The American Mold Builder Issue 2 2021

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ISSUE 2 2021

MENTORING YOUNG TALENT Quoting Strategies Rising Healthcare Costs Foundational Lean Tools


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ISSUE 2 2021

MENTORING YOUNG TALENT Quoting Strategies Rising Healthcare Costs Foundational Lean Tools


8 Speak Out .................................................. 6 Association .............................................. 22 Industry .................................................... 26 Product ..................................................... 37 Calendar ................................................... 46 Ad Index ................................................... 46

AMBA CONFERENCE 2021 Connections Reimagined

12 OPERATIONS Quoting: A Business Improvement Process 14 PROFILE Additive Manufacturing Transforms the Tool Shop At Byrne Tool + Design 18 BENCHMARKING Continued Hikes in Healthcare Cost Force Employers to Search for Solutions 24 TALENT Mentorship Series Impacts Emerging Leaders


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 2 2021

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



VIEW FROM 30 Marketing Virtually in a Contemporary World

32 SOLUTIONS Foundational Lean Tools 38 TECHNOLOGY New Technologies in Hot Runner Systems 44 ADVOCACY Washington United? China Policy Brings Rare Bipartisanship



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 a nice Spring day in April (25 degrees… one inch of snow on A the ground… another two to three inches of snow coming…), I hope you, your families and your employees are doing well and staying healthy.

JIM SPERBER AMBA President Master Tool & Mold

As I think about where we were a year ago, some of us were on lockdown, while others were trying to get our businesses deemed “essential.” All of us were wondering how we were going to keep our employees safe and our businesses running, asking questions such as: What happens if we have a COVID-19 outbreak in the shop? Do we have safety and operational protocols in place? Should employees wear masks? Should we take Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) money or not? With all the new opportunities that come our way, how much work should we take on? Are we going to be able to get the work done on time? Should we go into new markets?

With all of these questions, it just shows how awesome the American Mold Builders Association is because the association helped us to find the answers. In March, we had a virtual Sales & Marketing Forum, and I think it was a great success, thanks to Troy Nix and the AMBA team. We continue to have monthly webinars, roundtable discussions (Peer-to-Peer connections), sales & marketing discussions, and a virtual 'Meet the Mentor' series for our Emerging Leaders. I hope you take advantage of these opportunities to network and problem-solve. If you haven’t joined any of our webinars, you are truly missing out on one of the great benefits that come with AMBA membership. If you’ve missed some of them, the webinars are recorded and available on the AMBA website. All of this brings us to the annual conference, to be held June 22 to 24 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This will be our first face-to-face event since the pandemic began, so we’ll have to follow all of the guidelines that the state and local area have set forth. I know some states are more relaxed on masks and social distancing than others, but the AMBA will do its best to accommodate every issue and keep us all safe. Once again, I would like to remind you to fill out the surveys that are sent out to you so we can keep up-to-date on the pulse of the industry and the content we should be sharing in our webinars. Please contact the AMBA office with your ideas. And, as always, if you’re running into a problem or an issue that you can’t resolve, contact the AMBA and I’m sure we can steer you in the right direction. I am looking forward to seeing you all at the conference. Until then, take care, stay safe, 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 2 2021

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the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 2 2021 |


QUOTING: A BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT PROCESS By Hallie Forcinio, contributing writer, The American Mold Builder uccessful quotes depend on good information and Srequest communication, but strategies behind responding to a for quotation (RFQ) vary. Some companies respond to all requests, others are more selective. Accede Mold & Tool Co., Inc. (Rochester, New York) and Westfall Technik Inc. (Willernie, Minnesota) shared information about their processes.

ASSESSING THE OPPORTUNITY At Accede Mold & Tool, virtually every request for quotation (RFQ) is accepted. “We look at the quoting process as a marketing opportunity,” says Camille Sackett, vice president of sales and project management. The company specializes in complex injection molds, such as two-shot molds, stack molds, spin stacks and rotary cube molds. The RFQ also may point out the need for new technology. In that case, the company might undertake an R&D project. Although Sackett looks at every RFQ, she notes: “We only focus on Class 101 pilot and production tools. If an opportunity comes in that doesn’t require complex actions or specifies a different product Class, we try to connect them to the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) or another mold builder. We want to keep the business in the United States and don’t want contact with Accede to be a dead end.” For Westfall Technik, an in-house “filter” document helps gather information and analyze the risk involved for projects outside its usual scope. The decision to respond to an RFQ depends on a combination of factors – the right customer paired with the right part or the right cavitation or the right molding machine requirements. “For us, the ‘perfect opportunity’ comes in the form of a thorough RFQ from a customer or potential customer that . . . values a well-engineered and documented mold design, which can be executed to 0.0001 inch day-in and day-out,” says Justin McPhee, vice president and general manager at Westfall Technik Inc. “The key for each company is to define what perfect means. . . . look at your most profitable jobs to help find your perfect customer,” he advises. “Perfect customers” often have the highest capture rate, which means the moldmaker and its customers are on the same 12

the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 2 2021

page and less back-and-forth communication is required. “Our goal is to win the work and provide the customer with a great solution,” says McPhee. He adds, “If you are quoting everything that comes across your desk, it is likely that neither of those things will happen. By being selective, we can put more focus and detail into the quotes that we do provide. The additional amount of detail put in at the quoting stage helps ensure that the quoted delivery [lead time] is not used up trying to get answers that could have been worked out during the quoting phase. We all have experienced a situation where the delay in getting information or approvals does not move the final delivery date.” QUOTE PREPARATION Quote preparation time varies from a few hours to more than a week, depending on the complexity of the project, whether the quote is budgetary or actual and the number of outsourced components. “If an existing customer needs a 32-cavity mold, the quote might take four hours because we can pull learnings from similar projects,” says Sackett, who prepares each quote in collaboration with company President and Owner Roger Fox, with input from Brett Lindenmuth, vice president of operations, and Adam Filippetti, vice president of engineering and technology, if needed. Quotes must consider material availability and price volatility. At the moment, lead time is the biggest challenge, so communication with suppliers, customers and the internal team is key so everyone understands the timing. Sackett continues, “If we are doing a turnkey program and bringing in an injection molding machine, it’s 22 to 30 weeks to deliver the machine.”

Internal communication gained importance during the pandemic, which posed operational challenges for both companies. Having many office and engineering staffers working from home, “made communication and training more difficult,” recalls McPhee. At Accede Mold & Tool, the pandemic forced an almost overnight reprioritization of work in the shop to focus on essential medical projects. “We had a lot of conversations with customers outside the medical space about delayed deliveries,” admits Sackett. “On the quoting side, communication became more important than ever because we needed to turn away projects from some long-time customers.”

“Perfect customers” often have the highest capture rate, which means the moldmaker and its customers are on the same page and less back-and-forth communication is required.

With many deferred projects, once the essential medical molds were out the door, the company turned its attention to clearing its backlog. “We sub-contracted a fair amount of work to smaller shops and worked with them to make sure they were meeting quality requirements,” says Sackett. At both Westfall Technik and Accede Mold & Tool, quotes typically are valid for 90 days. However, McPhee notes, lead time needs to be monitored more closely than pricing. “We usually are able to honor lead time for 30 days,” he reports.

Capturing post-quote metrics varies, too. Westfall Technik does not specifically track quote data, but does monitor quote capture rate, which went from 10% to about 30% when the economy was booming and then slipped a bit to 22.6% in 2020. Sackett says Accede Mold & Tool chooses not to monitor its quote-to-order rate “because we sometimes use estimating and quoting to showcase our competencies and skills. Responding to RFQs outside our usual niche also helps us monitor the market and identify trends – for example, the rising interest in post-consumer content – which could cause more wear on tools and dimensional instability.” After an order arrives, Accede Mold & Tool calculates profit and loss by monitoring costs and productivity across operations. It also tracks orders to make sure the customer pool is balanced and longstanding customers are being served. Sackett concludes, “We learn from all the quotes where we don’t get the order – price is too high, lead times are too long, etc. We reflect on all the feedback customers and prospective customers give us. We gather all this information, and it definitely drives business strategy for the coming year.” n


Ninety days from quote to order may not be sufficient. Sackett explains, “Some opportunities take more than a year to make a decision and get funding. A lot of times we are quoting molders that haven’t secured the order yet. But we see that as an opportunity to build a relationship by following up on the quote, staying engaged and providing support over time.”




POST-QUOTE FOLLOW-UP Sackett uses the company’s CRM system and email and phone calls to follow up on each quote until it turns into an order. “The cadence is different for each opportunity,” she notes. At Westfall Technik, one of the two quoters who prepared the quote typically follows up, with assistance from sales as needed. McPhee reports, “We generally like to keep a single line of communication until the order is placed, which is when the design and engineering team takes over as the point person for all technical details.”

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Byrne Tool + Design

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING TRANSFORMS THE TOOL SHOP AT BYRNE TOOL + DESIGN By Dianna Brodine, managing editor, The American Mold Builder

pplications for additive manufacturing grow on a daily basis. A From custom shoes to complex aerospace applications to medical interventions, new technologies in both machines and materials are expanding the realm of possibility for a process that’s been around for more than three decades, even as its popularity has exploded in the last five years.

