The American Mold Builder 2020 Issue 3

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ISSUE 3 2020

CUT DOWN ON DIMENSIONAL ERRORS Reaching Prospects and Customers during COVID-19 n Websites as a Recruiting Tool n 2020 Elections Loom Large n


Your business is open,

so ours is too

In this new climate, AMBA connections are stronger than ever. See how in-person events are being reimagined.

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

ISSUE 3 2020

ON THE COVER Photo courtesy of HEIDENHAIN Corporation

8 TECHNOLOGY Reducing Dimensional Errors in Moldmaking

Speak Out .................................................. 6 Association .............................................. 14 Product .................................................... 20 Industry .................................................... 34 Calendar ................................................... 42 Ad Index ................................................... 42

16 SOLUTIONS Sales, Marketing and Customer Communications in the Time of COVID-19 24

VIEW FROM 30 Simple and Clear Communication at Thal Precision

26 BENCHMARKING Mold Builders Reduce Federal and State Tax Liabilities with R&D Tax Credit 30 OUTLOOK Recruiting the Next-Generation Workforce


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 3 2020

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



37 ADVOCACY 2020 Elections: China and the US Presidency 40 ECONOMY Economic Smooth Sailing or Headed for the Rocks?


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

Visit our website for subscription information, articles, events and more. AMERICANMOLDBUILDER.COM

Managing Editor: Dianna Brodine Asst. Editors: Liz Stevens, Nancy Cates Art Director: Becky Arensdorf Graphic Designer: Mikell Burr 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. |



Ayour employees are doing well and staying healthy during these trying times. As we are going

s I’m writing this letter (mid-August … Where did the summer go?), I hope you, your families and

through this new and ever-changing work environment, we need the AMBA family more than ever. If you are going through a difficult time, please just pick up the phone and call an AMBA member. I’m sure each of us can share an experience, strength or hope to pick up other members as we navigate something we’ve never experienced before. As members of AMBA, we can stand together and make our way through these challenging times. Together, we can do anything.

JIM SPERBER AMBA President Master Tool & Mold

Speaking of “can do anything,” the AMBA staff pivoted and learned more about how to host great events online. Looking back to May, we had our first virtual event. I thought the insight and updates presented by Omar Nashashibi from The Franklin Partnership were very valuable. We had to postpone our plant tour workshop at Century Die Company (rescheduled for August of 2021), but we continue to have monthly online education. These roundtable discussions and webinars have tackled “Embracing the Challenges,” sales and marketing best practices and continuing development of our Emerging Leaders. I would like to thank Troy Nix and the AMBA team, Laurie Harbour from Harbour Results, Alan Rothenbuecher and Johanna Parker from Benesch Law and Mike Devereux from Mueller Prost for hosting these webinars. If you haven’t joined in any of our webinars, you are truly missing out on one of the great benefits that comes with AMBA membership. Take the time to add these upcoming virtual events to your calendar: 9/23/20

Lead Generation & Marketing Strategy in a Virtual World: Tactical “To Dos”


2020 Race for the White House: Politics, Outcomes & Trade

11/4 to 11/5/20

The Cultural Application of Continuous Improvement

11/11/ to 11/12/20 2020 EHS Summit – A Virtual Event In addition, I know many of you have taken the Paycheck Protection Program loans and now the “forgiveness process” has started. Stay tuned – we’ll have some very important webinars on this subject. Once again, I would like to remind you to fill out the surveys that are sent out, so we can keep up-to-date on the pulse of the industry. These short surveys also help the AMBA decide what content we should be sharing in our webinars. Please contact the AMBA office with your ideas. I am looking forward to the next time we can get together and have face-to-face discussions. Take care, stay safe and healthy, God Bless all of you and God Bless American mold builders. We are Stronger Together.



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 3 2020

David Bowers II, JMMS, Inc.

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

Perfect Surface Definition for Mold Making Shape and contour accuracy, as well as perfect surface definition, are the primary challenges in tool and mold making. However, these are also the strengths of TNC controls from HEIDENHAIN. They have numerous functions that get the best performance possible out of a machine. HEIDENHAIN CORPORATION, 333 East State Parkway, Schaumburg IL, 60173


Angle Encoders + Linear Encoders + Contouring Controls + Subsequent Electronics + Length Gauges + Rotary Encoders


By Gisbert Ledvon, Director of Business Development, Machine Tool, HEIDENHAIN Corporation

Ibe so low as to be barely measurable and must certainly never be

n tool and moldmaking, dimensional and contour errors need to

visible. These requirements are increasingly at odds with demands for higher productivity and lower costs. New control options offer possible solutions to the key questions that arise between the conflicting demands of a production process that is highly precise and at the same time highly efficient. The user can take advantage of these functions that bring out the best of a machine in any machining scenario while efficiently meeting workpiece accuracy requirements.


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HOW CAN I OPTIMALLY TUNE MY MACHINE TO THE GIVEN MACHINING CONDITIONS? Tool builders are finding ways to optimize speeds. As a result, either the cycle is under control or the increased speed causes gouging issues as the machine moves over the 3D surface. When these issues occur, there are basically two options: bring in the machine’s engineering team to fine-tune the machine for the application or – if the machine allows – change the dynamics using embedded cycles to which the operator has access.

Cycle 32 TOLERANCE and the ADP function of the TNC result in perfect molds through the use of a milling machine that has been tuned to the respective machining scenario.

Optimizing the machining process in this scenario starts with the data quality of the numerical control (NC) program and enables optimized motion control for feed axes in three- and five-axis milling. An insufficient quality of data frequently causes poor motion control, leading to inferior surface quality of the milled workpieces. Some systems can dynamically calculate the contour in advance and adapt the axis speeds in time for contour transitions using accelerationlimited and jerk-smoothing motion control. As a result, clean surfaces can be milled in short machining times, even for contours with highly irregular point distributions in neighboring tool paths. This leads to advantages in the resulting symmetrical feed behavior on forward and reverse paths during bidirectional finish milling and in the form of particularly smooth feed-rate curves on parallel milling paths. The problem to be solved is a desire for surface quality and consistency, while making sure the machine is running at optimum speeds. If customers have these problems, they should get involved with their machine tool builder or – if their machines have a control system – make sure the operators understand how to optimize the functionality and accuracy. HOW CAN I TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE OF A MILLING MACHINE’S DYNAMICS? It comes back to what was discussed in the first question: The machine behavior and functionality are critical, which requires a dynamically responding machine tool with high accuracy, linear scales and a closed loop feedback system. If the machine supplier makes the adjustments, the supplier will send a service or application engineer who will look at the application and measure the behavior of the machine axes. Then the engineer can tune them electronically to optimize the jerk, the speed and the number of axes moving at the same time. This level of control typically is hidden in parameters most operators don’t have access to, which can mean additional downtime and costs while waiting for the service call. With some systems, the operator can change the dynamics by using embedded cycles to optimize contour accuracy, which individually specifies the path width that is available to the control. The user can directly influence the maximum attainable contouring feed rate and also the machining time, in particular, for contour elements with numerous changes in direction, a common characteristic of freeform surfaces.

In a typical machine tool for average applications, there is an electronic device that measures the rotation of the ball spool. This measurement relies on the encoder to feed information back to the control – because as the machine is warmed up or runs for a while, the pitch begins to adjust. A closed loop feedback system compares the encoder information with the actual movement, measuring the position of the axes and then evaluating it to the position on the scale. This closed loop feedback ensures accurate positioning of the mechanics. Without that information, operators cannot compensate for any deviations. With some systems, available controls provide functions to combine high accuracies with dynamic motions. These functions minimize not only forces that affect the mechanics of a machine tool during operation, but also the resulting deviations at the tool center point. page 10 |


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For instance, these functions can compensate for forces that are introduced by dynamic acceleration processes and that briefly deform parts of the machine, leading to deviations at the tool center point. Some controls also suppress dominant low-frequency vibrations and permit fast, vibration-free milling. This makes it possible to set high jerk values. Machining times can be reduced without compromising surface quality. In addition, these controls can continuously determine the current mass for linear axes, or the mass moment of inertia for rotary axes, and adapt the feed-rate control to the values measured at any given time. This improves the dynamic accuracy of the axis for every situation under load, enabling the use of optimized jerk values for the feed axes on the workpiece side. The result is a shorter machining time, since the feed axes reach the desired positions sooner.


