Canadian Plastics

Time Out With…Tom Meisels

How tough is the competition for moldmakers these day? How are you able to compete and make money?I've been in the moldmaking business for over 20 years and have not experienced the type of competitio...


April 1, 2003
By Canadian Plastics

How tough is the competition for moldmakers these day? How are you able to compete and make money?

I’ve been in the moldmaking business for over 20 years and have not experienced the type of competition that exists today. The situation today for many mold makers is a matter of survival. Many moldmakers would be satisfied getting orders that would just cover their costs. Unfortunately, what many find themselves doing is deferring the inevitable, which would be the closure of their company.

Do you think Canadian moldmakers can continue to compete with off-shore competition, for example China?

Asian competition seems to be every moldmaker’s excuse today, similar to the Portuguese moldmaker problem of a number of years ago. I am not suggesting that we can ignore this competition for it is a real and great threat. But we should put our efforts into competing as we have in the past. The Asian imported molds are here to stay and Canadian moldmakers have been more successful than our American counterparts in competing for the North American business. This may be due to Canadian moldmakers having built more of their business on export rather than the domestic markets.

Every one says people are key to the success of their businesses. Is it getting tougher to hang on to good workers? What are you doing to keep them around?

Considering the current conditions within the plastics industry, I have found many more resumes coming across my desk. Unfortunately, potential employees with the right qualifications, and more so, the right attitude, are difficult to find. We have been lucky over the last few years as we have had an increase in sales and virtually no turnover in manpower. I believe one core reason is that we have made a greater attempt to involve each employee and keep them up to date as to how not only FGL is doing but the entire industry in general. We have monthly lunches involving everyone in the organization. This provides a relaxed forum for every employee to make suggestions that could make FGL more competitive while allowing me to inform them of the obstacles that exist today.

What do you do to relax?

About four years ago, I was introduced to winter skiing. I have found this to be the one activity able to take my mind off work. It has become a great activity for my entire family. We try to ski locally at least one weekend every few weeks and have been able to take annual ski vacations in places such as Quebec and the Rocky Mountains.

Other than Canadian Plastics, what sorts of magazines or newspapers do you regularly read?

I try to, at least, scan most of the trade magazines, not only Canadian, but American, European and Asian. I also enjoy reading books relating to business and management. I have read “Who Moved My Cheese” (by Dr. Spencer Johnson) a few times. It regularly reminds me to maintain flexibility in business and be prepared to adapt to my customers needs.

What has been the most important change in the industry a) for the worse?; b) for the better?

Many would argue that the compressed lead times have been the worst thing to deal with. Having to design and build molds in eight weeks that would have been quoted with 20-22 weeks just a few years ago has been a difficult adjustment. But, I have found that in doing so, our ability to reduce labor hours has been enhanced thereby allowing us to be more cost competitive. Everyone in this industry seems to perform better under pressure and we definitely have more pressure today than in the past.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the prospects of the moldmaking industry in this country?

I think we have more difficult times ahead of us. But, this is no different than many previous times over the last 50 years. The industry will continue to change but at a more accelerated pace. I look forward to the future and believe that FGL will rise to all challenges that are yet to come. Winston Churchill once said “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

If you were Prime Minister what is one thing you would do to change things in Canada?

The United States is our largest trading partner and our greatest friend and ally. We should do everything possible to support and enhance that relationship.