Courtesy Mold & Tool/REXAM Mold Manufacturing: Change is Good!

Over the past decade this turnkey shop changed ownership and thrives with a focus on high cavitation, tight tolerance molds.

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When MoldMaking Technology premiered 10 years ago, Courtesy Mold & Tool—a one-stop turnkey shop that provided complete solutions to its customers from art to part—was the very first shop spotlighted in the magazine’s profile section. A decade later, the company is still going strong under the name of REXAM Mold Manufacturing (Buffalo Grove, IL) with a specialization in the design and manufacture of high cavitation, tight tolerance production molds in the medical, caps and closures, home and personal care industries.

According to Tom Worcester, REXAM’s Sales Manager/Mold Manufacturing, Courtesy Corporation went through a period of great transition from 1995 through 2006. In 1999 Courtesy Corporation was sold to a private equity firm Hicks, Muse, Tate and Furst, with the intent of taking the corporation to global status. Then, in 2002, Courtesy Corporation was sold to Precise Technology and at the time Precise Technology was owned by Code, Hennessey & Simmons (another private equity firm). In 2006, Precise Technology was acquired by REXAM PLC.

“REXAM is a London U.K.-based company with more than 65 plants worldwide,” Worcester explains. “They are a leader in the manufacturing of aluminum cans primarily for the beverage industry. REXAM has split the business to become a leader worldwide in plastics packaging and products. The Buffalo Grove campus (which is the previous Courtesy Corporation) is made up of three buildings with almost 1,000,000 square feet under roof. The campus is made up of the four distinct businesses: healthcare, personal care, caps and closures and mold manufacturing.”

REXAM Mold Manufacturing has been divided into two distinct business units: FasTrack and Production Tooling. “The FasTrack group is dedicated to producing molds that are production-ready molds, but typically lower cavities (two to eight, sometimes 16) that are totally representative of how the production molds will operate and produce product,” Worcester explains. “The deliveries range from three to seven weeks once a complete product design has been agreed upon. The production side of the business lends itself to the full production molds—ranging from large stack molds, high cavity molds, up through 192 cavities to complex multi-material applications to fill the needs of our clients.”

 

Changing Times

Worcester notes that the past 10 years have been one of change for the company’s mold manufacturing division. “Our moldmaking facility has gone from a support center to a primary business unit,” he notes. “We are presently manufacturing molds for 50 percent internal projects and 50 percent external programs with major corporations that are involved in very complex, engineering-driven mold solutions.

“The move from a semi-captive facility to a stand-alone profit center has presented numerous challenges and opportunities,” Worcester continues. “With the advent of true globalization the entire business model has had to change dramatically. One of the first points that has to be made is that when competing on a project you are not just competing with the individual down the street, in the next state or possibly across the country, you are competing with moldmakers in Europe, Asia and now India. Not only has the competition increased—customer’s expectations have grown so that they demand and require faster deliveries to decrease their time to market, so the ROI on the mold purchase can start to be amortized.”

According to Worcester, the clients REXAM Mold Manufacturing works with expect “product knowledge, part design assistance, innovation, new concepts for mold designs and possibly integration of complete systems” which also is good for the company as it has resulted in its growth.

“One of the major challenges that we have to overcome is the lack of new personnel that are interested in coming into the moldmaking trade,” Worcester states. “This is an ongoing concern with all of the moldmakers within the industry. To address this issue, we are working directly with technical schools and have worked in identifying potential candidates that would fit into the REXAM Mold Manufacturing apprenticeship program. Since we cannot hire the personnel we require, it has been determined that we will grow and nurture our own moldmakers internally.”

 

Technologies Increase Efficiencies

To sustain success and overcome some of the disparity within the industry, Worcester says there must be “constant investment in new machining technologies, new mold developments for better parts at a faster cycle combined with being able to produce the lowest piece part cost for the OEM or molder. Some of this is taken care in part by continuing education programs in engineering and design development. The incorporation of fully integrated machining centers that can operate 24/7 unattended combined with the development and implementation of better and faster work processes has led to faster deliveries—which means less time in the shop and faster approval of production-ready molds.”

