The American Mold Builder - 2021 Issue 1

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ISSUE 1 2021

PLAYING THE LONG GAME IN WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT The Next Gen in Family-Owned Businesses Rising Optimism for Mold Industry in 2021 Impact of Recent Tax Changes


“For molds that run for decades, Progressive is the only choice.” Corey Fox, Accede Mold & Tool Co.

going the distance As a third-generation moldmaker, Accede’s Corey Fox has a unique perspective on long-term tooling performance:

“Our customers require warranties for as many as ten million cycles. That begins with the precision it provided by Pro’s pins, the lifetime warranty for Bar Locks, and CVe Monitors as part of the service plan we provide.” Running your tools greaseless for medical applications? Turn to exclusive Black Nitride components from Progressive, the team that’s looking as far into the future as you are.




Connections Reimagined!


AMBA.ORG Get the competitive advantage for your company. AMBA.ORG | INFO@AMBA.ORG | 317.436.3102

ISSUE 1 2021

PLAYING THE LONG GAME IN WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT The Next Gen in Family-Owned Businesses Rising Optimism for Mold Industry in 2021 Impact of Recent Tax Changes


8 OUTLOOK Mold Building Industry Ready for 2021 Speak Out .................................................. 6 Association .............................................. 12 Product ..................................................... 18 Industry ................................................... 30 Calendar ................................................... 42 Ad Index ................................................... 42

10 BENCHMARKING US Mold Builders Express Rising Optimism and Shifting Priorities 14 TALENT Workforce Development: The Long Game 20 SOLUTIONS Growing Pains and Intergenerational Business: Three Vignettes 26 OPERATIONS 3 Key Strategies for Continuous Improvement


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2021

AMERICAN MOLD BUILDERS ASSOCIATION 7321 Shadeland Station Way, #285 Indianapolis, IN 46256 P: 317.436.3102 • F: 317.913.2445 •



VIEW FROM 30 Capturing Historical Knowledge at M&M Tool and Mold


ECONOMIC FRONT When You See a Fork in the Road, Take It

38 SAFETY Reduce Electrical Shock Incidents with Safety-by Design 40 STRATEGIES Consolidated Appropriations Act Ushers In 2021 Tax Changes



Troy Nix, Executive Director Kym Conis, Managing Director Susan Denzio, Business Manager Rachael Pfenninger, Director of Strategic Execution

Advising Editor: Kym Conis Advertising/Sales: Susan Denzio PUBLISHED BY:

2150 SW Westport Dr., Suite #101 Topeka, KS 66614 P: 785.271.5801

Managing Editor: Dianna Brodine Asst. Editors: Liz Stevens, Brittany Willes Art Director: Becky Arensdorf Graphic Designer: Hailey Mann Opinions expressed in this publication may or may not reflect the views of the Association and do not necessarily represent official positions or policies of the Association or its members. |



s I’m writing this letter (on the day it is due, like any good mold builder) I hope you, your families A and your employees are doing well and staying healthy during these trying times. Boy, things are changing fast. I think we all are glad that 2020 is behind us. Hopefully, your shop is filled with work – or, if not, I hope you’re just waiting for the POs to be released.

So, off to the new year. In January, we had a webinar on the second draw of Payroll Protection Program (PPP) funds and corresponding tax implications. I want to thank Mike Devereux and his team from Mueller Prost and Alan Rothenbuecher and team from Benesch Law. AMBA started JIM SPERBER February strong with the State of the Industry webinar and update from Capitol Hill on the political AMBA President Master Tool & Mold changes that might / will be coming our way. I would like to thank Troy Nix and the AMBA Team, along with Omar Nashashibi with The Franklin Partnership, for this informative event. AMBA also continues to hold peer roundtable discusses every six weeks. I encourage all members to take advantage of these online opportunities. They are a great way to network and problems solve – and if you happen to miss any of the webinars, they’re always recorded and available on the AMBA website. If you haven’t joined in on any of our webinars, you are truly missing out on one of the great benefits that comes with your AMBA membership. The COVID-19 environment hasn’t stopped the AMBA from offering relevant programming, such as the mentor series for Emerging Leaders (February – May), and the Sales and Marketing Forum, March 10-11, 2021. In late June (June 22-24), the AMBA Conference 2021 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, will be this industry’s first face-to-face event since the pandemic. I’m looking forward to attending this value-packed event and to connecting with fellow mold builders; I hope to see you there! Once again, I would like to remind you to fill out the surveys that are sent out, so we can continue to gather intel and data to benchmark our organizations and get better at what we do. Currently, the Health and Benefits survey is open. Call AMBA headquarters to participate if you missed the link. You can access all benchmarking reports, including the recent 2021 Business Forecast Report, at www. As always, if you’re running into a problem or an issue that you can’t resolve or need help with, please contact us at the AMBA. I’m sure we can steer you in the right direction. I am looking forward to the next time we can get together and have face-to-face discussions. Take care, stay safe and healthy, God Bless all of you and God Bless American mold builders. “We are Stronger Together” n



National President Jim Sperber, Master Tool & Mold

Secretary and Legal Counsel Alan Rothenbuecher, Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP

Immediate Past-President Toby Bral, MSI Mold Builders

Treasurer Tom Barr, TK Mold & Engineering

Vice President Don Dumoulin, Precise Tooling Solutions


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2021

David Bowers II, JMMS, Inc.

Charles Daniels, Wepco Plastics Mike Devereux, Mueller Prost Greg Eidenberger, Paragon D&E Dan Glass, Strohwig Industries Chad LaMance, United Tool & Mold Andy Peterson, Industrial Molds Group Kenny Skar, Vincent Tool Tyler VanRee, Legacy Precision Molds

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MOLD BUILDING INDUSTRY READY FOR 2021 By Hallie Forcinio, contributing writer, The American Mold Builder

lthough 2020 was a tough year for A business, many AMBA members overcame the severe economic downturn experienced in the second quarter and actually thrived. The outlook for 2021 is positive, too, despite the uncertainties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and a new administration in Washington.

A report from Global Market Insights, Inc. (Selbyville, Delaware) projected the market for metal molds for injection molding will grow beyond $5.5 billion by 2027. Moldmakers and suppliers are optimistic. For example, INCOE Corp. (Auburn Hills, Michigan), a supplier of hot runner systems, recorded growth in fiscal 2020 and is registering higher year-over-year sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2021, ending on Jan. 31, 2021. “We invested a lot of money in equipment in 2020, so we’re prepared to handle the extra work we anticipate,” reported Jim Bott, new business development manager, mobility, automotive and heavy truck at INCOE. INCOE also plans to continue to add personnel, particularly in engineering. A1 Tool Corp. (Melrose Park, Illinois) has a strong backlog and is seeing a lot of activity from the automotive and appliance industries and also from housewares (totes, etc.) and packaging, such as 5-gallon containers and paint cans. “We feel very optimistic,” said Geoff Luther, CEO at A1 Tool. At Trifecta Tool and Engineering (Kettering, Ohio), the pandemic posed challenges related to illness among the workforce, supply chain issues and a slowdown in new projects in the markets it serves – packaging, automotive, medical, oil and gas, aerospace, industry and infant care. However, Bret West, sales/engineering manager and partner at Trifecta Tool, predicted orders will pick up soon because, “Quoting activity has been very robust for about three months. THE PANDEMIC Achieving positive performances despite the pandemic has not been routine or easy. “We had to rethink the whole way we do business,” said Bott. “In Michigan, we were never allowed to have more than 50% capacity in the facility, and we had to be considered ‘essential’ to be open.” 8

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As a supplier to the medical field, INCOE quickly qualified as essential and then had to rethink on-site staffing, which is evenly divided between manufacturing and non-manufacturing (including engineering). Engineering and other office personnel were shifted to working remotely so on-site manufacturing personnel levels could remain at 100%. For several months, manufacturing adopted a three-shift schedule before returning to its usual two-shift operation. With a strong I.T. department and about 50 laptops available, it was possible to quickly set up CAD designers and engineers to work from home. “Our VPN was put to the test,” recalled Bott. But it seamlessly accommodated a shift from a maximum of 20 users at a time to 100. The other challenge the company addressed was shortened lead times. For some medical orders, the company was able to condense turnaround time to one week from the usual six or seven weeks. “That still happens today, if needed,” said Bott. COVID-19 posed major challenges for A1 Tool, which was forced to shut down for a few days due to cases among its 75 employees, which included one death. “It forced us to set up new systems and processes and improve our communication,” said Luther. Michiana Global Mold (Mishawaka, Indiana) also made operational changes in 2020. “We realized early on that we had to be more responsive and responsible,” said Kelly Kasner, director of sales at Michiana Global Mold, an ISO-9001certified supplier of plastic and rubber injection molds for the automotive, electrical, healthcare, telecom, energy, defense and consumer products markets.