Byrne Tool + Design, a tool and die shop in Rockford, Michigan, has had more than six years to explore the applications and advantages in additive manufacturing, starting where all manufacturers start – jigs and fixtures – and transforming its skill sets to increase the value to its own organization and its customers. Whether modeling prototype parts, building fixtures for internal processes, reverse-engineering damaged molds or exploring small-scale production, Byrne Tool is embracing what 3D printing can do for the mold building industry. FROM EXPLORATION TO STANDARD PROCESS In 2014, Byrne Tool invested in its first additive manufacturing machine, driven by the desire to speed turnaround time for customer projects by insourcing work that was being sent to outside vendors. “We do a lot more than injection mold building,” said Marc Mitchell, additive manufacturing business 14

development manager. “We also do development work for our customers. We were outsourcing a lot of the printed parts or fixtures that our customers wanted done, but we realized we could get parts for them faster if we had our own machine.” The first purchase was a Stratasys Fortis 250MC, a 3D printer using fused deposition modeling (FDM) technology. During FDM, a thermoplastic material is melted and then deposited in layers to “build” the desired part. With a capacity for parts up to 10x10x12-inches, the equipment functioned as an introductory model that allowed the team at Byrne Tool to explore the additive manufacturing space. Now, the company has three machines on site and uses the assets to provide “additive manufacturing (3D printing) for printed molds, parts, fixtures and end-of-arm tooling,” according to the Byrne Tool website. As with almost any new equipment or process introduction, there was some resistance from employees who were initially unimpressed with the technology. “The learning process to actually understand how to use the equipment wasn’t too bad – the machine has excellent software that is easy to use, so we pretty quickly understood how to take a part and print it out,” page 16

the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 2 2021

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said Mitchell. “But the application curve was more challenging. Some of the guys on the floor didn’t want to print out parts that they could machine.” However, the efficiencies quickly won over those who were hesitant. Andy Baker, quoting and design engineering manager, said, “Now it’s gone full circle. They’re coming to Marc with all kinds of projects and asking if the parts can be printed – clamps for hot manifold wires, corner blocks for water lines and other pieces that make the tool look and function better. We’ve transitioned from pushing them to use the technology to the point where they’re bringing the ideas to us.” BUSINESS AS (UN)USUAL Additive manufacturing has merged smoothly into existing processes at Byrne Tool. “Whether we use additive technology or machining depends on our customers’ timing needs,” said Mitchell. “With each new project, we have a conversation around the customer’s desired outcome. We don’t do the same thing twice, so each project and customer need is unique, and additive manufacturing gives us the flexibility to adapt.” Baker added, “There’s definitely a point where the price of 3D printing becomes greater than machining, and it’s based on size and volume. For instance, we can print something big and thin faster than we can machine it, but if there’s a high volume of parts needed, then that might not be cost effective. We run quotes based on both options and then compare to see what is best for the customer.” This is where Byrne Tool’s investment in three types of additive manufacturing technology pushes the company to the head of the class. In addition to the FDM machine, the tool and die maker also has a fused filament fabrication (FFF) Markforged machine and a Stratasys PolyJet, which uses Digital ABS material to simulate production resins. “If our customers want a part for end-of-arm tooling, we utilize our Markforged printer because it uses an extremely strong material that is really lightweight,” explained Mitchell. “If a customer wants a realistic printed model, we use the PolyJet because that machine has Digital ABS, which is a high-tech material.” Dan Hosford, general manager, said the investments are strategic – and a competitive advantage. “As a company, we try to have a futuristic approach to where the market and industry is heading. Marc and Andy do a good job of keeping the pulse of the new technologies that are out there and understanding how we can best utilize those to service our customers. Having additive manufacturing equipment is another arrow in our quiver in taking our customers’ idea and turning it into reality 16

the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 2 2021

very quickly, whether that’s by printing out a prototype part or creating a mold to get them into production faster.” For Renee Hillman, strategic market development, the most important selling point is the impact additive technology can have on lead times. “Our goal is to help our customers get to market as quickly as they can,” she explained. “We’re printing molds out for customers so they can use parts from our 3D-printed molds to go thru UL testing while we are designing the production tools. We can save months in the overall certification process and, if any changes have to be made, we can do it quickly while avoiding costly engineering changes.” In addition, interest is growing in additive manufacturing as a production process. “Sometimes customers will ask if we can do smaller production runs,” Hillman said. “And with three types of technology, we can find the right fit for the types of parts they need to produce.” Baker added, “Having additive manufacturing in-house gives us another avenue to help meet customer needs. We might find a molder who doesn’t have a need for a tool shop but does need end-of-arm tooling, which gives us more ways to help.” COMMITTED TO AN ADDITIVE CULTURE Additive manufacturing isn’t the only area where Byrne Tool has invested. Most recently, the company has invested in new sinker EDM technology and 5-axis machinery. Byrne tool uses automation technology and processes to run lights out – keeping the production floor humming, even while unattended. But it’s not all about the technology. The company also stresses a collaborative approach to tooling design and project engineering with an environment that is not seen in many mold shops. “As a culture, it’s about our people coming together to solve customer issues,” said Mitchell. “Having an open area with lots of seating and whiteboard space really helps with that collaboration and creativity.” Baker explained, "Many years ago, we got rid of the workstations where everybody was isolated and by themselves when working

on programming. Instead, our moldmakers are working together in open space. Our CNC and programmers are working together in open space. It’s been quite helpful in making sure we’re growing together and in the consistency of our process. It doesn’t matter who works on your job, who designs it, who cuts it – the customer gets the same result every time.” ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING IN THE NEW NORMAL As the hospitalization rates decrease and the percentage of vaccinated adults increases, businesses across the country are looking to recover after a year of extreme COVID-19 impacts. “It’s still tough,” said Hosford. “We’re still seeing the effects of that in how certain markets are rebounding while others aren’t.” Fortunately, Byrne Tool already had situated itself to seek out new business with the addition of Hillman to the staff in 2019. When the pandemic forced slowdowns, Byrne Tool was ready to focus on new opportunities in a larger geographic area. And, with the company already focused on new customer growth, heavy quoting activity resulted. “We’re doing almost double the quoting activity now than we were doing in 2019,” said Baker.

Byrne Tool’s additive manufacturing capabilities will play a large role as the company reaches into new markets, and COVID-19 provided an opportunity to showcase the speed of development that is a hallmark of the technology – as well as the skills and flexibility of the entire team at the Rockford facility. In a collaborative project between Byrne Tool and one of its customers, the company manufactured 100,000 face shields during the early stages of the pandemic, with 20,000 of those donated to first responders in the community when they were having a hard time sourcing them. “That project is a prime example of why we continue to invest in and educate ourselves about 3D printing,” said Hosford. “We were able to immediately adapt and pivot to use our equipment for something we had never created before in a completely new industry to help a new set of people.” He continued, “Our business changed on a monthly basis throughout the pandemic, but we learned a lot in those initial stages of COVID-19. We got creative in our operation and with our supply base. Those are some of the lessons learned that now are allowing us to flex and manage an influx of business.” Baker added with a laugh, “It was a learning experience, but we don’t want 2020 to be the norm.” n

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n AMBA’s recent 2021 Business Forecast Report, mold manufacturers indicated that, on average, healthcare costs accounted for 20% of total company expenditures. This is shockingly high when compared to recent data from the National Compensation Survey (NCS) program, which reported that healthcare costs constituted an average of only 8% of total compensation for civilian workers in March 2020.1 It also indicated that for the mold manufacturing community, mitigating healthcare costs that continue to rise year-overyear is becoming an urgent priority, particularly in an industry recovering from months of COVID-19-related environmental and economic challenges. To address this area of interest and provide urgently needed insight and guidance, AMBA again has benchmarked the costs and plan offerings of mold manufacturers in its second annual 2021 Health and Benefits Report. To provide additional perspective, the AMBA benchmarking team worked alongside the Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors (MAPP) and the Association of Rubber Products Manufacturers (ARPM) to expand the report scope, which is inclusive of yearover-year increases, cost mitigation strategies and more. MANUFACTURERS CONTINUE TO BATTLE RISING HEALTHCARE COSTS According to numbers reported during this benchmarking effort, which collected data from more than 200 companies and represented nearly 27,000 fulltime employees, eight out of 10 executives indicated that their health insurance rates increased in 2020. More alarming is that, while 38% of these executives reported a rise that ranged from 6% to more than 30%, 47% anticipate a similar rise in 2021. With an average enrollment of 70%, the total average annual company cost to provide medical


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 2 2021

benefits (inclusive of all three industries) equaled $727,000, with an average cost per participating employee per year (PEPY) of $10,143. While the perspective of all surveyed manufacturers is helpful to understand, it is important to note that the mold manufacturers segment only averaged an annual average cost of $384,000 (a slight decrease from 2020 data). The average cost per PEPY also differed significantly from the overall report results. While the average cost PEPY in this year’s report equaled $10,143, surveyed mold manufacturers continue to pay approximately $11,150 PEPY, equal to 10% more than the average manufacturer surveyed. A deeper dive into the specific data for mold builders surveyed in this report revealed that this incremental cost largely can be attributed to the contract type as more than eight out of 10 executives use “fully insured” health plans, which have higher costs due to no sharing of risk between plan sponsors and plan providers (aka insurance companies). RIPPLE EFFECTS OF WORKFORCE REPRESENTATION One significant factor that may contribute to rising healthcare costs for many manufacturers (and mold builders, in particular) is the trend data associated with employee representation by age group. For instance, as the workforce representation rose

Chart 1

Chart 2

for groups of employees aged 18 to 30, 31 to 40, 41 to 45 and 46 to 50, average cost per employee steadily dropped. However, as the percentage of employees above the age of 50 rose, the trend began to reverse – for companies where a larger percentage of the workforce was aged 51+, the average cost of healthcare per employee steadily rose. This trend held true for ages 51 to 55, 56 to 60, 60 to 65 and 66+. CONTRIBUTING FACTORS TO HEALTHCARE COSTS To combat escalating changes in healthcare costs, executives are exploring a wide variety of options; however, 50% of the survey respondents have no real strategy for dealing with the variables affecting their most inflationary expenditures.

