Ray Coombs, founder and President of Westminster Tool Inc. in Plainfield, CT, was named the 2021 Mold Builder of the Year by the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA). The organization also announced that Wepco Plastics, based in Middlefield, CT, received the Tooling Trailblazer of the Year award. The awards were presented during AMBA’s annual conference on June 22 to 24 in Grand Rapids, MI. As part of the awards program, sponsored by Progressive Components, they each received a $5,000 endowment for continuing education in mold building, to be presented to the educational institution of the recipient's choice.
Ray Coombs has been a leader and mentor in the mold manufacturing industry for nearly 25 years, said AMBA in making the announcement. Coombs started his business out of his home, and in 1999 opened his own full-scale facility where he advanced from building tool components to complete plastic injection mold systems. Seven years later, the company moved to its current facility, adding capabilities such as in-house tool validation, tool sampling, and low-volume part production. Today, the company has 35+ employees, and Westminster Tool has become an advocate in addressing the skills gap through considerable investment in equipment across the shop to free up more machines for training. Coombs continually invests back in the community through projects such as the local Makerspace program in elementary schools and joint development of the Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative.
Wepco Plastics received the AMBA Tooling Trailblazer of the Year award in recognition of its efforts in workforce development, apprenticeships, and fostering an appreciation of manufacturing and STEAM-related career paths among young people. The company collaborates with the National Fund for Workforce Solutions and is active on local manufacturing group boards, pre-apprenticeship programs in local schools, and otherwise engaging with students in the state of Connecticut. Advocating for manufacturing and quality jobs has become a part of Wepco’s daily culture, said AMBA.