Its 20-person team was, “challenged to develop fast-response tooling and cost-effective parts for the immediate needs of those industries fighting the pandemic,” she recalled. “We also took the opportunity to evaluate our office and shop floor layouts, mold building processes and workflow, and incorporate efficiencies in almost every aspect of our operations.” 2021 CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES “COVID-19 is still here,” said Bott. “That’s a threat, but also it remains an opportunity to respond to needs.” Kasner agreed, noting her company is evaluating everything from estimating to purchasing, design and manufacturing to develop new best practices. At INCOE, the family-owned company is working to maintain its culture as its workforce grows and to foster a positive work environment with half of the company working from home. Toward that end, managers organize regular virtual meetings to touch base and catch up on family news and work concerns. Fostering the company culture also is important at Michiana Global Mold. Kasner reported, “We are pursuing a higher standard team culture of continuous professional and technical development, learning new technologies and lean processes from our valued supplier network, and growing our talented team with effective workforce development initiatives and expanded apprentice programs.” Michiana Global Mold also is focused on reaching a more diverse network of customers. Efforts involve increasing social media interaction and the development of a more engaging website, with a digital shop tour and videos showcasing company capabilities. A1 Tool is working to maintain its backlog and improve efficiencies and pricing structure. New technologies such as Industry 4.0, design for manufacturing and smart molds will help capture new business going forward. The company also plans to increase the use of standardized components and automation, particularly robots. Conformal cooling inserts and copper alloys will improve cycle times and part quality. A LOOK TO THE FUTURE Bott predicted the push to electric vehicles will change the dynamics of the automotive market. “This may shorten tooling cycles,” he noted. Before the pandemic, a lot of work was going to low-cost countries. Tariffs – particularly those associated with China – and supply chain issues encouraged more molds to be built domestically, but West predicted the tariffs will be lifted within a year. Kasner noted, “China has responded quickly with

innovative ways to continue to provide cost-effective tooling to the US market, despite tariffs.” Nevertheless, “We have seen some tooling come back and hope that trend will continue,” said Bott. He explained that a mix of sources ensures a more stable supply chain, especially if a trade agreement changes or political unrest occurs. Regardless, added Luther, “It’s going to continue to be a global market. People need to have their eyes open to that,” noting the importance of partnerships. He explained, “We have a trademarked program called Supported Economical Tooling (SET™). On jobs where price is an issue, we have the ability to use off-shore partners.” Michiana Global Mold values partnerships, too, and has worked with a firm in Shenzhen, China, for about 10 years. Kasner said, “It’s been very effective in our ability to offer more options to our customers, all of which are backed, managed and overseen by our top-notch US team. Our experiences taught us to invest in our partnership team much the same as we do our home team – with time, talent and technology.” The shift of work to lower-cost countries has not only affected domestic sales, but also exacerbated the talent crisis. “When companies started moving tool builds and production to China, many tool shops closed and a lot of talented people were laid off,” said West. This meant fewer opportunities, especially for younger workers who often were discouraged from entering the field. In addition, “For the past 40 years, schools and parents have pushed kids into white-collar jobs,” he said. West added, “I feel automation is the only way forward to compete with China and resolve some of the talent crisis, but machinery and robots are expensive and still need a talented person to program them. How do you find these people? How do you pay them wages and benefits that are competitive with a large corporation? How do you compete when China can build a complete tool for what the raw steel costs here? We need a very strong and robust Buy American campaign.” Such a campaign needs to stress China’s abuses of human rights, the environment and patent law, as well as its theft of proprietary technology and computer hacking. Luther and Kasner emphasized the importance of training as a focus for resolving the talent crisis. Luther said, “We need to look at how we train. A lot of shops don’t train well and wonder why workers leave. People want to know that they have an opportunity to move ahead.” Kasner concluded, “We, as employers and educators, must be more innovative in training for our future, yet-to-be-determined highly skilled positions.”n |



n the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) 2021 Ireported Business Forecast Report, nearly all surveyed mold builders (99%) that current business conditions are positive or fair, a 9% uptick from last year’s gathered data. Other economic indicators also point to rising optimism, improved levels of profitability and stable employment. However, despite positive economic indicators, gathered data also highlights rising concerns amidst the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, and points to significant repositioning in the industry as mold manufacturers poise to face growing challenges, such as foreign competition, cost pressure and profitability. SURVEY HISTORY Now in its eleventh year, AMBA’s annual 2021 Business Forecast Report analyzes data collected from mold manufacturers all over the United States. This year’s report represented 110 US mold manufacturers across 21 states, over three-quarters of which were concentrated in the Midwest region. With the aggregated data supplied in this report, industry executives are able to better benchmark how their companies stack up to industry norms and better align their anticipated outlook for the year. PROFITS AND HISTORICAL DATA As the industry heads into 2021, the current state of business remains stable for mold manufacturers. Current profitability and employment maintain historical trends, and, in fact, show marginal improvement. Fourth-quarter trends improved dramatically this year, with 43% of respondents reporting that fourth-quarter quoting was up (a rise of 18% from the previous year) while 40% of respondents (compared to 75% last year) indicated that backlog was down. This year, AMBA again benchmarked the condition of respondents’ pipeline in the first quarter. Where more than half of mold builders reported in 2020 that either their pipeline was not full enough or they were desperately looking for work, this year that number has fallen significantly to 32%. Just under one-third of respondents also have indicated that their pipeline is full or oversold heading into 2021, a great improvement over the 21% who reported a full pipeline or oversold pipeline in 2020 (See Chart 1). 10

the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2021

From a historical perspective, trending data on current business conditions reflects that information (See Chart 2). Overall, 47% of respondents (7% higher than last year) reported good conditions, while 19% reported this year that conditions are excellent. Those reporting fair or poor conditions also shifted dramatically; this year, only 1% indicated that their current state of business was poor, a significantly optimistic economic indicator when compared to the 11% who reported that business was poor or bad the previous year. CURRENT AND EXPECTED CAPACITY UTILIZATION In addition to surveying respondents on the current state of their pipeline, AMBA also surveyed companies on their current and anticipated capacity utilization. Overall, the industry reported an average current capacity utilization percentage of 73% (6% higher than last year). When asked about their expected capacity utilization, respondents reported an average expected capacity of 74%, only 1% higher than the current capacity utilization and 2% higher than the expectation reported in 2020. CHALLENGES AND SHIFTING PRIORITIES FOR MOLD MANUFACTURERS While workforce development continues to be the top challenge identified by mold manufacturers, this year the percentage of respondents identifying it as their number one challenge fell significantly from 93% to 53% (See Chart 3). Naturally, this led to a higher focus placed on other challenges, including the rise of foreign competition (27% in 2020 to 35% in 2021) and cost pressure and maintaining profitability, which rose to 30% and 24% respectively. Also notable is a growing focus on continuous improvement and political environment and regulations – both of these were identified by 22% of respondents as a top challenge in the coming year. Workforce development was not the only challenge that dimmed in comparison to others; other previous top challenges, like new business development, were identified only by 21% of respondents this year in comparison to 46% of respondents last year.

Unsurprisingly, it’s likely that the recent past and current environment primarily has driven this shift in perspective and focus. As mold manufacturers cope with the loss – permanent or temporary – of an already limited domestic workforce – forcing them to reconsider their operations and improve the efficiency with which they produce work – they also are continuing to battle the growing threat of international competition from foreign, low-cost mold manufacturing sources in the midst of what has been a volatile political environment. MOLD MANUFACTURERS STAY COMPETITIVE DURING PANDEMIC Despite a dramatic shift in identified top challenges in the mold manufacturing industry, the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged mold builders to take advantage of the opportunity to make significant changes to their business, processes and workforce. When asked what improvements have been made due to the COVID-19 environment, 40% of mold manufacturers indicated that they have focused more significantly on internal training and/or skills development, while another 37% have made capital improvements and engaged in continuous improvement initiatives. Other activities identified included a focus on improved internal communication, data management and analytics tools, external communication technologies and cyber security.

The State of Mold Manufactures Pipeline 2020 v. 2021 60%




40% 30% 20% 6%

10% 0%











Not full enough


Completely empty - we are desperately looking for work


Chart 1 Trend in Q1 Current Business Conditions 70% 60%





20% 10% 0%


44% 36%

40% 30%










23% 19%

47% 40% 36%

31% 17%19%




10% 10%


















33% 19% 1%





Linear (Fair)

Chart 2 Top 2020 Challenges Identified by Mold Manufacturers Workforce Development Foreign Competition Cost Pressure Maintaining Profitability Continuous Improvement/Operational Efficiency Political Environment and Regulations New Business Development Health Care and Benefits Cost Capacity Concerns Cash Flow Succession Planning Managing Customer Expectations Automation Company Culture Keeping Up with Changing Technology Certifications Capital Expenditures

Despite a mix of economic indicators, mold builders are reporting improvement of key metrics as they head into 2021 and deserve to feel some optimism. With continued Chart 3 maintenance of the tariffs placed on Chinesebuilt plastic injection molds by the United States Trade Representative (USTR), 38% of mold builders already have reported that advocacy efforts have had a positive effect on their business, while another 23% anticipated future positive impact that will help combat the pressure of foreign competition. Despite the ever-shifting landscape, the political environment and the continuing threat of foreign competition, key indicators point to slowly improving conditions for US mold builders. Through its efforts to continually improve the efficiency of their operations, train and develop their workforce, and invest

6% 5% 4% 4% 2% 0%

9% 9%



24% 22% 21% 21% 20% 19%









in new technologies and capital, US mold manufacturing is poised to improve its competitive advantage by embracing new opportunities for growth in 2021. n The full AMBA 2021 Business Forecast Report now is available for purchase. Visit to learn more about the state of the mold building industry and to access additional benchmarking information. |


1 2021 Annual





2 2021 | JANUARY



[1] REGISTRATION OPEN FOR 2ND ANNUAL SALES AND MARKETING FORUM (VIRTUAL) | MARCH 10-11, 2021 Creating and implementing a successful sales and marketing strategy is critical to the bottom line of any business, particularly in today’s continuing environment of uncertainty and change. To support the exploration of existing challenges, new technologies and best practices in mold manufacturing, AMBA is hosting its second annual Sales and Marketing Forum. This one-and-a-half-day event will address industry challenges in sales and marketing through presentations from AMBA members and other industry leaders. Featured topics include: • Lead Generation Tactics – Inbound/Outbound • Digital Marketing Strategy • Social Media: Strategy, Metrics and Execution • Best Practices in Client Communication • Virtual Technologies for Mold Tryouts/Plant Tours Session formats will include member and expert presentations, industry insights, a panel presentation, software demonstrations and small- and large-group discussion. Attendees will walk away with fresh insights into best practices and shared challenges, leading to implementable takeaways and action items. Register at [2] AMBA BENCHMARKING REPORTS AVAILABLE AMBA’s 2021 Business Forecast Report now is available for purchase! With this report, executives have the opportunity to benchmark how their companies stack up in comparison to the mold building industry norms and how they can better align their anticipated outlook for the upcoming year with strategic direction and resource investment. Also available for purchase is AMBA’s annual 2020/2021 Wage and Salary Report, which includes high, low and average rates of 12

the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2021

Save the date for AMBA Conference 2021, set to take place in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This year’s theme of Connections Reimagined! is designed to foster enriched connectivity within the mold manufacturing community by bringing industry professionals together in new and creative ways. This conference will set the industry benchmark for meeting responsibly in a way that still brings immense value and opportunity for business growth to its attendees. “For the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, mold builders and other industry professionals will have the opportunity to once again meet in person, but in a socially-distanced, responsible manner, adhering to all CDC guidelines and recommendations,” explained Kym Conis, AMBA managing director. “Over the course of the last several months, walls have been broken down and paradigms have shifted, leading the way to new technologies, benchmarks, industry standards and more. The opportunities are endless.” Stay tuned for more information at pay across more than 50 job functions commonly found in mold building and allows industry professionals to determine their competitiveness as an employer, measure employee ROI and better understand the latest industry practices and trends. To view and purchase all available publications, visit publications/. SURVEY LAUNCHED – HEALTH AND BENEFITS AMBA has launched its 2021 Health and Benefits Survey, which will gather data related to health and benefits packages offered to employees by mold manufacturers across the US. Collected data will include the following: • Company cost and employee participation • Strategies to control cost • Current plans offered to employees • Additional benefits and retirement programs offered