In fact, the majority of the tactics being used today are ones that have been used and reused by employers for the last two decades, and truly do not address the core issues that impact employers’ ability to provide insurance benefits to employees over the long-term.

Currently, the most popular tactic – used by 42% of executives – is the use of Health Savings Accounts (HSA) in conjunction with the utilization of high-deductible health plans. Other tactics being implemented to offset rising costs include the use of flexible spending accounts (used by 32%), Section 125 Plans (used by 30%), wellness plans (used by 27%) and dropping dependent coverage (used by 5% of the surveyed population). page 20

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Unfortunately, nearly one in four executives is cost-shifting premiums to employees. In other words, leaders are moving more of the expense of insurance to the employment base – an approach that is estimated to negatively impact employee retention as the battle for talent continues to be the number one challenge for US businesses. KEY STRATEGIC INITIATIVES ADDRESS CORE ISSUES This report does reveal that a small segment of organizational leaders in the mold building sector are using true strategies to insulate themselves against health insurance premium escalation. For example, 4.6% of the surveyed population now are using captive funding arrangements to buffer themselves against market fluxuations. Although insurance captives have been in use for decades, it is very importrant to note that nearly every insurance captive operates differently. However, a basic princple of insurance captives is to control the insurance dollars and to either eliminate or reduce the opportunity for insurance companies to make profits and recapture profits on the dollars spent. The second strategy being used is the use of onsite and nearsite clinics. This concept is contrary to most insurance business models, providing free medical care and free commonly used

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While the average cost PEPY in this year’s report equaled $10,143, surveyed mold manufacturers continue to pay approximately $11,150 PEPY, equal to 10% more than the average manufacturer surveyed. wellness plan implementation as a form of cost mitigation when it comes to healthcare costs. In fact, as much as 70% of healthcare spending can be attributed to behavioral and lifestyle choices, which has led employers to provide continually robust health improvement opportunities.2

REFERENCES 1.https:/ premiums-inthe-united-states.htm 2. toolkits/pages/managinghealthcarecosts.aspx



Finally, one notable area of interest in this year’s report is that although only 12.5% of respondents in the mold building community – one in eight – indicated that they are engaging in wellness plan implementation, this is in stark contrast to the 27% of all surveyed manufacturers who are exploring this strategy. For any mold manufacturer not considering wellness plan implementation, this strategy could be a potential competitive advantage in 2021 and beyond – particularly because, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, more employers than ever are identifying

Ultimately, education provided to employees on how to use their health plan benefits, early detection, wellness and efforts to address the root cause of health issues can reduce long-term cost significantly. If employers continue to implement met hods that address these key areas, they will be able to mitigate their current costs and address potentially catastrophic issues in the future. n

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generic medication to employees. The reason the use of clinics is growing in popularity is that the model reduces the use of highly marked-up services and prescription drugs and makes it easier and more affordable for people to be proactive in their own personal care.

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the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 2 2021

The AMBA 2021 Health and Benefits Report covers a vast array of topics, including significant details on health insurance, the process of managing insurance, ancillary insurance benefits, prescriptions drugs, 401K plans and more. Access the full report at


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[1] AMBA CONFERENCE 2021 – REGISTRATION OPEN Registration now is open for AMBA Conference 2021 – Connections Reimagined! This year’s theme is designed to foster enriched connectivity within the mold manufacturing community by bringing industry professionals together through the use of fresh perspectives, impactful keynote addresses, reimagined breakout styles and re-invented networking opportunities. The annual conference will be held in-person in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 22-24, 2021, and will be held with AMBA’s new safety protocols in place so that attendees can meet safely and in accordance with CDC guidelines. Please note: This event has limited attendee registration due to state restrictions. Interested industry suppliers and service providers should contact Susan Denzio at sdenzio@amba. org or Kym Conis at for details. For agenda, hotel,





AMBA EMERGING LEADERS PRE-CONFERENCE SESSION ANNOUNCED AMBA again will offer its AMBA Emerging Leaders the opportunity to participate in a pre-conference session at AMBA Conference 2021. During this half-day workshop, Phil Van Hooser will coach AMBA’s Emerging Leaders through decision-testing methodologies and red flags with the use of decision-making principles, including the Decision-Making Foundation Keys and the 5 Bases for Practical Decision-Making Success. For more information, contact Rachael Pfenninger at [2] NEW WEBINAR: WHY MARKETING MATTERS – HOW STRATEGIC CONTENT CAN PAY OFF FOR YOUR BRAND In today’s day and age, marketing matters more than ever, especially in an environment where in-person visits continue to be limited and electronic communication is king. Join Alliance Specialties and Laser Sales representatives to hear how they use their company’s values to embrace a variety of marketing opportunities, including: • The development of a formalized marketing plan • Strategic content distribution 22

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2 • •


Pointed relationship development Measurable activity

Attendees will learn how these strategic marketing elements and a laser focus on the customer have positioned the Alliance marketing team as leading experts within the manufacturing industry, clearing a pathway towards internal success and goal progress. To register, visit AMBA/org/events.

[2] AMBA REPORTS NOW AVAILABLE FOR SALE The AMBA benchmarking team has released two recent reports that are available for sale – the 2021 Health and Benefits Report and the 2021 Customer Relationship Management Report. 2021 AMBA Health and Benefits Report AMBA’s benchmarking team has published its annual 2021 Health and Benefits Report, which benchmarks current benefits offered by manufacturers in three areas - mold manufacturing, plastics processing and rubber products manufacturing. Benefits reviewed include health, vision, dental and life insurance and retirement programs. The final report includes aggregate data for all surveyed manufacturers, as well as an appendix with data specific to each industry. Member cost: $109. Non-member cost: $209. Purchase at AMBA Customer Relationship Management Report AMBA’s most recent benchmarking effort, the 2021 AMBA Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Report, now is available for sale. This report benchmarks the use of CRM systems across three manufacturing sectors – mold manufacturing, plastics processing and rubber products manufacturing – and provides executives and sales and marketing professionals with evaluations of CRM system features and overall use in these industries. Features evaluated include prospecting and lead generation, customer relationship management and database use, analytics and automation, and investment and ease of implementation. Member cost: $89. Non-member cost: $189. Purchase at AMBA LAUNCHES NEW BENCHMARKING INITIATIVE AMBA has launched its newest benchmarking opportunity, the 2021 AMBA Shop Rate Survey. This survey will allow AMBA members and participating nonmembers to benchmark their shop rates against AMBA’s nationwide community of mold

manufacturers, providing them with comprehensive data that will clarify on which services their shop is most competitive and how they stack up compared to the rest of the industry. AMBA members who participate will receive this report at no cost. Participating non-members will receive this report for a discounted rate. This report will be unavailable to any nonmember who does not participate. [3] EXPERT INDUSTRY INSIGHTS FEATURED IN AMBA’S NEWEST RESOURCE Born out of a desire to connect AMBA mold manufacturers with the technical knowledge possessed by AMBA’s network of industry suppliers, AMBA Expert Insights: An Industry Blog is designed to provide AMBA’s Premier Partners with a platform on which to share their technical expertise. These perspectives and insights provide mold manufacturers with the opportunity to deepen their industry knowledge and industry trends. Visit for recent posts and updates. NEW MEMBER Granby Mold 4380 Haggerty Rd., Commerce Twp., MI 48390 Main point of contact: John Turcotte, President Email: | Phone: 248.624.8900

For more than four decades, Granby Mold has been designing and building prototype and production molds (injection, transfer, compression, injection compression and thermoform) for a variety of industries. The company is currently involved with R&D tooling for over-molding epoxy and phenolic materials in stators and rotors for electric vehicles and electronics for mobile devices. Granby Mold’s experience with fill-analysis supports its customers to push the boundaries of what can be done with plastic materials.

