Canadian Plastics

Royal Mould Technologies Ltd.:Partnering in China:

T he past few years have not been overly kind to most of the mold, tool and die shops operating in Canada. Bankruptcies, closures and asset auctions have become all-too-common, as moldmakers fight to ...

March 1, 2008   By Jim Wei, General Manager, Superi Inc.



The past few years have not been overly kind to most of the mold, tool and die shops operating in Canada. Bankruptcies, closures and asset auctions have become all-too-common, as moldmakers fight to cope with a dwindling North American automobile industry, and growing pressure from cheap offshore competition.

The news is not all bad, however. For every shop that has struggled, another has been motivated by these challenges to improve its operation and services — as the story of Royal Mould Technologies Ltd. illustrates vividly. During the past five years, the Toronto-based tooling solutions provider has gone through a series of focused transformations, aided by a rigorous re-investment strategy, to adjust and adapt to the new realities of today’s business climate.

Given the drastic fluctuations in the business cycle, Royal’s first step was to downsize its staffing by approximately 30 per cent, hoping this change would payoff in the long run. “We re-organized the operations within our existing facility and began to plan and put in place a business model for the future,” said Michael P. Draga, general manager. “This initially put a tremendous strain on our resources and day-today functions, but as time passed we became accustomed to the change and the flexibility required to survive.”

As it grew more comfortable with the new standard operating procedures, Draga continued, the company began reviewing the overall changes believed necessary to remain a competitive choice for tooling solutions and services.

The first of these was undertaken throughout 2003 and 2004, when Royal re-invested in upgrades, adding all-new engineering hardware, software and communication tools.

“And then, during 2005 and 2006, we reviewed our office, IT and administration capabilities and requirements,” Draga said. “We re-invested substantially in new hardware and software that could be seamlessly integrated with our existing IT tools.”

With the “up front” end of the business where it needed to be, the company’s next step was to evaluate its shop floor procedures and equipment, to determine what the best investment would be for getting the company where it wanted to be in the next year and beyond. Extensive research and evaluations where carried out in the latter part of 2006, and into 2007, to find the capital equipment that would best suit the company’s new business model. The payoff came in November 2007, with the purchase of a new Takumi V-32 35 HP high-speed heavy cutting machining center, complete with the latest controls.

Another investment included a new 250-square foot mezzanine to accommodate production manager and CNC programming offices. To keep up with the faster control speeds, all the programming hardware was also replaced.

With the various transformations and continual re-investment in all aspects of its business, Draga now believes that Royal is starting to see the rewards, with a very “healthy backlog” and many promising opportunities on the horizon. “The difficult decisions made over the past few years kept Royal afloat and helped us remain competitive through the extremely lean times,” he said. “Although we’re still uncertain of what the industry has to throw at us, we believe we’ve adjusted very well. We’ll continue to make the necessary changes required to offer our current and potential customers the professional services that Royal has been known for over the past 29 years.” Staying competitive these days is difficult for many Canadian mold, tool and die makers. For this reason, some are looking to streamline their operations by having mold bases and components built in China and then shipped to Canada for machining of the inserts.

Unfortunately, finding a good moldmaker in China that suits North American requirements can be as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack. And such factors as cultural and language dissimilarities, travel distance and differing time zones can make this search even more difficult.

The good news is that following a simple three-step strategy can minimize the risks involved in partnering with a Chinese tool shop.

STRATEGY #1 -TYPES OF TOOLSHOPS

There are hundreds of toolmakers in Southern China alone. The majority are located in the coastal cities of China, such as Shandong, Zhejiang and the Province of Canton, this last area containing the most skilled tool makers from across China. Their success is mainly due to the fact that, in earlier decades, China used the city of Shenzhen as the trial municipality for private investment opportunities, which attracted many Asian tool makers, as well as migrant workers from all across China.

For simplicity’s sake, Chinese toolmakers can be categorized as small, medium and large. One must select a toolmaker according to one’s specific needs and criteria.

STRATEGY #2 -VISITING TOOLSHOPS IS A MUST

Some moldmakers believe in managing projects, from start to finish, through phone calls alone. This might be an appropriate business strategy if the Chinese shops abide by the same ethics and standards as North American shops. However, the differences between cultures, languages and work practices often present difficulties that can be avoided with visits. Visiting tool shops in China is only an airplane ticket away. An airline ticket to Hong Kong is approximately $2,000, depending upon the time of year. Once arrived, travelling within China is extremely inexpensive, and in most cases these costs can be passed on to the Chinese supplier.

A visiting moldmaker should visit as many tool shops as possible during the initial visit, as this will help you adjust to and better understand the Chinese manufacturing environment. If possible, perform very detailed audits at every tool shop visited. For example, a toolmaker might claim to build over five ton molds while there is only one crane available rated for three tons and under. A careful audit allows you to decide upon a tool shop that can satisfy your needs.

STRATEGY #3 -MICRO-MANAGEMENT

The most important strategy for success with Chinese moldmakers is having a micro management team present in that country to guide in implementing North American standards. Otherwise, one will only find out about problems when the mold arrives on Canadian soil.

Recruiting an experienced project manager to micro manage these tool shops is a key factor in avoiding problems. These project managers can work for a Canadian firm or through a third party consulting agency. Project managers can inspect incoming steel for size and hardness; review and approve tooling blueprints; manage the incoming of test material; supervise all stages of the tool build and the tool trials; confirm detailed weekly communication with the Canadian moldmaker; supervise any engineering changes; ensure parts are molded to specifications; and finally, inspect the mold prior to shipping. Jim Wei, P. Eng., is the general manager of Superi Inc., a mold & die import and management firm located in Waterloo, Ont. He can be reached at 519-342-6542, or at jimwei@superi.ca. The company’s website is www.superi.ca.