Compiled data and results will be shared at no cost to participants. To complete, visit MEET THE MENTOR SESSIONS CONTINUE FOR EMERGING LEADERS This year, AMBA’s 40-and-under emerging leaders will hear from seasoned industry professionals who will provide insight into a core challenge previously identified by today’s emerging leaders. During sessions, attendees will be challenged to • observe the challenge in their own workplace, • contemplate best practices and solutions applicable to their own facilities, and • identify best practices and future improvement goals specific to their own organizations through a follow-up session with peers. Upcoming themes include risk management, communicating effectively and problem-solving strategies. Sessions will continue throughout 2021. Register at [3] AMBA ANNOUNCES 2021 SOURCEBOOK COVER WINNER AMBA proudly announces the winner of the 2021 Sourcebook Cover Contest – Ameritech Die & Mold, Mooresville, North Carolina. Established to promote the quality craftsmanship of AMBA mold manufacturers, this year’s cover features an example of a high-tech, high-efficiency mold for a Class A automotive application that utilizes a sequential valve gate manifold and RJG monitoring technology to create a controlled process through adjustable pressure/temperature settings. The mold features extreme, thin-wall sections in the middle of the part, creating pressure fluctuations in the processing of the part. The part geometry requires buried slide actions and two-stage ejection with decelerated lifters. Venting, cooling and ejection are maximized to improve part appearance and cycle time. According to Ameritech President Steve Rotman, “We believe this mold exemplifies American engineering, craftsmanship and near perfect execution on first shots with a very difficult part design with severe undercuts.” NEW MEMBERS Forest Tool 600 Industrial Park Way, Crandon, WI 54520 Main point of contact: Bill Schulz, Operations Manager Email: | Phone: 715.478.5870 Forest Tool is an ITAR-registered partner in plastic part development and the design and manufacture of quality injection molds. The company also manages engineering changes and preventive maintenance for the plastic injection molding industry.

QC Molds, Inc. 6424 Woodward Dr., Magalia, CA 94954 Main point of contact: Jef Fuller, Owner Email: | Phone: 530.873.7790 Since 1990, Quality Craft Molds has been a leading US manufacturer of plastic injection molds. The company designs, builds and offers repair services for most mold types and serves many industries including automotive, electronics and technology. Also, Quality Craft Molds specializes in making injection molds for the biomedical disposables industry. Galaxy Technologies 1111 Industrial Rd., Winfield, KS 67156 Main point of contact: Nealey Bahm, Purchasing Email: | Phone: 620.221.6262 Galaxy Technologies offers full-service engineering support with more than 125 combined years of experience serving the aerospace and plastics industries. From product development through tool design completion, Galaxy has the skills and experience necessary to develop innovative, intelligent and value-based tooling solutions. The company is ISO 9001 and AS 9100 compliant. Dynamic Group Inc. 13911 Unity St. NW, Ramsey, MN 55303 Main point of contact: Matt Walters, Technical Sales Email: | Phone: 763.780.8674 Founded in 1977, Dynamic Group is a privately owned contract manufacturer specializing in complex injection molded plastic components and assemblies and high-precision molds for plastic and powder. The company primarily serves the medical, electronics and technology industries, is ISO 13485 certified and is FDA registered as a contract manufacturer of medical devices. NEW PARTNERS Kruse Training 1415 Panther Ln. Naples, FL 34109 Main point of contact: Torsten Kruse Email: | Phone: 239.353.6468 Kruse Training is an online educational program for injection molding part designers, mold designers and process engineers. The company’s state-of-the-art online knowledge and training solutions use 3D CAE process simulation technology to demonstrate cause-and-effect behavior of molding. This interactive training program illustrates how “The Circle of Knowledge” between injection molding engineers works in the real world. n |


WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT: THE LONG GAME by Brittany Willes, contributing writer, The American Mold Builder


anufacturing industries have struggled with labor shortages for years, and the problem only is expected to get worse. According to Forbes, “[T]he long-standing fact remains that there’s a wide disparity between the number of people entering the field of manufacturing and the needs of the industry. Estimates put the manufacturing labor shortage at 2.4 million by 2028.” AMBA members are all too aware of this disparity. In 2017, members had reported that less than 40% of its workforce was aged 18 to 50, while more than 60% were aged 50 or older. Today, those numbers have only gotten worse. To combat the labor shortage, AMBA members are having to take a different approach to workforce development, namely looking to their local communities. According to AMBA Director of Strategic Execution Rachael Pfenninger, “Without deep, long-term connections within their local community, their future workforce will remain inaccessible and unaware of the career potential within a mold building career.” As a result, several AMBA members have taken steps toward building those vital relationships by targeting young people still in school. BACK TO SCHOOL “I struggled in school,” said Lou Romano, president of ROMOLD, Rochester, New York. “I was the kid that would skip English class and go to the wood shop and work on my project.” As a result, Romano understands first-hand the importance of connecting with the younger generation and presenting alternatives to the traditional four-year college experience. “School counselors


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2021

are programmed to drive people toward college,” he continued. “You have to do some reprogramming.” For Romano, and many others, this means going several steps beyond simply setting up a booth at the occasional Career Day or offering facility tours. To truly develop those long-term relationships that will pay off in the future, companies will need to be much more proactive now. For Romano, it made sense to get involved with his local manufacturing association, in conjunction with schools, and target those students who, like himself, maybe struggle in a traditional classroom and are not interested in pursuing a formal college education. “People learn differently,” he said. “Just because someone isn’t excelling in the classroom doesn’t mean they won’t excel in a different environment.” As a result, ROMOLD offers many opportunities for high school students to get a feel for what a possible career in moldmaking would be like. The Rochester Technology & Manufacturing Association (RTMA) incubated a pre-apprenticeship program aimed at high school juniors to expose them to the trade through plant tours, presentations, assemblies and more. “Here, the goal for juniors is just to expose them to the idea of it,” Romano said. “Then, their senior year, they have the opportunity to participate in a co-op program. This is where seniors can work in shops for credits toward journeyman status and/or a college degree.” These types of programs allow students a solid, handson experience while dispelling common myths about manufacturing careers. Currently, the thinking is that, “high page 16

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school students who struggle with mainstream curriculum get shepherded into whatever trade program their school offers,” he said. “The challenge is to align students, education, parents and companies with the common goal of assisting young people to develop a career. We emphasize that a four-year degree culminates with an entry level job (if they’re lucky) and student debt vs. an apprenticeship with four years of trade experience and your required schooling paid for by your sponsor company. Learning a skilled trade is a great equalizer. Your skill/trade worth isn’t affected by gender, race, religion, etc. You are rewarded on merit. There are many paths available no matter where you start from.” ROMOLD is not the only company working with schools to expose students to the opportunities in manufacturing. “We have developed a great relationship with a few school districts,” noted Charles Daniels, chief financial officer for Wepco Plastics, Middlefield, Connecticut. “We started by offering tours to the educators and supporting leadership programs.” Wepco even went so far as to install moldmaking machines in two local elementary schools. “We applied for an AMMA grant and were able to purchase 3D printers, software, tabletop CNC milling machines and training for two elementary schools,” Daniels stated. “There wasn’t a good handoff between elementary and high school, so we really wanted to develop ways of targeting younger kids in grades K-6. We wanted to build awareness and excitement about manufacturing and STEAM programs.” Others see the benefit of partnering with the schools. “We’ve made strategic, concentrated efforts to educate our local community,” said Kylee Carbone, human resources for Westminster Tool and Solutions, Plainfield, Connecticut. “We’re focused on elementary, middle and high schools, specifically in the Plainfield area. A great resource has been the Eastern Manufacturing Alliance, which has helped to bring together other manufacturers in the area. We’ve been able to apply for grants to build training programs, build relationships with the schools and students, and share best practices.” CHAMPION THE CAUSE Connecting with local schools and students is a crucial step in workforce development, and one that is very rewarding. For instance, when Westminster Tool first began its efforts, local schools were hesitant. “However, now that we have established relationships, we are able to work collaboratively and create truly phenomenal programs,” said Carbone. “For example, our local high school has a program that provides credits that are transferable to the local community college’s Advanced Manufacturing Certificate program. That type of pipeline approach was, at one time, just a dream for us.” 16

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Westminster is not the only business that faced challenges when it came to working with schools to develop programs. Eifel Mold, Fraser, Michigan, currently works with Lincoln High School in South Warren and relies heavily on “internal champions” to connect with students. “It’s important that companies know what’s being taught so they can work with schools to design programs around providing credit hours,” said President Rick Hecker. “To that end, it also is vital to connect with the teachers and administrators – ‘internal champions’ who are willing to steer kids toward you.” Like other companies, Eifel offers students a chance for hands-on learning experiences. “We offer plant tours with job shadowing opportunities,” said Hecker. “Once a year, we assign kids a project that they actually get credit for. We’ve done a frisbee mold, cellphone holders, etc. It’s usually a half-day program for small groups where students can see the shop and really experience what it’s like to be a part of the industry.” None of these programs would be possible without the help of those internal champions. That’s why many manufacturers make concentrated efforts to reach out to the educators first, so they will have a better idea of what the benefits are for their schools and students. “In 2013, we put together a bus tour for manufacturing,” said Tim Myers, general manager for Century Die Company in Freemont, Ohio. “We took about 40 counselors and principals through five facilities. This really opened up some doors.” According to Myers, teachers often have no clue what is going on with the industry and feel like they have no time to figure it out. Reaching out to the leadership side of the education system and the people in the classroom every day put Century Die in a better position to develop internal champions to help drive interest in manufacturing. ROADBLOCKS Naturally, students aren’t the only ones with misconceptions when it comes to manufacturing careers. Parents often are just as misinformed and likely to steer their children away from the industry in favor of a traditional college degree. One of the best ways to address this roadblock is by bringing parents – and resistant educators – into the facility to educate them as well. “You have to educate those people who are helping kids make decisions,” said Daniels. “You have to encourage parents to come with kids to see the facilities, to participate in the events at schools.” “Some teachers have suggested doing ‘adult learning’ for parents,” Hecker added.

