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September 20, 1998

6 Min Read
Second-generation moldmakers look decidedly different

As the moldmaking industry matures, the next generation-the second and sometimes third-is beginning to move into senior positions in these mostly family-owned companies. But the faces of this younger generation entering the industry look somewhat different than those of their fathers.

Jim Atols, executive vice president of Atols Tool & Mold Corp. and second generation in the business, has three children, all working in various positions in the Schiller Park, IL company. All three have college degrees.

Michael, the youngest, graduated with a mechanical engineering degree and is currently getting a Master's degree in business engineering at Marquette University, a path similar to the one Jim's brother, Robert, president of the family business, chose. Michael led the successful implementation of the company's ISO program.

A second son, Thomas, went through the Tooling & Manufacturing Assn.'s three-year moldmaking apprenticeship program after college, as his father did. Tom currently handles the purchasing and personnel functions at the company. Atols' oldest son, also named Jim, has a degree in education and a heavy computer background.

"He came in to help us set up our computer systems and I haven't been able to get rid of him yet," jokes Atols. "It wasn't planned, but it just worked out that way."

Jeanette Bradley, executive director of the American Mold Builders Assn. in Roselle, IL, says that members of this generation following their fathers into the family business have a distinctly different look. Bradley knows first hand about this trend. Her husband Olav, along with partner Norbert Hauck, own and operate P.M. Mold Co. in Schaumburg, IL. Hauck's oldest son Larry is P.M.'s plant manager. The Bradleys' son David graduated in December from Northern Illinois University with a degree in manufacturing technology. David spent his summers working at P.M. Mold (named such because the owners spent so many nights working to build the business 35 years ago), which gave him valuable hands-on experience.

"The ideal situation for an owner's child is to graduate with an engineering degree and then go into the apprentice program for moldmaking," Bradley says. Olav Bradley explains that David has worked at P.M. for more than six years, and can run most of the machines in the shop. Once David joins P.M. full time, Olav wants to give him more experience on some different machines, then bring him into an engineering position and eventually into management. Bradley is hopeful that David's new knowledge of ISO procedures will help implement them at P.M.

A generation ago, most mold shop owners looked to their sons to join them in the business. But many of the next moldmaking generation are female. "The industry is welcoming females into all types of positions," Jeanette Bradley adds.

Francine Petrucci's father Alan is a partner in B A Die Mold Inc. in Lisle, IL. Francine says she's been interested in what her father does for as long as she can remember. After graduating from Northern Illinois University with a degree in industrial technology-emphasis in quality control and plastics technology-she joined her dad at B A.

Petrucci, who's 25, says that many times she was the only female in her college classes, but despite the hurdles she's had to overcome in entering a mostly male industry, she's happy with her decision. Like David Bradley, Petrucci spent many summers working at the shop getting to know the customers and the business operations. When asked if she has a title, Petrucci laughs. "I do whatever someone else can't do," she replies.

She knows all the customers and has an excellent rapport with them, so customer service is part of her job. She oversees the company's quality control and SPC programs, handles advertising and brochure development, makes a lot of the business decisions with regard to human resources and benefits, and when needed, runs some of the machines in the shop. She plans on going into the shop full time to learn setup and programming for CNC machining centers.

Alan Petrucci is excited that one of his children took an interest in the moldmaking business. A son worked in the shop when he was young, but now lives in Los Angeles where he makes movies. An older daughter handles public relations and marketing for the company through her own business.

Petrucci says she never had any resistance from her father about being in the shop. "He's very open to females in the shop atmosphere," she adds. "He wants some female machinists. He has worked with female mold polishers and found them to be excellent." Petrucci, the only girl to take machine shop in high school to the bewilderment of teachers and classmates, has her own opinion about women in moldmaking. "I certainly think women make good machinists and moldmakers."

Mark Krajniak, national president of AMBA and owner of Hale Molds Inc. in Rochester Hills, MI, believes that the moldmaking industry will change quite a bit during the next 20 years as the influence of these young people leaves its mark. Krajniak's daughter Melissa, 26, has been working for him for nearly three years, after earning a degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan Technological University.

"What we're seeing is that our sons and daughters are coming back with business degrees, manufacturing technology degrees, and a broader, more modern sense of business," comments Krajniak. "That's something that will help bring power to the companies and maybe to the whole industry, besides just the trade. We still have a lot of moldmakers who are not businessmen."

As part of her education, Melissa worked for the company during the summer months to learn the business and the customers. Today, Melissa is the company project engineer handling all correspondence for program management, mold sampling, and tryouts in the field. "I miss all the fun," laughs her father. She's also been given the job of heading up the company's QS 9000 program, a challenge he says she enjoys.

In many ways, things will be easier for the sons and daughters of those who paved the way, building not only their businesses but the moldmaking industry as well. "Business-wise it might be easier," says Olav Bradley, thinking back over 35 years in business. "The rules and the company are already established. But cost of equipment is so high today. Members of the next generation have to be better business people than we were because business is more intense now." As a general rule, "the new generation is a lot smarter," he adds. "Possibly they don't have to work the long hours we did because they're working smarter."

Still, Bradley believes the Generation Xers have paid their dues, which are probably higher because they are the owners' sons and daughters. Francine Petrucci admits that working for her father isn't the easiest job. "I don't get a lot of freebies," she says. "I salute all those who go into their parents' businesses."

Parents and children both agree that the moldmaking industry has changed a lot during the past 20 years, and what this new generation is bringing to the table will make it better. "They have good ideas," says Bradley, "and I think the whole trade will be better for it. They'll take this whole business to a new, higher level."

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