Feature

Four-Warned

The results of the fourth annual Canadian Plastics' Moldmaking Benchmark Survey are in. Last year, our respondents reported a return to semi-prosperity after the Great Recession. How does the situation stack up 12 months later? Read on.


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October 1, 2012 by Mark Stephen, editor

The survey, consisting of 33 questions, was emailed in August 2012 to approximately 160 moldmakers across Canada in the Canadian Plastics database, as well as to members of the Canadian Association of Mold Makers (CAMM). We received 23 completed surveys.

WHO, WHAT, WHERE

As usual, most of the respondents this year — 81% — are located in Ontario, with 38% in the Toronto area, 19% in Windsor, and the rest spread throughout other parts of the province. The remaining 19% are in Quebec.

When asked how many employees work at their plant, answers varied from 120 to two. Almost 50% of this year’s respondents are with firms that employ 50 workers or more. The average shop employed 59 workers, compared to an average of 46 workers in 2011 and 36 in 2010 — perhaps indicating that more of the shops that are still around today are larger. The average hourly wage is $25.41, a very slight uptick from the 2011 average of $24.33 per hour and the 2010 average of $22.65 per hour. This year’s average might be skewed slightly by one respondent who reported a whopping hourly wage of $39.00. (None of us wish we worked there, right?)

The majority of respondents — 71.4% — said they manufactured molds and dies for injection molding applications, down from 90% last year. Thirty-eight per cent this year make injection molds/stack molds, 23.8% make blow molds, 23.8% make die cast molds, 19% make injection molds/unscrewing molds, 19% make reaction injection molds, 14.3% make structural foam molds, and 14.3% make vacuum forming molds.  

Compared with 2011, the 2012 responses reveal a slight but noticeable shift in the manufacturing habits of the moldmakers. Last year, 95% of respondents listed the auto industry as their top market; this year, only 71.4% said the same. Eighty-one per cent of respondents this year said molds for consumer goods and houseware products are their top markets, up from 70% in 2011. In other words, it seems like the see-sawing fortunes of the automotive industry are continuing.

Also, 76.2% of respondents this year supply molds for packaging applications, and 38.1% supply molds for electrical applications. Not surprisingly, the number of moldmakers working with medical parts molders continues to creep higher as the boomers get older: Fifty-four per cent of respondents this year make molds for medical applications, compared to 45% in 2011 and 30% in 2010.

Eighty-five per cent of this year’s respondents offer custom machining, compared with 81% last year; also, 85% offer mold cleaning and repairing, also compared with 81% last year. A similar 85% reported having an EDM facility this year, an increase from 72% with EDM last year. Here’s a bigger change: this year, only 66.7% provide mold polishing, compared to 91% last year. Also this year, 52.4% reported offering CNC duplicating, and 42.9% perform engraving works. Almost 30% of this year’s respondents have in-house mold testing or try-outs, compared to just 10% last year.

BUSINESS: PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE

Asked for a prediction of business conditions in the next 12 months, only 5% expected an “excellent” year ahead, 35% expected “good” conditions, 35% expected “fair” results, and 25% feared either a “poor” or “bad” outcome. Last year, 27.3% expected excellent conditions, 45.4% expected good conditions, 27.3% expected fair conditions, and nobody thought they were in for either a poor or a bad year.

Asked for their average machine utilization rate for the past 12 months, 20% reported using 80% or more of their equipment — a big drop, as we’ll soon see. Sixty-five per cent reported using between 79% to 60% of their machinery, and 15% used 59% or less. Last year, 72% used 80% or more, and no one reported using 59% or less.

Turning to quotations for new business, the numbers align better with last year’s results — sort of. Thirty-eight per cent of respondents this year reported quoting for moderately or substantially more business than in 2011, almost even with the 40% last year who quoted more than in 2010. But that’s where the similarities end. Another 23.8% of respondents this year said they placed the same number of quotes as last year — a falloff from the 40% reporting the same number of quotations as the year before in 2011. And 38.1% reported a moderate to substantial quoting decrease compared to 2011 — up from the 20% of respondents last year reporting a moderate to substantial quoting decrease compared to 2010.

RFQs are one thing — quotes that result in actual new business are something else. This year, 35% of respondents said that 50% or more of their quotes wind up winning the contracts — up from 18% saying the same thing last year. Another 10% said they were successful between 21% and 50% of the time, and the remaining 55% reported getting the contract 20% of the time or less. 

PURCHASING, TRAINING, R&D 

When it comes to buying new moldmaking machinery, the respondents were clear — and for the third year in a row, most are in a buying mood. To be precise, 52% are looking for new equipment, although this is down from 72% last year. The better news? Seventy-two per cent will be on the hunt for new equipment exclusively, compared to 60% in 2011. The rest are willing to consider either new or pre-owned.

Digging a bit deeper, 45% of this year’s respondents will be buying to add new capacity, and the rest to replace existing equipment.

On the training front, 28.6% of this year’s respondents report allocating 1% of annual budgeted expenses for employee training, 28.6% will spend 2% on training, and an obviously ultra-safe and efficient 23.8% will invest 3% or more. Nineteen per cent reported having no expenses at all set aside for training in 2012, compared to zero with nothing set aside last year.

When it comes to research and development, the spending continues to hold steady. Sixty-five per cent of this year’s respondents will invest 3% or more of their annual budgeted expenses on R&D — exactly the same as last year. On the other hand, 20% will make no R&D investments in the next 12 months, compared to only 5% saying the same last year.