NEW PARTNER EDM Sales & Supplies, Inc. 11650 96th Ave. N., Maple Grove, MN 55369 Chris Lund, Sales Manager Email: | Phone 763.424.1189 EDM Sales & Supplies, Inc. is a family-owned business serving the EDM and die mold industry. Since 1975, EDM Sales has developed lasting supply chain relationships with its customers nationwide, who demand OEM brands and industry-leading products and precision machinery. EDM Sales specializes in diverse products, large inventories, ontime delivery and competitive prices. n

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NEW MENTORSHIP SERIES IMPACTS EMERGING LEADERS By Rachael Pfenninger, director of strategic execution, AMBA

lthough many up-and-coming leaders have a desire to A learn from those who have come before them, accessing tribal knowledge from industry executives continues to be a challenge for next-generation employees, particularly in mold manufacturing. Between generational gaps, differences in communication, the lack of availability or an unwillingness to

share, coach and train, employees who are ages 40 and under often are left to muddle along and figure it out on their own. As much as this “tough it out” mentality may resonate with previous generations, it can be detrimental toward workforce development efforts and retention of next-generation


LEADERSHIP THROUGH OWNERSHIP Mentors: Ray Coombs, president, Westminster Tool, and Troy Nix, executive director, AMBA • When you make yourself a victim, you miss the opportunity to learn and get better.

• Transparency impacts trust. A lack of transparency will damage the relationships around you.

• It’s important to raise your hand when failure happens and take responsibility.

• Build it like you’d be dead before it’s done. Leading from the back empowers your workforce to carry on your mission and your company without needing you to be a part of every aspect.

• Negative experiences are simply opportunities to overcome adversity and to learn more. • No one plans to come to work to screw up. • If you are passionate about becoming a better “you,” you will lead others to become passionate about being a better “them.”

• Demonstrate gratitude. Feedback should never be all negative; make sure that you’re providing positive feedback as well. • Track what you want to work on and your progress. This will help with accountability and ownership (and will increase the respect others have for you).

employees. In fact, mentorship has benefits that go far beyond leadership development. According to the blog “How Mentoring Relationships Help Strengthen Your Company,” positive mentoring relationships can result in the following: • Increased knowledge transfer • Job satisfaction • Smart succession planning • Achievement of goals and objectives • Stronger internal networks • Improved staff retention. In order to address the lack of this resource in mold manufacturing, the AMBA Emerging Leaders Network launched its 2021 “Meet the Mentor” series, which addresses challenges facing the next generation of leadership in mold manufacturing. During this experience, AMBA’s up-and-coming leaders are able to access seasoned industry executives and absorb their insights and experiences. Through guidance, learned experiences and peer discussion, attendees walk away with

strategies that can help them address current and upcoming challenges in their own environments. “In our last Meet the Mentor session, we discussed risk and its relationship with opportunity,” said Patrick Brisson, United Tool and Mold. “Because I see myself as a risk-taker, the mentors’ messages and positive experiences really resonated with me. This session is just one example of many that, with access to the Emerging Leaders community and its resources, I am developing the knowledge and the tools that will help me embrace and prepare for future leadership opportunities.” To date, AMBA’s Emerging Leaders have participated in two “Meet the Mentor” sessions. During these exchanges, key takeaways were shared and are listed in the Session 1 and Session 2 boxes. n The next session of the AMBA Emerging Leaders “Meet the Mentor” series will address key challenges in communication and provide coaching strategies that enable team facilitation. The session will be held on July 15, 2021, at 11 a.m. EST. Register at


RISK MANAGEMENT AND DECISION MAKING Mentors: Charles Daniels, CFO, Wepco Plastics, and Justin McPhee, general manager, Westfall Technik Twin Cities • •

• •

Risk doesn’t just present itself in the choices you make – sometimes there is a risk in not making a decision at all. Be a part of the solution, not the problem. When you change your mindset and ask, “How can I help and positively impact the team?” it mitigates risk for everyone. When you’re a leader, it’s always your responsibility. Always, when an initiative succeeds, it’s because someone took the ball and ran with it. This mentality is a requirement for good and effective leadership.

Diversification directly impacts risk mitigation. Because risk is inherent in each decision, you can’t completely remove or alleviate it, but you can prepare for the risk so that you’re in a positive mental space to take it on when the opportunity arises. Taking a leap of faith is how the best leaders reap the biggest rewards. You can weigh risk and make an educational decision, but sometimes you just have to give something a try. When mistakes happen, don’t blame the person – blame the process. Taking responsibility to fix the process moving forward will help mitigate future risk for you, the team and the company.



4 [1] AMBA CHICAGO CHAPTER RECOGNIZES APPRENTICES The Chicago Chapter of the AMBA has recognized three area apprentices as outstanding young people in their training for the mold manufacturing profession: Vincent Buskirk, Creative Die Mold Corporation; Tom Cicardo, Matrix Plastic Products; and Cody Paul, Industrial Molds. The apprentices were recognized in a virtual presentation in late April, where the 2021 Mold Your Career Award also was presented. The award went to Tom Cicardo (pictured), nominated by Mike Martin. At Matrix Plastic Products, Cicardo is entrusted with sinker EDM work on complex close tolerance molds. His passion is the reason that the company has him learning multiple departments, such as EDM, Mazak mill, mold maintenance, and manual milling and grinding. For more information, contact NEW VERSION OF MOLDEX3D RELEASED CoreTech System Co., Ltd. (Moldex3D), Hsinchu, Taiwan, a provider of professional CAE analysis solutions, has announced the release of Moldex3D 2021 – the latest version of its molding analysis software series. The new generation of Moldex3D continues to refine simulation capabilities to provide better user experiences. More powerful analysis modules also are incorporated in the system to meet different customer needs across industries. In response to a faster changing market in the Industry 4.0 era, Moldex3D 2021 helps businesses realize seamless design and manufacturing integration, producing products within stricter time limits. For more information, visit OERLIKON SIGNS AGREEMENT TO ACQUIRE INGLASS Oerlikon, Pfaeffikon, Schwyz, Switzerland, a provider of surface engineering, polymer processing and additive manufacturing, 26

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has announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire San Polo Piave, Italy-headquartered INglass S.p.A. and its hot runner systems technology operating under its HRSflow business. The acquisition accelerates Oerlikon’s strategy in diversifying its manmade fibers business – renamed Polymer Processing Solutions – to expand into the high-growth polymer processing solution market. The transaction, subject to customary regulatory approvals and closing conditions, is expected to take place in the second quarter of 2021. For more information, visit SECO TOOLS PARTNERS WITH FUSION COOLANT SYSTEMS To become more sustainable in its machining practices, Seco Tools LLC, Troy, Michigan – a provider of metal cutting solutions for indexable milling, solid milling, turning, holemaking, threading and tooling systems – has partnered with Fusion Coolant Systems, which offers an environmentally friendly coolant technology that can lower carbon footprint while increasing performance. Both companies aim to make machining easier and more effective while maintaining environmental awareness. For more information, visit [2] SIEMENS OFFERS NEW STOCK SYSTEM PACKAGE PROGRAM Siemens, a provider of distributed energy systems, automation and digitalization for manufacturing with US headquarters in Washington, DC, has announced that to offer a fast solution to US-based machine tool builders, system integrators and retrofitters, it will stock typical system packages in its Elk Grove Village, Illinois, facility. Packages include the Sinumerik 828D CNC, Sinamics drive and Simotics motor, available to ensure fast, efficient delivery in under 10 business days. Additional benefits of ordering the pre-defined packages include a price discount, simplified ordering and a shortened lead-time. The program is subject to availability; delivery time will depend upon stock available in Elk Grove Village. For more information, visit [3] HRSFLOW CELEBRATES OVER 1,000 SYSTEMS SOLD HRSflow, San Polo di Piave, Italy, a maker of hot runner systems page 28