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HOW CAN I EFFICIENTLY IMPLEMENT THE ACCURACY REQUIREMENTS OF A WORKPIECE? Accuracy requirements are becoming ever more stringent, particularly in the realm of 5-axis machining. Complex parts must be manufactured with both precision and reproducible accuracy, including over extended periods of time. During machining, however, machine components are subjected to relatively high temperature fluctuations. The kinematic transformation chain should, therefore, be adapted correspondingly. If the machine is not operating in a temperature-controlled room, when a machine heats up, the temperatures will change the kinematics of the machine – the axes, which then changes the pivot point. If that point needs to be held within a few microns of accuracy, the changes caused by temperature shifts – machines expand when it’s hot and contract when it’s cold – cause real problems. In fact, one meter of steel can grow or shrink by as much as 11 microns when the temperature of the steel varies by 1° Celsius. That could be a big problem when machining parting lines, etc. All of this leads to the necessity for recalibration when there are significant temperature deviations, specifically in 5-axis applications. Recalibration can be done manually by putting a block on the machine, machining the five sides and then measuring to see if the piece is still in sync. If not, operators can manually shift the datum point. There also are automatic functions that allow the operator to place a measuring board and a touch board on the table, and then the machine runs the cycle and automatically makes the corrections. No matter what, recalibration is necessary when completing high accuracy applications in 5-axis. Also becoming more popular is 3D tool compensation. A triggering 3D touch probe is used to measure the position of a precise calibration sphere at various rotary axis settings. The result is a


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The Dynamic Precision package of functions for the TNC controls combines a high level of accuracy with dynamic motions.

report providing the current actual accuracy during tilting. This 3D tool compensation also automatically can optimize the measured axes simultaneously, and requisite modifications to the machine data automatically can be implemented. The user needs no detailed knowledge about the kinematic configuration of the machine and can recalibrate the milling machine in just a few minutes. If the calibration sphere is permanently mounted on the machine table, then this procedure can even be performed as an automated step between the individual machining processes. HOW CAN I PLAN AND MONITOR AUTOMATED PRODUCTION? If the machine tool provides perfect machining results, then the associated processes should also run in an optimized manner.

Intelligently networked systems for job planning, job management and job monitoring should provide a comprehensive view of job lists, running processes, work progress and any necessary interventions. There are two components to this: The first is some type of management system to improve flexibility, so that when one program is set up, but another job suddenly becomes a higher priority, a switch can be made efficiently. This management system also provides important information prior to machining, such as when manual interventions will be necessary and how long the machine will be utilized. This allows for precise planning of the machining sequence and facilitates the smooth execution of pending jobs. page 12 |


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During machining, machine components are subjected to relatively high temperature fluctuations. The kinematic transformation chain should, therefore, be adapted correspondingly.” The second component is a monitoring software that provides a quick overview of what’s happening on each machine. It’s not necessary to invest huge amounts of money – instead, look for plugand-play solutions that provide essential data that can be reviewed easily. Email and mobile device notifications allow operators to monitor processes from home during weekend or evening shifts. CONCLUSION When it comes to accuracy in 5-axis milling applications the motion control system is a critical part of the machine tool. Mold shop owners and decision makers should take a close look at CNC capabilities and operator training, rather than just relying on CAM data. At the end of the day, the cutting tool has to be moved at high speeds, assuring proper engagement in cutting process, to produce a perfect part the first time. n

μm Accuracy With the EROWA ITS clamping system, workpieces as well as electrodes are held securely and precisely. The guaranteed 2μm accuracy ensures the highest degree of repeatability from one part to the next. (847) 290-0295 12

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Gisbert Ledvon is the director of business development, Machine Tool, for HEIDENHAIN Corporation in North America. With over 25 years of extensive corporate industrial machine business experience, Ledvon is responsible for growing the CNC control side of the HEIDENHAIN business in this region. HEIDENHAIN’s CNC control models are referred to as TNCs and are growing in market share in North America. Ledvon is responsible for developing a strategy to drive technical value and commercial demand for the admired high-end TNC controls at the end user and OEM levels. In addition, Ledvon is charged with leading a team of 5-axis machining, programming and technology specialists at HEIDENHAIN’s North American subsidiary in Schaumburg, Illinois. For TNC control solutions (available for new machines and retrofits), training and application support, visit

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AMBA LAUNCHES VIRTUAL FORUM: THE CULTURAL APPLICATION OF CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT NOVEMBER 4-5, 2020 | 10AM – 3PM ET While economic uncertainty introduces stress and forces change, it also presents a unique opportunity for business leaders to renew their focus on the application and evaluation of continuous improvement in their facilities. Through incremental process improvement and reduction of waste, manufacturers can increase their output and efficiencies, while decreasing their footprint in an ever-increasingly competitive global market. During the AMBA’s upcoming virtual forum, “The Cultural Application of Continuous Improvement,” attendees will hear case studies, presentations and real-world examples of continuous improvement and the ROI achieved. Programming will include peer-to-peer interactions, best-in-class panel discussions and expert keynote presentations. Learn more and register at This is a members-only event.

EMERGING PROFESSIONALS EXPLORE PROCESS IMPROVEMENT DURING UPCOMING SERIES Industry knowledge meets critical thinking in the newest series offered by the AMBA’s Emerging Leaders Network: Get Lean – A Project-Based Application. During this multiple-part series, attendees will be coached through the “why” and “how” of quality principles, problem-solving/process improvement methodologies and the application of lean manufacturing principles. The series will include multiple 45-minute sessions and will address a wide variety of session topics, focused specifically on problem solving and process improvement approaches. Each session will include the opportunity for attendees to practically apply these principles within their own facilities. 14

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NEW FORMAT INTRODUCED FOR AMBA ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSIONS AMBA continues to offer its next series of roundtable discussions specific to current sales and marketing challenges, as well as continuing business challenges. Although the intent of the calls – to share common challenges with one another and learn best practices from peers – remains the same, participants now will kick off the call with a new, small-group format, followed by a larger group discussion. Visit for upcoming session dates and further details. NEW REPORT AVAILABLE: R&D TAX CREDIT USE IN MOLD MANUFACTURING As income taxes continue to rise, it is important for mold manufacturers to identify areas where they can reduce their overall tax burden to maintain profits and remain competitive in today’s global environment. With this in mind, AMBA’s benchmarking team has released its most recent report, R&D Tax Credit Use in Mold Manufacturing, which outlines the frequency with which this credit is claimed (correlated by company size and revenue), the types of qualifying claims that are made and the underutilized tax incentive opportunities that exist for mold manufacturers. The report is complemented with insights from Michael Devereux, CPA, CMP of Mueller Prost, a leading authority on use and application of the R&D tax credit. To learn more and purchase the report, visit COVID-19 RESOURCE HUB CONTINUES TO OFFER TIMELY INFORMATION No matter where business is today, the AMBA COVID-19 Resource Hub continues to be the industry’s premier resource for up-to-date information and data. Current areas of interest include: • Trending data via the AMBA Industry Pulse Survey • State-by-state reopening guidelines and restrictions • Manufacturing checklist, toolkits and workplace testing guides (provided by The Franklin Partnership) • Partner resources from Benesch Law, Mueller Prost and more • COVID-19-related state and national grant opportunities • Government resources, including the DOL FFCRA Eligibility Calculator The AMBA COVID-19 Hub is open to all industry professionals. To access the hub, visit

IMPACT THE BOTTOM LINE WITH AMBA WEBINARS Lead Generation and Marketing Strategy in a Virtual World: Tactical “To-Dos” September 23, 2020 | 11AM ET As all mold builders navigate the second half of the year in the COVID-19 environment, many are realizing the need to shake up their lead generation and marketing strategies, but are struggling to understand how to make personal, meaningful connections when virtual meetings are the new norm. Join Shelly Otenbaker, president at Waypoint Communications, as she shares tactical, immediately actionable “to-dos.” The second half of her presentation will allow for attendees to share situational challenges where Otenbaker will provide case-by-case insights and practical implementation examples. 2020 Race for the White House: Politics, Outcomes and Trade October 27, 2020 | 12PM ET The outcome of the presidency especially will have a significant impact on manufacturing in America and how the US approaches China, trade and other challenges. Join AMBA’s lobbyist in Washington, DC, Omar Nashashibi withThe Franklin Partnership, as he provides an insider’s insights into the race for the White House, potential Democratic control of the US Senate, Nancy Pelosi’s potential role as Speaker of the US House of Representatives for the next two years and the impact of all outcomes on manufacturing and mold manufacturers in particular. Register for both events at

