Canadian Plastics

Moldmaking Report: Looking Skyward for New Business

"To the Moon, Alice!" With those famous words of warning, TVs Ralph Kramden would try to salvage his self-respect whenever his carefully laid plans went south.

March 1, 2009   By Mark Stephen, Managing Editor



“To the Moon, Alice!” With those famous words of warning, TVs Ralph Kramden would try to salvage his self-respect whenever his carefully laid plans went south.

The Canadian Association of Moldmakers (CAMM) is trying to help moldmakers salvage their economic futures by turning everyone’s eyes, if not exactly to the Moon, then at least towards the aerospace industry.

The organization was involved in a recent project by the Ontario Aerospace Council (OAC) to encourage approximately 10 Ontario companies in the machine, mold, tool and die (MTDM) sector to find new business opportunities working on aerospace parts.

OPPORTUNITIES TAKE FLIGHT

The global aerospace industry is currently in a strong growth period, which is expected to be sustained over the next several years. As a result, current industry capacity for machined components is stretch to the limit, and major Ontario and Canadian aerospace firms are actively seeking additional qualified suppliers. The OAC’s initiative, funded by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, was designed to help in the search.

According to CAMM president Dan Moynahan, the OAC effort of bringing aerospace parts manufacturers together with MTDM shops is fast-tracking a goal that CAMM has been advocating for years. “Our organization has pushed for this for quite some time, but we’d always had problems because the aerospace industry isn’t one in which you simply knock on doors and get a contract. You need the right connections, and the OAC’s project has definitely helped.”

The OAC visited some 35 MTDM shops that had applied for the program in Ontario, and picked the 10 that seemed best able to take on aerospace contracts. “They looked at the quality of the shops, types of equipment used, and how prepared they were to invest further in it,” he said. “They also wanted to know financial information about each company.”

This last step was necessary, Monyahan continued, because the selected companies would be expected to contribute some of their own money to the initiative. “Each company had to agree to pay $10,000 if accepted, with the Ontario government putting in an additional $20,000, to be used for training and upgrading,” he said.

Moynahan’s own mold shop, Platinum Tool Technologies Inc., of Oldcastle, Ont., was one of the 10 companies selected for the program — and while Platinum Tool hasn’t received any work orders yet, Moynahan is confident that aerospace is one of the keys to future prosperity for everyone in the MTDM industry. “In potential, aerospace is bigger than the automotive industry, and the projected growth of the industry is spectacular,” he said.

EXPERIENCE REQUIRED

As the two-out-of-three rejection rate for applicants to the program indicates, not all companies are ready at present to take on the challenges of such work.

“To get into the aerospace industry, moldmakers need high-speed machines that can machine tougher metals such as titanium, and have experience with these types of metals,” Moynahan explained. “It’s also necessary to move from an ISO rating to at least an AS9100 certification, which is a widely adopted and standardized quality management system for the aerospace industry. For a mid-sized shop, it can cost about $30,000 to get this rating, without considering any employee training.”

Moynahan stresses that working on aerospace contracts does not necessarily involve moldmaking. “Although making molds does come into it, most of the work, in fact, involves high speed, tight tolerance machining of titanium parts,” he said.

Perhaps the most important element in getting and retaining contracts for aerospace parts lies in simple accountability, Moynahan continued. “A MTDM company has to be able to track a part if anything ever goes wrong,” he said. “Insurance can also be a problem, particularly if the moldmaker is responsible for any part of the design — if so, you’d better have some good liability insurance.”

At present, the OAC is considering additional programs of this nature. Moynahan says that, regardless, CAMM will continue to urge all Canadian MTDM companies to prepare themselves for working on aerospace parts, particularly those that were heavily invested in the auto industry. “It’s absolutely crucial for moldmakers to look at opportunities like this,” he said. “A recent CAMM study suggested, for example, that if a moldmaker has more than 35 per cent of its business tied up with the Big Three, they will not be in business in two years.”


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