Impact, Influence, Ignite: AMBA Focuses on Leadership

Speakers and sessions at this year’s edition of the annual American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) conference focused largely on the skills required to manage and motivate any shop’s most critical resource: its people.

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The phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats” may be cliche, but that’s the overriding sentiment among AMBA members, shown here discussing all things moldmaking during a networking break. 

American soldiers, chanting in unison, their boots rhythmically hitting the ground in perfect lockstep—this was the sound that permeated a room full of shop leaders in the opening minutes of the 2015 American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) conference. As the marching cadence faded, AMBA Executive Director Troy Nix launched into an inspirational opening speech, drawing on his own military experience to emphasize the importance of ensuring similar harmony in a mold shop. Cadence callers in the military, he explained, are highly visible; are aware of their soldiers’ strengths and weaknesses; understand how to allocate resources based on that understanding; and know how to keep people engaged and working toward a unified purpose. “How well are you ‘calling cadence’ in your own organization?” he asked.  

The rest of this year’s edition of the annual event, hosted May 6-8 at the JW Marriott hotel in downtown Indianapolis, offered plenty of advice for improvement. In keeping with the theme “Impact, Influence, Ignite,” much of the content prompted shop leaders to take a hard look inward while offering advice about how to manage the most critical resource for any company: the people.  Keynote speaker Stacy Nelson of consulting firm VitalSmarts, for example, explained strategies for managing emotional, high-stakes “crucial conversations” (that’s also the title of corporate training course from Vitalsmarts, as well as the best-selling book, which was given free of charge to all attendees). Similarly, Heather Haas of consulting organization Advisa drew on behavioral science research to explain how different personality types respond to organizational change. 

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AMBA members discuss strategies for addressing a hypothetical scenario proposed by Heather Haas of Advisa during her presentation on using workforce analytics to navigate organizational change. 

Such presentations weren’t all the conference had to offer. “Ignite sessions” invited the moldmakers themselves to speak for 5-10 minutes each about problems they’d solved and hurdles they’d overcome in their own organizations. (Examples include Mold Craft’s one-page business plan, which we covered in detail last year, and an update on 2014 Leadtime Leader award winner Westminster Tool’s “idea system,” covered under the heading “A Cultural Shift” in this article from last year). Various “breakout” sessions offered the opportunity for group discussion on topics including the implications of healthcare reform, succession planning, pricing strategies and red flags for fraud in a mold building company. Exhibitor partners at also touted their wares, which ranged from mold components to cutting tools to CAD/CAM software. “Functional roundtables” invited members to address topics in specific areas, such as human resources, sales & marketing, and so forth.

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SelfLube was among the many exhibitors to showcase its products and answer questions at tabletop displays. 

Members also had plenty of time to network over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. In fact, getting everyone together in one place was perhaps the most valuable aspect of all. Whatever the theme, one goal of the annual conference remains the same each and every year: to provide a forum for mold manufacturers from across the country to share best practices and improve profitability.

I couldn’t hope to cover all the content described above in detail here—there’s simply no substitute for being there. The organization also has far more to offer than opportunities for networking and education. To name just one example, the first nationally recognized toolmaking certification program, developed in partnership Expert Technical Training LLC in response to member requests, will officially roll out this July. Available only to members, the program uses scientifically developed, standardized testing to assess the skills of prospective new hires and existing employees alike. Three tests have been developed for three different skill levels: primary skills, master moldmaker and master CNC specialist. All are based on specific, national standards developed with input from moldmakers spanning a wide cross section of specialties and geographic locations.

To learn more about what the organization has to offer and find your local chapter, visit the AMBA’s website.

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