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for the injection molding industry, has passed the 1,000 mark in system sales. First introduced at K 2013, its servo-driven valve gate system has been a powerful driver of growth. The range of applications includes automotive engineering with lighting, interior, exterior and under-the-hood applications – increasingly also for electrically driven vehicles – as well as logistics, environmental, household and gardening. For more information, visit MICHIANA GLOBAL MOLD ANNOUNCES NEW MANAGEMENT FRAMEWORK Michiana Global Mold, Mishawaka, Indiana, has announced a new management framework. Kevin O’Connor will lead in the new role of director of operations for the company as it builds molds for plastics and rubber supplier of plastic parts. O’Connor joined MGM in 2015 as a global projects manager with a strong background in project management and engineering. Jim Hardig will take on the new role of shop foreman. Hardig is a journeyman moldmaker of 30 years and will continue to be a lead toolmaker in addition to his oversight responsibilities of tool making and specialty machine operations. Bill Stickley has assumed the new role of estimating & facilities manager. MGM customers or suppliers have counted on his support

since 1995, and he will lead the estimating efforts of MGM’s domestic mold-build and repair/EC projects. Doug Tuveson, engineering manager/manufacturing engineer, and Kelly Kasner, director of sales and marketing, each have expanded their roles in the MGM organization. For more information, visit [4] AMERIMOLD 2021 COMES TO CHICAGO IN SEPTEMBER Amerimold 2021 will take place on September 22-23 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois. The tradeshow, which has been running since 1999, connects thousands of the top owners, management, production personnel and engineers involved in the complete lifecycle of the design, manufacture and maintenance of a mold. The event includes an exhibit hall, a diverse collection of Amerimold Tech Talks and various supply chain sourcing events to connect buyers and sellers of necessary manufacturing services. Further event details are available at PLASTEC WEST AND PLASTEC EAST STILL TO COME IN 2021 This summer, PLASTEC West – the annual plastic design and manufacturing event – will arrive in Anaheim, California, August 10-12, at the Anaheim Convention Center. Including parts and materials, molding, thermoforming and extrusion, PLASTEC West will offer suppliers and buyers an opportunity to discover innovation, engineer new technology and contribute to building a better and brighter future. Attendees can expect to see the most recent developments in blow molding, machining, thermoforming, polymer casting, injection molding, 3D printing, extrusion and robotics. At the epicenter of the expo floor will be panel discussions, live demos, thought leadership presentations and much more. Education and activities – like exhibitor tech talks, lunch & learns and hands-on workshops – can be found just beyond the booths. Plus, there will be many opportunities to take part in formal and informal networking events across the expo floor. The free expo pass can be upgraded to include access to six deeper-dive technical educational conference tracks, more than 100 thought leaders and exclusive networking. PLASTEC East, coming to the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York, New York, will take place December 7-9. As the East Coast’s largest design and manufacturing event, PLASTEC East is for buyers, executives and decision-makers looking to network and source the latest technology in product design, automation, plastics, quality and more. Attendees will interact with world-class suppliers, test drive the latest technologies and innovations, network with industry peers and thought leaders, and expand industry knowledge at the event. n


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 2 2021

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MARKETING VIRTUALLY IN A CONTEMPORARY WORLD by Lara Copeland, writer, The American Mold Builder


or much of history, sales and marketing efforts in the moldmaking industry have been slim and primitive in nature. A great deal of the networking was intimate and nearby, perhaps conducted on the golf course or in restaurants. But that landscape has evolved over the last 20 years, and the COVID-19 pandemic was just the proverbial cherry on top. Moldmaking shops now are challenged to embrace other marketing techniques, not only to expand and diversify but to ensure survival.

MID-CENTURY MARKETING In the 1960s, when Michiana Global Mold (MGM) opened in Mishawaka, Indiana, the owner “had solid connections, personally fostered relationships and work was plentiful,” said Kelly Kasner, MGM’s director of sales and marketing. Kasner, who grew up in the industry and often traveled to customers with her tool-shop-owner dad, continued, “Particularly in our neck of the woods, in the Mecca of the Midwest, Tier 2 and Tier 3 automotive suppliers were all over the place and kept every mold shop in our town and region busy with lots of work.” But, things started to change as the industry supply chain became more global in nature. While work was plentiful and local in the late 1980s and 1990s, the marketing efforts required were nearly non-existent because “your supply chain was close to you – you worked within your region,” Kasner said. This relationship- and connection-based network functioned well until the year 2000 when China and other offshore competition emerged on US soil. Kasner explained that this global competition left its footprint and spurred change. When China came calling, many US businesses turned to website development for marketing. “These websites were static by design, very text-ridden and inundated with verbiage,” Kasner said. “We hit the ground running, made cold calls to make new connections and had business cards and brochures.” This is what marketing efforts consisted of for small, familyowned moldmakers in the early 2000s. THE SHIFT OF 2020 When the pandemic came into play in early 2020, Kasner said those cold calls and visits were no longer happening. “The old30

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From concept to completion, MGM delivers exceptional results. Precisely the right experience to be your one-stop global solution. • 25,000 square-foot facility in Mishawaka, IN • 80,000 square-foot facility in Shenzhen, China • ISO 9001 Certification in both facilities • Simple prototypes to complex production molds servicing presses up to 1,000 tons • Mold sampling, PPAP, prototype and short-run production • Domestic and offshore projects for the plastic and rubber industries AUTOMOTIVE









fashioned ‘let me take you to lunch and see what we can do 574.259.6262 for you’ meeting was no longer an option, and neither were 1702 East Street out brochures,” she stated. tradeshows or7th handing Mishawaka, IN 46544

With the company’s tried-and-true marketing efforts no longer relevant, and opportunities to be live and in-person while engaging with one another no longer possible, MGM looked for ways to make up for the lack of human connection. “I’m old-school, and I miss the in-person aspects of sales and marketing,” said Kasner. “It always has been and still is all about relationships.” This meant it was critical for the company to figure out how to be innovative and unique while partnering and conducting business with people who value relationships. “We just had to think about how to do it differently, particularly in our industry,” she continued.

EMBRACING THE NEW For the past two decades, MGM has been working to stay in first-class and be competitive, doing whatever is necessary or required to develop its network, invest in capabilities and strengthen marketing efforts. “Even though the onset months of the pandemic put us in a perplexed state, it is the year we woke up, looked around and realized we needed to do something,” Kasner said, “because we could no longer sustain the same path we’ve been on without it impacting us significantly.” In recent months, MGM endeavored to raise the bar by taking steps to improve its online presence. Its newly updated website is “much more friendly to different types of platforms,” she said, “so where before you wouldn’t be able to see anything from a mobile device, now it can be viewed on several platforms.” The website also is more visual. “Since research indicates that many aspects of purchasing decisions are made before I even get a prospect’s email or phone call, I have to make sure the site is visually attractive, reaches a wider audience and has a much greater use of video.” The company also is putting effort into having a presence on social media, primarily LinkedIn, while producing video content to incorporate into email messages and to share on social media to drive viewers to the revamped website. Video content will be varied, including one which will be a virtual shop tour, one that is an introductory video for the company and one or two that will be “commercials,” showcasing MGM’s team and capabilities. “These videos will help people learn more about us and keep them on the direction of that sales process in advance of the email or phone call,” Kasner explained. She also said the goal is to get everything launched and start doing open house invitations with current key customers and new customers who have yet to visit the facility. As a sincere believer in trying new things, Kasner encouraged others to embrace efforts that may seem unconventional. Many may want to shy away from “dipping their toe in the social media pool” since it doesn’t seem relevant to manufacturing, but she maintains it is relevant now and it’s here to stay.

HYBRID MARKETING Kasner likens the future of sales and marketing at MGM to mirroring the hybrid model approaches the educational and medical industries have utilized this past year. “I can see this hybrid model happening with the sales and marketing aspects of manufacturing to where we have opportunities to connect virtually and continue in the same directions and with the same initiatives as we are doing right now,” she said. “It’s like getting the introductions underway virtually, and then if we like each other and find our connection mutually beneficial, we can take it to the next step and meet face-to-face.” The last thing anybody wants is to see another mold shop going out of business. Kasner is adamant that smaller, independently owned shops that are challenged to be resourceful should reach out to their communities, such as local high school classes or even within their own teams, to find resources to help shoot a video, update a website or establish a presence on social media. “The bigger mold shops are rocking social media with a dedicated sales and marketing team,” she said. “I think it’s awesome as they are changing the face and perception of careers in our industry, which is vital to our future.” n

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FOUNDATIONAL LEAN TOOLS By Jon Kantola, project manager, RobbJack Corporation


few simple Lean tools build a foundation for sustained Lean improvement. Surprisingly, Lean Manufacturing attempts fail an estimated 70% to 90% of the time, even when organizations have the best intentions when it is implemented. Companies that succeed with Lean realize that it requires a long-term effort at culture change, a new way of thinking that senior management champions daily. They drive a focus on increasing customer value rather than on internal cost reductions, understanding that providing what customers want, when they want it, for the right price will increase sales revenue. Daily Lean activity to improve processes that drive customer value will result in cost savings. Another key to success is in how Lean is introduced to the company. Consultants often are hired to train staff in key concepts and tools during a “Lean implementation,” but the goal should be an evolution of the “company Lean way” that morphs the consultant’s instructional content into a best fit culture for your organization. If you study Toyota methods, apply the concepts that click with your team, but do not try to become Toyota. Learn and use the right Lean tools for the moment and for your team, then put those that do not work back in the toolbox. There are some foundational tools that managers and staff will use every day that should be incorporated into your “company Lean way” from day one. These tools go after the low hanging fruit of improvement company-wide, from the office to the shop. GEMBA WALKS Senior managers are change agents, advocates, mentors and cheerleaders for the company’s Lean initiatives, regardless of how busy they are or their personal Lean skillset. GEMBA is a Japanese concept developed by Taichi Ohno that helps busy managers maintain Lean momentum “where work gets done.” It has three main principles: Go and see, ask why and respect people. Managers are challenged to walk through the shop and offices to observe work conditions, monitor improvement projects, check on key process metrics, and mentor and encourage staff. The team at RobbJack Corporation in Lincoln, California, has taken GEMBA a step further and incorporated internal audits with a “kamishibai” card system, which simply is a visual indicator that an assigned action has been completed. In this case, when the green side of the card is visible on the department huddle board, the department passed the audit. A red card means the employees have an issue to address.