“Today, kids feel like they need to go to college even if they don’t know what they want to do,” stated Myers. To combat this mindset, “Century Die has begun marketing its apprenticeship program as a four-year program/skills trade college – one with no tuition bill.” GET MANAGEMENT ON BOARD Of course, it’s not just parents and educators who stand as potential roadblocks when it comes to successful workforce development. Too often, mold building leadership is resistant to the idea of making the necessary commitments to developing a talent pipeline – even when in their best interest. “A lot of companies are looking to hire younger employees,” said Hecker. “However, they don’t really want to actually invest the time.” And workforce development on the scale that will be needed to combat the growing labor shortage is most definitely a time commitment. As Pfenninger noted, “No workforce development strategy – particularly one that revolves around the development and maintenance of relationships – can be developed overnight.” It takes years of dedicated effort to fully reap the rewards of implementing these kinds of programs.

“Mold builders need to be open to the idea that people need to be trained,” said Krista Barr, director of employee development for TK Mold & Engineering, Romeo, Michigan. To that end, TK Mold is especially involved with working with local Romeo High School students, helping build up a new generation of skilled trades. The company offers students real hands-on experiences by having them work on live assignments. Owner Tom Barr works directly with the students to give back to the community and excite students on the processes of moldmaking. Additionally, TK Mold’s apprenticeship program, which is partnered with Macomb Community College, also promotes workforce development by giving employees the necessary skills to thrive in their career development. “For today’s market, you have to look at hiring for talent/tendency, not experience,” said Barr. Once management is on board and prepared to invest the time and resources needed to put a workforce development plan in place, the rewards will be significant, with long-term benefits for everyone involved. n

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4 [1] ENHANCED STATEMONITOR FROM HEIDENHAIN MEETS MACHINE CONTROL CONNECTIVITY NEEDS Schaumburg, Illinois-based motion control feedback solutions provider HEIDENHAIN CORPORATION has released the 1.3.0 software upgrade to the company’s StateMonitor system. Users can view data more simply and evaluate control processes remotely and in real time. This can be used to connect and monitor both HEIDENHAIN and non-HEIDENHAIN controls through easy installation and start-up process of the StateMonitor software on a company network. In addition, the company introduced a high-accuracy motion feedback encoder that now can be used for absolute positioning in machines in the semiconductor, metrology and robotics industries. The LIC 3100 absolute kit encoder fits between HEIDENHAIN’s LIC 4100 and 2100 series. For more information, visit HASCO OFFERS PRIMEZONE H1281 HOT RUNNER CONTROL UNIT FOR SIMPLE, HIGH-PRECISION CONTROL Standard component provider HASCO, US headquarters in Fletcher, North Carolina, offers new control units under the name Primezone H1281/..., extending its portfolio of hot runner products. The new control unit offers high control accuracy, an intuitive user interface and comprehensive diagnostic functions. The 10" touchscreen display gives an overview of all functions and allows easy operation of the controller. The intuitive, multi-lingual user interface is similar to smartphones, whereby the most important settings can be activated quickly without the need for operating instructions. For more information, visit [2] SUHNER ROBOTOOLS OFFERS ROBOT SOLUTIONS FOR FULLY AUTOMATED MANUFACTURING SUHNER Industrial Products Corp, Rome, Georgia, offers robot-based drilling, grinding, polishing, filing, cutting and 18

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deburring without time delays thanks to new end-of-arm tooling solutions. SUHNER has expanded its product range with special tools that can be mounted directly to the robot arm and ready for continuous industrial use, to now 5 include surface finishing. Standardized connections at the robot arm and the tool are used to automate the quick-change system. Connections are made quickly and reliably between air and electrical and sensor technology. A patented, simple quick change of abrasives system (dispose and reload) was added to the program to simplify the change of abrasives. For more information, visit [3] OPEN MIND INTRODUCES HYPERMILL® 2021.1 CAD/CAM SOFTWARE SUITE OPEN MIND Technologies AG, headquartered in Wessling, Germany, a developer of CAD/CAM software solutions, has introduced its latest hyperMILL® 2021.1 CAD/CAM software suite, offering new and enhanced features for efficient 3D, 5-axis and mill/turn machining. Key innovations include a new Interactive Edit Toolpath capability, which enables toolpath editing after initial toolpath generation. To streamline access to product manufacturing information (PMI) and metadata, hyperMILL® 2021.1 offers a new import function that retrieves face quality information and metadata when importing CAD data from neutral or native formats and attaches data to the imported faces in hyperCAD®-S. A new 5-axis radial machining strategy allows bottle shapes and similar cavities to be programmed easily and efficiently in hyperMILL®. For more information, visit MEUSBERGER OFFERS SOLUTION FOR OPTIMAL SLIDE RETENTION Meusburger Georg GmbH & Co KG, an Austrian provider of high-precision standard parts with US offices in Mint Hill, North Carolina, has announced the new E 3050 leaf spring roll stopper. Slide retainers are needed to hold slides securely in the end position when the mold is open. With the new E 3050 leaf spring roll stopper, Meusburger has created an exclusive and cost-effective alternative to existing solutions on the market. The compact design enables retaining forces of up to 140 N and is therefore also ideal for holding large slide bodies in their

end position. In order to cover a wide range of applications, the leaf spring roll stopper is available in two different variations and three different leaf spring thicknesses. For more information, visit [4] DOOSAN ANNOUNCES THE NEW DHF 8000ST 5-AXIS MACHINING CENTER Machine tool maker Doosan Machine Tools, Pine Brook, New Jersey, has introduced the DHF 8000ST, a single-table version of the DHF 8000 5-axis horizontal machining center. This model incorporates a turning function and was designed without a pallet changer for a smaller footprint. The nodding head spindle and direct-drive B-axis rotary table allow the DHF 8000ST to handle a complete range of machining and turning processes from roughing to finishing in a single setup. The configuration makes quick work of multi-face workpieces and the 5-axis simultaneous machining of complex shapes. The nodding head spindle has a stroke of +60 to -100 degrees (up/down) with clamping torque of over 3,600 ft-lb. For more information, visit [5] PROGRESSIVE EXPANDS COUNTERVIEW® PRODUCT LINE Progressive Components, Wauconda, Illinois, a developer and distributor of componentry and software for the production

tooling industry, carries a wide range of mold counting and monitoring products. It has expanded the line to include new CounterViews along with new accessories. An industry exclusive, the CounterView cycle counter now is available in both left and right-hand orientations to allow mounting on either mold half, enabling easy viewing while the mold is in the press. CAD geometry for Progressive’s line of cycle counting products is available from the company’s CADalog™, a free parts library with downloads offered in multiple formats. For more information, visit PCS OFFERS EXAFLOW TUNNEL GATE INSERTS PCS Company, Fraser, Michigan, a provider of solutions and products for the plastic injection molding, moldmaking, and die casting industries, offers German-made EXAflow tunnel gate inserts. These inserts provide superior part surface quality and gate cosmetics along with precise degating and exceptional flow. Engineering and design experience provides inserts for the toughest of applications including parts molded from commodity or engineered resins with fillers. EXAflow tunnel gate inserts feature contourable insert options and are available in gate diameters from 0.8 mm to 2.4 mm. CAD files are available to help aid design. For more information, visit n

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GROWING PAINS AND INTERGENERATIONAL BUSINESS: THREE VIGNETTES by Lara Copeland, assistant editor, The American Mold Builder the family business always has presented challenges Jofoining and benefits to both the older and younger generations. And, course, every one of those situations comes with its own

unique set of troubles and blessings. The three stories featured here help to shed some light on the trials, tribulations and triumphs of younger generations entering the family business. While certainly idiosyncratic in nature, each one provides insight into the realities of cultivating an intergenerational business.

MARK ROTMAN – HIS STORY Mark Rotman is a program manager at Ameritech Die & Mold, Mooresville, North Carolina. He works alongside his father, who started the company 37 years ago with two other partners. Rotman spent his youth around his father’s business. “All my life, I had been around the shop, and I spent days of my childhood helping out with little odds and ends,” Rotman said. While he participated in little Mark Rotman and his father, Steve Rotman, jobs and tasks as a circa 1990 younger child, as a teen he started making deliveries and completing custodial tasks. “It wasn’t until I was in college, between my sophomore and junior years, that I came back home and was given the opportunity to do some machining and programming,” he explained. “I was fascinated by machining, and I was hooked.” Despite being in school for finance and banking, Rotman spent that summer paired with a mentor at the shop. “He took me under his wing and, through various engineering changes, 20

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he was able to teach me the different parts of the mold and what was important about them,” he said. “He did a great job showing me what it was like to become a moldmaker and to work at Ameritech. It was all starting to catch my interest, and it had been right in front of me my entire life.” Looking back, Rotman credits that summer with making a difference in his life’s path. “Suddenly, the shop was less of a place where dad worked; I started to see it as a high-tech manufacturing site with fascinating machines,” he said. “I was intrigued.” As graduation neared, Rotman recalled having a conversation with his father about the future. “He asked if I had considered a career at Ameritech, and the thought had been in the back of my mind since that earlier summer.” Soon after, Rotman was given an opportunity to make it a reality. Starting as a CNC programmer and operator nearly 14 years ago, Rotman also took on recruiting for the apprenticeship program in those early days. From there, he moved around – spending time in assembly and other areas of the shop. “Eventually, I got into molding and processing,” he said. “At the time, only a few people handled this task, and it was a way to be directly involved with our customers. I was fortunate to have mentors who taught me everything they knew as long as I showed an interest.” On developing his talent “My career has been full of hurdles, including the pressure of not wanting to be seen only as the boss’ son,” explained Rotman. “I’ve been really fortunate to have great mentors, and, I’m sure anybody who is in the trade knows, it’s pretty difficult to learn on your own without people taking you under their wing and coaching you.” Rotman said this is a quick way to gain knowledge because, “You get to learn from their mistakes and what they’ve seen over their years of experiences.” Additionally, Rotman is an avid reader, especially non-fiction books. “If there is something I’m curious about, I’m always looking for more resources, page 22


