For the Canadian Association of Moldmakers (CAMM), the last 10 years have been revolutionary in terms of changes to the moldmaking industry. First and foremost, technology has been advancing rapidly. Shops can do work faster—and more efficiently—nowadays. However, it also creates within the shop more hunger to get more work to keep the shop running at capacity. Technology also has greatly increased the competitive nature of shops. They need more work because they have more capacity. Also, because of this, it has separated some shops from the rest. Companies that don’t get the latest equipment can be left in the dust. It has separated the haves from the have-nots.
The capital required to run the mold shops these days has significantly increased. That includes the cash flow situation. Also, the shift or threat of moving work offshore is a significant change in our industry. The bulk of work used to stay in North America and that has caused a lot of issues.
To keep up with constantly evolving technology, CAMM has ramped up its Web site. While a bit on the weak side 10 years ago, now it is very interactive—allowing members to get information quickly and instantly. They also are able to get today’s rapidly changing news about member companies, and of course it is used for CAMM and industry functions.
The organization also is increasing its trade show presence and visibility as a marketing tool for its membership. They’ve realized that fishing ponds need to be restocked, as their members primarily deal with the Big Three. So, they are starting to reach out and find members who do non-traditional (non-automotive) work and have non-traditional customers. Thus, for the first time, CAMM attended the Plastimagen show in Mexico held last April. Canadians were made to feel very welcome in Mexico. It was unbelievable in the way they had the ability to reach moldmakers they wouldn’t normally have been able to make contact with. Bigger shows are overwhelming and it isn’t possible to have quality time with them as you can at a smaller show. This is where the value comes in.
CAMM has greatly improved government relations as well. In the past, some CAMM members felt they could take care of problems internally and that the government didn’t consider moldmaking big business. That has all changed—government has realized that the industry collectively (plastics, steel, components, etc.) then moldmakers still make up a significant amount of the workforce. The government now looks at it as a win-win situation and they are working very hard to improve these relations on both the shop side and government side. They are very excited about what the future may hold.
For the membership, as far as retaining members, with the declining number of mold shops, obviously the numbers will drop. With this, the fringe service supply companies that supply other sectors also drop. CAMM has to make sure that they retain people who have dropped out of CAMM. They are heavily recruiting at trade shows, personal visits to companies, by phone and word-of-mouth.
Within the membership they also have to address the key industry issues. For example, members who are heavily into automotive are currently selling into a bad market. CAMM has many Tier Ones that have filed for bankruptcy. This is a significant challenge—not only do moldmakers have to produce quality work, but they have to find new work and also make sure they have all the proper mechanisms in place (insurance, lien law enforcement on molds, etc.) to build and sell molds. They believe it is up to them to make sure moldmakers are aware of the latest laws in place to protect their business, and share this information at CAMM meetings and on their website. Thankfully, over the past decade more shops are willing to share information with each other—and learn from each other. There is a great deal more cooperation/collaboration now versus 10 years ago.
CAMM has a tremendous member directory. They believe their inaugural (which will become an annual) directory is the best any association has to offer. It was funded through the service and supply companies via ad page dollars with the mold shops getting a free page in it to promote their company. Since the directory is handed out at many trade shows, these suppliers realized the exposure they would receive by advertising.
The adage is the better the mold shops do, the better opportunities the service and supply companies have. That is a success and has been well received. So, when CAMM members are dealing with the government, guidance counselors at schools, and lay people in the industry, they can see how vital and vibrant the industry is through this directory.
Last year they purchased a new state-of-the-art booth that projects a much better image of CAMM visually. They also are making sure they have a really good mix of technical and social people in the booth so there is something for everyone who visits. For example, CAMM staff—while not actually moldmakers—can help with questions about CAMM events, sell memberships and answer general questions. Obviously a CAMM member can assist with technical questions at the booth. Because of that, more interest in CAMM is being seen—either by becoming members, or members using more of the service offerings.
They believe that the need for plastics will continue to grow, which is very encouraging. Jobs that have been globally sourced will start to return to North America because of high shipping costs, substandard work, price increases, payment terms, patent infringement and logistic situations (like different times zones, languages, having to fly overseas, etc.). In the meantime, shops here that are upgraded with the latest in equipment, technology and management strategies will have more to offer to their customers again. Companies that are willing to explore new markets and embrace new technology will be the ones that are going to survive and the volume of work may increase, while the number of shops may decrease. Looking at their peers/competitors, no one seems to be backing down, nor is there an attrition situation—which means that there must be enough business out there to support these companies.
It’s not going to be easy, things will still be tough. A positive forecast for the next 10 years also depends on continuous training and encouraging people to get into the trade —an area is being overlooked right now in the industry. Trade fairs, open houses and using media will help them to be proactive. Shops have to make tough decisions right now: Do I hire a young person that is green or an older person that now has a more manageable salary and that can produce from day one? They really need to keep pushing this issue and not sweep it under the carpet.
As for CAMM, it needs to continue to be proactive and keep abreast of what is happening in the industry. This trade organization is no different than any other in this regard. They are in their 27th year, so surviving for this long and still being relevant and evolving with its membership’s ever-changing needs is their greatest success!