PM Mold: Rising to the Challenge

This moldmaker's success in tough economic times lies in art-to-part capabilities and diverse mold offerings.

P M Mold - a full-service company encompassing design concept to molded part - is proof positive that ambition coupled with hard work results in long-term success. Thirty-nine years ago, Olav Bradley and Norbert Hauck, who had previously worked together as apprentices, entered into the world of making molds on their own time. Their business venture slowly grew throughout the years, resulting in a company that is 50 employees strong - with both a tooling and a molding division, as well as an engineering office in Wyoming that is strictly design and programming.

"Back then, we rented a little machine shop at night to make some extra money," recalls Bradley, CEO of PM Mold. "We used to pay the owner of the shop each night for the time we used. We were just going to build one mold, and the customer we built it for liked it so much he wanted us to do another one, then even more, and things really took off from there."

The pair then moved operations to Hauck's garage for several years before renting a small building. They then moved to Franklin Park for nine years before building their current facility located in Schaumburg, IL. Today Hauck, the company president, is semi-retired and Bradley runs the day-to-day operations.

Art to Part

The company builds a variety of molds - from small prototype molds to high cavitation molds up to 15,000 pounds - in predominately the electronics and automotive industries, as well as medical and consumer products. Bradley believes PM's art-to-part capabilities keep the customers happy. "We have a strong commitment to engineering and design and the ability to build molds from very small and precise, close tolerance, to large molds up to approximately 10 tons, and we also can mold the parts," he notes. "We do this with brand new, state-of-the-art equipment."

In 1983, the company began prototype sampling, which gradually evolved into a production molding plant. According to Bradley, the 16 presses range from 28 tons to 500 tons with barrel shot sizes ranging from 0.7 ounces to 54 ounces. "Three of our presses are equipped with accumulators for thin wall molding capabilities," Bradley notes. "Nine of our presses are equipped with sprue/part pickers that provide continuous operation without an operator's presence."

Overcoming Obstacles

Not surprisingly, foreign competition has been a challenge for PM Mold during the last several years and Bradley has very strong feelings on the subject. "About 20 percent of our industry has closed its doors already and the ones that have survived have released about 20 percent of their workforce. China has had a large impact on the number of mold shops that have closed," he notes. "We were forced to release about 25 percent of our employees, but recently we've turned things around and hired about the same amount back.

"I don't think it is right that large corporations should be given tax credits and tax breaks for placing work overseas, like in China," Bradley continues. "It's putting Americans out of work. Some large corporations are investing billions of dollars in manufacturing in China and at the same time laying off tens of thousands of American employees."

PM Mold has countered the overseas threat with aggressive quoting and complete customer service coupled with the latest technology. "We do a lot of high-speed machining and unattended machining - both help to bring our costs down," he states. "The only way we can beat the low labor costs in China is with no labor costs with the usage of robots. We are trying to do more with robotics and automatic tool changers, which we've had for a long time. We are being more aggressive about using them.

"The one thing that China can't beat us on is ingenuity and imagination, the two things that will always keep us ahead of them," Bradley emphasizes. "They may outnumber us in manpower, but we have the imagination in designing concepts and using our equipment. I believe our freethinking society will carry us through. Maybe I'm an optimist, but I'm looking at the end of the first quarter for tooling to start an aggressive upswing."

The companies that have failed in keeping up with technology are the ones in trouble, Bradley says. "I know several shops that have stated they are not going to buy any new equipment until business gets better. Well, business is not going to get better if you don't buy new equipment. As John Wayne says, OIf you're going to talk the talk you've got to walk the walk.' So we stuck our neck out and bought another high-speed machine."

Reaching for the Stars

PM's primary goal is to continue to be recognized as an industry leader. "We don't want to be the biggest; we just want to be the best," Bradley affirms. "We've gone farther than I've ever dreamed. I believe you have to constantly change. If you set a goal in life and achieve it - no matter what it is - you're a failure because you didn't set your goal high enough. So, as you go through life and get closer and closer to the goal you set, you need to move it up a notch and keep reaching for the brass ring. That way, you'll always stay hungry and work harder for success."

To that end, PM Mold has taken measures to ensure its long-term success. For one thing, its apprenticeship program has been recognized nationally for more than 38 years, and Bradley still raises the bar. "After our apprentices graduate, they are strongly encouraged to go to design school and learn about mold design and programming," he says. "And if any of our employees wants to further their education through courses, seminars or meetings, we pick up the tab."

Secondly, the molding division completed its ISO-9000 certification approximately one year ago - a move that Bradley feels increases the company's level of customer satisfaction and is a testament to the quality of its molds and products.

A move into a large facility may be in PM Mold's future. "Both of our facilities are more or less bursting at the seams," he says. "That will be our next step. A move would allow us to even better serve our customers." This commitment to customer service will keep the company's customers coming back for more, Bradley adds. "Each PM team member is dedicated to quality and excellence."

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