Elite Mold & Engineering: Team Elite

Being both a moldmaker and a molder allows Elite Mold to be a one-stop team for its customers and the MoldMaking Technology 2009 Leadtime Leader Honorable Mention Award: Small Shop.
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At Elite Mold & Engineering, Inc. (Shelby Twp., MI), just 21 employees have the mission of providing high quality plastic injection molded parts in the shortest turnaround time—from as short as five days for small parts to three weeks for large parts. The company specializes in rapid-cut plastic injection molds that combine QC-10 aluminum and P-20 steel for injection molds that can easily reach 10,000-piece yearly production.

Joseph Mandeville, the President of Elite Mold, explains that around the year 1999 the company made a strategic move to diversify the customer base. Elite now services automotive, medical, military, aerospace, electronic and consumer products. “We knew that the best way to grow business was to help customers get their products to market faster,” he says.

Starting Out

Joseph and his older brother, Robert Mandeville, founded Elite Mold & Engineering, Inc. in 1982. By 1995 they launched a second company, Elite Plastic Products, Inc. Today the two companies are side by side, 17,500 square foot for Elite Mold and 24,000 square foot for Elite Plastic Products—with combined sales of more than $10 million per year.

In his current position as president, Joseph is responsible for overseeing strategic planning and global marketing. The task of the daily operations at Elite Mold is given to the Plant Manager Paul Patrash. With support from Mary Sutter as Plant Manager at Elite Plastic Products, CEO Robert Mandeville is able to take a less active role—having built this strong management team.


Lean/Leadtime Strategies

Elite uses a combination of lean processing and the latest technology to maintain its highly stringent leadtimes. “We continue to accelerate leadtime by the purchase of high-speed equipment (CNC milling centers, orbital CNC EDMs and all electric molding machines),” Mandeville states. “We believe in continuous improvement. We are focused on process improvements that reduce cost and accelerate timing. Job startup begins at the quoting stage with a complete evaluation of the product design: a review of the parting line, ejection, and gate (which we call the PEG review). This allows Elite to quickly communicate the tool design and work closely with the customer to make sure we meet the product requirements. However, the most important element to success is the culture that exists at Elite Mold. This level of employee commitment is very important to building tools and mold ISO-certified quality products in such a fast-paced environment. The company works in synchronization, processing orders from department to department. Having high-speed machining centers are important, but keeping them running unattended around the clock takes a well-coordinated system.”

Another important strategy was placing the responsibility for high cavitation, high hard steel tool building and high-volume molding at Elite Plastic Products. “Elite Mold was then able to focus on the low-volume market,” Mandeville states. “The result was the equivalent of moving a slow-moving semi truck (high-volume product molds) out of the express lane. With this open highway we found that the more jobs we process the better the system runs. This increases our throughput capacity and allows us to be more competitive—and pass on the savings to the customer.”


Staying Competitive

Elite believes that education is paramount to the company’s success. Mandeville is a member of Automation Alley’s International Business Services Advisory Council. “The Advisory Council consists of leaders and executives representing government, academia and private enterprise,” he explains. “The Council members provide guidance and input to the operations and strategic goals of Automation Alley’s international business services. This active membership keeps me abreast of global issues affecting manufacturers.”

The company also is actively involved with the organization TEC Detroit. “TEC is a membership organization that delivers a unique blend of business resources and personal support that changes lives, increases profits, improves careers and makes the challenges of running and growing a business both fulfilling and worthwhile,” Mandeville comments.

Additionally, Elite is a member of the Global Tooling Alliance (GTA), a collaboration of 19 tool and die shops supporting each other in the global economy. “Knowledge and networking are two key benefits of the alliance, along with united goal setting and the commonality of resources purchased amongst the member companies and shared with each other,” Mandeville


Reaching New Markets

Elite has concentrated efforts toward east and west coast medical device companies by attending medical tradeshows in California and Boston. Additionally, Elite created an alliance with a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Bangalore India.

Elite also is involved in the hybrid automobile market. “We worked with Tesla to build an all-electric Tesla Roadster (wire harnesses, wire routing enclosures, plug in connections for charger, battery terminal),” Mandeville says. “We are currently working on an electric vehicle project with compact power.”

To help with these efforts, Elite hired medical market business growth consultant (CJPS Enterprises) to assist in market diversification; and a University of Michigan undergraduate marketing student.


A Strong Workforce

Elite has a great organizational culture, Mandeville maintains. “Our attitude towards doing quality, on-time work has developed over the years and is hard to imitate,” he notes. “We hire interns to begin involvement with the company at an early stage. We also are involved with Michigan Business Surviving to Thriving (MBST), a University of Michigan program that assists Michigan businesses in adjusting to the changing economic conditions. What MBST does for Elite is share the costs for training and consulting, which results in a positive work atmosphere. Employees feel that they are a part of the company and their performance reflects this feeling. At Elite, ideas flow freely, which is a large part of our success.”


The Road Ahead

In the future, Elite is planning on focusing on low-volume molding customers that need quality, low-cost tooling for short-run production. Currently ISO 9001:2000 certified, the company is working toward ISO 13485—an ISO standard that represents the requirements for a comprehensive management system for the design and manufacture of medical devices.

“In today’s economy, we plan to be lean and proceed on a slow growth track, as the demand requires,” Mandeville concludes. “Investing in technology is key to any business success, especially during this hard economic time.”


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