Mold bases: M&M owns its niche

December 03, 2009

Building custom mold bases has been M&M Tooling Inc.’s niche for 10 years. For the owner/operator of this small business, building complex, custom mold bases is the part he knows best. Learning the various ways to promote his business has been more difficult.

The primary goal for starting a business is to become an asset to your customer base. That’s what Michael Mirante believed 10 years ago when he started M&M Tooling Inc. (Wood Dale, IL), and he continues to believe it today. “You have to have a foundation for your business and for me it was choosing to build custom mold bases,” says Mirante.

M&M’s asset to its customer base is allowing mold manufacturers to focus on the work that provides the most value to them: core and cavity details and the light-duty volume machining work to which high-speed machine tool technology is best suited. The company has the capacity to build mold bases up to 34.5 by 80.0 inches.

M&M Tooling’s e-mail blast to Illinois mold shops.

Mirante notes that the investment in high-speed machining that many mold manufacturers make doesn’t really support the building of mold bases. “Building mold bases is a more rugged type of machining where we can take out a lot of material with each pass,” says Mirante. “Hogging out mold base pockets isn’t the best utilization of high-speed machine.”

While building mold bases in-house used to be a value-add and even profitable for many mold companies years ago, Mirante says that many of his customers don’t want to build their own mold bases in-house anymore. “With the major investments in machines that mold companies make, along with the labor costs for top-notch machinists with expertise in the high-end core and cavity work, it just doesn’t pay to do mold bases,” he adds.

M&M is geared up to do nothing but mold base work. “We have large machines with a lot of horsepower, and we don’t have the huge overhead that mold shops have,” Mirante says. “We’re utilizing Mazak machine tools and with our focus on nothing but mold bases, we can turn out the work and help the mold shops shorten the lead times they quote,” he notes.

“Even 10 years ago, I recognized that profit margins for mold shops were being squeezed, and shops were having to do more volume than their capacity allowed,” Mirante explains. “They had to take on more work with the same capacity, and many found that outsourcing mold bases was a way to free up machine time for the types of jobs that add the most value to the moldmaker.”

Mirante admits that this past year has been tough, with the valleys a bit deeper than the peaks were steep. But he believes in the American worker and in his own ability to succeed, and he works hard at it. Recently he sent out an e-mail blast to mold shops in his area of Illinois, an idea he got from the many e-mail blasts he gets from Chinese mold companies.

“They’re working hard at getting business in the U.S., so why shouldn’t I?” Mirante asks rhetorically. “I get six or seven solicitations a day from Chinese shops, and 10-12 on the weekends. Mold companies in America don’t market themselves. We should be doing a better job of it and soliciting companies in other countries that have manufacturing here.

“We can succeed at manufacturing in the USA, but we really have to get out there and promote ourselves and our capabilities, and let people know the advantages we have to offer,” Mirante says. “Made in the USA is still a viable marketing tool.” Clare Goldsberry

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