MEMBERS Vector Tool & Engineering Jake Chambers, Sales Engineer | 816.966.1901 Since 1995, Vector Tool & Engineering has been a leader of plastic injection mold manufacturing by designing and manufacturing highquality molds for the plastics industry. It serves various markets, including automotive, medical, industrial, caps and closures, lawn and garden, home appliance and pet care. Vector relies on quality tools, on-time delivery, advanced technology and quality-driven employees to push the industry boundaries. Heritage Mold Bennet Franzen | 815.397.1117 Heritage Mold, Inc., was founded in 1978 and designs and manufactures high-quality, plastic injection molds in the small- to medium-size range. The company prides itself on its strict adherence to delivery schedules, offers prototype services and serves the automotive, consumer products, electrical, hobby, personal care and telecommunication industries. Trifecta Tool & Engineering, LLC Bret West, Engineering Manager | 937.291.0933 With 40+ years of experience, Trifecta Tool & Engineering has the knowledge, skill and wisdom to produce high-quality solutions for its customers. The company designs and builds multi-cavity injection molds for different industries, including aerospace, automotive, caps and closures, consumer products, electrical, medical, military, toys and more. Trifecta Tool is the first, second and third choice for tooling and machining solutions. PARTNERS PUNCH INDUSTRY USA Cheryl Richardson, Sales | 630.625.8080

ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH AND SAFETY SUMMIT GOES VIRTUAL The Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Summit, November 11 and 12, is an opportunity for business leaders to join one another in a virtual environment and share best leadership and safety practices with other industry professionals. This one-of-a-kind experience provides implementable ideas that manufacturers can immediately introduce to their facilities. Potential topics this year include maintaining SHS sheets, OSHA “sticky points,” autonomous robots and automation safety, the Waste Reduction Policy Act and more. Learn more and register now at

PUNCH INDUSTRY CO., LTD., is the American subsidiary of a mold and die components manufacturer in Tokyo, Japan. The company offers high-quality and precision metric standard mold and die components with exceptional surface finish, as well as custommade round and special shaped cores, core pins, ejectors, sleeves and punches made per print. St. Paul Engraving, Inc. John Seiberlich, President | 651.462.9356 St. Paul Engraving, Inc., was established in 1976 to serve the mold and die industry. The company’s services include mold texturing / graining, engraving, tool repair and polishing. As one of the industry’s growing leaders utilizing the latest technology, St. Paul Engraving is committed to quality, customer service and unparalleled lead times. n |


SALES, MARKETING AND CUSTOMER COMMUNICATION IN THE TIME OF COVID-19 By Dianna Brodine, managing editor, The American Mold Builder

Ractivities, and ongoing customer relationships rely on effective elationships are at the heart of successful sales and marketing

and consistent communication. The COVID-19 pandemic has simultaneously increased the need for sales and marketing activities and reduced accessibility to customers and prospects. During a recent AMBA webinar roundtable discussion, sales and marketing executives from AMBA active and supplier member companies offered insights into the “new normal” at their organizations. The conversations provided assurances that many of the mold builders across the US are in the same uncomfortable situations, but also provided new ideas for those looking for a creative spark that could increase customer and prospect communications. WHAT DO CUSTOMER VISITS LOOK LIKE? Before March 2020, mold builders were on the road. Whether calling on potential customers down the street, across the state or around the country, prospecting activities were driving quoting activity and filling the pipeline with future projects. Just as important, sales staff and company executives were visiting current customers to enhance relationships, inquire about new business and perform mold tryouts. Today, mold builders are finding success with a combination of onsite visits (where allowed), virtual meetings and unique concepts that drive interest and meet customers where they feel most comfortable. On-site and Virtual Mike Heatherington (Franchino Mold & Engineering) said about 20% of the company’s customers are allowing Franchino staff to come in for on-site visits. “Some of the people we’re going in to see have had management changes during COVID-19, so they’re incentivized to get their new people in to meet with us,” he said. But, the majority of the mold builder’s customers are not allowing face-to-face visits, so the company has turned to phone and virtual solutions. “We’re using a lot of Teams and Go To Meeting, depending on what our customers use, so we’re using a host of different platforms,” Heatherington explained. “Our customers have had good availability to talk to us…. Communication with most of them has been very good.” Ben Franzen (Heritage Mold, Inc.) is finding that customers are allowing visits when it comes to mold delivery. “When we finish a mold, I deliver it and wait there while they’re sampling it,” he


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explained. “We wear face masks.” Heritage Mold also serves customers located outside of the US and, with international travel curtailed, those conversations are happening virtually. Don Dumoulin (Precise Tooling Solutions) said his staff is seeing an increase in those companies allowing in-person visits. “We’re out seeing customers whenever we can,” he said. “Normally, it would be six to eight sales calls per day, but it’s at 50% of that right now – so we’re making headway.” Dumoulin explained that one issue hampering on-site sales visits is the unavailability of leadership staff. While plant personnel are hard at work on the production floor, leadership teams may be working from home to reduce the potential spread of coronavirus. The Precise Tooling team also is using Microsoft Teams “somewhat effectively” to reach customers around the country. Unique Concepts Hillary Coombs (Westminster Tool) said Westminster opened its doors in July to let customers come back in for mold samplings or other visits, but the company still hasn’t had many customers opening their doors to Westminster. Coombs instituted “Caffeinate and Connect” to catch up with both suppliers and customers. Caffeinate and Connect was a 30- to 45-minute virtual event where customers could sign up via an online calendar and schedule a time to meet with their chosen sales representative. Conversations were conducted via Zoom with video. Coombs said it was an opportunity to update those who participated on “what was new here, if we purchased new equipment or brought anyone on,” she said. “And, we asked them the same. Then, we sent everyone who participated a Starbucks gift card to refill their coffee mug for having a chat with us.” About 80% of Westminster’s suppliers participated and 35% to 40% of our customers participated. Coombs noted that supplier interactions were equally important as customer participation because Westminster was unable to participate in two tradeshows that would help the company to deepen its supplier relationships. Tony Brodzeller (Mastip) ran with an idea from a previous sales and marketing roundtable discussion. He has had “great luck” with off-site, outdoor lunches with customers at parks or restaurants with outside seating. “Prospecting continues to be a little trickier, but some people seem more open to have conversations or virtual

meetings,” he said. “If they need something, they’ll let us in, but from a sales perspective, it’s certainly been harder.”

from home, going full speed ahead on COVID-related projects or – worse – scrambling to fill production gaps?

Geri Anderson (M.R. Mold & Engineering) acknowledged the unique difficulties presented by COVID-19, particularly for a company like M.R. Mold where only 1% of its customers are located in its home state of California. In addition, Anderson resides in Chicago, which has strict quarantine restrictions if she were to go to any of 18 states for customer visits. “I’ve also been doing email to promote the company, which has been pretty successful. I’m hoping the content and the way it is presented is engaging.” Anderson focuses each email on telling a story about the company – “who we are and what we do,” she explained. “I’ve been taking content from our website and putting that into email blasts. It seems to spark quite a bit of interest. We got an RFQ with 13 parts the other day, and that was in direct response to the email blast.”

Video meetings Mark Strobel (Xcentric Mold & Engineering) said his sales team witnessed an evolution in contacting new customers. “When this all first started, cold calling was met with resistance on the recipient’s part, but as this has gone on, people wanted to speak,” he said. “They were getting lonely in isolation.” Strobel said, in his experience, more people are willing to do Zoom meetings. “We have some salespeople just doing cold calls to set up meetings, and then those are taking place via Zoom,” he added.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO DO VIRTUAL MOLD TRIALS? Mold tryouts are a critical step in the production process – typically required before final mold approvals. But, with many manufacturing companies feeling cautious about allowing outside visitors, some have gotten creative with virtual mold trials. David Johnson (M.R. Mold & Engineering) investigated the idea of doing virtual mold trials using a tablet that could run meeting software and be set up next to the machine. This way, the cameras could see the mold activity and interact with the operator through the camera. “Nothing came of it,” he said, “but we want to reinvestigate the idea.” Don Dumoulin (Precise Tooling Solutions) encouraged those participating in the roundtable discussion. “We have done six or seven tools that way,” he said. “We had as many as 14 people from all over the world on one of them recently.” Precise Tooling staff used an iPhone to facilitate the video trial by setting it up on a tripod by the press. The customer’s staff watched the mold run via Zoom as the Precise engineers pulled parts off for a couple of hours. The customer requested a number of measurements, and those also were on video. Dumoulin explained that his team moved the tripod around so the customer could see settings on the machine or watch the operations. “We didn’t use multiple screens or anything fancy. It was a threehour engagement, but the customer was pleased,” he added. Ben Franzen (Heritage Mold, Inc.) added, “We do a similar process using an iPhone. We haven’t had it go live, but I take videos and send those videos to our customers. After they see that it’s running properly and in a cycle that they like, we do a PPAP on it, make any adjustments and then do another video.” HOW DO YOU PROSPECT FOR NEW CUSTOMERS? Existing relationships with existing customers are easier to maintain in these challenging times. How well do cold calls and emails to prospective customers work when many of these targets are working

