Cygnus Mold and Tool: Service with a Smile

A shop owner immerses himself in all aspects of his business and reaps the rewards of his efforts - satisfied customers who keep coming back for more.

Cygnus Mold and Tool (Feasterville, PA) - a small moldmaking shop nestled in lower Bucks County, PA - was started by Mark Sullivan, who hoped to service local molders with personalized service and short delivery times. Plus, the company's injection molding machines allow it to be a one-stop shop - overseeing projects from part design to production.

The company specializes in injection molds - and some compression molds - in the industrial sector, including electronic switch components, railroad components, fastening systems for railroad ties and faceplates for thermostats.

Getting Started

After working for another local tool shop for several years as a toolmaker, Sullivan decided that the time was right to break out on his own. Those early years proved to be quite the challenge. "At the time I started the company, I was working for a local tool shop during the day, then working at Cygnus at night and on the weekends," he recalls. "After a short while I got the break that I needed, a job that was large enough to allow me to work at Cygnus full time. During the first few years - until I built a good size customer base - the workload was very inconsistent."

As his client base expanded, he slowly added employees until there were seven toolmakers in the shop. "At that time we only built molds for other shops," Sullivan notes. "Several years ago I decided that Cygnus could be more profitable and the workload more steady if we built and ran the molds we built in-house."

Branching Out

In 1999, Bob Lentz began to work for Cygnus as an independent sales and marketing leader after Sullivan downsized, retaining one full-time toolmaker plus himself. "I purchased two 50t Battenfeld injection molding presses and together we altered my company's business plan and market focus," Sullivan says. "Our current business plan is one that serves the small- to medium-sized custom molder and the small manufacturer that may not know anything about tool construction or injection molding, but has a product that must be molded in order to be brought to market.

"Now, in addition to building small- to medium-sized injection molds, my company can offer computer-aided part design services through a close association with a local design firm, and production capabilities for the finished parts," he continues. "Our plan is to offer a one-stop shop for new part design and production. A customer can come to Cygnus with an idea for a part and we can see the project through to production."

Sullivan feels that Cygnus stands out "from the rest of the pack" because of its emphasis on "intimate" customer service. "Because my shop is small and owner-operated, when a customer calls, they speak to me directly and I am involved with every aspect of their project - so they know that they will get a straight and accurate answer," Sullivan emphasizes. "I regularly work with customers that have demands for relatively low part production. We gladly handle production runs as low as 250 parts. Also, we regularly deal with customers that have little to no knowledge of the injection molding process.

"Our goal is to supply our customers with a first-class, computer-engineered part print," he continues. "We do this by working closely with several design firms in our area. After the part profile has been established and the annual production run has been decided, we will recommend a tool design and production schedule. I believe that my company's small size and availability of resources, part design capabilities, in-house mold production and the in-house capability to mold product, as well as one-on-one interaction, is what will set Cygnus apart from the average tool shop. An average tool shop only builds the mold itself. The customer must provide part prints, then employ a custom molder to run the mold."

According to Sullivan, one of his biggest challenges is getting the larger manufacturers to commit to a finalized part print when they give the green light to a project. "Most of the larger OEMs have their own engineering staff that take care of part design," he explains. "Often, the purchasing department will issue a purchase order for the construction of a mold, but the actual part design has not been finalized. I emphasize that a tooling project cannot begin without the three Ps: prints, purchase order and payment.

"When a customer calls with an emergency, I respond immediately," Sullivan adds. "Because I can be at a custom molder or OEM shop in such short notice, I can begin the process of getting a damaged mold back into production in short order. The Internet is a great medium, but you can't fix a broken ejector pin or weld a cracked cavity block through your computer."

Looking Ahead

Sullivan intends to spend the next few years following a lean business plan that translates into low overhead, fewer employees and outsourced design capabilities. "We will stick to our core competencies, which include building quality injection molds and low- to medium-volume injection molding. The plan revolves around incredible customer service; in fact, we don't service any customers outside of a two-hour driving radius.

"Cygnus fills a niche left by other molders and larger tool shops that don't offer molding capabilities, part design capabilities and almost immediate reaction to customer requests," Sullivan concludes. "We are all about customer service."

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