Berrien Tool Coalition: A Marketing Edge

This group of companies delivers a full-systems approach to manufacturing—art to part and every-thing in between.

The Berrien Tooling Coalition (BTC) of Southwest Lower Michigan—a group of 19 companies—aims to deliver a full systems approach to mold manufacturing by providing a one-stop shop for its customers to save them time and money. The BTC provides an array of services, including mold/die manufacture, specialty machining, welding/fabrication, contract machining, engineering and design, as well as testing and assembly.

According to David LaGrow, president of Coloma, MI-based Maximum Mold and a BTC founding member, the BTC was established in an attempt to reduce expenses in an increasingly competitive global environment. “Our structure and member companies offer synergistic cost savings advantages and long-term performance improvements with their customers,” LaGrow states. “The BTC believes it will provide its members enhanced economic effectiveness.”

Starting Out

LaGrow recalls that he was approached by fellow board members of the AMBA SW Michigan Chapter in 2005 to see if he had interest in joining the coalition. Once he was on board, other companies started to join (see BTC Members Sidebar). Working with companies like Mach Mold and his wife’s consulting firm LaGrow Consulting (see MoldMaking Technology, October 2009), they began to arrange meetings, establish agreements, write marketing plans, and compile program material for submittal and final presentation in front of the Michigan Strategic Fund Board.

According to LaGrow, the State of Michigan has recognized that the industry is facing severe pressure to reduce costs; and in 2004, the Michigan Renaissance Zone Act, P.A. 376 of 1996 was amended to allow the Michigan Strategic Fund to designate up to 20 Tool and Die Recovery Zones. “The BTC is vying for one of the prestigious zones,” LaGrow explains.

Furthermore, by joining forces, LaGrow notes that the BTC is better equipped to contend with the constantly changing automotive industry—while remaining competitive. By working together, member companies can achieve the following:

  • Workload balancing—supporting each other as backup resources when one company has a bottleneck in their operation.
  • Lean methods—companies identify areas of waste.
  • Functional build—when a full program can be purchased as a unit there are significant opportunities for savings, efficiency and delivery.
  • Product design—significant product design knowledge that resides in the shops can reduce tooling costs without changing the part from the customer's perspective.
  • Improving tooling standards—many customers tend to over-design their tools rather than designing it for its intended use.
  • Economies of scale—the purchasing power of 10 companies for steel, tool components and software is greater than any one company.

 

Why Join?

Bill Mach, President of Mach Mold, Inc. (Benton Harbor, MI), notes that joining the BTC has made his business better. “The BTC has helped to build stronger and more efficient business for us and other members,” he affirms. “Plus, the information we have learned on government affairs issues has helped us to receive tax abatements from our local taxing bodies.”

Expanding on Mach’s thoughts is Maximum Mold’s LaGrow, “The coalition has been a huge success in Tool and Die in Michigan for many reasons,” he states. “The workload balancing in my shop has increased. I work more now with people that I didn’t work with before. From my point of view, being a smaller shop, you have a huge advantage being a member of a coalition. Timelines on jobs are very tight, the only way you get jobs is if you can get them done fast. If you have a network of people to work with—and with people that have larger capacity machines or newer technology—you can get the job done efficiently without having to invest the big money in equipment. My sales tactic has changed from Maximum being a small shop with limited capabilities to being a small shop competing in a global market with endless capabilities and endless capacity with my tooling network.

“I believe in the concept of joining forces or collaborating with other like companies in order to better compete in a global economy than try to operate my business in a bubble,” LaGrow concludes. “I believe in this concept so much that I started a new business—M& M Polishing—in 2008 that is a member of another coalition called Strategic Tooling Solutions.”

BTC Members
Accu Die & Mold, Inc.
Great Lakes Welding & Fabrication M&I Machine Midwest Die Corp.
Apex 3D Solutions Griffin Tool, Inc. Mach Mold Quality Mold & Engineering
Custom Tool and Die Hanson Mold Maximum Mold Shoreline Molds & Engineering
Dane Systems, Inc. K&M Industrial Machinery Metal Processors, Inc. Standard Tool & Die
Eagle Technologies Liberty Steel Fabricating, Inc. Michigan Mold, Inc. West Michigan Tool & Die, Inc.

 

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