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whether it’s a book, a video or something else. I just want to dive deep and get a better understanding.” The combination of reading and being mentored has been the foundation for developing his talent. On overcoming familial challenges Communication has been difficult at times, and Rotman said he sees it mirroring the family personalities. “For us, there are two unique relationships taking place – there’s the father-son role and the employer-employee role,” he noted. “Starting out, it was quickly apparent that I needed to learn how to communicate with him as a boss when needed and as a father when needed.” Once that boundary was established, Rotman said communication strengthened significantly. “Working together has created a better understanding of each other than we had previously – a more comprehensive view of each other.” On advice to offer others “Be passionate about what you do, and choose a field based on that passion – and not just because your family is there,” Rotman said. “Working with family will amplify everything. When things are good, they’re really good. And when things are tough, well… you get the idea.”

reconsider his thoughts. “I called my dad with my tail between my legs and asked for a job,” he said. Peterson has since worked just about every position available at the shop, from CNC operator, working on tools and programming to account management and as department manager. This has allowed him to gain a comprehensive view of the ins and outs of the facility over the last 13 years. “I really know the business pretty well, and this has allowed me to take over as COO for our parent company, Pyramid Plastics, as well as Industrial Molds.” On developing his talent Peterson has climbed his way to the top by exploring every corner of the facility and advocating for training, not only for himself, but for others as well. While his college degree helped him gain basic business skills, he has gone after many other opportunities for growth. “I’ve been a part of the AMBA shop tours – seeing other shops has been incredibly helpful – and I’ve taken time to be a part of their virtual forums.” The AMBA board member also has spent a few years working with Harbour Results by attending the group’s young leaders’ meetings, held twice annually. “These meetings helped me with basic problem solving, communication skills and working with people, which is great because, at the end of the day, we are a people business.” As a strong advocate for growth, Peterson has had to figure out how to take advantage of opportunities while dealing with family. “It’s not always smooth sailing, but the results have been great,” he exclaimed. “I demanded and forced my way into more responsibilities, and I have proven myself during that process.”

From left: Father Tim Peterson, uncle Eric Peterson and Andy Peterson

ANDY PETERSON – HIS STORY Having graduated around the same time as Rotman, Andy Peterson, chief operating officer (COO) at Industrial Molds, Rockford, Illinois, also sought employment at a familiar facility. It was an accident that he started working for the same business his grandfather founded more than 50 years ago. “I worked as a janitor and delivery driver for the company while I was in high school, but I never envisioned working here as a career,” he said. In fact, he recalled making a joke that he was going off to college to find a “real job” and earn “real money.” However, graduating in the summer of 2008 with a degree in finance right before Lehman Brothers fell and The Great Recession began offered Peterson the opportunity to 22

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On overcoming familial challenges The age-old challenge of growing up in a facility and then taking on a leadership position within that business can create personal, professional and cultural challenges. Peterson said that the standards for being the son and nephew of the bosses came with some pretty high expectations. “They’ve known me my whole life, including when I was young and thought I knew everything,” he joked. When an employee comes from the outside, the bosses most likely, “didn’t see you in your college days,” as he put it. Despite that baggage, Peterson feels as though he has proven his worth. “Although I’m the youngest family member in the business, I have introduced new ideas and visions for the company,” he said. “And getting my dad and uncle to buy in on the new vision certainly helps.” With plenty of professional success under his belt, he said he has used this success to gain more responsibilities – and a new position – in the company. “I page 25


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think when they put me in charge of both companies last year, it was as if they were saying, ‘It’s your show now, Andy. Run with it, and make us proud!’” On advice to offer others Peterson regrets not embracing the opportunity to learn more about the company when he was in high school and college. “I really could’ve learned a lot back then, so I encourage young people to take advantage of learning opportunities,” he said.

in all sales meetings and performing the occasional I.T. duties. “I never realized how big the plastics manufacturing industry is, and there is plenty of chemistry involved, so my science background is coming in pretty handy.” On developing her talent Salter also is aware of the common misconception about people who work with their family. “The jobs aren’t just given to us; we have to earn our places just like everyone else,” she explained. “And sometimes, it’s actually harder because your parents hold you to a higher standard.” To achieve those higher standards, Salter plans to continue being a key player, growing the business by learning from others and being innovative. According to Salter, TK Mold is supportive of new ideas, which has led her to be active in figuring out ways to make life at the shop a little easier. “Something I like to do is try new things. Even when it has been done a certain way for a long time, I like to see if there’s a way to make it easier or better,” she explained. She admitted there is a lot of trial and error to figuring out how best to do something, “especially when it comes to machine scheduling – there’s just so much you have to consider. There has been a lot of trial and error to see what works.”

Kristie Salter and father, Tom Barr

KRISTIE SALTER – HER STORY Kristie Salter was in elementary school when her father started TK Mold & Engineering in Romeo, Michigan, in 2003. Representing the fourth generation in the injection molding business, Salter started spending time in the shop years ago by mowing the grass and cleaning the facility. Much like Rotman and Peterson, while growing up she didn’t think she would ever end up working at her father’s facility. In fact, she went to school to learn environmental science, with a specialization in health and safety. After spending time working at a lab in a hospital right after college, she moved on to work at a local health department. “I soon discovered that it was not the job for me, and it just so happened my dad was in need of some help with quoting at the time,” she said. Salter was thrilled to start off in estimating at TK Mold three years ago, after being trained by her dad. Today, she does a little bit of everything. “I’ve done the quotes and the purchasing, and I got into scheduling and then the accounting side,” she said. TK Mold has machine tracking software that she maintains, also while doing some program management, participating

On overcoming familial challenges Currently TK Mold, like many other companies in the world today, is figuring out how to best communicate given the circumstances of working through COVID-19. “It’s all new territory for us, but with my family in particular, we really trust each other and our employees,” she commented. “In fact, it’s really a great benefit to work with family because we know how each other works and there’s a strong level of trust.” On advice to offer others “Good advice for anybody was shared with me by my dad – he always told me to work hard, push myself and be independent,” Salter said. “Doing this has helped me share my perspective and be successful at the company.” Through these vignettes, common themes emerge: the importance of hard work, the value of an early start and diverse responsibilities, and the need to constantly expand one’s education and preparation. These lessons are not only important to those considering a move into an intergenerational business, but are lessons important to all who are considering a career in the moldmaking industry. n |


3 KEY STRATEGIES FOR CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT Compiled and summarized by Rachael Pfenninger, director of strategic execution, AMBA improvement is at the heart of any successful Cteamontinuous manufacturing company. If ownership, the management and all employees aren’t looking constantly for ways to eliminate waste, simplify processes or improve quality, then the organization has become stagnant – and likely is leaving profits on the table.

During the 2020 AMBA Continuous Improvement Forum, over 50 mold manufacturers and their peers gathered to review their strategies, processes and best practices, walking away with implementable ideas on how data and process can drive cultural transformation and bottom-line impact. The following are three key strategies offered during the forum – only a small sampling of the ideas and innovations and ideas revealed by presenters and attendees. 1. Ensure improvements are driven by data and carried out by the correct alignment of personnel. 2. Get internal and external stakeholders on board by properly defining the improvement to be made. 3. Create an atmosphere where staff members understand the goals and have the support and resources to reach them. LAYING A FOUNDATION Presented by Scott Walton, Harbour Results Scott Walton, Harbour Results, laid the foundation for why the culture of continuous improvement continues to grow in importance. During the session, attendees were challenged to evaluate how their operations could improve, particularly through the use of data and alignment of personnel into the organizational roles most suited to their skills sets. To begin, Walton recommended conducting an honest, deepdive health check with an assessment of the organization’s financial health, which includes reviewing the income statement, balance sheet and cash flow to determine if a company is distressed. A company can then set continuous improvement goals by evaluating throughput. Once financials have been reviewed, Walton stressed the importance of the personnel involvement. To truly understand and maximize scheduling efficiency, he recommends the use of a dedicated person who can track, share, plan and implement 26

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feedback, which ultimately will reduce leadtime. Additionally, Walton suggested the adoption of a task-based manufacturing philosophy, where the organization documents the following: all tasks performed, process steps, standard work documents, workstation design and scheduling effectiveness. Implementing this methodology allows better insight into needed improvements and the personnel best suited to manage them. GETTING STAKEHOLDERS ON BOARD Presented by Matin Karbassioon, CONNSTEP Echoing Walton’s presentation, Matin Karbassioon opened the Forum’s second day by arguing that solving problems begins with real data and information. He went one step further, however, by emphasizing that both an organization’s “internal” stakeholders (its employees) and its “external” stakeholders (outside partners) are key to utilizing this data and making impactful improvements to an organization’s process and output. By including all stakeholders in the discussion, an organization is better able to define the current state of the problem and develop a simple, yet impactful, problem statement. Once a problem is properly defined and articulated, it makes it easier to review its contributing factors, identify the personnel involved and bring together the key stakeholders so that the problem can be successfully addressed. Karbassioon recommends building a team of five to seven people, which should include process owners/area staff subject matter experts, outside eyes and a facilitator, if needed. In addition to his other guidance, Karbassioon provided two critical takeaways: be wary of crafting an ineffective problem statement and of the potential of conflict. When articulating a problem statement, for instance, be careful not to state a solution or make the problem too large or too vague. Instead, begin with what is impacted when the problem occurs, narrow down when the problem occurs and explain who is impacted. To minimize conflict, be aware of members bringing together different agendas, personalities and viewpoints. Ultimately, organizations want to start with stating a process statement that everyone understands and can work together to solve. page 28

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BUY-IN, ACCOUNTABILITY AND EMPOWERMENT Presented by David Kachoui and Paul Thal, Thal Precision Industries For the management team at Thal Precision Industries, implementing a program of continuous improvement began not with tasks or a particular project, but with people – by building a foundation of mentorship on which continuous improvement could thrive. This included coaching employees through new learning opportunities, gaining employee buy-in and cultivating a team dynamic of empowerment, ultimately resulting in improved accountability, more open lines of communication and efficient task distribution. During this team’s presentation, David Kachoui and Paul Thal emphasized that effective continuous improvement relies on communication from leadership to set expectations and creating a safe environment for employees to provide feedback. The company began by prioritizing processes into safety, quality, productivity and cost, and asked questions such as: What is working? What is not? What would work better?