Each GEMBA card has several questions and example answers related to Lean concepts, standard work, vision/mission/ strategy or one of the ISO 9000 elements. Five of these cards are placed in each work center and office, and managers are assigned a department and card via an automated system. They perform the GEMBA at their convenience, but within a scheduled timeline, and record their observations in SharePoint. The advantage of this system is that managers have a “script” of three simple questions, phrased so employees easily understand and learn what is required, and the GEMBA takes no more than 10 minutes to complete. With eight managers rotating through five cards in 10 departments every two weeks, employees continually are reinforced, the ISO 9000 audit record is extensive and managers frequently are observing how well these next Lean tools are being implemented.

Huddle boards are the home base of value stream activity

5S ORGANIZATION Parents understand the frustration of a teenager’s bedroom, watching their child search for a pair of shoes in various piles so as not to be late to school. The goal of 5S organization is to establish a clean, efficient and waste free foundation for Lean to happen, to expose improvement opportunities lost in clutter – like shoes in a teenager’s room. This Lean concept comes from five Japanese words that loosely translate to Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. Begin a 5S cycle by Sorting through equipment, tooling, fixtures, supplies, furniture, etc., within each work center to identify what can be removed. Everything retained then should be Set in Order with a controlled location. Shadow boards, drawer inserts with cutouts and floor outlines are page 34


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© 2018 YRC Worldwide Inc. |


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examples that immediately identify where items belong. Next, clean your floor, tools and equipment to make them Shine. Maintenance issues quickly are identified when not buried under a buildup of gunk, reducing equipment downtime. The first three 5S steps need to become Standard work, part of the daily Lean routine with checklists, schedules, instructions or similar mechanisms that encourage good housekeeping habits. Although 5S is an ongoing cycle of sorting, ordering, shining and standardizing, it is Sustained when it becomes part of the culture. Managers can reinforce and sustain 5S during their GEMBA walks. VALUE STREAM MAPPING In its simplest form, a value stream map is a flowchart of your order-to-cash business processes, perhaps created first with Post-it Notes on a whiteboard. Adding specific information to each operation – like cycle time, setup/changeover time, uptime, queue time, shifts and manpower – helps your team visualize how product moves through the shop and prioritize improvement actions. Start with a current-state map of how things are done today, and then build a future-state map for each product family with common operations or machines and similar costs. These product-based value streams are cross-functional, with order-to-cash responsibility eliminating department “silos” that isolate staff into protective bubbles. At RobbJack, for example, there are five value streams: PCD tools, slitting saws, large diameter end mills, small diameter mills and PVD coatings. Each has a unique set of equipment and staff responsible for satisfying customer demand, from order entry through shipping. Orders flow through a value stream with common goals, improved collaboration, good communication and transparent metrics. Problem solving and continuous improvement are performed by each cross-functional team, with members representing order-to-cash functions. PDCA CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT Value Stream teams use another vital and simple Lean tool for continuous improvement: the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) cycle that begins when a problem or opportunity is identified. The bulk of work is performed in the first step of the cycle, where problems are clearly defined, target outcomes are established, data collection tools are created and the actions to be taken are set with accountability and due dates. PDCA plans should scope to short, quick actions that prove or disprove an idea or solution within a week or two. Anything longer should be divided into multiple PDCA activities. Limiting change is equally important, lest too many adjustments to process variables obscure the root cause of a problem or the single factor contributing the greatest improvement. 34

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The next three steps often blur together as teams execute the plan, collect data on the results and act based on their observations. RobbJack’s PDCA record is on A3 size paper, allows for six separate cycles, shows the plan with accountability and reports the results and findings. Although data collection is on other forms, the PDCA record allows only enough space for about two weeks of do, check and act. When the team runs out of space, they need to restate the objective and start a new cycle. HUDDLE BOARDS The foundational cornerstone and home base of value stream activity is a “huddle board,” a large whiteboard that displays each team mission and company strategy, current staffing status, key performance metrics and tracking charts, PDCA cycle records and GEMBA cards. All teams gather daily for a 10-minute stand-up meeting to review each subject on the board, highlight plans for the shift and discuss any PDCA findings. Members take turns leading the huddle meetings to promote engagement, participation and understanding of what is on the board. FOUNDATION FOR SUCCESS Organizations that embark on a Lean journey are making a significant investment in consulting, training, infrastructure and time. They also commit to disrupting the status quo in which many employees are comfortable and the reason why most companies fail to break free from their traditional culture. To encourage ongoing and sustained change, senior management must “know the way, show the way and go the way” with a strong Lean foundation built on a few important tools. GEMBA walks encourage managers to interact with value stream teams and to monitor 5S organization and PDCA continuous improvement progress. Huddle boards not only ensure transparency, collaboration and communication, but also are the perfect time for managers to reinforce why Lean is so important: Delivering the highest customer value possible is the surest strategy for success. n Jon Kantola has practiced Lean and continuous improvement in manufacturing operations for over 30 years as a production manager, quality manager, program manager, certified quality engineer and contract trainer. He has helped companies find “their Lean way” in the OEM automotive, performance automotive aftermarket, aerospace, sintered metal and cutting tool industries. He is a project manager for RobbJack Corporation and can be reached by emailing

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HEIDENHAIN OFFERS RSF SEALED ENCODERS RSF Elektronik has announced the launch of a sealed linear encoder series for high-end metrology applications. Offered through Schaumburg, Illinois-based parent company HEIDENHAIN CORPORATION, these MSA 7xx/8xx model encoders offer easy mounting solutions, optical comparators and video measuring machines. The encoders offer high signal quality and long-term stability through integration of HEIDENHAIN Signal Processing, ensuring the best signals are generated from the 20µm grating of the scale inside the aluminum extrusion. For more information, visit [1] PLATINUM TOOLING OFFERS ANGLE HEAD LINE Platinum Tooling Technologies, Inc., Prospect Heights, Illinois, a provider of machine tool accessories, has announced Heimatec’s newest line of angle heads, available in popular sizes and styles to accommodate machine tools and CNC machining center builders. Designed for heavy milling, deep drilling and tapping operations, the line features twin or double twin sets of matched angular contact bearings plus a rear radial support bearing. The gears on these angle heads have inclined teeth and have been specially hardened, ground and lapped in sets to provide smooth transmission output. For more information, email PCS ADDS BOLEXP BALL GUIDED EJECTION BUSHING PCS Company, Fraser, Michigan, a provider of solutions for the, moldmaking industry. Offers BOLEXP ball guidance bushings, made with an outer casing of steel which holds fixed inside a high-resistance bronze cage for guiding the balls. The translation system consists of several rows of precision balls circulating endlessly. Featuring high-precision ball bearings – 60-62 HRc – the novelty of BOLEXP ball guidance bushes is that balls do not run aligned with the translation motion, but at a slight angle, thus enlarging the contact area with the shaft and enabling greater load capacity. For more information, visit [2] HYPERTHERM RELEASES ROBOTMASTER 7.4, Hypertherm, Hanover, New Hampshire, a manufacturer of industrial cutting systems and software, released Robotmaster Version 7.4, an offline robot programming software.



Enhancements were made, such as to Remote Tool Center Point (RTCP) for an improved end user experience; additions to the surface paths for applications such as polishing, grinding, deburring and more; faster processing times when saving, loading and calculating jobs, plus improved feedback during simulation for faster part programming times; and enhancement to the Robotmaster Interactive Simulation Environment (RISE). Visit [3] ROLLOMATIC INTRODUCES NEW SHAPESMART® NP30 Rollomatic, a machine tool manufacturer with North American headquarters in Mundelein, Illinois, presented the ShapeSmart® NP30, replacing the original NP3+ model. Rollomatic’s pinch/peel grinding methodology offers highest concentricity for long and thin parts. The machine utilizes two grinding wheels running on separate spindles and positioned on independently controlled CNC linear slides. Both the finish and the roughing station have a separate direct drive synchronous spindle motor. Also new is a redesigned work head for higher stability when grinding large parts. Visit DME LAUNCHES NEW LT-SERIES LIFETIME SIDE LOCKS DME, Madison Heights, Michigan, a maker of mold bases, components and more, has announced the new DME LTSeries LifeTime Roller Lock, featuring an improved design and availablity in three materials: D2 steel, DC53 steel and 440C stainless steel. The tri- and penta-lock interlacing locking design delivers a more precise location and holding power of the final lock-up. For more information, visit [4] PROGRESSIVE ADDS MOLD COOLING INNOVATIONS Progressive Components, Wauconda, Illinois, providers of standard and proprietary mold components and mold monitoring devices, has provided more options to route cooling lines within tools, including the machine groove detail so the subsequent replacement during mold maintenance is easy to locate and purchase. O-rings are available for both face sealing and core sealing applications and are offered in two material options: Buna-N for temperatures up to 225°F and Viton® for temperatures up to 400°F. For more information, visit n |


