For 20 years, Synergetic M2M Group (Wallaceburg, ON) has dedicated itself to maintaining a global presence with lucrative sales numbers in the marketplace with operations in the United States, Canada, associations in Australia ($8 million), China ($12 million, three locations), India ($2 million), Japan ($50 million, four locations) and Korea ($5 million).
Doing so has resulted in an impressive customer base for this builder of proto-type, production injection, injection-compression and developmental molds, die cast dies and trim dies for the automotive and consumer product industries. Domestic and international customers include M Tek, Calsonic, Findlay Industries, Yamaha, Suzuki, Visteon, Lear, PMP, Flex N Gate, Toyota International, Delphi, Delco Electronics, General Motors Canada, Ford Motor Company, Magna Corporation, Lear Corporation, Honda, Mitchell, Sarna Automotive, Progressive Moulded Products and Continental Plastics.
The company—occupying more than 80,000 square feet of shop space across three separate facilities—has its headquarters at Wallaceburg and employs 100 people with international liaisons in eight countries. Annual global corporate sales are $23 million and the company recorded an incredible 10 percent sales growth over the past three years. With automotive comprising the lion’s share of Synergetic M2M’s business—including heavy truck, ATV and sports cars—leadtimes vary from three to 18 weeks depending upon the size and complexity of the mold. Fascias and instrument panels can take 18 weeks, while glove boxes and door handles take approximately three weeks. Additional services offered include what Synergetic M2M Executive Owner Richard Myers calls Art 2 Part: complete part, tool, fixture design and build, mold flow, shake and rattle test, FEA testing, and mold tryout and production runs in-house.
A Little History
In 1979, M2M International was established as a tool shop in Canada, specializing in plastic injection molds. Myers and his father Roy began operations with just six employees—one of whom is still employed with the company today. Over the years, M2M grew quickly and started adding operations all over the world (see Cheat Sheet and M2M Timeline Sidebars below). Myers and his father saw overseas opportunities as a way to better serve its customers.
“In the early 1980s, we could see the Japanese automotive product was selling and winning favor in the market,” Myers recalls. “Japanese car companies needed to build in the U.S. to supply a then-growing market. In 1987, Japanese tooling company Ikegami Mold approached us to be their technology partner. It took five years and several trips to Japan to make the arrangement profitable.
“The Japanese embrace hard work and dedication,” Myers continues. “We wanted their business despite the fact that not all people were open to the idea of working with companies from the Far East. We have found Japanese companies to be excellent customers and are looking to grow this business more with a full-time Japanese sales engineer. The importance of additional business from Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Subaru has dictated the hiring of Takehiro Inagaki as Synergetic Engineering Solutions (SES)/M2M sales manager. Through our global relationships, we have learned new ways to operate business better and lower costs.”
The company prides itself on its ability to program manage and build packages of large, medium and small molds accurately and in a short timeframe from customer-supplied part data or from internally created part data. According to Operations Manager Adrian Dixon, these mold packages may be built in four countries and come together in Wallaceburg for final evaluation and testing before shipping to the customer.
Dixon explains exactly how this is done. “Once the customer determines the objective, the design team researches feasibilities and introduces proposals,” he notes. “Review, discussion and input from design, manufacturing and molding team members takes place with the customer to optimize efficiency and economics.”
Then, specially developed teams take the lead on all projects. “All disciplines required are in one location and accessible at anytime throughout the design and manufacturing process,” Dixon says. “Directional changes are frequent and quick. A customized program management plan is established using the many options available to the company. This global network business model allows the best possible economic transition from development to production.”
A Far Reach
According to Myers, Synergetic M2M is dedicated to a global presence and the M-2-G process—developed by the company—where internal procedures like on-time delivery, tryout parts shipped overnight, customer support for product design, and continued price reduction are transferred to global partners to ensure the customer gets the same product from all of SES/M2M associates, and everyone is on the same page. “In essence, we are teaching our overseas tooling partners the best and fastest way to compete worldwide,” Myers explains. “Low cost, quality focus and speed-to-market are a great combination. This is the M-2-G mandate.”
Myers notes that Japan was the company’s first step in formulating this philosophy. “Japan was an investment in relationship building," he notes. “When we expanded to Korea and China, we experienced communication issues in the design process, but their manufacturing skills were excellent,” he states. “Then, while working with an Indian joint venture partner in Michigan, we started an engineering facility, which has now grown to more than 80 people, providing services of mold design and program management, fixture design, product design, controls design, and robotics and engineering analysis.
The company trains Indian mold designers in Canada, who then return to India, using identical software and even sharing software licenses to provide a mirror operation. “Designs done in India are controlled from Canada,” Dixon explains. “Checked, revised, tracked and released for manufacture from Canada. Then, the designs are released to manufacturing sources in China, India and North America. Molds manufactured for North America are shipped to Ontario or Alabama for check, completion, repair and/or sampling as per specific mold planning required by the customer. Molds manufactured in Canada for shipment to India or Australia are supported at local facilities that have long-term relationships with M2M. Moldmakers come to Canada to train for a better understanding of our requirements.”
Myers adds that this is truly a global network of flexible and capable companies under a single point of program management control. “Issues can be resolved quickly, correctly and economically due to long-term relationships and constant relationship quality monitoring,” he says. Facilitating all of this is the fact that a number of the company’s employees speak Japanese, German, Hindi and Chinese.
The Lean Story
Not surprisingly, Synergetic M2M maintains its leadtimes with lean principles and practices, using lights-out machining and robotic EDM centers, and constantly upgrading personnel through in-house and outsourced training at its Wallaceburg facility. “All operations are integrated including design, machining, mold build, tryout and production,” Dixon explains. “M2M designers and moldmakers interact with the molding process. This produces a better product for our customers. We use the ISO 9001 certification and management process to track improvement possibilities and take action to correct mistakes.”
Automation also plays a vital role in lean operations. Delcam software (PowerSHAPE, PS-Moldmaker, PS-Electrode, and PowerMILL) helps the company automate the design process as well as mold block and plates machining. Delcam also allows molds to be designed, detailed, and programmed for cutting and machining simultaneously. A robotic cell automates electrode machining and EDM burning, and computer workstations at the machining centers and assembly areas provide knowledge immediately as required. Additionally, the company uses shrink-fit tooling, lights-out machining and in-house mold block stress relieving.
Synergetic M2M has aggressive plans for future growth—specifically in the overseas sector. Myers notes the business is projected to grow 20 percent over the next three years, mostly overseas. The following is his geographical breakdown of the company’s growth plans:
- India: Grow the engineering center to 40 designers; joint venture with a mold builder in India able to build molds up to 1500-ton size.
- China: Select two more molding sources to add to the current supply base.
- USA: Add a facility in Gadsen, AL, to serve customers in the south.
- USA: Create an R&D center (location to be determined) that will include a 2,500-ton rotary platen molding press—a new technology machine manufactured by Engel. R&D Lead Project Manager Mark Nowakowski notes this center will work together with an existing Engel center in Europe. Future plans include a similar application in the south.
- M2M Canada: Will use the R&D Center to focus on new molding concepts. Additional concept design staff for new products and mold design. Add a high speed gun-drill machine and high speed CNC milling machines. Add at least one large capacity, two-shot ENGEL Duo (latest technology injection molding machine for R&D and production runs).
According to Myers, this plan will ensure M2M’s position as a global industry leader. “The moldmaking industry in North America will only survive if we properly access and use the technology provided to us, train our people to embrace new technology, understand the cultures of our potential customers, be aggressive in the way we approach business, and be willing to work hard for less.”