schedule polishing, book EDM timeâworking backwards to the block of tool steel. Itâs Markâs idea. And it works.â
MGS Mfg. Group,
MGS Technical Center
John Berg; (262) 255-5790