Special Report – British Columbia: Not Quiet on the Western Front
As one of the few moldmakers on Canada's West Coast, Innovative Tool & Die Inc. (Delta, B.C.) has been, and still is, an important resource for many molders based in British Columbia. Founded 22 years...
As one of the few moldmakers on Canada’s West Coast, Innovative Tool & Die Inc. (Delta, B.C.) has been, and still is, an important resource for many molders based in British Columbia. Founded 22 years ago by Walter Klomp and two partners, the company, over this span, has manufactured injection molds for everything from toilet seats to telephones to toys. Today its focus is on designing and building complex, higher-end injection molds up to 3000 lb. It also produces die cast and forging dies for a small group of customers. The company’s unofficial motto, says Klomp, is to help a customer design and build the highest quality mold, at the lowest cost in the fastest time.
“Being a western company, we have to wear a lot of hats,” says Klomp. “This area doesn’t have the resources companies have back east, so we have to provide our customers with more support. Our strength is providing customers with value-added on the engineering and design side.”
Many customers walk in with an idea for a product or part, but need technical help. The company uses Pro/Engineer and Solidworks, and a variety of other CAD/CAM software to design parts and build molds. In many cases, however, Klomp’s experience as a trained tool and die maker is the key to fleshing out a customer’s concept and turning it into a tangible piece of merchandise.
Business is rebounding at Innovative after what Klomp calls one of the toughest years he’s seen since starting his business. The company recently purchased a Charmilles Roboform 55P CNC EDM, which can handle a work weighing up to 3500 lb. The machine, which may be the largest CNC EDM in Western Canada, complements the facility’s Charmilles Roboform 40 CNC EDM and Charmilles Robofil 310 wire EDM, giving it a strong capability for producing molds requiring fine details, such as ribbing. The firm also recently bought a new $0.5 million Okuma MC-V4020 vertical machining center capable of spindle speeds up to 15,000 rpm. The new Okuma was required to fulfill contracts and now gives the company a total of six CNC machining/milling centres.
“Some of our competitors in this region haven’t bought a new machine in 15 years,” notes Klomp. “Our equipment capabilities are leading edge, maybe not for the world, but certainly for the Northwest U.S. and Western Canada.”
While Innovative has customers scattered throughout the U.S. and Canada, the bulk of its business lays in a geographic region that runs south to Portland, OR, west to as far as Tennessee and north to Winnipeg. The company has picked up some significant business in Calgary, primarily as a supplier of injection molds to a proprietary manufacturer of office furniture. In one intriguing sideline with a regional flavor, the firm is the chief supplier of the active ingredient in the Ballard Fuel Systems hydrogen fuel cell. Innovative machines the component, which is composed of graphite and a composite material.
“The West lacks a central manufacturing industry, like automotive in the Midwest,” Klomp says. “If fuel cell technology ever takes off it could be a huge boost for the economy here.”
Klomp bought out his partners a few years after the company was founded. His son Frank has assisted with operations for the last 19 years. So far 2003 is panning out to be a very good year for the moldmaker. It recently delivered a $100,000 16-cavity mold used to mold snap-fit toy building blocks. The tool must hold two ten-thousandths tolerance on critical dimensions.
Says Klomp: “A lot of people are just metal cutters. We help customers develop their products.”