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Throughout this process, the Thal Precision team learned that not everyone was aligned to the tasks best suited to them, and that there were new skills others wanted to learn. This led to the creation of a “task board,” which allowed the implementation of learning labs – giving employees the tools needed to appropriately meet the goals that were set for continuous improvement. In addition to these other changes, Kachoui and Thal also made the decision to give homework – to delegate tasks – because it empowers employees and instills a sense of pride. They also felt that feedback also is important because that’s where leadership can discover how everyone is working together and whether there are issues that need to be addressed. How is the process going? Are there any frustrations in the process? Ultimately, Thal Precision has learned that involving everyone in problem-solving, training them to perform the necessary tasks and asking for feedback about the process has helped to breed a culture of continuous improvement and ensure buy-in to current and future endeavors. n

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4 INDUSTRIAL MOLDS AND PYRAMID PLASTICS DEBUT PARENT COMPANY To increase value to customers, Industrial Molds and Pyramid Plastics unite under one brand, Pyramid Molding Group, Rockford, Illinois. Pyramid Molding Group allows for flexibility in the plastics industry to offer solutions that meet customers’ needs within the plastics manufacturing process. For more than 50 years, Industrial Molds and Pyramid Plastics have been in business under individual names and brands. Industrial Molds designs, engineers and manufactures the tooling for plastic injection molding presses. Pyramid Plastics is a custom injection molding facility and contract manufacturer that offers a range of secondary operations. Customers can have the advantage of a single-source plastics provider from idea to shelf. For more information, visit [1] WESTMINSTER TOOL INVESTS 10% OF REVENUE INTO NEW EQUIPMENT Plainfield, Connecticut-based moldmaker Westminster Tool’s injection mold department has consistently grown in response to the increased needs in medical device manufacturing. For Westminster Tool, that meant investing more than 10% of revenue in updating, replacing and expanding equipment across the shop to improve efficiencies and keep up with the demand. The area that saw the largest enhancement was the hard machining department, which now contains three high-speed 3-axis machines and one high-speed 5-axis machine, increasing the shop’s milling capacity by more than 400%. The company 30

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SPE EXPANDS ANTEC® 2021 SPE, the organization for plastics professionals with US headquarters in Danbury, Connecticut, recently announced a new direction for ANTEC® 2021. The 2021 program has been expanded to include three segments: ANTEC® Industry Insights, ANTEC® Classic and ANTEC® International. Each segment will be presented virtually. ANTEC® will kick off with Industry Insights, a two-day offering presented via SPE’s exclusive livestreaming service to remote attendees from March 22 to 23. ANTEC® Classic will offer real-time, remote presentations over 10 days from March 29 to April 9. ANTEC® International will include live, online presentations from Asia, Australia/New Zealand, Europe, India, the Middle East and South America. International dates will be announced shortly. Attendees can register by visiting [2] HEIDENHAIN OPENS TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION CENTER IN CHICAGO Motion control feedback solutions firm HEIDENHAIN CORPORATION, Schaumburg, Illinois, has announced the opening of a new education center in the Chicago suburbs. The ACU-RITE Technology Education Center (ATEC) now is open, by appointment, to provide special support to North American customers and prospects with direct access to popular ACURITE machine tool components, as well as the ability to call upon its expert trainers. Machine tools currently hosted at ATEC include ACU-RITE’s 3-axis MILLPWRG2 control system on a vertical knee mill and 2-axis TURNPWR control on a tool room lathe. Due to the current COVID-19 situation, CDC protocols must be followed. For more information, visit and HASCO OFFERS TRILINGUAL SPARE PARTS CATALOG Standard mold component maker HASCO, with US headquarters in Fletcher, North Carolina, offers a new trilingual hot runner spare parts catalog. The catalog is available to

download from the service zone on the company’s website. Individual spare parts, such as nozzle tips, heating elements and thermocouples, are clearly presented and easy to find. Drawings with item numbers provide an overview of the comprehensive range of spare parts together with the corresponding order numbers. Moldmakers then can order the parts easily and rapidly. For more information, visit [3] HYPERTHERM CELEBRATES 25 YEARS OF POWERMAX® Hypertherm North America, Hanover, New Hampshire, a designer and manufacturer of plasma, waterjet and laser cutting products, celebrates 25 years for its Powermax® family of products. In December 1995, the first Powermax air plasma system rolled out of Hypertherm’s New Hampshire-based manufacturing plant. The Powermax® family now includes seven professional-grade air plasma systems, with a cut capacity ranging from thin gauge to 2-1/4 inches. For more information, visit JAMES KIM NAMED CEO OF DOOSAN MACHINE TOOLS AMERICA Doosan Machine Tools, Pine Brook, New Jersey, a manufacturer of CNC machine tools and automation, has named James Kim the new CEO of its North American operations. Kim has spent the past 37 years at Doosan in a variety of roles, and he has served Doosan Machine Tools America for the past 18 years. For more information, visit SUPERIOR DIE SET ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT, NEW POSITION Superior Die Set Corporation, Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a manufacturer of steel and aluminum products, has announced the appointment of Maria VanHaverbeck as global marketing manager. VanHaverbeck will be responsible for building the marketing department from the ground up, which involves a strategic plan to synchronize Superior Die Set’s brands, Greendale Precision Services and its Polish subsidiary, ProPlastica. In addition, the company has announced the retirement of Vice President of Sales and Marketing Mark Ullstrup. Ullstrup joined SDS in 1981, in mold base, moving to customer service manager and VP of sales. Rodney Yeomans will assume the role of vice president of sales and marketing. Yeomans has been at SDS for seven years. For more information, visit [4] NEW BUILDING FOR WITTMANN BATTENFELD DO BRASIL WITTMANN BATTENFELD do Brazil, which provides processing machines, automation and auxiliary equipment for plastics processors, has moved to a new building in Vinhedo (State of São Paulo). The site has 850 m2 of floor space for customers interested in complete systems and in commissioning entire work cells. For more information, visit n

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CAPTURING HISTORICAL KNOWLEDGE AT M&M TOOL AND MOLD by Liz Stevens, contributing writer, The American Mold Builder

Editor’s Note: This “View from 30” doesn’t have a tidy solution, the way these articles typically do. Instead, it’s an in-depth look at a common problem and one company’s thought process as to the steps required to solve it. Carl Jacobsen’s quest at M&M Tool and Mold might offer insight to other mold builders about their own need for capturing historical knowledge, about how much time and thought is required to choose or create a company-specific system for housing that knowledge, and about the indisputable truth that rock-solid data is the bedrock of any successful knowledge system. he accumulated knowledge at a mold building operation Tmembers is a unique and valuable commodity. Experienced team are veritable walking encyclopedias of the ins and outs of mold building, from the associates with decades of material procurement experience, to the engineers with in-depth CAD and design expertise, to the toolmakers who use their reservoirs of knowledge to synergize computer-based part models, mold designs and blocks of new steel into working molds. For any moldmaking operation to survive and flourish, that priceless pool of knowledge must be tapped for each new job, and for many jobs the process of reaching back into history in order to plan for a successful future begins at the estimating phase. Carl Jacobsen is an estimator/tooling engineer at M&M Tool and Mold. The Green Bay, Wisconsin-based company crafts smallto medium-sized injection molds, some of which require ITAR compliance. Jacobsen, who began as a toolmaker at a bench, has been at M&M for 10 years. Keenly aware that successfully estimating and quoting a new job today depends upon finding, reviewing and incorporating the information from prior similar jobs, Jacobsen is on a quest to create a system for capturing and indexing his company’s tool build history. When Jacobsen came to M&M, the company had a seasoned general manager who had worked his way up from toolroom lead. When it came to estimating new jobs by looking at earlier jobs of the same type, the GM was a great resource for estimators like Jacobsen. “He had an excellent memory of every tool we built during his tenure with the company,” said Jacobsen, “and could point the estimating personnel to who the customer was, 32

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and even what the job number was. This information allowed easy retrieval of financial job information for estimating similar tooling.” When the general manager left the company, Jacobsen had a few years of his own accumulated tool build knowledge and also had veteran toolmakers at the company to consult. But Jacobsen is aware that time, including other people’s time, is money. “I do have other people in the shop that I can pick their brains,” he said. “But rather than having to go out and bug a toolmaker on the shop floor or interrupt somebody else to take a look at this and say, ‘Have we ever done anything like this?’, I would like to have a repository that I could search to see if that is something that has been done.”

Carl Jacobsen, M&M Tool and Mold

Jacobsen also prefers to not rely solely on employees’ memories for this crucial information, because one never knows when an employee might no longer be available. “Whether that loss is through somebody taking a different job,” he said, “retirement or whatever, there are so many areas where people have knowledge that they gained and that is not well-recorded in the company.” What Jacobsen would like to have for capturing this data at M&M Tool is a searchable photo index of past projects. “As a starting page 35

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A M E R I M O L D E X P O . C O M 2021

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point,” he described, “I am looking to capture a high-level view based on molded part geometry, mold design and overall profit and loss performance on the tool build.” The photos would be a collage of the part, the tool and the company’s job detail report. The search criteria would be metadata assigned to the images. With this type of system in place, searching for historical build data would be fairly straightforward. “The first thing I would base it on is part size by cubic inches of volume,” Jacobsen explained. “Then I would describe a shape, and then the required type of actions – such as slides, lifters, unscrewing – and finally I would choose a general mold classification – such as a conventional type of mold, or molding over inserts, or LSR molding or zinc diecasting.” M&M added an ERP system about a year ago, but it does not have the repository features that Jacobsen seeks. He said that customizing the ERP system for his needs would be a costly and lengthy modification and, even if it were cheap and quick, an ERP-based system would not be an ideal solution. “Even if I could get this search index somehow incorporated into the ERP system,” Jacobsen said, “our ERP system is cloud-based. Several of our customers and the parts that they have us build tooling for are covered under ITAR so I can’t share that data to a nonsecure external server.” In considering creating an in-house system using commercially available software, cost remains a factor. Jacobsen considered a software package which is available on a per-seat subscription basis. But for M&M, at least four licenses would be required to cover all of the employees who do estimating, making an affordable-for-one solution not so affordable for multiple licenses. In implementing any type of system, the challenge of data integrity will always crop up: GIGO – garbage in, garbage out. That’s a rather unflattering way of saying that the quality of data upon which a new system is built – complete and flawless data or holey-as-Swiss-cheese data of questionable accuracy – dictates the quality of data that is subsequently retrieved from the system. Jacobsen sees a handful of challenges in importing historical data and then relying upon it for generating M&M’s new tool building estimates. “The need for accurate build data (no double charging of hours) and the need to redefine how certain activities have been charged to jobs are challenges.” Build data that might include double reporting of hours stems from how M&M has recorded and distributed delivery time with the company truck with the new accounting system. In the case where a delivery driver picks up or delivers multiple tools for different customers during one trip, the system logs all the delivery time to each customer visited, creating an erroneous

