Canadian Plastics

Moldmaking Report: A tale of two surveys

By Mark Stephen, Editor   

WHO, WHAT, WHEREAlmost 100 per cent of this year's respondents were located in Ontario: forty-one per cent in Windsor, 41% in the Toronto area, and the reminder in Quebec. Last year, 48% of respondents were in Windsor, 43% in Toronto, and the...


Almost 100 per cent of this year’s respondents were located in Ontario: forty-one per cent in Windsor, 41% in the Toronto area, and the reminder in Quebec. Last year, 48% of respondents were in Windsor, 43% in Toronto, and the remainder in Quebec.

When asked how many employees work at their plant, answers varied from two to 110. Missing from this year, apparently, was the mega-shop that employed 250 in 2009. Almost 50% of this year’s respondents are with firms that employ at between 15 to 50 workers. The average respondent worked at a shop with 36 workers, compared to an average of 39 workers in 2009. The average hourly wage is $23.00 per hour, a very slight uptick from the 2009 average of $22.65 per hour.

The vast majority of respondents — 90% — said they manufactured molds and dies for injection molding applications. Forty- five per cent also make compression transfer molds, 36% also make die cast molds, and 18% work on structural foam molds. This compares with 85% making injection molds, 40% making die cast molds, 30% making compression molds, and 30% making structural foam molds in 2009.


Compared with 2009, the 2010 responses reveal a slight but noticeable shift in the manufacturing habits of the moldmakers. Last year, 85% listed the auto industry as their top market, with 80% also having involvement in consumer goods and housewares. This year, those numbers have flipped — and then some. Ninety-one per cent of respondents are involved in consumer goods and housewares, with 75% also working on automotive molds. This might indicate that the well-known troubles afflicting the auto industry have finally filtered down the manufacturing chain, reducing the number of mold shops involved.

Fifty per cent of respondents this year also supply molds for packaging applications, and 50% supply molds for electrical applications. Another big shift: forty-one per cent of respondents this year make molds for medical applications, compared to just 30% involved in medial last year. Given the smaller number of respondents this year, it seems fair to extrapolate and say that more moldmakers are seeking, and finding, work in the growing medical device market.

Eighty per cent of this year’s respondents offer custom machining, compared with 100 per cent in 2009. Also, 80% offer mold cleaning and repairing, compared with 86% last year. Only 70 reported having an EDM facility this year, a falloff from 86% with EDM last year. Also for this year, 60% provide mold polishing, 40% offer CNC duplicating, and 30% perform engraving works. None of this year’s respondents have in-house mold testing or try-outs, compared with 26% who offered these in 2009.


Asked for a prediction of business conditions in the next 12 months, 25% expected “good” conditions, 25% expected “fair” conditions, and 41% expected “poor” results. One lone optimist forecast an “excellent” year ahead, and nobody thought they were heading for a “bad” year. Compared to last year’s expectations, there’s no demonstrable change. While none predicted “excellent” business in 2009, 21% hoped for “good” conditions, 36% expected “poor” conditions, and 5% predicted a “bad” forecast.

Asked for their average machine utilization rate for the past 12 months, one of this year’s respondents reported using almost all of their equipment. Almost 9% reported using between 80% to 89% of their machinery, 42% used between 70% to 79% of their machinery, 25% used between 60% to 69%, and the rest employed 50% or less. Compare this with 2009: almost 11% of respondents reported using between 90-70% of their machinery last year, roughly one half said they used between 69-50%, 22% used between 49-30%, and 17% reported utilizing less than 30% of their equipment.

Turning to quotations for new business, we get some good news. Fifty per cent of respondents this year said they quoted for “moderately” or “substantially” more business than in 2009, a 20% jump over the results of the same question last year. Thirty- three per cent of respondents this year said they placed the same number of quotes as last year, and 16% report a “moderate” to “substantial” quoting decrease compared to 2009. Last year, almost 40% of respondents reported a “moderate” to “substantial” quoting decrease since the year before.

So far, so good — but how many of those quotes result in new business? This year, 33% of respondents said that less than 10% of their quotes wound up winning the contracts — a decline from the 52% of respondents who reported the same success rate last year. Thirty-three per cent of respondents this year reported a success rate of between 11% to 20%, 16% reported between a 21% and 50% success rate, and another 16% are getting at least one half of the jobs they’re quoting for. Last year, 10% of the respondents reported a 50% or better success rate.

When it comes to buying new moldmaking machinery, the respondents were clear — and compared to last year, the results are promising for equipment vendors. Forty-five per cent of respondents this year are planning to buy new machinery within the next 12 months, compared with only 10% who were in a buying mood in 2009. Even better, 80% of those shopping around this year are interested in new equipment. Forty per cent of these will be buying to add additional capacity.


Speaking of spending, there might be a slight uptick in the amount of money being invested in employee training, too. Fifty per cent of this year’s respondents reported allocating 2% of annual budgeted expenses for training; last year, 47% of respondents said that their shops devoted just 1% of annual budgeted expenses for training. Twenty per cent of respondents reported having no expenses at all set aside for training in 2009, compared with just 10% with nothing set aside this year.

And when it comes to safety, almost nobody is scrimping. Ninety per cent of respondents this year reported having a safety program at their facility — a welcome improvement from the 70% with safety programs last year.


Looking beyond our borders, almost 44% of respondents this year do not have a business presence outside of Canada, compared with 54% in the same situation last year. Forty-four per cent have a presence of some kind in China, compared with 34% last year; 22% have connections in the U.S., compared with 15% last year; and 11% have a presence in India, which no one reported having last year.

Of the shops without an international presence, 66% have no plans to initiate one either, compared with 90% with no such plans last year.


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