Hot Runners
The company also is not afraid to create its own products to meet its clients’ expectations. “When we were still Courtesy Corporation we were being pushed to go to greater and greater numbers of cavities and few of the commercial hot runner suppliers at the time could fill the need,” Worcester recalls. “Because of that, we developed our own hot runner system that filled the niche until the commercial hot runner suppliers were able to produce systems that were dependable and cost competitive for high cavity systems. Now we have aligned ourselves with hot runner suppliers as Manner, Husky and Mold-Masters for our needs and our customers’ requirements. Hot runners are the heart and soul of a mold. Without a dependable hot runner system and the support behind it—combined with being on the leading edge of technology—the mold as a complete system can and will meet or exceed the expectations of the customer.”

EDM
New technology within the EDM department also has added to the efficiencies that have been achieved at REXAM. “The ability to produce finer finishes that do not require polishing has reduced cost and leadtimes, which ultimately increase mold productivity,” Worcester states. “This, combined with better and faster robotics that allow for faster tool changes and also the ability to load and unload the machine faster, has produced greater efficiencies in the 24/7 environment. Better utilization of wire EDM with very accurate burns that are burned to finish so the parting line matches are very accurate and require no fitting or secondary work has produced greater returns than anticipated. What any technology requires is the interaction between the department managers and operators to be very creative in their approach to any project and to constantly analyze and critique how to do it better and faster—and possibly with the idea of eliminating steps in the manufacturing of the finished product.”

Software
Design software has been another aspect of how to eliminate or decrease a substantial amount of time and effort within the Engineering Group. “Utilizing solids design capabilities and the development of full standards libraries has increased productivity by approximately 15 to 20 percent,” Worcester says. “The solids design format allows for greater control over the entire design process and enables the group to design a much more dynamic mold that maintains continuity throughout the entire process.”

 

Driving Future Growth

According to Worcester, the company is constantly improving itself through the utilization of 5 S, lean manufacturing and tracking its KPI for the processes that will make the company better. “REXAM Mold Manufacturing also has been forming alliances with key vendors within the marketplace that allow for a synergy in product and process development,” he concludes. “It will be through our customers’ continued need to lower costs and increase productivity for better and faster solutions that are going to be required to satisfy these needs. This is what will be driving REXAM Mold Manufacturing through the next decade: solutions, expectations, technology and synergies.”

A Decade of difference

Highlights from REXAM Mold on the past 10 years and a look ahead at the next decade:

  1. Biggest industry change: The amount of fallout from all of the small shops. The moldmaker of today has to be on the leading edge of technology and constantly driving the industry. Speed to market has been another major example of how moldmaking has changed. Everything is now—and with the Internet—globalization is a fact of life.
  2. Top challenge in past 10 years: Maintaining a high level of skilled help during all of the transitions and changes of ownership. This same challenge is present today, but it is finding and training good quality people who want to learn and become either a top technician or a lead moldmaker.
  3. Top technology solution: The Internet and the advances in micro-processors. These two technologies have changed the entire face of how business is done. The Internet allows for instant communication, instant messaging and downloading of huge files for instant access. Decision-making has been cut down to minutes—not days. With the advancement of micro-processors the equipment has changed by leaps and bounds with faster and more accurate machining with better finishes so the secondary operations can either be eliminated or minimized.
  4. Top business strategy solution: Focus on our niche market, streamline the operation, know where we are going and working our plan.
  5. Best time in past 10 years: Now! Being part of REXAM has allowed for additional capital for upgrading and expansion in specific areas of business. It has allowed for better relationships with our customers and has given us the ability to plan our work and work our plan.
  6. Worst time in past 10 years: When the company was in constant flux due to the changes in ownership.
  7. What is most remembered in moldmaking in the past 10 years: 18-week deliveries
  8. Industry forecast for the next 10 years: The industry is still growing substantially. You just have to be aware that the opportunities have changed. Sometimes they are more difficult to recognize than just going out and having lunch with your customer. You really have to understand what is important to your customer’s business combined with how and what you are doing is going to affect him.

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