When a block of steel has to be scrapped due to an error that occurred during one of the many phases in building a tool, the project must track the amount of time to recreate (rework) a new block of steel to replace the scrapped one, and workers sometimes fear that charging time to rework will reflect poorly on them. delivery hour report which must be corrected when billing the customer. Before importing historical data into the new system that Jacobsen envisions, work would be required to find and correct any delivery hour reports that slipped through the cracks and remained uncorrected. Without this correction, new estimates based on this data could easily include an inaccurate delivery hour report. Another issue that Jacobsen sees as a potential for inaccurate job estimates is one that stems from how toolmakers record (or don’t record) time classified as rework. Jacobsen sees this as a reflection of human nature, not as a comment on the associates at M&M. When a block of steel has to be scrapped due to an error that occurred during one of the many phases in building a tool, the project must track the amount of time to recreate (rework) a new block of steel to replace the scrapped one, and workers sometimes fear that charging time to “rework” will reflect poorly on them. But if they do not accurately record rework hours, it is not possible to accurately determine the cost of building the tool with its rework clearly noted so as not to skew any future estimates based on this job. Another challenge in tackling this type of company-specific repository project is how to define robust search criteria, how to ensure the integrity of metadata each time new records are added and how to thoroughly test the newly created system to see that searches work properly (without returning too few or too many possible results). For Jacobsen, the quest for a searchable photo index of past projects remains a work-in-progress. “I have been thinking on how to create and search the index for just over two years,” he explained. “I have done several re-writes of the search criteria to generate relevant search results.” As with many busy moldmakers, M&M has kept Jacobsen hopping with estimates for new jobs, leaving little time for his quest. “Internally, this project has not elevated into my ‘whirlwind’ classification, so I am working on it when time and workload allows.”n |


WHEN YOU SEE A FORK IN THE ROAD, TAKE IT By Chris Kuehl, managing director, Armada Corporate Intelligence wise words resonate more these days than ever. YpartogiWeof Berra’s are in a topsy-turvy world: The pandemic has devastated the economy but not other parts. The service sector has

been slammed with the worst recession seen since the 1930s, while much of the rest of the economy has carried on as before. Housing is strong, manufacturing is mostly back to normal, exports and imports are at their usual levels, and so on. To add to the litany of business challenges, there has been the most contentious election in decades and the most chaotic transition in over a century. The result is a somewhat flummoxed business community – unsure of what to expect now. To the rescue comes the economist – famed for our ability to predict the past! There are three scenarios in play right now as far as the melding of economics and politics. SCENARIO 1: FOR THE OPTIMIST The first scenario has the support of 25% of analysts. This asserts there will be three important developments between now and the middle of the year. The first and most likely is that vaccine distribution will reach acceptable levels by the start of the summer. There still is debate over what herd immunity will require, but it is thought to be defined by at least 240 million immunized people in the US. Once that level is reached, the load on hospitals will decline and lockdowns will start to lift, allowing a service sector recovery. This is the second assumption – a grand reopening of the sector where consumers once spent the majority of their disposable income. This has been referred to as the “great divergence,” as consumers will switch from buying stuff to buying services again. The third development will be a resumption of some normal working patterns. People still will be working at home to a degree, but many will be back to their offices and workplaces. That has significant implications for the oil sector and, thus, for plastics. Oil demand will be up, and it is likely to exceed supply for a while – and that spells inflation to a degree. Prices that had been between $40 and $50 a barrel will creep up to between $60 and perhaps $80, at least for a while. That also will mean higher prices for the raw materials in plastic.


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2021

SCENARIO 2: FOR THE REALIST The second scenario essentially twins with the first. It also assumes there will be progress as far as vaccine distribution and the subsequent economic recovery, but there are additional issues that will have an impact on the economy. The most important will be the influence of politics. The Biden administration has a typically long list of changes and actions it wants to work on (as always takes place when there is a change in leadership). Which of these policy directions actually will emerge this year? One result of the dead tie in the Senate is the emergence of the centrists as power brokers. Nothing of real consequence will pass without their support, and that means paying close attention to four centrist Republicans (Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Ben Sasse) and three centrist Democrats (Joe Manchin, Jon Tester and Kyrsten Sinema). This group likely will temper big tax hikes and big projects such as the Green New Deal or Medicare for All. Look for tweaks and alterations as opposed to big shifts. There has been a sense thus far that Biden favors incentives over restrictions and penalties. This means encouraging the development of alternative energy as opposed to attacking fossil fuel use head-on. It means focusing trade relations on export promotion as compared to restricting imports. This scenario is attracting about 50% support from economists and underpins the assumption that growth will be between 4.0% and 5.0% by the end of the year. SCENARIO 3: FOR THE PESSIMIST There always has to be a negative scenario as well. Roughly 25% of analysts still assert that everything will not develop as expected, and the 2020 recession will drag on through 2021. The major issue remains the pandemic, but just as important is the reaction of the consumer and of government. Just because the vaccine is widely distributed by April and May, there is no guarantee that cautious governments will reopen. It could be the end of the year before many states and cities allow restrictions to lift. Then there is the willingness of consumers to pick up where they left off. Will people go back to the restaurants and bars,

The major issue remains the pandemic, but just as important is the reaction of the consumer and of government. Just because the vaccine is widely distributed by April and May, there is no guarantee that cautious governments will reopen.

For the plastics industry as a whole, there will be pressure to be part of the solution on issues such as climate change, solid waste and other green initiatives. The industry has been a target of these green concerns, but the use of plastics is ubiquitous. The push will be toward finding compromises in terms of design and usage. There will be threats and opportunities as the agenda on these issues develop. Thus far, the Biden approach has been oriented toward incentives as opposed to outright regulatory bans, but the latter tactic likely will be employed as well. n

attend events, be willing to go back to the office and travel for business? Many will, but is that enough? There are three hurdles for the economy to clear: 1) acceptance of the vaccine, 2) acceptance by government sufficient to reduce the restrictions and 3) acceptance by consumers sufficient to resume old patterns.

Chris Kuehl is managing director of Armada Corporate Intelligence. Armada executives function as trusted strategic advisers to business executives, merging fundamental roots in corporate intelligence gathering, economic forecasting and strategy development. Armada focuses on the market forces bearing down on organizations. For more information, visit

WHAT’S NEXT? The data thus far supports the notion that enough people ultimately will accept the vaccine for herd immunity to occur. In December of last year, the polls suggested that around 30% were unwilling to take the vaccine, but that number now is less than 15%, as there have been few reports of bad reactions to the drug. The reduction of pandemic protocols is another story altogether. Thus far there has not been much reduction of restrictions as the pandemic numbers have not changed. The death toll still is rising, hospitals still are over capacity in many areas and the number of positive cases continues to climb. There have been few states or cities that have ventured a timeline to trigger relaxation of restrictions. It is assumed that more controlled situations will reopen first – restaurants and retail. Events and anything that draws crowds of strangers will be the last. The optimists think there will be openings by late spring, and the pessimists assert it is more likely to be late summer. The final wild card is the consumer. Have the new ways of doing things taken hold? Will people want to go back to the office? Will they want to shop in the brick-and-mortar shop again or has the online option taken over? These are questions that can’t be answered adequately at this point. On top of all the scenarios that are rooted in the pandemic response, there will be discussions regarding what the US political situation will mean for the economy. Trump now has departed, and attention is focused on the man who replaced him. Interestingly enough, there is not a great deal known about the plans and strategy that will emerge now. The most significant clue thus far is that Biden has surrounded himself with political veterans and people who worked with him in the Obama years.

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REDUCE ELECTRICAL SHOCK INCIDENTS WITH SAFETY-BY-DESIGN by Littelfuse heart and soul of a plastics manufacturing facility is in Tthesehemolding machinery. Together with the auxiliary equipment, machines make electrical shock particularly problematic

for the plastics industry. Unfortunately, electrical shock incidents aren’t uncommon for plastics. More than 90% of electrical fatalities among US workers are due to electrical shock. This does not account for the high proportion of injuries and fatalities that often are misclassified under a different cause of death. And yet, shock is downplayed within industrial settings. Most electrical safety training programs do not cover shock. Even with training, workers during production usually do not exercise precaution against it. Oftentimes, companies’ safety methods primarily focus on providing workers with PPE; however, PPE is considered the last line of defense on the hierarchy of controls, with safety training (which is an “administrative control”) falling next in line. A last line of defense is a last resort, and when companies devote their resources to using last-resort protection methods, the disproportionate rate of worker fatalities that occur from electrical shock each year comes as no surprise. SURVEY RESULTS PROVIDE SCARY STATISTICS Littelfuse surveyed 575 people who work directly with electricity from Jan. 23 to Feb. 21, 2020. About 70% of the people surveyed primarily work with more than 220 volts, and the other 30% mostly work with 220 volts or less. CONFIDENCE IN ABILITY TO RECOGNIZE AN ELECTRICAL HAZARD AND A HISTORY OF BEINGSHOCKED Nearly 40% of the respondents said they have been shocked by more than 220 volts while on the job, which was about half (51%) of the 78% who reported having been electrically shocked by any voltage. Most (86%) of the respondents who reported having experienced more than a 220-volt shock also rated themselves as either “very confident” or “extremely confident” when they were asked to rate their ability to recognize an electrical hazard. This was significantly more than those who have never been shocked when on the job and slightly higher than those who reported having experienced shock from less than 220


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2021

volts (82%). Overconfidence also was frequently cited among respondents as the main reason why people at their facility work on live equipment. More than two-thirds of the respondents said that workers in their facility perform work on energized equipment. This is not only incredibly dangerous but is illegal per OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.333(a)(1), which requires live parts that operate at 50 volts or more to be deenergized before employees work on or near them. Respondents were asked using an open-answer field to cite the main reason people at their facility work on energized equipment. Troubleshooting was the most common justification, and the second most common rationale was for production purposes (such as to avoid the economic loss of stopping the equipment), followed by overconfidence, and reasons like laziness and convenience. LET-DOWNS IN SAFETY TRAINING When analyzing the results, it became clear that not every facility’s safety training is working. For example, every respondent who cited PPE (or a form of it, such as gloves) as the main reason for why operators at their facility work on equipment while it’s energized also said they are provided electrical safety training by their workplace. If workers believe they do not need to deenergize equipment if they wear PPE, then their safety training has failed. More than 50 volts of equipment voltage to ground is not safe to work on or near. However, when the survey asked the respondents how much equipment voltage they considered to be safe to work on or near, 77% answered correctly; 9% believed up to 120 volts is safe; 5% considered up to 240 volts as safe; and 9% said 500 volts is safe. Almost 90% of the those who considered 500 volts to be a safe equipment to ground to work on or near also said their workplace provides them with safety training. Additionally, 62% of those who said they consider up to 500 volts to be a safe working voltage reported having experienced electrical shock by more than 220 volts while on the job.