It’s worth noting that very few individuals in the mold and tooling industries were comfortable with video calls prior to March 2020. As the restrictions associated with the pandemic have stretched on, video interactions have become commonplace. In December 2019, Zoom had 10 million users… by April 2020, more than 300 million had signed up for the service. Face-to-Face Bill Perkins (M&M Tool & Mold) said, “We’ve had no luck in getting in to see customers or prospects, but then I had a great idea – to see if they would meet me out front for 10 or 15 minutes. It’s a good way to do social distancing, and it’s good to get some face-to-face time.” Perkins also said he starts his cold calls by doing research on LinkedIn to find the names and photos of others in the company that he might interact with, such as a receptionist. “When you have a name, it’s easier to make a connection, and you go from being a sales guy to being a human being.” Erica Whitby (Precise Tooling Solutions) echoed the sentiment. “We struggled with the same thing – to get face-to-face, especially with new customers,” she said. “With existing customers, I have been able to get in front of a few of them by meeting at parks or golf outings.” She said it’s important to find different ways to get in front of prospects without having to go to their facilities, since many aren’t open to visitors. “I’ve been doing a lot of research to see what’s open in certain areas,” she added. Cheryl Richardson (Punch Industry USA) sent an email blast to current customers and offered a Zoom call or, depending on the customer’s preference, a visit. When trying to reach prospective customers, Richardson said she has been more aggressive with phone calls. “This isn’t going to go away, so we have to change what we’re doing. In the last month or so, we realized we aren’t going back to business as usual.” LinkedIn Renee Hillman (Byrne Tool + Design) said Byrne Toole has been using LinkedIn and Facebook to generate new interest, although page 18 |


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the company is slowly stopping its use of Facebook due to a lack of results. “We’re also redoing our website right now, and doing a lot of cold calls,” she added. Cheryl Richardson (Punch Industry USA) has created a spreadsheet of new contacts she has connected to on LinkedIn. “They connect because they’re home,” she said. “Before when I would reach out – and it was sporadic because I was on the road – I wouldn’t get a response. But now, I get so many people connecting and sharing some information.” While the interactions don’t always result in a meeting, Richardson said every piece of information becomes a building block for future conversations. She added, “I also look to see who they’re connected to. Who knows who? Who is supplying who?” This information helps her fill in some blanks about how best to approach potential customers. Unique Ideas David Kachoi (Thal Precision) said, “The best thing to have in marketing is email addresses. When sending communications to that list, the content has to help them in some way and has to be presented in a way that is very clear, is easy to understand and is super compelling, which is way easier to say than actually do.” (Read

more about this on page 24.) But, what if the sales team’s database doesn’t contain those email addresses? Ed Francis (Crystallume) has started to evaluate ZoomInfo. “It provides the phone number and emails for contacts within companies you’re trying to target,” he said. Rachael Pfenniger (American Mold Builders Association), mentioned a plug-in for LinkedIn called Skrapp to help gather email addresses. “We have a lot of members who have used it at one point or another,” she said. Other lead generation possibilities include TopSpot, which uses an SEO-driven approach; LeadLander, which generates analytics for website visitors; and targeted, geographically focused Facebook advertising. TAKE THE NEXT STEP While COVID-19 has created a variety of problems, new and creative opportunities have arisen in the communication arena for those who want to reach out to customers and prospects. The pandemic is forcing everyone outside of their comfort zones, but perhaps it’s just what was needed to break into a different market or finally crack the front office of the No. 1 company on a target list. n

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the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 3 2020

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[1] TOOLING TECH GROUP RELEASES BROCHURE ON MODULAR AUTOMATION CELL Tooling Tech Group (TTG), Macomb, Michigan, a manufacturer of custom automated systems, has released a brochure describing its FLEXBASE standardized modular automation cells. The FLEXBASE systems can be configured as a standalone, automated workstation with manual loading and unloading, or linked together to quickly create a complete automated assembly line. The brochure provides technical specifications on the FLEXBASE units and the variety of automated processes the cells can be configured to perform, with technical diagrams and photos of the systems. The brochure can be downloaded from the company’s website. For more information, visit [2] HEIDENHAIN’S TURNPWR CONTROL BY ACU-RITE MAKES DEBUT Motion control feedback solutions provider HEIDENHAIN, Schaumburg, Illinois, presents the ACU-RITE brand TURNPWR control. The new TURNPWR control is a workshop-oriented turning control that enables the user to program conventional machining operations right at the machine in a conversational programming language. It is designed for turning machine tools with up to two axes. TURNPWR promises to enable the user to maximize throughput by significantly reducing set-up time, scrap and other nonproductive operations, thereby increasing efficiency, productivity and profitability. For more information, visit MEUSBURGER OFFERS BUILD-IN CYLINDER WITH FLANGE Parts provider Meusburger, Wolfurt, Austria, offers the compact build-in cylinder with flange, ideal for small installation spaces. It can be installed quickly, and the two-step installation hole protects the sealing during installation. New in the range is the build-in cylinder 20

the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 3 2020

with flange with a piston diameter of 20 mm. Both surface and flush installation are possible. In addition to the existing piston diameters of 16, 25, 32, and 40 mm, the 20 mm diameter with strokes of 10, 20, and 40 mm is available from stock. For more information, visit PCS ANNOUNCES MOLD X CHECKER AND CABLE X CHECKER PCS Company, Fraser, Michigan, a provider of products and services for plastic injection molding, moldmaking and die casting, has announced the expansion of its molding solutions options. The following new products are available off the shelf: Mold X Checker, a diagnostic tool to detect open and shorted circuits in hot runner systems that saves maintenance time and reduces time over the old way of checking for shorts and measuring ohms; and Cable X Checker, for troubleshooting temperature control cables that may not be functioning properly and ensuring accurate testing by diagnosing faulty or damaged wiring. For more information, visit [3] OPEN MIND INTRODUCES HYPERMILL® 2020.2 CAD/CAM SOFTWARE SUITE OPEN MIND Technologies AG, Wessling, Germany, a developer of CAD/CAM software solutions, has introduced its latest hyperMILL® 2020.2 CAD/CAM software suite, which offers features for efficient 3D and 5-axis machining. New features include the addition of plunge-milling cycles to the 3D and 5-axis strategies for machining cutting edges. Material is removed by plunging movements to reduce vibration and improve surface finish. When 5-axis machining, undercut areas also can be reached by specifying the lateral inclination on the tilted tool. By specifying a distance, circular or linear movement profile, the tool is optimally retracted from the part. For more information, visit page 22


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7 [4] ROLLOMATIC SPOTLIGHTS 5‐AXIS PINCH/PEEL GRINDER Rollomatic, Inc., a machine tool manufacturer based in Le Landeron, Switzerland, offers the new ShapeSmart® model NP50 pinch/peel grinding machine. The ShapeSmart® model NP50 offers patented options for pinch grinding non-round parts that now offer higher accuracy and speed. The non-round process includes full pinch/ peel grinding, which ensures high tolerances, form accuracy and the lowest TIR achievable. This is particularly important for exceptionally thin and long parts. Oblong punches, form punches, squares out of center, corner radii and any other shape can be produced with this method. For more information visit [5] GROB OFFERS ACCESS SERIES 5-AXIS UNIVERSAL MACHINING CENTERS AND PSS-L AUTOMATION SOLUTION GROB Systems, Bluffton, Ohio, a developer of manufacturing systems and machine tools, has announced its new 5-axis universal machining center series, the Access series, and PSS-L automation solution. The Access Series includes the G350a and G550a, which include a rigid horizontal spindle axis optimally positioned close to the operating point with guaranteed maximum accuracy and precision. The new PSS-L linear pallet storage system is a modular system that delivers a significant increase in machine utilization and economic production, as well as longer unmanned production periods. For more information, visit HASCO OFFERS CAD DATA FOR SOLIDWORKS®, COOLCROSS Z99 SERIES Machine tool accessory manufacturer HASCO, Lüdenscheid, Germany, has announced a native CAD database for SolidWorks®. The native data – generated in the original CAD system – features installation spaces that can be included in the individual design with a few clicks, together with the geometry that needs to be removed. The CoolCross Z99/… offers constructive possibilities for designing cooling systems for injection molds. It permits homogeneous temperature distribution at the core or insert, as well as constant cavity cooling on all four sides throughout the injection molding cycle. For more information, visit [6] HRSFLOW OFFERS FLEXFLOW EVO FLEXflow Evo is an advancement from HRSflow, a hot runner systems provider in San Polo di Piave, Italy, for servo-electrically driven valve gate systems. With actuators directly fixed on the 22