D-M-E Company will present several expansions and additions to its product lines at this year’s show.

Hot sprue bushing for single-cavity direct gating

The Polimax hot sprue bushing (pictured), the newest addition to the company’s line of hot sprue bushings and tips, offers high-performance capability with both engineering-and commodity-grade resins.

Polimax is designed for direct part gating in single cavity molds and offers 15 standard bushings with head heater for engineered grade materials. The Polimax features standard and wear-resistant tips in three styles: sprue gate, ring gate and point gate. Other features include precise thermal control, lengths up to 185 m
m, four locating ring options and flow channel sizes from 8 mm to 12 mm.

Also, the company’s mold components line has been expanded with Black and Gold Interlocks. The interlocks — which come in five different sizes, and are sold in pairs — ensure accurate alignment and guidance of the mold halved during mold setup and throughout mold operation.

D-M-E will also show its Integrity temperature controls and its Cold Runner System, which is designed for molding materials such as Liquid Silicone Rubber (LSR), High Temperature Vulcanizing (HTV) silicone rubber and other elastomers.

D-M-E of Canada Ltd. (Mississauga, Ont.); www.dme.net; 800-387-6600 Booth 503

Hot runners for several market segments

Mold-Masters will showcase hot runner solutions for specific market segments. For the medical, personal care and packaging applications, Accu-Valve will be the featured product. According to the company, Accu-Valve is the leader in gating precision, longevity and fastest colour change performance for a valve gate.

The patented V-Guide system is engineered to eliminate the risk of material or gassing residues, and the melt-disturbance spiral liner has resulted in industry leading colour change results comparable to hot tip gating applications.

In the automotive segment, Mold- Masters will showcase its Fusion-Series hot runner. The hot runners offer key advantages such as ease of integration, robustness, reduced machining requirements and molding performance. The new Fusion-Series Accu-Line design, a valve gated single nozzle for large parts, is also included in the product line.

Mold-Masters Limited (Georgetown, Ont.); www.moldmasters.com; 905-877-0185 Booth 416

Robust hot runner for maximum up-time

The direct flow DF Gold Series hot runner system from Incoe provides increased performance and robustness, while maximizing molder up time.

The line has been expanded with a number of improvements, such as twin heater reliability; a wide range of system designs suitable for micro-to large part molding; 14 gating configurations for multiple applications; and Colour Seal technology for superior colour change.

The company will also show the Microcom temperature controller featuring several new design advances for added ease of use integrated system protection technologies and optimized hot runner performance.

Incoe Corp. (Troy, Mich.); www.incoe.com; 248-616-0220 Booth 517

Modular entry level process control system

RJG Inc.’s eDART flx is being launched as the first module of a developing modular process control system. The simplified system is for molders looking for an affordable entry-level system that provides automated part containment.

The modularity will allow users to upgrade later if more capacity is needed. The system offers many of the same features as RJG’s original eDART such as automatic sensor recognition and scaling, auto-zeroing of cavity pressure sensors, automatic job selection and simple robust hook-ups.

The initial module allows users to view in-cavity behaviour such as pressure and temperature, detecting short shots before the mold opens. The system is designed for a maximum of eight cavity pressure and temperature sensors.

RJG Inc. (Traverse City, Mich.); www.rjginc.com; 231-947-3111

KLA Enterprises (Kitchener, Ont.);

915-204-8316 Booth 822

Live demonstration of MoldTr ax software

Progressive Components will show new products from its catalogue, including the BX Inch Series hot sprue bushing, and items from the exclusive Friction-Free line. In addition, the company will include expanded offerings from its lines of alignment products, date stamps, collapsible cores and UniLifters.

Mold maintenance expert Steve Johnson will be on hand to give live demonstrations of his acclaimed MoldTrax 4.0 software program, a program for tracing mold performance, maintenance and the financial histories of injection mold tooling.

Progressive Components Canada, Ltd. (Toronto, Ont.); www.procomps.com; 1-800-269-6653 Booth 311

Royal Mould Technologies Ltd. (Toronto); www.royalmouldtech.com; 1-888-308-4868

———TATE Industrial SALES TURNS 40

They say that life begins at 40. For most businesses, unfortunately, life is over long before then — a fact that makes TATE Industrial Sales, of Windsor, Ont., all the more remarkable.

The family-owned and operated company is marking its 40th anniversary as an international distributor of cutting tools, mold and die components, metalworking supplies, abrasives, polishing supplies and machine shop supplies.

Established in 1968 by Joe Bondy and Dino Dominato, the company is still going strong under the leadership of Joe’s sons Michael and Jeff and partners Jim Trombley and Steve Litster.

TATE, an acronym for tools and transmission equipment, has a reputation for sourcing “hard to find” cutting tools, components and machine shop supplies, said Jeff Bondy, the company’s sales manager. “We sell to the metal working industry, but we specialize in moldmaking.”

TATE Industrial has 11 employees involved in sales, shipping, receiving and purchasing, all working out of its 20,000 square foot facility at 4185 Walker Rd.

To celebrate the 40-year milestone, Bondy said, the company is offering a 40 per cent discount on its surplus tooling package — including drills, taps, toolbits and collets — throughout the month of March. The offer also includes a free cordless drill with all surplus-tooling orders over $200.00.

“We’d like to thank each and every customer for their patronage throughout our 40-year history,” Bondy said.

TATE Industrial Sales (Windsor, Ont.); www.tateindustrial.com; 1-800-265-3814

———FAST MOLDMA

When: April 23-24, 2008 Where: Rock Financial Showplace,

Novi, Mich. Website: www.moldmakingexpo.com

EXPO FACTS ON KIN G 2008


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