Accu-Mold, Inc. (Portage, MI)—specializing in two-shot molds, over molds of hybrid plastic over metal, cables, string, die cast, dental floss, stampings or even another plastic in the automotive, consumer products, electronics, medical, office technology and packaging industries—has found heavy industry involvement coupled with employing experienced moldmaking talent has yielded them success over the years.
The 31-year old company’s number-one indicator of accomplishment is first sampling success, notes Accu-Mold President Dave Martin. “We make people happy and when they are not, we react with passion and experience,” he notes. “We have 17 carefully selected people who love a challenge every day. One day they may be high-speed hard milling a prototype part and the next day starting CNC programming for a high cavitation, Class A production mold.” The company also boasts metal to plastic part design and conversion for savings to 70 percent on part price, Martin adds.
A recent strategic alliance also has helped the company garner more business. “We have aligned with Triwell Asia—one of the top choices for offshore plastics tooling and assemblies,” Martin says. “We employ a hybrid strategy: a combination of our engineering and their lower labor rates, sampling and testing. The uniqueness of Triwell is that they are all Toronto-born engineers that understand North American culture and speak English. They transferred to Hong Kong knowing there would be a need for them overseas to provide this perspective. We talk on the phone and can do so at any time with the magic of cell phones.
“Since moldmaking in North America is more sophisticated than the rest of the world, we have stringent requirements on tool steel, certification of hardness of steel, and interchangeability of components,” Martin continues. “Everything is completely proven out prior to mold shipment. Fortunately, Triwell is closely aligned with the way we make molds here.”
Over the years, Accu-Mold has relied on the expertise of its president and employees to overcome workload challenges. First, to ensure its employees are always busy, Accu-Mold developed a stream of repeatable machined parts that they can place in inventory waiting for the order—thus filling voids in workload lulls. “We have about 10 very tricky, highly precisioned machined parts that our customers use over and over,” Martin explains. “When we have slow periods, like everyone does, we turn idle time into productive time knowing these parts will be sold. We turn idle time into another asset—inventory—and inventory is only inventory until it is a sale.”
Secondly, the company is a founding member of the United Tooling Coalition (see The United Tooling Coalition Sidebar), which Martin also thought would help develop workload balancing, specialization, best practices and lean techniques. Martin has found that the company’s UTC membership lets them share specialties—and equipment. “We have purchased laser welding equipment so that tool and die shops all across the country can use us to have finite “mending” done to intricate molds for high quality, fast repairs and engineering changes,” Martin explains. “Our turnaround time and cost on repairs have dropped by 40 percent as a result. We call it minimally invasive mold and die surgery. And, this saves other UTC members by keeping coalition investment down on a machine that would otherwise only be used at 5 percent or less capacity.”
The company’s lean efforts also have resulted in a balanced workforce. Again, Accu-Mold went through the UTC to go lean. An outside consulting firm wrote the company a plan and continues to work with them. “It is a work in progress,” Martin comments.
Even the most experienced toolmakers need to keep on top of the latest trends and technologies, Martin notes. Accu-Mold’s employees tour other UTC shops to learn about additional best practices. They also attend software classes, training classes through the UTC and Center for Automotive Research (see The Center for Automotive Research Sidebar), and monthly seminars sponsored by a local business development group.
Martin has found that treating his employees with respect is the best way to keep them happy. When it comes to hiring new employees, he is very selective. “We only use a network of contacts we have developed over the years and we hire when we don’t necessarily need someone,” Martin states. “For example, a local company recently closed its doors. Although not a mold-
maker, there was a precision machining/welding department. I asked the owner who his best employee was in that department, and I hired him. If he is that good, we will find something specialized for him to do, or teach him something new.”
Designs on Excellence
Not surprisingly, Accu-Mold’s future plans are primarily to continue putting its customers first. “We will continue to focus on our customers’ objectives and doing what is best for their success,” Martin notes, “even when we refer the work to others that specialize or have a strategic advantage that is best fit for our customer.”
To that end, Accu-Mold has created a “Design Center for Excellence” with carefully selected “inventors.” This center contains a recently hired designer with 25 years of experience that also can help other UTC members who get overloaded with work. “We offer product design for toolability and moldability and uniqueness for the customer in their marketplace,” Martin emphasizes. “We have quadrupled our customers’ business by providing a unique product or functional advantage. We provide specialized, functional part features, they are able to obtain a patent, and we give them the rights to the patent. In return, they give us all of their tooling work.”
Clearly, Accu-Mold has a vested interest in helping other moldmakers as well as its customers—a formula for success and longevity. “We are constantly reinventing ourselves with technology, people, and reinventing our customers’ processes and products. It’s all about creativity, tenacity—and change. You have to love change, and you have to live it!”