the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 3 2020



manifold, this is a ready-to-install system for quick and safe installation on the mold. Updated software simplifies the operator’s work and can be retrofitted to all existing control units. FLEXflow Evo is complemented by the FLEXflow Evo One valve gate system, also servo-motor-driven. Instead of the usual control system, a simply designed driver module coupled to each individual nozzle controls the melt flow to produce molded parts with reproducibly high quality. For more information, visit [7] PROGRESSIVE OFFERS REMOTE VALIDATION KIT, PROFILE® SYSTEM Progressive Components, Wauconda, Illinois, a developer and distributor of componentry and software for production tooling, has new offerings. The Remote Validation Kit, a product enabling tooling engineers to validate tools remotely, is a plug-and-play tool that provides real-time data by connecting to a CVe monitor on the mold. Progressive also has developed ProFile®, a cloud-based asset tracking program using asset tags with a unique QR. For more information, visit [8] VERICUT VERSION 9.1 UPGRADES CNC SIMULATION ABILITIES Software developer CGTech, Irvine, California, has announced the latest release of VERICUT software, Version 9.1. The machine simulation, verification and optimization software simulates CNC machining, additive and hybrid manufacturing processes. New visibility options, plus enhancements to toolpath optimization, additive manufacturing, tooling and multi-tool stations, measuring and inspection/reporting are just a few of the noteworthy features in this latest release. For more information, visit [9] METHODS MACHINE TOOLS INTRODUCES VERTICAL MACHINING CENTER Methods Machine Tools, Inc., Sudbury, Massachusetts, a supplier of precision machine tools and automation, has introduced the OKK VB53 Vertical Machining Center (VMC). The OKK VB53 has several features for high rigidity and accuracy. A rigid machine base, wide size linear roller guide and fine pitch high-resolution ball screw increase machining precision. Enhancing positioning accuracy, a 0.05 micron resolution linear scale is offered. Soft Scale Cube technology features thermal sensors that monitor and compensate for any displacement in real time. For more information, visit n

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SIMPLE AND CLEAR COMMUNICATION AT THAL PRECISION By Dianna Brodine, managing editor, The American Mold Builder

“We’re setting ourselves up as a problem solver. If we can communicate the problem and let prospective customers know that we understand the problem – that we’ve been there, and we understand the emotional state of panic they’re experiencing – then we’ve gotten through one barrier. And, if we say, ‘Here’s how we solved it, and how we could help you solve it, too,’ then we’ve made a connection and built some trust.” – David Kachoui

DPrecision Industries, a Natech company, in Clark, New Jersey. avid Kachoui is the director of business development for Thal

Kachoui wears a few hats while performing his role, which includes commercial, operational and sales & marketing responsibilities. “I did a lot of cold calling when I first started,” he said, “but we’re moving away from that as we get deeper into our marketing efforts.” Those marketing initiatives include a purposeful effort to write clear, simple and targeted content that can be shared via multiple avenues and attract prospective customers. MAKE IT SIMPLE At Thal Precision, the website is the starting point for lead generation. “As I look at our website, I want someone to understand what we do, how it will help them and what they need to do to move to the next step,” said Kachoui. “If the website doesn’t answer those questions very quickly, then we’ve confused the prospects. It all needs to be laid out very smoothly.” For Kachoui, that means asking other people to review the website and answer those key questions – including people outside of the industry. He said getting that feedback is important to ensure clarity and simplicity, because effective content makes a quick impact. “Each


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 3 2020

time that we send out content – for example, a few lines on social media – it still follows the same structure, which is, from the clients’ perspective: What is their problem? What is our plan to solve that problem for them? How do they start a conversation with us? We can connect with people quickly based on what they read on our website.” The simplicity in written communication that Kachoui strives for is based on his reliance on the principles behind lean manufacturing. “A lot of veteran experts will say that the biggest opportunities to apply lean aren’t on the production floor,” he said. “Effective communication is a process just like lean manufacturing – you start with the customer and work backwards.” At Thal Precision, that means presenting the website information in the order the prospective customer is thinking about it to remove waste and confusion. “We try to remove all of that extra noise to make it easier for them to get to what they need,” Kachoui explained. SOLVE THE PROBLEM To ensure the Thal Precision website – and its sister Natech Plastics site – contain content that speaks to prospective customers, the writing must be done by those closest to the pain points. In this case, that means the engineers are becoming authors. “The engineers are the ones who are closest to the projects, and it’s the knowledge inside their heads that is useful and interesting for our prospective clients,” Kachoui said. A few questions get the engineering team started on potential topics. What are the interesting projects? What about the project is new –

what’s the new learning that happened? What are the rules of thumb that are used when designing molds that may not be widely known?

we do to solve it and you can find out more by watching this webinar or reading this article.”

“It’s about teaching them to write about what’s keeping them up at night,” he continued. “What are they stressed out about? What was their worst nightmare situation? Then, how did they solve the problem? Because they always solve it, and that’s rich content. That’s valuable content, because if someone on our team has gone through it, then our prospects might be going through it. And, if a prospect reads about it, they can relate to it.”

When asked if Thal Precision has numbers to show return on investment, Kachoui said numbers showing ‘likes’ or reach aren’t the goal. “I’m aware of the numbers, but I don’t manage by the numbers,” he explained. “We want email addresses. We want inquiries. Our content directs people to the website, and the website directs them to contact us so we know who they are. Then, we can reach out to them on a regular basis until they are ready for our help.”

REPURPOSE CONTENT The critical next step is to repurpose the content, once it’s created. As an example, the company recently hosted a webinar on geometric dimensioning and tolerancing. From that webinar, the marketing intern created a video using content from the quality team member who ran the webinar, and the video was posted to social media. An article also was written, based on the webinar – and then the article was used as the basis of social media postings – all of which pointed back to the company’s website.

Kachoui is passionate about the role effective marketing plays in the sales process, and he acknowledges that many in the mold building industry skip over the supposed ‘fluff’ to go straight to traditional selling techniques. But, at Thal Precision, the creation of clear, targeted communication plays an essential role in attracting new customers. And, there’s pride in knowing that not everyone can provide that clear message to sales prospects.

“All of our posts are directing the viewer to the website,” Kachoui said. “And, they all follow the pattern: Here’s a problem, here’s what

“The easy part of marketing collateral is writing,” he said. “The hard part is rewriting. How do we make this simpler? How do we clarify? There’s a lot of complexity out there, so we work to create ways to make our solutions very clear to our prospects and customers. That’s a big win.” n

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Tconducted its second micro-survey regarding the R&D tax credit.

his summer, the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA)

The first survey, conducted in 2015, had participation from 39 mold builders, 18 of which were claiming the credit at the time. This year, more than 60 molds shops were surveyed, 28 of which report claiming the R&D tax credit. Of those 28 companies, 60% also are claiming state R&D tax credit. As Chart 1 represents (and the above data indicates), the R&D tax credit – short for the US Credit for Increasing Research Activities – is one of the most underutilized tax savings opportunities for companies in the mold manufacturing industry, regardless of company sales. Because this tax credit rewards companies that invest resources in innovation, product development, mold design, new

materials or resins and process development/improvement, mold builders have many potential opportunities to claim this credit and reduce their federal and state tax liabilities. GENERAL REQUIREMENTS FOR QUALIFYING ACTIVITIES In order to claim the credit, the mold builder must engage in qualified research activities. There are four general requirements for an activity to qualify for the credit, which are listed in Chart 1. As such, the types of activities that may qualify for the R&D tax credit may include, but are not limited to, the following: • Developing new mold designs • Developing tool-specific fixturing • Sampling new tool designs • Improving manufacturing processes through automation



Development or improvement of a business component (i.e., a product, a process, a technique, an invention, a formula or software application)

Mold shops regularly design and develop novel, one-of-a-kind, never-been-built-before injection molds

Activity must be technological in nature, fundamentally relying upon the sciences

Mold builders rely upon engineering disciplines and scientific molding principles

Technological uncertainty related to the capability, method or design exists at the outset of the research activity

In some instances, tolerances and part geometry may result in capability or method uncertainty; design uncertainty also usually exists in the design and development of a new, never-been-builtbefore injection mold

The uncertainty must be eliminated through a process of experimentation, including modeling, simulation, or systematic trial and error

Modeling: Tool shops regularly 3-D model the parts and the tooling components Simulation: Mold shops regularly use mold fill analysis to simulate the processing Systematic Trial & Error: Tool shops regularly sample the tool to test its design

Chart 1 26

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Chart 2

• •

Experimenting with new alloys Performing PPAP or First Article inspections on new molds

FACT OR MYTH: ONLY LARGE COMPANIES BENEFIT FROM THE R&D TAX CREDIT Despite what many believe, companies participating in such activities as those listed in Chart 1 are not only those larger in size. In fact, data gathered from this year’s survey indicated that, although companies that report under $3 million in sales (and/or zero to 10 employees) are the smallest percentage of respondents claiming the R&D tax credit, other revenue and employee ranges show quite a few companies taking advantage of this program. In fact, the most common range of respondent companies that report claiming this credit tend to be midsize companies, with between 26 and 50 employees and – on average – reporting between $5 million and $10 million in sales. See Chart 2.

