The Canadian Plastics Industry Association: Positioning Moldmakers Competitively

CPIA's Mould Makers Council promotes moldmaking on a global level and ensures top level training/education for its members.

Located in Mississauga, Ontario, the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) unites the entire country—unites the industry in one powerful association representing the entire plastics value chain, including moldmaking—on a mission to serve members of the Canadian plastics community and educate others on the value of plastics.

The CPIA divides itself in the following ways (see Issues Management Structure Chart). First, there are two strategic units—The Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S) and Industry Competitiveness. EH&S focuses on environmental and population health and safety issues; and Industry Competitiveness takes a look at trade, training and technology as they relate to plastics. Four regional offices cover the Atlantic, Ontario, Quebec and West regions. Furthermore, CPIA is divided into 11 councils:

  1. Automotive
  2. Composites
  3. Construction
  4. EPIC
  5. Flexographic
  6. Machinery
  7. Mould Makers
  8. Natural Composites
  9. Packaging
  10. Plastic Film Manufacturers Association of Canada
  11. Vinyl

While the CPIA itself is a rather new organization—coming together in 1997—the groups that formed it have been in existence for decades. The Society of Plastics Industry Canada (SPIC), Environmental and Plastics Institute of Canada (EPIC) and the Canadian Plastics Institute (CPI) are just a few of the organizations that united under the CPIA umbrella. "CPIA represents the entire value chain for the plastics industry in Canada—stretching from the resin producers right through to the compounders, converters and processors, mould makers, machinery makers and increasingly now, the recyclers,"CPIA Director Serge Lavoie states.

Mould Maker's Council

CPIA's Mould Makers Council—consisting of mould makers, suppliers and some plastics processors—pledges in its mission statement to "to advance the interests of Canadian mould makers and internationally promote the competitiveness of our industry."The council works closely within CPIA to ensure that the overall activities and benefits of membership in CPIA are known about, used by and developed for the benefit of mould makers.

During the course of the year, the council meets bimonthly at dinner meetings—some of which include plant tours. According to CPIA Director Charmian Entine, the meetings provide technical and management information in addition to a networking forum. Additionally, the council holds a bi-annual, three-day conference (the Canadian Mould Makers Conference) to bring its members together for additional networking, educational and social opportunities.

"Council issues include competitiveness, (technical and management process information) global markets (Canadian pavilions at international plastics trade shows) and training (Pre-Apprentice Award and a career fair) in addition to other initiatives,"notes Entine. "Plus, the council has developed a cooperative relationship with three other mould tool and die organizations to form the Canadian Machine Tool, Die and Mould Federation (CMTDMF), for joint support of initiatives that are of benefit to the industry—such as immigration policies, government relations and the production of an annual Labour Rates and Business Conditions Survey.”

Canadian Machine, Tool Die and Mould Federation

Last year, the Mould Maker's council came together with the Canadian Machining and Tooling Association (CMTA), Canadian Association of Moldmakers (CAMM) and Canadian Pattern-Modelmakers Association (CPMA) to form the CMTDMF. The board of directors for this venture is comprised of members from each association; and there is a revolving chairmanship, currently held by Ed Bernard of Bernard Mould (Windsor, ON)—a representative from CAMM.

"The beauty of this federation is that these four associations have recognized the need to speak with one voice in order to be stronger,"Bernard notes. "A few of the major initial undertakings are the collecting and analysis of data regarding industry wage and benefit standards, organization and promotion of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario (WSIB) Safety Groups Program, and united representation of the four major metal cutting associations in Canada—as well as the Initiatives for Automotive Innovation to various other industries, the public, foreign markets and government.”

The CMTDMF represents approximately 380 establishments with more than 20,000 employees in the precision metalworking industry sector—including companies involved in the manufacture, repair and/or service of tools, dies, molds, patterns, models, machine tools, machining services, metal stamping and plastics processing. Together, these companies employ a highly skilled workforce resulting in approximately $3 billion in annual gross sales. "We also promote apprenticeship training and skills upgrading as well as promoting the industry at large as a safe and secure career choice for Canadians,"Bernard notes. "Soon, we will be distributing an industry newsletter to help promote our individual association members and to help address specific members' concerns and interests.”

Progressing Forward

Over the next several years, the CMTDMF plans on tackling numerous challenges—from international trade and currency related issues, lobbying for legislation interpretation change, promoting innovation and facilitating relationship improvements with government support agencies, and communicating with foreign associations including ISTMA, NTMA and AMBA. "Payment terms and developing industry standards also are challenges that we intend on addressing on behalf of our constituents,"Bernard emphasizes. "We believe all of these challenges will be more easily overcome by the combined representation of the various associations within the federation.”

As for the CPIA, Lavoie notes that it will address productivity and innovation in plastics. "We are putting together a technology roadmap, which we are pitching to industries and governments,"he notes. "We need to sit down and take a look at the currents running through our industry right now: new emerging markets, the changing resource base, the rising price of oil, environmental concerns and sustainable economy. Then we need to see some stability with our government regarding how we deal with our international trading partners.

"Finally, we'd like the government to realize if they want us to kick start our productivity and innovation as quickly as possible, then they will need to take bold measures,"he continues. "The purchase of tooling and machinery will need to be written off much faster—100 percent in the first year of purchase, whereas typically it is three to five years. Let companies invest right now. It will be good for trading because it will bring in a lot of that machinery from elsewhere, and also be good for our domestic industry because we produce a lot of tooling in Canada. It also will allow us to innovate that much quicker.

"If you are a Canadian moldmaker, one of the biggest challenges you face is trying to sell an innovative mold technology to a customer who just bought one last year,"Lavoie concludes. "They haven't written off that mold yet, so they are looking to get a longer lifespan out of it. But innovation cycles are so fast now, waiting three to five years to write off tooling and machinery just isn't adequate. We are saying to government, 'Recognize how quickly things are moving out there and allow companies to write off investments faster so they can keep investing. If they have to wait for their tools to be written off they are going to be innovating less and less, and be far less productive with our partners around the world.'"

Bernard mirrors Lavoie's thoughts with a sobering statistic. "In June 2004, the U.S. Department of Labor released statistics that more than one-third of the tool and die shops in the U.S. vanished since the year 2000. It is a primary objective of the federation to provide information and access support to reduce the likelihood of a similar plight in the Canadian MTDM sector,"he concludes. And—as long as this myriad of associations continue to work in harmony for the sake of the moldmaking industry—the Canadian moldmaking industry will remain as strong as it is today.

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