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Gauge-Rite subsidiary sees substantial growth

Since purchasing Gauge-Rite Inc. in September of 2011, Unique Tool & Gauge Inc., a mold manufacturer located in Windsor, ON has seen substantial growth in Gauge-Rite’s business. According to Darcy King, VP of Sales and Engineering for Unique Tool (www.unique-tool.com), taking on a new business is always a challenge – even if that business is complementary to the moldmaking business.


“As a mold shop, when we received a contract to do gauge work we would outsource that,” he explained to PlasticsToday. “While these gauges and holding and checking fixtures are fairly simple to build in-house, it takes machine time that can be used to do what we do best – making molds.”

Since the purchase of Gauge-Rite, King has gotten more orders for gauges and fixtures accompanying the orders for molds, making the company a “one-stop shop” for all of their customers’ requirements. “Since the trend among automotive OEMs is to reduce the number of vendors in order to streamline the supply chain, we can manage it all for them.”
   
King said he understands the value in a mold making company being more than a mold-maker, but finding a complementary business that is the right fit is key to that business being successful.  Gauge-Rite was one of the companies that built fixtures and gauges for Unique, so King knew the company.  “We had business synergies’. When I looked at Gauge-Rite, I saw a lot of potential,” he said. “They had a very small customer base and it was evident that they hadn’t changed much with the times.  I saw that they needed a new business model like we’d developed at Unique. There was also the opportunity for Gauge-Rite to tap into our customer base and expand the business.”
   
King noted that when he purchased Gauge-Rite the company had one primary customer. Today, after 18 months of business development they have close to 20 customers. “One or two customers in today’s business climate doesn’t work,” he commented.  “Companies need a diversified customer base to keep business steady. We’ll probably end up with about 40 steady customers. Everything has come together and we’re seeing good growth.”

Recently Gauge-Rite received an order for the largest gauge the company has ever built, for a very large automotive part. “We just quoted a two-program large-mold package,” King said.  “We’re building the mold for a fascia and need a gauge for it that involves checking a whole range of dimensions. There’s a lot going on in that part.”

Since purchasing Gauge-Rite, King has invested heavily over the past 18 months to make it a successful business, including upgrading the machines and adding more CNC equipment, adding computer software and networking the software with Unique’s. “We’ll be looking at expanding the facility itself as well,” King added. “It has plenty of land so we can double the size of the building.”

Like most mold manufacturers, growing two businesses that requires special skills and training means finding employees to fill the personnel needs. “We’re trying to recruit new people but it’s very difficult to get skilled people,” said King. “Making gauges, fixtures and molds all require skill sets that you don’t learn overnight. It takes training and the next generation is not getting into the industry like we’d like to see.”

King’s goal for Unique Tool is not to be the biggest mold shop. “We want to be the best and most efficient tool, gauge and fixturing manufacturer, and have a satisfied customer base,” he said. “The whole idea is while we keep investing in the tool and gauge businesses, we want to be a well-run, full-service provider.”

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