TYPES OF QUALIFYING EXPENDITURES Within these activities, there are three types of expenditures that qualify for the R&D tax credit: Wages paid for the performance of qualified services; supplies and materials that are used in the conduct of the mold shop’s research efforts; and contract research, in which tool shops pay third parties to perform research on their behalf or test/sample their mold designs. Of those claiming the credit, approximately 60% of the respondents indicated that they have amended their tax returns to claim the R&D tax credit in tax years they had not claimed the credit. Only three of the respondents had been through an IRS examination related to the R&D tax credit. In each case, the respondent company had amended its returns to claim the credit in prior years. Amending returns to claim the credit does not, necessarily, result in an IRS examination. page 29 |


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page 27

However, this data point is worth noting. Seventy-eight percent of the mold builders claiming the R&D tax credit reported that they are claiming the cost of labor and materials used to construct novel, one-of-a-kind injection molds. Two factors must exist for these expenditures to qualify. First, the mold shop must be at risk for the development of the mold and meeting the specifications identified in the contract or purchase order. Second, the appropriate design of the injection mold must still be uncertain at the time the mold is produced, assembled and sampled. That is, the testing or sampling of the injection mold will help the mold builder determine whether the mold is the appropriate design or whether modifications are necessary to meet the specifications. Experimentation must occur with the injection mold. As one might suspect, those shops including these types of expenditures are reporting significantly greater R&D tax credits.

The most common range of respondent companies that report claiming this credit tend to be mid-size companies, with between 26 and 50 employees and – on average – reporting between $5 million and $10 million in sales.” The R&D tax credit is one of the most significant ways that mold builders can reduce their overall income tax liabilities. Proper documentation is critical to claiming and substantiating the research tax credit. Mold shops should regularly review their cost capturing methodologies and the types of expenditures that are being included to ensure these shops are claiming the proper amount of tax credit. n This analysis was provided by Michael Devereux II, CMP of Mueller Prost, an AMBA Partner, to prove an analysis of the aggregated data. Devereux is one of the leading authorities on application of the R&D tax legislation and has been used by a vast number of AMBA members to correctly structure their credit applications. For more information, visit


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RECRUITING THE NEXTGENERATION WORKFORCE By Brittany Willes, contributing writer, The American Mold Builder

Pleadership across nearly every industry was that of recruiting

rior to the coronavirus pandemic, one of the key issues facing

and retaining the next generation of employees. For the mold- and toolbuilding industries, workforce development is especially crucial as the older generation – often with decades of specialized knowledge and skill sets – begins to retire. So, how do businesses find the right people to fill the necessary roles in their facilities? Marketing and communications expert Shelly Otenbaker, president and founder of WayPoint Marketing Communications, shared current human resources marketing trends and best practices for recruiting the next-generation workforce. MARKETING FOR EMPLOYEES There is a common myth that marketing is solely for business development. In reality, a company’s marketing resources and strategies are incredible assets when it comes to attracting and retaining the best employees.

should make use of their marketing resources to attract potential new hires. Similar to the sales funnel, the acquisition funnel begins with creating awareness, followed by consideration and interest. In this case, the intent to purchase becomes the application, selection and hiring process. As Otenbaker noted, marketing is a key component in moving potential employees through the funnel by attracting just the right candidates. “If someone searches for your company online, what do they find?” she questioned. If the next-generation workforce is the audience, what message are they receiving about a given company?

“Marketing plays an important role in the hiring process,” said Otenbaker. “It creates awareness of your company, as well as engaging the right people to move them through the different phases of the hiring process.”

“In 2020, 50% of the workforce is made up of millennials, who look at things very differently than previous generations,” said Otenbaker. “These folks know all about your company before they even submit an application or resume. They’re qualifying you and your company without a single conversation. Seventy-five percent have researched the company’s reputation before applying for the job. They’re using social media, job boards and other sources to determine what your company offers, how you operate and what your commitment is to your team.”

Consider the sales funnel – the process of attracting leads and moving them through the funnel to the intent to purchase. This is similar to how employers should consider their workforce. “Think about your workforces as an audience and the funnel is an employee acquisition funnel,” explained Otenbaker. In this acquisition funnel, employers

A company needs to look at all of its marketing and recruiting materials – read them, analyze them and see what they say. What picture is being created about the company? Is it easy for people to access the materials? Are they up to date? Do they reflect the company’s culture? Is the website inviting? “It’s time to really be


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 3 2020

honest with yourself,” said Otenbaker. “Take a step back and look at what it is you’re sharing with the world.” Which, again, begs the question: How are companies marketing themselves to this new audience? What messaging are they passing along to potential hires? Now, more than ever, it is just as important to sell the company to potential employees as it is to sell products and services to clients. EVOLVING NEEDS AND PROCESSES “A lot has changed in the last two decades when it comes to talent acquisition,” said Otenbaker. “The process has evolved and so have the needs and wants of the next-generation workforce. This is the generation that grew up with smart technology, that is known to challenge hierarchical structures. They want the flexibility to work when and where they want. They are open to change, and they want to build relationships with managers that deliver constant feedback and recognition. They’re looking for a place where they can continue to advance, as well as someplace where they can have a social and enjoyable workplace.” This is in stark contrast to previous generations for whom flexible schedules and work/life balance were rarely on leadership’s radar. As a result, a large portion of today’s leadership is resistant to the evolving needs of the current workforce, something Otenbaker has encountered all too often. “Unfortunately, a lot of companies’ leadership are not open to some of these characteristics or changes in the workplace that are appealing to the younger generation of workers,” she stated. “There’s work to be done,” Otenbaker noted. “As the current workforce continues to age and more people are going to be retiring, leadership is going to have to embrace these younger generations. Adjustments will need to be made.”

For companies to continue to grow and succeed in the current and future marketplace, it is vital that leadership support the needs of the next generation workforce. TALENT MANAGEMENT According to Otenbaker, to effectively recruit a workforce, companies need to develop a talent management strategy. “Statistics show that people change jobs 12 times during their career,” she stated. “While it could be a little longer or shorter in the print industry, the average employee tenure is roughly 4.3 years. This means you will need to continuously replenish your workforce.” A typical talent management strategy includes the establishment of a talent pipeline – a pool of candidates available before a position is even open. This, in turn, means a reduction in the amount of time required to hire candidates, access to better-qualified candidates and reduction in recruiting costs. So, how do companies go about establishing a talent pipeline? There are several steps that can be taken, but first and foremost, Otenbaker said, companies need to identify their long-term needs. “What are the employee characteristics – the types of people – you need in the long run to continue to meet your business’ goals?” she asked. “Once you have that, you can work on attracting and engaging candidates.” Candidates in the talent pool should be assessed to determine which of them are the right fit. Who are those candidates who will best align with the business’ goals? Those are the candidates to nurture. “It’s not something that can be done overnight,” said Otenbaker. “It’s takes time, and there are a lot of resources that have to be put into place to get something like this up and going. However, once all of the strategy and work has been put into it, and it finally is up and going, it is a lot easier to maintain.” page 33

