LS Mold, Inc. (Holland, MI)—a mold manufacturer specializing in producing molds for the furniture market since 1970—first considered diversifying in the late 90s as the market began to change and dictate a need for prototyping. LS Mold then began adding equipment to better serve its customers—and became an expert in rapid tooling in the process.
According to LS Mold’s President Larry Koning, LS Mold built its business serving many of the largest furniture OEMs in the western Michigan area, building injection molds ranging from “very small” to the 750-ton range. Once the company began dabbling in prototyping, LS Mold saw a need for prototyping parts made from production resin. “Lots of companies manufactured prototype tools, and lots of companies created parts, but not in the correct resin, and not nearly as quickly as they were needed,” Koning recalls. “So we teamed up with a large automotive supplier in western Michigan and with their training figured out how to be very accurate and build tools very quickly. From this experience came the LS line of “Extremely Rapid Tooling” for prototypes.
“Using our in-house sample presses from 100 to 310 ton, we were able to build tools for our customers’ parts, in their choice of resin, and with the true undercuts and actions needed in as little as one week—depending on size and complexity,” Koning continues. “These tools range in size from a very small knob to a single-cavity door panel. In developing the techniques and practices needed to build our prototypes very quickly, it has allowed us to decrease the amount of time needed to build our production molds, thus reducing leadtimes and decreasing costs to our customers.”
Strategic Business Decision
Two major equipment purchases in the past couple of years turned out to be a smart move on LS Mold’s part. “Although the past two years have been slower for toolmakers, we noticed we were missing some business opportunities with larger mold sizes due to our equipment constraints,” Koning says. “We evaluated the trend and made the decision to move forward with some capital purchases to tap this market. We acquired two machines during this time. One was an OKK 1260 milling machine (okkcorp.com), which opened up our previous size limitations. The other was a 610-ton Toshiba molding press (toshiba-machine.com)—allowing us to sample larger molds in-house.”
Then LS Mold began laying the groundwork. “Marketing these new additions was our top priority even before the equipment was installed,” he notes. “We were in constant contact with current and potential customers to make them fully aware that these new capabilities were available to them, and worked on getting the work quoted and secured prior to startup. We believe that marketing this new opportunity ahead of completion with enthusiasm and excitement made all the difference. This—coupled with our already great reputation for a well-built, robust tool; near-perfect, on-time delivery record; and overall great value—has resulted in the success of these additions.”
The result was LS Mold’s ability to offer its customers a new window for larger production molds and prototype sampling options. “Once the equipment was operational, we already had a backlog on the milling machine, and it has not slowed down since,” Koning comments. “With new opportunities presenting themselves frequently, the above-mentioned groundwork has paid huge dividends, which would not have previously been available.”
The company is currently investigating other opportunities for expansion—including more capital purchases—which will more than likely be in the larger sizes. “We are always looking to lay the foundation for further growth with new customers and continued offerings for current customers,” Koning says.
“We see two reasons for mold shops going up for auction—not reinvesting to be able to compete locally and worldwide or going out and buying so much equipment that any dip in workload can cause financial disaster,” he adds. “We have always been conservative—keeping our banker in the loop and working as a team to succeed in today’s economy. Moldmakers need to walk the fine line as a team and weather this nationwide economic storm.”