The International Tooling & Machining Association: A World Power

Thousands of companies from around the world exchange information and ideas to strengthen the moldmaking industry as a whole and ensure its long-term success.


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For more than a quarter of a century, the International Special Tooling and Machining Association (ISTMA) (Ft. Washington, MD) has represented the worldwide tooling and machining industry. Today, the global association includes in its membership a total of twenty-five tooling and machining associations from Asia, Europe and North America. ISTMA membership collectively includes more than eight thousand companies and more than $40 billion in annual sales.

"The organization was originally founded to provide an international networking mechanism for the tooling industry and to provide a forum for discussion of industry concerns and challenges," notes ISTMA General Manager Tom Garcia, who manages and overseas ISTMA activities. "ISTMA provides an opportunity for member associations and their member countries to meet, network and potentially develop collaborative marketing relationships to help them compete in the global marketplace. The vision of the association is to evolve into a center of knowledge for the global tooling and machining industry."

From its beginning until 1998, the ISTMA secretariat function was located in Germany and managed by VDMA, the association representing the German precision tool industry. However, in 1998 the ISTMA secretariat was transferred to the U.S. where it is headquartered at the offices of the National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA). By that time, the ISTMA Board of Directors also had elected to divide the association into three regions (ISTMA Americas, ISTMA Asia and ISTMA Europe) to more effectively function as an international association.



As ISTMA's general manager, Garcia is responsible for overall organization and management of ISTMA world activities. Housed in the offices of the NMTA, Garcia oversees a number of different ISTMA projects and services. "Each year ISTMA produces a report entitled ISTMA Business Figures, Ratios and Statistics that is a compilation of industry data on productivity figures, sales information, operating statistics, etc., from participating ISTMA member countries," he says. "The annual report provides valuable market intelligence for member companies of ISTMA member associations on productivity and costs throughout the world and is helpful to member companies in assessing their competition throughout the globe."

Additionally, twice each year the association compiles an ISTMA Business Conditions Report, which is a snapshot of business conditions in countries in the three ISTMA regions - Asia, Europe and North America.


ISTMA Conference

Every three years ISTMA organizes an international conference, rotating among the three ISTMA regions. The 1998 conference was held in Amsterdam, the 2001 conference in Chicago, and the 11th International Conference of the Special Tooling and Machining association will be held on May 9-15, 2004 in Bangkok, Thailand. Some three hundred leading tooling and machining companies worldwide will gather together to exchange information and explore new and better ways to collaborate and compete in the global market.

The ISTMA Conference in Bangkok also will coincide with INTERMACH 2004 - a state-of-the-art machinery exhibition held annually that covers machine tools, sheet metal, dies, tooling, welding, automotive engineering and other industries.


Facing Challenges

Not surprisingly, ISTMA's biggest challenge is to help its member associations and their member companies compete and grow in the global marketplace. Low-cost competition from China as well as newly emerging Eastern European countries is creating significant challenges for companies throughout the globe. According to Garcia, "There are ongoing discussions within the association regarding strategies and methods our members might most effectively use in order to effectively compete in a growing marketplace of low-cost competitors - whether such strategies might be focusing on high-end tooling, more value-added services, etc."

Training also is a consistent issue and topic for discussion, according to Garcia. "ISTMA regularly discusses training projects and initiatives that are being implemented in different countries - initiatives that can be shared and implemented elsewhere."

It is such collaboration among the ISTMA member associations and their member countries that allows tooling and machining industry leaders to come together and share information for the betterment of the industry as well as for individual company long-term success in the global special tooling and machining industry.

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