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Additional steps for establishing a pipeline include conducting an audit of the business – i.e., going back to those marketing and recruiting materials. Once those have been reviewed, it is vital to secure the support of leadership. “Company leadership needs to agree that talent and the future workforce is important for the company’s success, and that building a pipeline will help the company perform better,” noted Otenbaker. Next, connect with HR and/or marketing departments and make sure they are aligned and working in tandem, leveraging their tools and resources to build the talent pipeline. Once HR and marketing are aligned, focus should be turned to determining metrics for what success looks like for the company and establishing a budget for meeting those metrics. “What are you trying to accomplish and how will you measure the effectiveness of your strategy?” asked Otenbaker. “Some of your metrics might look at reduced time to replace an employee or filling all talent gaps within a certain time frame. Whatever those success metrics look like, they need to be in place so that you understand what you’re trying to accomplish and can plan accordingly. And, you need to understand what kind of budget you have to work with so you can prioritize tasks and determine what can be accomplished within that budget.” Finally, companies must build an “employer brand toolbox” that will help in attracting talent. “The most important tool is your website,” said Otenbaker. “It is the foundation for all of your recruiting activities, not to mention business development activities. Whether it is a customer or a potential candidate, people are looking at your website every day and making decisions on whether or not to engage with you. If your desired brand identity doesn’t match with your website, you may lose potential candidates.” RECRUITING DURING COVID-19 As COVID-19 continues to spread across the US and the world, many companies are experiencing a hiring freeze – or even layoffs. Depending on their individual situations, continuing to develop a talent pipeline may be the last thing they’re worried about. However, Otenbaker advised not to let efforts with the talent pipeline fall by the wayside. “Continue working on your pipeline through the hiring freeze,” she stated. “If you stop now, it will put you behind when we get on the other side or are dealing with the new normal. You want to continue to work on it and make sure you are communicating what’s going on with your company to ensure you are appropriately staffed and ready to react throughout the crisis.” n

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[1] MOLDWORX CONSOLIDATES INTO NEW FACILITY Moldworx LLC, Gilbert, Arizona, a contract manufacturer specializing in custom design and build of injection molds, precision automation, assembly and laser marking equipment, as well as providing injection molding of engineering thermoplastic components, has announced its expansion to a new facility. The new 24,000-plus sq. ft. facility has allowed Moldworx to combine its mold and equipment manufacturing facility with its injection molding facility, affording greater efficiencies and collaboration among departments. For more information, visit PCS COMPANY LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE PCS Company, Fraser, Michigan, a manufacturer and distributor of mold bases, mold components, molding supplies, hot runner systems and cutting tools, has launched a new website. The site features faster load times and a more user-friendly experience, including enhanced online account access to view order history and to easily reorder commonly ordered items. Also included are LIVE product order features to view product availability and product page promotional pricing, as well as convenient ordering options like quick CAD file delivery via zip files, mass product easy-order upload ability and custom product online order forms. For more information, visit [2] COMAU AND TECNOMATIC JOIN FORCES Comau, an Italy-based developer of systems and products for the industrial automation sector, has signed a multi-year partnership with Tecnomatic, an Italian automation provider specializing in hairpin stator technologies, to provide a complete offering encompassing rotor, stator, inverter, transmission assembly and testing. This partnership confirms Comau’s commitment to help customers address emerging market needs through the complete lifecycle. Combining their respective strengths, the companies offer a single source for fully-integrated electrical motor and transmission 34

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assembly solutions, as well as access to an engineering approach designed to meet current and future production needs. The jointlydeveloped systems are modular, scalable, cost effective and digitally enabled. For more information, visit [3] HEIDENHAIN ANNOUNCES OPENING OF EXPANDED WESTERN US HEADQUARTERS Motion control feedback solutions provider HEIDENHAIN Corporation, headquartered in Traunreut, Germany, has announced the opening of its newly completed West Coast headquarters. This includes the expansion of its executive, sales and technical support offices, as well as demo facilities in San Jose, California. The new development includes the consolidation of the company’s Fremont, California, technical support operation into its expanded San Jose business center offices. For more information, visit [4-6] HARBOUR RESULTS EXPANDS TEAM WITH MANUFACTURING, RESEARCH EXPERTS Harbour Results, Inc., (HRI), Southfield, Michigan, a consulting firm for manufacturers, has expanded its team of experts, adding Jason Brewer [4] and Brian Gillespie [5] as directors in its consulting team, and research specialist Matt Trentacosta [6]. With more than 30 years of experience, Jason Brewer began his career as a product engineer at Ford Motor Company and also worked as a consulting manager at Plante & Moran and in global business development for Magna Powertrain. Brian Gillespie was vice president of AI applications at Data Prophet. He started his career at FANUC Robotics and also has held executive positions in sales and marketing at Imaginestics LLC, Slight Machine, Citrine Informatics and Plex System. Matt Trentacosta comes to HRI to further build the company’s Harbour IQ solution. He started his career at The Martec Group as a senior market analyst, and most recently was a senior consultant at IHS Markit. For more information, visit n

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2020 ELECTIONS: CHINA AND THE US PRESIDENCY By Omar Nashashibi, The Franklin Partnership, LLC

Tpolls of what Americans think of other countries. It should come

he nonpartisan Pew Research Center regularly conducts opinion

as no surprise that China does not rank highly on the US popularity charts right now. PERSPECTIVE: PUBLIC OPINION ON CHINA Around the time of the 2016 US election, 47% of surveyed American adults saw China unfavorably, with 44% being favorable. This represents the highest favorable percentage for China among US adults since its peak of 52% in 2006. In a survey conducted in March 2020, these numbers shift dramatically. Sixty-six percent of American adults said they have an unfavorable opinion of China, while only 26% report having a favorable view. An even more recent Pew Research poll of Americans from June 16 to July 14 breaks it down further, showing that 83% of Republicans hold an unfavorable opinion of China – a marked number that is a full 15 points higher than Democrats (the largest spread since 2005). This is not to say Democrats are supportive of China; in the same survey, one in five Democrats describe China as an enemy, with 61% saying they are a competitor. Certainly, based on the data above, the way Americans view China has trended negative since the election of Donald Trump to the White House – but how does this impact the 2020 campaign and the future of manufacturing in America? Both President Trump and former Vice President Biden would be committing political malpractice were they to not make China a central focus of their campaigns – and indeed, they both have. One ad from the Biden campaign attacks the president, saying “15 times

Trump praised China, as the coronavirus was spreading across the globe.” This ad came in response to the Trump campaign’s video mocking Biden as “China’s puppet.” TARIFFS AND THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION In 2016, Trump won Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by being anti-trade and largely focusing the ire of Midwest manufacturers on China. The strategy clearly worked, and the Trump administration went on to impose tariffs on thousands of Chinese imports. The president included Chinese plastic injection molds on the list subject to 25% tariffs and, although he suspended them following pressure from US importers, he then reinstated them after a coordinated lobbying strategy between the AMBA and The Franklin Partnership, resulting in 150 filed formal comments with the Office of the US Trade Representative from US mold manufacturers. Despite the efforts, manufacturers report continued trade violations by China. After two years of tariffs on Chinese goods, 39% of Americans remain supportive of the president’s action. Combine the facts on the ground with the polling of voters’ feelings toward China, the obvious approach to winning manufacturing-intense states in 2020 is a battle for who is best suited to take on China. SETTING THE STAGE: THE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION Prior to COVID-19, President Trump had the upper hand against the former vice president on manufacturing, having imposed tariffs and concluded a Phase I deal with China in January 2020. However, since the onset of the virus, we have seen voters’ growing disapproval of the president’s handling of the coronavirus. In July 2020, 11 polls averaged a 58.6% disapproval rating. page 38 |


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These numbers pose a problem for the Trump campaign. The more he links China to the virus – and the more he is linked to the virus negatively – the likelier it is that voters may make the connection and agree with the Biden campaign. Regardless, each campaign is going to try and one-up the other when it comes to China.

Trump also is loathe to take on battles when a clear victory isn’t ensured. Because a Phase II agreement would require China to make significant and concrete changes (and not just purchase more US goods), it is unlikely that he would pursue this particular challenge.

One of the most difficult transitions a presidential candidate makes is from campaign promises to actual governing. Through an examination of past statements, current actions and candidate proposals, we can begin to piece together what a second Trump term may bring for US-China relations and how a Biden administration may govern.

As tariffs remain in place, President Trump will look at any China deal in the context of his legacy, but if he cannot secure a deal, tariffs likely will remain and could increase. This tariff action also would cover the 25% AMBA successfully lobbied to reinstate on plastic injection molds from China. Under this scenario, without a Phase II deal, many in Washington expect the tariffs to remain in place through 2021. Keep in mind, under President Trump’s trade strategy, there is no “carrot” approach in negotiations – only the “stick.” Expect littleto-no change, especially in the early months.

A SECOND TRUMP TERM In January 2019, President Trump signed a Phase I trade deal with China, promising to increase by $200 billion purchases of US goods over 2017 levels, including ordering $77 billion in manufactured goods. Most were skeptical before COVID that China could hit those levels and, while the US deficit in goods with China widened over the summer, Beijing has reaffirmed its commitment to make the purchases. However, all presidents immediately become a lame duck upon their reelection, giving China little incentive to concede. President

A JOE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION During his five decades of public service in Washington, former Vice President and past US Senator Joe Biden clearly established himself as a multilateralist and internationalist. Whereas President Trump largely has chosen a bilateral approach to trade, preferring one-onone country engagement, Biden likely will seek to build coalitions to confront China.