NEW TECHNOLOGIES IN HOT RUNNER SYSTEMS By Liz Stevens, contributing writer, The American Mold Builder ven as they tout the enduring strengths of hot runner Ehandful systems, hot runner makers are not sitting still. We asked a of hot runner manufacturers to give a glimpse of the

improvements and new technologies unfolding in their systems, and to share their insight about the recent waves of change. We spoke with INCOE’s Jim Bott, business development manager – mobility/automotive/heavy truck; Robert Harvey, director of sales North America at HRSFlow; Brenda Clark, engineering manager at HASCO America; Mastip’s marketing manager, Steven McKinlay; and Greg Osborn, industrial sales manager – North America at Synventive Molding Solutions. WHY HOT RUNNER? To set the stage for discussing changes stemming from new technologies and the rise of automation in injection molding, we first asked the manufacturers to make the case for using a hot runner system as opposed to a conventional cold runner setup. “Making the decision whether or not to incorporate a hot runner in a build,” said HRSFlow’s Robert Harvey, “will depend on a variety of factors.” One factor is the anticipated production volumes because for very low volume runs, a hot runner’s price may be too rich. Other factors, he said, include “the material type to be used and its cost, and the impact of the cycle time difference between cold and hot runners.” The correct types of source material must be chosen for use in hot runners, and Harvey also pointed out that the amount of sprue or scrap material that can be eliminated by removing the cold runner, and the desirability and ability to reprocess scrap material also are important considerations for whether a hot runner is a good fit. INCOE’s Jim Bott approached the question by describing a given and then the few factors that, in his opinion, would rule out the use of a hot runner system. “Starting with Hot Runner 101: There is the given of reducing or eliminating the cold sprue of a cold runner by instead using a single hot nozzle,” he said. “There only are a few instances where hot runner technology cannot be value add, and what comes quickly to mind is low volume – but that would be an oversimplification.” Regardless of the production volume, many part designs require hot runner technology to properly fill the parts to meet


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performance requirements. In the end, Bott narrowed down the poor candidates for hot runner systems to “perhaps very low cost, non-technical, low volume parts, and also, parts that need the cold runner for packaging purposes or conveying logistics. And certainly, some plastic materials – such as thermosets and liquid silicone rubber – cannot be processed with hot runner technology.” Greg Osborn, of Synventive, focused on production volume and part size, while also noting the scrap-reducing nature of hot runners. “Production levels and part size are important factors to consider,” he said, “when deciding between cold runner or hot runner conveying systems. The higher production volumes made possible with hot runner systems allow the added expense of a hot runner to be absorbed over the higher quantity of parts.” Osborn stressed that part size can play an important part in the decision. “Small parts being fed by a cold runner can often lead to increased cycle time because of the longer processing times required by the cold runner system,” he said. At the other end of the size spectrum, he said, “many large parts like automotive bumpers and fascia also lend themselves well to production on hot runner systems, thereby avoiding the complex or unfeasible three-plate design that a cold runner system would require to feed these large parts for filling.” HOT RUNNERS FOR FASTER PRODUCTION, LESS WASTE, BETTER QUALITY When asked how today’s new hot runner technologies address the demand for faster cycle times, reduced waste and improved part quality in plastics processing, Bott was happy to field the question. “From the inception of hot runner technology,” he said, “all of these ‘pain points’ have been the solution focal points of the technology.” Bott stated that these higher demands and requirements have presented hot runner solution providers with challenges that require ever-advancing technology. “The latest in technology includes advancing heater, sensing and heater controller technology,” Bott said. “It also includes upgrades to machining, cutting, probing and inspection technologies. There have been upgrades in flow simulation hardware and software, and there is continuing development of nozzle tip designs.”

Osborn echoed Bott’s assertion that hot runner technology offers inherent advantages in terms of increased speed, improved part quality and reduced scrap. “Replacing the cold runner with a hot runner system will allow the processor to avoid waiting for the cold runner to harden before ejection, thereby reducing cycle time along with slashing the need for further operations to dispose of or regrind the cold runner,” said Osborn. He pointed out that the cold runner often is processed through a grinder to reduce it to small chips and then reintroduced into the part as a fractional percentage blended with the virgin material - a practice which may re-use scrap, but which wastes energy and labor.

These new actuators also allow the processor to control the profile of the valve pin opening, reducing part stress which often is not visible until the finish painting or chrome processes. Osborn stated that new technologies in hot runners allow processors to utilize hydraulic or electric actuators, precisely controlling the position and profile of the valve pins. “The increased accuracy of the opening of the valve pin,” he said, “allows for a more consistent, repeatable pin opening which provides better balance between parts in molds. These new actuators also allow the processor to control the profile of the valve pin opening, reducing part stress which often is not visible until the finish painting or chrome processes.” By this time, he pointed out, hundreds or thousands of parts may have been molded that must then be scrapped. Harvey explained that servo technology is being used to great effect to address the demand for higher quality, faster production and less waste. “HRSflow is leveraging servo technology to affect pressure regulation with more powerful tools than have been available in the past,” Harvey said. “The very accurate repeatability of the servo, together with the ability to process at each gate independently, is increasing the capability to produce a high-quality part repeatably.” This improvement in precise and repeatable production of parts naturally increases yield and reduces the amount of scrap in an operation. HASCO’s Brenda Clark pointed to her company’s wide range of standardized hot runner manifolds and nozzles that address the use of most of today’s engineered process materials. “Standardized hot runner parts,” she said, “make it easy to replace spare parts such as heaters, thermocouples and nozzle

tips. This allows for manifold and nozzle selection to best match the customer’s application from the start. It also gives moldmakers the choice to build their own hot half or to have their supplier build a system for them.” The technology to which Clark refers reduces waste by eliminating cold runners that will need to be reground or thrown away. “These systems ensure high part quality by keeping the melt flow within the manifold naturally balanced,” she said. “Reviewing all application requirements allows the supplier’s engineers to review mold flow analysis and propose the proper standard system components for each project. This balance eliminates any burnt material or dead spots that could degrade the material that is transferred into the molded parts.” Steven McKinlay brought up Mastip’s advances for mold cooling, valve gating and cap insulators, and improvements in nozzles. Using flow analysis software, Mastip works with its partners to recommend designs for mold cooling around the hot runner gate, which is critical to cycle times on fast cycling tools. “Improving gate cooling provides better hot runner control,” McKinlay said, “and this is especially true with thermal gates that utilize gate cooling inserts. Conformal cooling also is improving efficiency by positioning cooling in hard-to-reach places and optimizing cooling where it is critical.” According to McKinlay, there is an increased demand for valve gated hot runners, which are ideal for faster cycles because they eliminate the time for gate solidification. As McKinlay explained, “Valve gates allow for a larger gate diameter which reduces the shear stress on material and can improve part quality while also creating a clean cosmetic gate.” THE LATEST IN HOT RUNNER TECHNOLOGY When asked about the latest developments in hot runner technology, the manufacturers described a bevy of advances: predictive maintenance, servo gate technology, additive manufacturing, multi-material molding, improved material flow and advances in color change. Bott sees big changes coming in how plants operate. “With some molders achieving and others approaching ‘lights out’,” he said, “digital transformation is advancing. Accommodating workers who are working remotely is definitely more of a need than in the past. If this trend continues - where workers spend X number of days at the facility and X number of days working remotely – Industry 4.0 will become more of a necessity.” In terms of hot runner preventive maintenance, Bott said, “It tends to be reactive rather than preventive. Something breaks or wears, causing the molding process to shut down.” Some page 40 |


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plant operators have already climbed aboard the predictive maintenance bandwagon; others will surely follow soon. “This can be achieved with the hot runner supplier adding sensors to fluid inlets/outlets and perhaps in other locations. By teaming with producers that supply technologies for electronic count cycles, communicating and inputting data, and tracking the ordering of spare parts, hot runner suppliers can begin to offer predictive maintenance technologies and also offer technology that supports remote work.” Harvey used this topic as an opportunity to further describe servo technology. “Servo valve gate technology is by far the most substantial recent advancement of hot runner technology,” he said. “This is truly changing injection molding by taking the processing away from the injection piston and placing it at each gate independently.” This allows for family molds with no limits since each cavity can have its own process. And it allows for the precise, repeatable placement of weld lines – for a stronger, betterlooking product. “Servo valve gates provide a tool for affecting the magnitude and location of warp,” Harvey explained. “When only the pressure that is required is applied, there is an overall reduction in tonnage and mold deflection.”