The survey found no connection between an accurate knowledge of how much voltage is safe to work on or near (50 volts) and those whose companies provide them with safety training. In other words, the rate of safety-trained workers who considered more than 50 volts to be hazardous to work on or near was the same as the rate of safety-trained workers who believed up to 500 volts to be a safe working voltage. If workers cannot identify a safe working voltage from a hazardous condition, then their safety training failed. Any pertinent safety practices workers were able to retain are useless if they can’t identify a hazard to begin with. HAPHAZARD PPE PRACTICES Most industrial sites require employees to wear PPE. However, standard-issue PPE does not protect from electrical shock, and electrical workers can be lax in properly wearing electrical PPE. Workers often complain electrical gloves make it difficult to get the job done because they are cumbersome or bulky. As a result, operators may remove their electrical gloves to perform the work. While electrical gloves are important, PPE is the last line of defense. Electrical gloves must maintain their dielectric properties, physical strength, flexibility and durability for them to remain effective. Whether the worker ultimately wears them is a different story. Rubber mats do not remove the potential for injury and fatality incidents to occur. Workers do not always use the mats due to the hassle of extra work they create when breakers or contactors are racked in or out. Rubber mats also are rendered ineffective when wet, which also causes workers to not use the mats. SAFETY BY DESIGN Electrical injuries and fatalities are among the most preventable types of occupational injury and fatality, and yet they continue to happen. Companies usually emphasize safety in hypothetical situations, but not when the situation occurs in real time. However, even in the most safety-active companies, the principles taught in safety training that resonate with workers can be abandoned during business operations. Ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are designed to protect people from electrical shock. GFCIs monitor the current between a circuit’s grounded and ungrounded conductors. Any imbalance (with the exception of small amounts of leakage) indicates that the current is returning through an unintended path (such as through the ground or a person). If the GFCI detects an imbalance, it will rapidly shut off the power. Class A GFCIs – such as those used in residential applications – shut the power off when the difference between the leaving

and returning currents is 6-mA or more. This trip level, however, is unrealistic for manufacturing applications. Therefore, plastic manufacturers require special-purpose GFCIs (SPGFCIs), which have a 20-mA trip level at a minimum of one second. This provides them with greater flexibility, while still providing complete protection from electrical shock. Systems that have higher maintenance requirements are less forgiving of human error and more prone to failure. As a reminder, it is the current, not the voltage that kills. This is why Class C, D and E GFCIs are so important: They monitor the ground-return path continuity and then interrupt power if any integrity is lost. This, in turn, eliminates the possibility of any personnel being shocked or electrocuted. CONCLUSION Even the best safety training and PPE for workers still will leave employees vulnerable to electrical shock injury and fatality incidents. The survey results suggest that safety training isn’t working. If it were, workers would have a more accurate understanding of what makes an electrically hazardous situation. Only in the aftermath of tragedies is it easy to understand just how important investing in prevention is. Human-based safety methods require them to be executed with consistent precisionwithout error, by every person, every time. Designing safety into the process provides a reliable backup when safety training goes by the wayside. n View a full report of the survey’s findings at |




n December 2020, Former President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA), ushering in several tax changes aimed at curbing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the changes build upon provisions passed in The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and others modify or extend provisions that may help taxpayers during the pandemic. The following provides a brief overview of the tax provisions found in the CAA and how these provisions can impact American mold builders. EMPLOYEE RETENTION CREDIT The Employee Retention Credit was introduced with the CARES Act and provides eligible employers opportunity for a refundable credit toward payroll taxes. The credit for 2020 is equal to 50% qualified wages paid between March 12, 2020, and December 31, 2020, and has a maximum credit of $5,000 per employee. The CAA brought a retroactive change to the Employee Retention Credit. Under previous laws, employers receiving a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan were not eligible for this credit. Under this new law, even those receiving PPP loans are eligible but must exclude the wages during the period covered by PPP forgiveness. Further, the CAA modified the definition of eligible wages for the Employee Retention Credit to include health insurance paid by the employer. Eligible wages only include those wages paid during a calendar quarter for which the entity meets one of the following two tests: 1. Business operations were fully or partially suspended due to a government-ordered, COVID-19-related shutdown order; or 2. Business operations remained open, but gross receipts declined by more than 50% when compared to the same quarter in 2019. A full or partial government shutdown means: 1. The order has come from the federal, or a state or local government that has jurisdiction over the entity. 2. The order must limit commerce, travel or group meetings due to COVID-19. 3. The order must affect an employer’s trade or business.


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2021

All three tests must be met for the wages paid in that quarter to qualify. If mold shops have more than one location, and one geographic area meets the tests, the whole company can qualify. If a mold builder’s operations were deemed essential, and the business was not closed due to government order during the quarter, the mold builder still can qualify if gross receipts dropped by more than 50%. If a mold builder’s 2020 quarter (starting after March 12, 2020) gross receipts are less than 50% of the 2019 comparable-quarter gross receipts, then that quarter is eligible. The company keeps counting quarters until the quarter that gross receipts for that quarter in 2020 are greater than 80% of the 2019 comparable quarter. Gross receipts are total sales (less returns) and income from services provided, interest, dividends, royalties and sale of assets less cost basis. Companies may not reduce gross receipts by cost of goods sold. For employers that had more than 100 average-number of fulltime employees in 2019, only the wages of employees who were paid during a shutdown or faced reduced hours because of their employers’ closure or reduced gross receipts are qualified wages. For employers that had an average number of full-time employees in 2019 of 100 or fewer, in addition to wages paid during a shutdown or reduced hours, qualified wages also include amounts paid to all employees due to reduced gross receipts. Qualified wages are capped at the first $10,000 in wages paid to an eligible employee for all quarters in 2020. The Employee Retention Credit not only received a retro-active enhancement, but also was extended through June 30, 2021, with several changes that can increase the amount of credit mold builders can receive: • The 2021 Employee Retention Credit increased from 50% to 70% of eligible wages. • The limitation per employee is raised to $10,000 per quarter, up from $10,000 annually, with a maximum of $14,000 of credit per employee in 2021 ($10,000 x 70% x 2 quarters).

• •

The average number of full-time employees’ threshold increases from 100 average number of full-time employees to 500 average number of full-time employees. Now, if the quarter qualifies due to the drop in gross receipts, employers with less than 500 averagenumber of full-time employees can claim the credit on all qualifying wages, even if paid to work. Any quarter qualifies if gross receipts are less than 80% of the 2019 comparable quarter, a change from the 50% drop required for a quarter to qualify in tax year 2020. Mold builders can satisfy the 20% drop by looking to the previous quarter (if a mold builder’s 4th quarter of 2020 gross receipts drop by more than 20% of the 4th quarter of 2019 gross receipts, then the 1st quarter of 2021 is an eligible quarter).

Claiming the Employee Retention Credit also can have an impact on other tax incentives important to tool builders, such as the R&D tax credit and work opportunity tax credit. Eligible wages for these two federal tax credits must be reduced by any wages used to calculate the Employee Retention Credit. ENERGY-EFFICIENT BUILDING IMPROVEMENTS The ACT makes permanent the §179D Energy Efficient Buildings Deduction. Mold shops building new plants, or adding onto or renovating their existing plants, should consider whether they may claim accelerated depreciation related to energy-efficient designs or improvements. IRC §179D provides a deduction of up to $1.80 per sq. ft. for energy-efficient commercial building property, once placed in service. This deduction will increase annually, starting in 2021, to account for inflation. The accelerated depreciation of $1.80 per sq. ft. is available for those meeting all three energy-efficient component improvements – lighting, HVAC and building envelope – with partial deductions available for taxpayers not meeting the energy-efficient standards on all three components.

Claiming the Employee Retention Credit also can have an impact on other tax incentives important to tool builders, such as the R&D tax credit and work opportunity tax credit.

These changes can have a significant impact on mold builders’ overall federal tax liabilities. The changes made to the Employee Retention Credit, along with these other provisions, can be a significant increase to cash flow and after-tax profits. n Michael J. Devereux II, CPA, CMP, is a partner and director of manufacturing, distribution & plastics industry services for Mueller Prost. Devereux’s primary focus is on tax incentives and succession planning for the manufacturing sector. He regularly speaks at manufacturing conferences around the country on tax issues facing the manufacturing industry. For more information, visit

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In addition, the energy efficiency criteria have become a more stringent version of the ASHRAE Standard 90.1. Previously, energy cost savings were determined utilizing a reference building under ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2007. With the new law, taxpayers will utilize the ASHRAE standard in effect two years prior to the date of construction. BUSINESS MEALS The Act makes business meals 100% deductible for tax years 2021 and 2022. The provision allows for mold builders to deduct the full amount of any business meals, including beverages, that are provided at a restaurant. |


FEBRUARY AMBA Emerging Leaders “Meet the Mentor” Quarterly Series, Feb. through Dec. 2021,

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the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2021


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