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While his campaign strategically has chosen to not provide more details on its China tariff agenda, the campaign is focusing more on running against Trump’s current China approach. A Biden administration will elevate concerns over human rights, including China’s treatment of its Muslim population and addressing Hong Kong, while protecting Taiwan from a similar fate. Sources in Washington and close to the Biden campaign indicate his administration likely would continue the Section 301 tariffs on Chinese products, including the 25% on plastic injection molds, at least into the spring and likely to summer 2021. Leaving the tariffs in place will provide a new Biden administration additional time to establish its trade policy and build coalitions with other countries. More importantly, continuing the tariffs allows Biden to inherit a certain amount of leverage against China as Beijing – and many US importers – would like to see those tariffs lifted. However, just as it often is a fool’s errand to forecast the outcome of elections, predicting how Biden will act on trade in the summer of 2021 may be a similar undertaking. Regardless of the election outcome, both a second Trump term and a Biden first will continue the focus on China, especially if the pathway to the White House runs through the Midwest as it did in 2016 and is expected to do again. Like many political consultants, it is my job to undertake that fool’s errand each election season and predict outcomes to help businesses plan for the future. Irrespective of the White House occupant, we expect tariffs on China to continue into 2021, likely at least through the first quarter. President Trump will remain content to continue the status quo with tariffs in place throughout not just 2021, but the remainder of his second term without a comprehensive Phase II deal. Meanwhile, Biden will seek to expand the attack on China to include human rights, the environment and military encroachment, but take a more global approach with allies, while tariffs temporarily remain in place. China is one of the few places where both candidates agree on the need for action and closely align on the preferred outcome, but strongly disagree on the approach. When it comes to presidential politics, for as long as manufacturers and Midwest voters remain among those who decide control of the White House, the candidates will have no choice but to listen to AMBA members and others calling for action on China. The one prediction I am certain to not get wrong in 2020 is that standing up to China will remain one of the few bipartisan issues left in Washington. 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, DC.




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ECONOMIC SMOOTH SAILING OR HEADED FOR THE ROCKS? By Chris Kuehl, managing director, Armada Corporate Intelligence

Tclipper ships. They know where they came from and they have an he business leaders of today resemble the captains of those old

idea where they are going, but what happens in between is unknown and possibly disastrous. Thus far, the assumptions regarding the macroeconomy have ranged from glass half full to glass half empty, but all the while we have no knowledge of how big the glass is or what is in it. Is there anything to have confidence in as far as 2021 or the rest of 2020 is concerned? We would assert there are three very likely scenarios, all nearly the same in terms of probability.

Bear in mind that all three of these are based on a whole series of assumptions – and also bear in mind that many of the assumptions that were made earlier in the year proved to be desperately inaccurate. Remember when we all thought the virus would peak in April and that every state would be seeing steep declines by the end of that month? Now that we are registering record numbers of infections, hospitalizations and fatalities, that assumption has been rejected. Remember when there was to be a lifting of the lockdown and a quick May rebound, leading to a recovery and a “V” shaped recovery by the third quarter? The lockdowns were only partially lifted and, since then, many have been reimposed. In fact, there is serious talk of another national shutdown – and one that would last even longer than the first one. There were assumptions about how many people were “furloughed” as opposed to having been actually fired. There were assumptions regarding what would take place in other nations as they contended with the viral threat. All of these assumptions fell short. As we review the scenarios now developing, it will be important to remain skeptical.


SCENARIO ONE: CONTINUED DECLINE This is the most miserable of the three, as it assumes that the virus is not brought under control, that treatment options do not improve and that a vaccine is not developed before sometime in 2021. This will lead most nations back to the lockdown strategy as the only response, and the economic collapse experienced in March will be repeated. The decline will be even more intense, as businesses will have exhausted their reserves, consumers will have exhausted theirs and governments will have little ammunition left. This is the scenario that leads to a severe depression – but we hasten to point out that this outcome is anything but guaranteed, as it depends on both the progress of the virus and the willingness on the part of the government to shut down the business community. Three assumptions will drive this very negative scenario. 40

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The first and most important is that the virus will not be contained in any real sense. This means social distancing will not be maintained, mask-wearing will be rejected by many people, testing will be inadequate, hospitals will be unable to keep pace and so on. With a more universal response to the threat, this assumption would be rendered inaccurate. The second assumption is that dealing with the virus will mean some form of a renewed economic lockdown – an immensely difficult decision given the damage already done to the global economy. The probability of a lockdown in a political year is very low. The third assumption is that solutions to either the viral outbreak or economic collapse will not be developed. That means that treatment options remain inadequate, and the vaccine still is many months away. It also means that governments cease efforts to insulate people and business from the impact, as there will no longer be the money to do so.


SCENARIO TWO: THE ARRIVAL OF THE SWOOSH This is the optimistic counterpoint to Scenario One. This assumes a substantial rebound by the end of 2020 and continued expansion into 2021. As is apparent as one looks over the latest numbers, there has been a lot of momentum developing in a variety of key sectors. Remember that the 2020 economy was growing at a respectable pace prior to the pandemic, and it has appeared that businesses and consumers are eager to get back in the groove. What has to happen for Scendario Two to develop is either a retreat by the virus to levels seen as “under control” or a willingness to move ahead with ending the lockdown even as the virus remains a threat. The discovery of a treatment would be critical to moving ahead with removing the lockdown, but the vaccine will be required to end the threat. If the lockdown is not imposed again, there is a modified “V” recovery yet this year – the swoosh (as it will look similar to the Nike symbol). Again, there are three primary assumptions driving this scenario. The first is that the virus is either contained or its impact is accepted to some degree. The reality is that the world will never be rid of the COVID-19 virus altogether. It will behave as all the other viruses have (SARS, MERS, Avian flu, Swine flu, Marburg, Ebola, Zika, West Nile and so on). It will remain in the global population and will take a human toll, but the numbers will be deemed “acceptable.” Either the number of people affected declines dramatically or the public tolerance for the death toll grows.

The second assumption is that restarting the economy takes center stage, and lockdowns continue to lift in order to get people back to work and business back to normal functioning. This leads to assumption three – that policy makers will have public support to focus on the resumption of normal activity, even as the threat of the virus continues.


SCENARIO THREE: SPLITTING THE DIFFERENCE As always, there is the middle ground – the swoosh is coming but not as quickly as had been originally anticipated. Rather than seeing a recovery under way in Q3 or Q4, the rebound starts in earnest in 2021 and likely not until the second quarter. The assumptions at work here involve a partial reimposition of the lockdown, but one that leaves major sectors relatively untouched. This scenario relies more on what is happening in the rest of the world, although all three scenarios will be profoundly affected by the pace of recovery in Asia, Europe and elsewhere. There are reasons that middle ground scenarios often dominate. There will be limited appetite for either of the other positions – people will not want to see the virus become an even greater threat and will demand that authorities “do something.” On the other hand, that same public will reject the notion of crushing the economy again and plunging the nation into a depression that would destroy millions of lives. They will demand: “Do something else.” The result will be a bit of the worst of both worlds. The virus will continue to constitute a very real threat and the economy will be weakened, but there will be some perception of progress. If there is no expanded lockdown to deal with the virus and no lockdown lifting to boost the economy, all the hope will be placed on the development of an effective treatment and the development of an effective vaccine. The assumption is that neither of these are available until some point in 2021 and perhaps not until 2022.

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This puts the business leader in the cabin of that ship. The course might be smooth all the way to the destination or there may be a hurricane developing dead ahead. It has been a long time since business in general has faced this much uncertainty. n Chris Kuehl is managing director of Armada Corporate Intelligence. Founded by Keith Prather and Chris Kuehl in January 2001, Armada began as a competitive intelligence firm, grounded in the discipline of gathering, analyzing and disseminating intelligence. Today, Armada executives function as trusted strategic advisers to business executives, merging fundamental roots in corporate intelligence gathering, economic forecasting and strategy development. Armada focuses on the market forces bearing down on organizations. For more information, visit





Roundtable Discussion – Embracing the Challenges of the “Now,” September 9, 12:00 p.m. EDT,

The Cultural Application of Continuous Improvement, November 4 to 5,

Lead Generation and Marketing Strategy in a Virtual World: Tactical “To Dos,” September 23, 11:00 a.m. EDT,

2020 EHS Summit – A Virtual Event, November 11 to 12,

OCTOBER 2020 Race for the White House: Politics, Outcomes and Trade, October 27, 12:00 p.m. EDT,

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the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 3 2020

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