Crown Mold & Machine: Success Lies in Diversification

Treating its customers and employees like royalty, this moldmaker's niche markets are its formula for success.

Thirty-five years ago, three brothers started Crown Mold & Machine (Streetsboro, OH) in a two-car garage. Today, its crowning achievement is $10 million in sales - and although the company was sold in 1990, family still comes first. The nephews and sons of the three owners continue the legacy that was begun in 1966 by working with new company president Jonathan Day. Their continued commitment to Crown Mold's success commands a fierce loyalty from its employees - some of whom have been with the company since its inception.

The secret to Crown Mold's success lies in its diversification. Offering moldmaking, die making and machining services for moldmakers and other industries, the company is ensuring its long-term success - depending on upswings and downturns in each market. "Our specialty is injection molds from 300- to 1,500-ton press sizes," Day notes. "Plus, we have a niche market in a process called pultrusion die making, which represents about 25 percent of the company's business. Typically, a pultrusion die is used to make fiberglass composite profiles that are lightweight and very strong. An example would be a ladder rail or window frame."

Full-Service Supplier

Crown Mold is gearing up to be a full-service supplier. They are a part of the nineteenth largest moldmaking company in North America - The Midwest Tooling Group (Chagrin Falls, OH) - a group of privately-owned companies that design and manufacture molds, dies and tooling for the production of plastic products and parts. Comprised of four companies - each with a different specialty - the group is a one-stop shop for every moldmaking process. Day explains, "If a customer comes to us and wants an injection mold and a blow mold, we contact another member of the MTG Group for the blow mold. Since the customer approached us, we manage the entire project. Then, the customer gets the benefit of two companies that specialize in each specific mold, but has the option to deal with one company. It really reduces time spent communicating back and forth, thus reducing leadtimes, and it's been working phenomenally well.

"Usually sister companies operating with this protocol get into a political battle about who pays for what, and where does the profit end up," Day continues. "MTG has built a philosophy and management teams that are empowered to do what is right. Therefore, if my counterpart at our Fremont facility is paying extraordinary costs to support a Crown project, it would not be uncommon for us to support the costs, without much delving into the numbers, and vice versa. Other than that, we are all standalone profit centers."

That strength combined with family and employee reliability adds up to a booming business. "This is one of the things that first impressed me about Crown when I became president last March," Day recalls. "Our employees have a tremendous belief in the company and love what they do. They take pride in being able to build molds that have never been built before. I've also seen molds come in here that you would think would never run again, and these guys are like doctors! They take it apart, put it back together again, and before you know it, we have one happy customer."

Day makes sure that he gives as much as he gets. "I tell the employees every thing that is going on in the business - the good and the bad," he stresses. "Every Friday I write a one-page report of what has happened that week - what orders have been won, how much money we are making, and if someone has made a significant achievement. It's called the Friday Report."

The Next Level

Like his colleagues in the industry, offshore tooling has proved to be a challenge for the company - one they are facing head-on. "Leadtimes are critical right now and we have made a conscious effort to focus in on reduction of leadtime through lean manufacturing," Day states. "We are taking every bit of waste out of our process by doing all of the simple things we can." Some examples, Day notes, are teams focusing on more unmanned running, better layout of machines, tools at point of use, and tracked jobs and delays to improve scheduling. These strategies have resulted in leadtime reduction of 25 percent, cost base reduction of 18 percent and double unmanned running time.

"We know that we have only touched the tip of the iceberg, and we have a never-ending road to travel in the quest for continuous improvement," Day states. "We will look for every piece of waste and at every idea before we make any kind of investment in new equipment. If your intention is to buy new equipment, you better make sure that it will generate money for you. And to pay for this equipment is to cut directly into your profit line. So, from our perspective, I'll only go down the technology route when I'm pretty sure that I'll get good payback on it and I've done everything up to that point to take waste out of the business.

"My primary goal is to slightly diversify so we are stronger, and to grow the company into a $20 million company," Day continues. "We need to first get through the downturn in the market, then take it to the next level over the next several years. Plus, we are seriously looking into QS-9000 certification because of all the good operating practices and strengths it would bring to the company." If Day has his way, Crown Mold & Machine is sure to enjoy a long reign in the kingdom that is the moldmaking industry.

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