Mold shop has three-pronged success strategy…and no “bling”
It's something you hear all the time - "So-and-so was born to do this job" - but unless you're talking about Prince William, odds are it's an exaggeration. With Brian Bendig, however, a slight variation is the literal truth. Bendig, the...
It’s something you hear all the time – “So-and-so was born to do this job” – but unless you’re talking about Prince William, odds are it’s an exaggeration. With Brian Bendig, however, a slight variation is the literal truth. Bendig, the president of Cavalier Tool & Manufacturing Ltd., wasn’t necessarily born to run the company, but he did arrive on the scene at the same time. “The shop opened on Nov. 17, 1975, the day I was born,” he said. “My father left the hospital to unlock for the first day.”
The Windsor, Ont.-based company started small under the guidance of Bendig’s father and two other partners, who divided their focus between automotive and non-automotive products, as well as medium to large tooling. But like Bendig himself, Cavalier has spent the past 35 years growing. The company had its most profitable year ever in 2009, and its latest measure of success is a new 20,000 square-foot facility in El Paso, Texas intended to handle manufacturing and repair in North America and Mexico.
PEOPLE, PROCESS, EQUIPMENT
With the Windsor moldmaking community currently resembling the first few seconds after the shootout at the O.K. Corral – lots of fallen bodies and a few cooler heads left standing – Cavalier’s ability to survive and thrive, Bendig said, comes from a combination of three things: people, process and equipment. “Our success is contingent on having all three of these components gel together: the right people doing the right process on the right equipment,” he said. “A shop might have state-of-the-art equipment, but if it’s not run efficiently then it’s not an advantage.”
On the equipment side, Cavalier purchases the latest equipment and software that can enhance the manufacturing process. “Our biggest investments are usually in computers and computer-related items,” he explains. The company is also eager to adopt technology that improves speed and efficiency. “Speed translates into cost savings, and we’ve been able to acquire a lot of new or high speed equipment and cutters, usually purchased at a discount from auctions,” Bendig said.
Process-wise, the 75-employee strong company received an efficiency supercharge from the incorporation of Lean and Six Sigma a few years ago. “Some of our machines are equipped with computer software that automatically dials tech support if a failure occurs; on-line tech support then assesses what caused the failure,” Bendig explained. “As a result, we’ve attained some real improvements in machine utilization.”
The people aspect of Cavalier’s three-pronged strategy comes not just from having the right employees, but by developing good relations with others – no matter where they live. “By the end of this decade, the entire tooling trade will be completely global, and we’re currently laying the groundwork for relationships with Asian and European companies,” Bengid said. “We’re also looking south into Mexico, which is where our new El Paso facility factors in. The original intention was to use it as a standalone repair business, but our Mexican customers are now asking for newly-built molds. As a result, we already need to add a second shift in El Paso.”
MOLDS? YES. “BLING”? NO
A final piece of the puzzle might not sound sexy, but it’s no less important. Call it good old fashioned discipline. “Ten years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see tool shops with Ferraris parked out front and huge fish tanks in the foyer,” Bendig said. “We’ve never promoted that type of ostentation. During our lean years, we always told our customers that we wouldn’t buy their business by trying to impress them, and we stick to that philosophy today. We don’t build fixtures, we don’t build end-of-arm-tooling, and we don’t offer a lot of ‘bling’ – we just want to make molds.”