Clark pointed to machine system size limitations. “New requirements for multi-cavity tooling calls for increasing the cavity numbers while keeping both the mold size and the molding machine size down. The need is for more production within the same facility footprint, and for reducing the need to purchase new machinery,” she said. “These expectations are making hot runner system builders think outside of the box.” Clark explained that with the advent of additive manufactured “steel” inserts being applied to hot runner manifold manufacturing, a new door has been opened. While this manufacturing process is cost prohibitive on larger manifold systems that are already well covered through conventional machined manifolds, Clark said that “additive manufactured hot runner manifolds should be kept in mind for use in a smaller footprint, keeping the cost of tooling economical.” She stressed that melt flow should remain balanced and smooth machined, without dead spots but still easily manipulated within the manifold to address the nozzle pitch required. McKinlay described some of the challenges that materials add to hot runner design. “As consumer goods companies look to differentiate their product lines from competitors, designers

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the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 2 2021

are combining more than one material into their final product.” This type of molding is referred to as multi-material, bi-material or 2k molding. It is common with consumer goods, such as toothbrush handle grips, that have a combination of rigid, durable plastic combined with a soft layer, like TPE, for comfort. “A common requirement that Mastip is experiencing is providing a hot runner to service a 3-color mold,” he said. “In order to process more than one material, highly specialized hot runners are designed to fit within more complex molding tools like stack, tandem or rotating platen tools.” McKinlay explained that molding systems that inject more than one sized part at a time can take advantage of sequential filling, which would be achieved through a hot runner valve gate system with valve pin timing controlled by sequential controllers. Another advance is rheologically balanced manifolds that are developed with the use of high-end flow analysis software. Osborn wrapped up the new tech topic by pointing out the rapid industry changes that suppliers must respond to. “The need for lighter weight vehicles and to reduce post-processing part finishing has created opportunities for hot runner suppliers,” he said. “And the need to mold in-color large parts has created a demand for new technologies within hot runners to reduce scrap while efficiently changing colors between part runs.” Osborn explained that features such as smooth flow transitions in the hot runner to avoid stagnation areas in the system, along with nozzle tip features, allow for faster color changes. This reduces scrap and decreases changeover times for different colored resins in the molds. “Hot runner suppliers also have had to increase their expertise in mold flow engineering,” he said “and to incorporate their systems into the software. They have become consultants in part design and nozzle placement, to allow for faster and more efficient color changes.”

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HOT RUNNERS AND AUTOMATION The hot runner experts wrapped it up with a few quick thoughts on how automation and hot runners are impacting one another. Harvey stated a simple but powerful effect that hot runners have on automation: “Hot runner technology can facilitate automation in that the cold runner - which needs to be handled and segregated from finished parts – is no longer produced. This paves the way for increased automation of parts removal.” Clark cited this advantage, too. “With hot runner system use on the molding floor,” she said, “the need for extra robots to remove cold runners can be reduced. This way robots can be targeted to specific molded part removal – a more important page 42 |

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function for plant floor automation.” Clark also suggested that temperature controllers are important pieces of hot runner hardware that facilitate automation. A system with temperature controllers can be tailored to meet production needs, from simple single zone controllers all the way to multi-zone touch screen parametric controllers. “The newest controllers,” said Clark, “should allow the user to set parameters like soft start, boosts and classification of heaters, and critical alarms.”

Additive manufactured hot runner manifolds should be kept in mind for use in a smaller footprint. McKinlay also included temperature controllers in his comments about hot runners and automation. “Temperature controllers are used at the molding level,” he said, “to adjust valve pin timing and to monitor and control the molding process. IoT devices are being used to optimize molding efficiency, focusing on continuous innovation to improve part

quality through the use of temperature and pressure sensors within the mold.” Osborn pointed to a handful of hot runner-automation interconnections. “New technologies in electric-driven valve gates allow a quicker response to valve pin opening,” he said. “And enhanced controller technologies are providing easier communication between the press and the valve pin operating sequence. Also, in-cavity sensor technologies allow for adjustments within the hot runner system, to accommodate for viscosity changes between lots of materials. As the industry moves into bio-resins, these viscosity differences could become broader, increasing the further need for closed loop communication to adjust temperatures within the hot runner system to create a more stable process.” Hot runners are a hot ticket these days, thanks to continuous innovation and courtesy of technological advances that just keep unfolding. n

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WASHINGTON UNITED? CHINA POLICY BRINGS RARE BIPARTISANSHIP By Omar Nashashibi, The Franklin Partnership, LLC ew issues unite people in Washington, D.C. like a common FPartisanship adversary, and these days China is fitting that mold. is rampant in the nation’s capital, with few

Republicans and Democrats working together on the issues of greatest importance to manufacturers. Until recently that is, when members of both parties in Congress began falling over themselves to prove their support for manufacturing in America and increased their posturing against imports from China. An unlikely pair is leading the way in Washington to address domestic supply chain resiliency and counter China’s increasingly aggressive tactics. Leader of Senate Democrats Charles Schumer of New York is teaming up with Republican Senator Todd Young, who recently was in charge of GOP efforts to defeat Senate Democratic candidates, on bipartisan legislation to improve US global competitiveness and increase investment in manufacturing. In April, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing focused on the Endless Frontier Act, introduced with 13 Senators and a strong show of bipartisan support from a cross section of the country spanning Arizona to Maine. And, they are not alone. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the Strategic Competition Act of 2021, a sweeping 280-page, China-focused bill that addresses issues such as unfair Chinese trade, government subsidies, forced labor, cybersecurity, Chinese investment in the US and corruption. The bill also provides $15 million to help US companies exit the Chinese market, diversify their supply chains and identify alternate markets – as well as $300 million for the “Countering Chinese Influence Fund” to push back against the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to promote its authoritarian model abroad. The semiconductor shortage awakened policymakers in Washington to the vulnerabilities in the US supply chain highlighted in the early days of the pandemic. More than 50 lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Schumer, have called for President Biden to support “emergency mandatory”


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 2 2021

funding for semiconductor manufacturing incentives as part of a broader bipartisan sweeping legislative package aimed at China. As of this writing, Majority Leader Schumer was preparing the Senate for a floor vote on a China-focused bill as the Senate Finance Committee began collecting input from Senators on their priorities. I first began lobbying on the issue of Chinese currency manipulation and trade enforcement during the George W. Bush administration. Even then, the key sponsor of a Senate bill to enhance and enforce trade laws against China was Chuck Schumer, now Senate Majority Leader. He has a long and vocal track record in Washington as a skeptic toward China, particularly on trade, and his current position as Senate Leader provides him the ability to bring virtually any bill to the Senate floor. On the Republican side, Senator Todd Young is well known among manufacturers as a strong advocate for the sector and has a reputation as a legislator who takes a thoughtful approach to governing. Other Senators are in on the action as well. US Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced the National Manufacturing Guard Act of 2021, bipartisan legislation to invest $1 billion over five years in the ability of the US government to mitigate future supply chain emergencies. Another bipartisan group on Capitol Hill, led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), introduced a bill to establish the Office of Manufacturing and Industrial Innovation Policy at the White House and develop a strategic national manufacturing policy. The AMBA is working with lawmakers in both parties and other stakeholders in Washington to help shape the outcome of these legislative efforts, including guidelines for developing an industrial and innovation policy in the US. China has taken notice, and they too retain lobbyists and consultants in Washington, with entities spending millions to

influence policymakers. A Chinese government spokesperson recently said that China “firmly opposes the relevant motions put forward by relevant legislators.” This is important phrasing by the Chinese and using the term “relevant lawmakers” is a correct observation. The current China policy review is not undertaken by rank and file members of Congress from the Midwest, who were lonely in voicing concern over China as in the past. Senior members of leadership in both parties, and in both chambers of Congress, now are directly involved. On the other side, we are seeing increased pressure on the Biden administration to reopen or create some type of new Section 301 tariff exclusion process. Shortly after imposing the tariffs on China, former President Trump created a process for US importers to request an exclusion from paying the tariffs on imports. Companies could apply with a process allowing the public to object to the tariff exclusion. Fewer than 100 exclusions remain in place as of today, with tariffs on thousands of Chinese imports in place. The Trump administration, in December 2018, granted one such exclusion from paying the 25% tariffs on Chinese plastic injection molds. Working with the AMBA, we successfully convinced the USTR in December 2019 to reinstate the tariffs on the imported molds, helping protect the industry from surging imports. However, as predicted, the threat to molds and dies made in the US from Chinese imports is returning. Recently, several Senators drafted a bipartisan letter to USTR calling on the Biden administration to “institute a new, transparent, process-based exclusions system for Section 301 tariffs.” This follows a similar bipartisan letter from several members of the powerful US House Ways and Means Committee. These public actions confirmed what we had long

heard around Washington – namely, that pressure is continuing to mount on the Biden administration to allow importers to request an exclusion from paying tariffs on Chinese goods, including lifting the tariffs on imported molds and dies. The supply chain legislation making its way through Congress is an important step for Washington in understanding the challenges China presents not only to US manufacturers, but also to supply chain and national security. We also do not believe the recent attention and bipartisan unity is fleeting. While the Biden administration has raised concern over legislation that may tie the hands of this and future presidents, the administration is directly involved in the ongoing negotiations with Capitol Hill and is making it a priority to counter China globally. Members of the AMBA stand to gain – or lose – in the current debate, depending on the action or inaction from Washington. However, the approach the US takes today will have consequences not just for today’s manufacturers but for future generations. When the US and Chinese officials met for the first time under the Biden administration, the Chinese delivered a specific message – they view the US and China as equals now on the world stage. The question we now face is whether Washington can put partisanship aside and speak with a unified voice to protect manufacturing in America and address China’s actions.n Omar Nashashibi is a founding partner at The Franklin Partnership, LLC, a bipartisan government relations and lobbying firm retained by the American Mold Builders Association in Washington, D.C. |


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