Creating Constructive Change

The mold shop puzzle


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There are mold shops in the U.S. that are growing and thriving. When faced with the problems every shop has, it is hard to imagine how anyone can overcome the many realities of our market today, let alone thrive and succeed. Those who are succeeding looked at the past and are doing the things that have always made people and companies successful: change with the times. Doing things the same way we always have is the surest path to becoming irrelevant.

The great business minds of the 20th century, all ventured not into the unknown, but dared to modify and do business differently—but along very stringent planned processes. They embraced a process that was a natural progression to better their business. This creates a terrible paradigm for those who want to be pragmatic about how to handle the ever-changing landscape of our business world and to have the discernment to make the decisions that will allow them to succeed.

How can we excel and make the changes needed in our business to not just survive but to grow and prosper? There is no simple fix. There are several things that can be done to make shops leaner, stronger and more flexible. You must look at this approach much like doing a jigsaw puzzle. There is no single way to start a puzzle, and there is no single way to approach each shop to prepare them to adjust for the changing economies.

This article series will explore how to make a shop more efficient, so there is no wasted motion. This will make the work flow in a natural progression—reducing scrap, increasing morale and reducing leadtimes. Our discussion will take us into shops that are actually using the methods we discuss and show you that they actually work in the real world.

As machines become more technical and techniques continuously evolve, we will need to keep our workforce in a constant learning mode, which requires a very rigid training and apprenticeship process to earn the title of Moldmaker. However, after the title is earned, there are many who believe they have achieved a pinnacle and do not require further education. This is a deadly error.

We will work with a shop that has created a perpetual training program and does not wait for trained people to apply for a job, but creates the people to fit their needs. Some of the most sought-after jobs currently in need of people did not exist in 2004. It is very evident that there is a knowledge gap and if we do not take matters into our own hands, we will become extinct.

In a recent poll of a local AMBA chapter meeting, it was asked who wanted to become a salesman. No one raised their hand. It was then asked how many functioned as a salesman for their company. Everyone raised their hand. We have moldmakers who are very good craftsmen who never wanted to be salespeople, acting as salesmen. Most have never been trained and have no clue how to organize a sales call. Sales is a process and it needs to have a plan just like building a house, a highway or even a mold. Most mold shops spend hours quoting and only get 3 to 5 percent return on what they quoted. If the quoting process gets refined, many hours can be turned into more productive time. We will look at shops that have done a better job at getting sales and finding new customers.

Many mold shops cringe when they are told they need to become lean. The common excuse is, “We are a mold shop and we build one mold at a time, so there is no way to become lean.” Nothing can be farther from the truth. When a mold shop really examines their operation, it becomes very evident that streamlining everything from communication to where fixtures are stored can have a dramatic impact on leadtimes, quality and waste.

These are just a few of the areas we will be exploring over the next few months, and like any good jigsaw puzzle there is no prescribed order. Also like any jigsaw puzzle, once you get closer to implementing each step in the order that makes sense for your shop, you will see a clearer picture and there will be long-lasting results. Keep in mind though, that just like a jigsaw puzzle, you will always have someone dump your puzzle on the table, so you’ll need to start all over again. This puzzle will never end, and that is just fine because the world is always changing—and the picture will always change as you continue to work on your jigsaw puzzle.

Next month we will discuss how to improve shop efficiency.