For 10 of the last 40 years, San Dimas, CA-based Magor Mold has been manufacturing super high volume, large valve gate molds producing in excess of half a billion parts per year. Produced largely for the medical device market, these tools run with very tight parameters for quality and production and a processing window which often allow for reject rates of less than 6 parts per million. The company’s thermoplastic and silicone (LIM) injection molds range in size from single- to 128-cavity as well as rapid prototype molds.
Other services offered include product design assistance, hot runner tooling, mold sampling through its sister company APEC (a medical molding facility located just a few miles away in Baldwin Park, CA), and mold maintenance. With every mold sold, Magor plans to provide maintenance service on an ongoing basis. According to company president Wolfgang Buehler, it is paramount that the company keeps its customers in full operation once the mold is built.
Through the Years
Magor Mold was founded in 1967 by Max Ruf, a German immigrant. The company started out producing molds for irrigation products, consumer products, electrical/electronic products and the medical components markets. Mr. Ruf’s nephew, Wolfgang Buehler, began working at Magor in 1984 after earning a degree in mechanical and plastics engineering and completing internships in Germany with Braun and Maenner.
In 1988, Buehler purchased a company called Falcon Mold and two years later it merged with Magor Mold. He then purchased Magor Mold from his uncle in 1997 and over the last few years the company has experienced a growth rate of 40 percent. Since the early 90s, Magor has focused on moldmaking for the medical device industry—specializing in medical disposables for the hospital supply market. Magor also manufactures high cavitation valve gate molds for caps and closures and packaging.
The year 1997 also found Buehler starting APEC with business associate Anura Welikala, who had previously been a Magor customer and found Buehler to be like-minded in his regard for quality assurance. APEC began as a mold sampling facility for Magor, starting out with one injection molding machine and one customer. By the end of that first year in business, they had six machines running and were turning a profit. Since the two facilities are located a few miles apart, the two companies are able to team up on projects—making jobs flow seamlessly for their customers, Buehler notes.
Over the past three years the company has doubled in size to 30,000 square feet and added an electrode manufacturing/hard milling machine room that is air conditioned 24/7, keeping the machining very consistent and the tolerances extremely tight. The room is outfitted with a Yasda high-speed, hard milling machining center with a pallet changer and three ROKU-ROKU machines. Robotic automation from System 3R allow some of these machines to run unmanned overnight.
“We believe in investing in the best equipment possible,” Buehler notes. “One example is the above-mentioned Yasda—a fantastic piece of equipment and without a doubt recognized as the best hard milling machine in the world. We are currently looking at procuring a second Yasda, which would deliver even greater operational capabilities.”
“Our biggest problem in recent years is that more and more companies are buying on price,” Buehler comments. “It is a challenge to educate potential customers that they need to look at total part cost analysis. It is better to have a lower price per part than a lower mold price. After all, cost savings is the bottom line, so we strive to not only make our molds better, but we also show the customer how the mold will save them money over its production lifetime. At times, we still face an uneven bidding process. When the playing field is not level you have vast differences in mold prices and customers need to be comparing mold builders with comparable experience and reputation. They need to compare apples to apples.”
Magor relies on its stellar reputation to overcome these challenges. “We manufacture 128 cavity molds and that—in and of itself—is a success story,” Buehler states. “We did not test the last five molds we shipped to a customer, who is located on the East coast. Due to the interchangeability of our components, if we build a repeat mold—which these are—there is a high confidence level in the quality or the probability of success on repeats. They started right up and none came back for fine tuning. Delivering this level of quality provides a deep satisfaction for our company.”
However, Buehler is quick to point out that the company now samples through its sister company APEC. “We offer scientific mold process development along with mold sampling, which gives the customer assurance that the mold has an adequate and successful processing window.”
Magor Mold has a large number of loyal employees that have been with the company for more than 10 years. Buehler notes he keeps his employees happy with a very good benefits program, a positive work environment and a steady flow of projects (i.e. no downtime). “Magor has 62 employees—including four apprentices,” Buehler says. “Our long-term employees have been a boon for long-time customers in terms of loyalty and an exceptional knowledge base for their projects.”
The company offers a four-year apprenticeship that is a combination of on-the-job training and technical college classes throughout the program. Apprentices take industry related classes at a local college and are trained at Magor on the different machining processes. “I think we are unique in that we offer training on the best available equipment and manufacturing processes like the aforementioned scientific molding,” Buehler states.
Additionally, the company will sponsor employees that wish to attend any college classes that may further their knowledge, whether it be business- or industry-related. Other programs regularly provided include design software upgrade classes and new machine tool training programs.
Buehler reports that the company’s immediate plans are to set up a tool service program for APEC ASIA. APEC recently opened a medical molding facility in Shenzhen, China that Magor plans to support by supplying high end, high production molds for this facility and setting up procedures for a mold maintenance program at APEC ASIA in Shenzhen. According to APEC President Anura Welikala, this new facility was opened to further support the company’s customer base of Fortune 500 medical OEMs and the growing Asian market. APEC had been shipping medical parts to Asia for the last four years and saw the opportunity to better serve high-end Chinese hospitals with locally manufactured components. “Asia has become an essential market for us and for our customers,” notes Welikala. “China is becoming one of the largest markets for luxury products in the world and high-end medical products fit into that category. We see enormous opportunity for growth here.”
“It is widely known that the best quality molds are manufactured in the U.S. and Europe.” Buehler elaborates. “We don’t see any direct competition from Asia here. Asia is a better resource for products with a very short lifecycle, cell phones for example. But, I see trouble for Asia on the horizon as material and labor costs are rising for them. It will make them less competitive. They also have trouble retaining longevity in the workforce and that is a disadvantage. I have found that Magor’s employees and the large knowledge base they carry is a huge asset to our company and our customers.”
Finally, Magor Mold is celebrating its 40-year anniversary this year—quite an accomplishment during challenging industry times. “We have fine-tuned our operation over the years and we pull from a wealth of tooling resources all under one roof,” Buehler emphasizes. “Specialization combined with experience have been keys to our success.”