The American Mold Builder Issue 4 2021

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ISSUE 4 2021

OPTIMISTIC FORECAST FOR NORTH AMERICAN TOOLING Looking Back on MFG Day 2021 Tariffs Continue On 3D-Printed Metal for Mold Building


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ISSUE 4 2021

OPTIMISTIC FORECAST FOR NORTH AMERICAN TOOLING Looking Back on MFG Day 2021 Tariffs Continue On 3D-Printed Metal for Mold Building


Speak Out .................................................. 6


OPERATIONS 3D-Printed Metal Inserts for Effective Mold Building


SOLUTIONS Filling the Sales Pipeline: Existing Customers and New Prospects


OUTLOOK Durable Goods Demand Leads to Optimistic Tooling Forecast


STRATEGIES Manufacturing Day Showcases the Industry’s Possibilities


TALENT Learning and Leadership Go Hand-in-Hand for AMBA’s Emerging Leaders

Association .............................................. 24 Product .................................................... 30 Industry .................................................... 37 Calendar ................................................... 46 Ad Index ................................................... 46


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 4 2021

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



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BENCHMARKING AMBA Provides Key Shop Rate Data to US Mold Manufacturers ADVOCACY The Review is In and the Tariffs Remain ASSESSMENT Top 5 Things to Know about No-Cost Plant Assessments MANAGEMENT What You Need if You are Called to Lead



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. Editor: Nicole Mitchell 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 42-degree, rainy day in October, I hope you, your families and your employees are doing well and staying healthy. (Where did the Summer go?) What a difference a couple of months makes with all the new COVID-19 vaccine mandates and how that is going to affect the supply chain. I hope your shop is filled with work and the only problem you have is how to get all this work done on time!

JIM SPERBER AMBA President Master Tool & Mold

In September, AMBA had its first face-to-face Plant Tour Workshop at Century Die in Fremont, Ohio – what a great experience seeing how the company is handling today’s labor shortage issues and how it continues to focus on workflow efficiencies. Tim Myers and his team did an awesome job of highlighting the best practices of a first-class manufacturing facility.

In October, Omar Nashashibi, founding partner of The Franklin Partnership, AMBA’s lobbying firm based in Washington, D.C., provided an update on trade, taxes and transportation as they apply to the mold manufacturing industry. As always, Omar and his team knocked it out of the park! AMBA also held its continuing virtual roundtables to discuss the current challenges and solutions facing our industry. If you haven’t taken part in one of these sessions, you are missing out on one of the most valuable benefits that the AMBA offers. Rounding out October, AMBA’s Emerging Leaders network (age 40 and under) held the last of its Meet the Mentor series – Leaning into Leadership – where experienced industry leaders discussed topics such as communication, lean mentalities, team accountability and more. This network is a great opportunity to develop your workforce and build engagement. AMBA members met in Grandville, Michigan, November 11, 2021, at the Legacy Precision Molds Plant Tour Workshop. Focused on continuous improvement, the Legacy team, led by Tyler and Tom VanRee, opened its doors to share how it leverages ISO certification to drive metric measurements; delivers scheduling flexibility through a custom database and achieves tight tolerances through high-precision EDM capabilities. Finally, in December, AMBA will hold a virtual half-day workshop entitled, “Screening and Hiring to Your Culture” on December 9, 2021. As recruitment and training continue to be key challenges for many of our members, this session is one not to be missed. Once again, I would like to remind you to fill out the surveys that AMBA sends out so that we can keep up to date on the pulse of the industry and identify what content we should be sharing in our webinars and forums. Currently open is the Wage and Salary Survey. Visit to access reports, such as the recent 2021 Shop Rate Report. As always, if you’re running into a problem that you can’t resolve, please contact us at the AMBA and I’m sure we can steer you in the right direction. I am looking forward to seeing you all at the upcoming AMBA events – virtual and in person. Until then, take care, stay safe and healthy, God bless all of you and God bless American mold builders. “We are Stronger Together.” n



National President Jim Sperber, Master Tool & Mold

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

Immediate Past-President Toby Bral, MSI Mold Builders

Treasurer Tom Barr, TK Mold & Engineering

Vice President Don Dumoulin, Precise Tooling Solutions


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 4 2021

David Bowers II, JMMS, Inc.

Charles Daniels, Wepco Plastics Mike Devereux, Wipfli Dan Glass, Strohwig Industries Eric Karaman, Michiana Global Mold Chad LaMance, United Tool & Mold Andy Peterson, Industrial Molds Group Kenny Skar, Vincent Tool Tyler VanRee, Legacy Precision Molds



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3D-PRINTED METAL INSERTS FOR EFFECTIVE MOLD BUILDING by Liz Stevens, writer, The American Mold Builder injection mold builders and their plastics processor customers. With a background as a traditional mold builder, RJG-certified master molder, injection molding plant manager and owner of a traditional mold building shop, Murphy first gave additive manufacturing a whirl 24 years ago and has kept his eye on it ever since. “I always saw 3D printing as an option,” he said, “ for something like cooling, where it needs to be in a mold, and to get good part quality over what was conventionally available, such as milling and drilling a water line.” Until recently, additive technology, however, was not yet fully capable and reliable. “There were a lot of cracking issues,” he explained. “It was not capable of producing really good, porous vents. And there was leaking and other problems that you really don’t want in a cooling part.” Murphy said that it wasn’t until the last five to seven years that things improved enough for additive to be reliable for tooling. As he watched the technology improve, Murphy developed tool steel powder recipes specifically for 3D production of injection molding components. Variable Density Inserts help eliminate downtime and missed deliveries by preventing clogged vents


dditive manufacturing is growing steadily, having evolved beyond its initial applications for creating 3D models and producing specialized, very low-volume parts. For mold builders, 3D metal printing now offers components for conformal cooling, venting and hot runner manifolds, with more developments on the horizon. The American Mold Builder talked with Jason Murphy, president of the additive tooling company Next Chapter Manufacturing (NXC), Grand Rapids, Michigan, about the current state of 3D metal printing. Marcin Zajac, engineering manager at A1 Tool Corporation, Melrose Park, Illinois, and Steve Michon, owner of Zero Tolerance, LLC, Clinton, Township, Michigan, also were interviewed about their experiences with NXC to design and build conformal cooling components. Jason Murphy founded NXC five years ago to apply the special qualities of 3D metal printing for the benefit of plastic


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 4 2021

NXC uses directmetal laser sintering (DMLS) additive technology, a process that Murphy described as one of the oldest, most mature and refined 3D metal printing processes. The company’s additive printers build layer by layer, laying down and laser sintering metal powder to produce very hard, fully dense and solid steel components that are finished with heat treatment and stress relief. The metal powders in use are current-day incarnations of MIM powders – previously used for metal injection molding – which are created through gas atomization. The largest printer at NXC can produce 12” x 12” x 16” components, and Murphy is awaiting delivery of a new machine for producing even larger parts. CONFORMAL COOLING – MADE FOR COMPLEX GEOMETRY As the designs for parts have become more complex, including more structural details and features such as ribbing, conventional cooling componets now often are inadequate to the task. Complex geometries and very tight spacing often cannot be effectively cooled with traditional line-of-sight milling and drilling. “What 3D printing does over conventional

milled and drilled water lines,” said Murphy, “is provide the freedom to get ejection, venting, sub-inserts and difficult part geometry; you are not limited by straight line-of-sight, milled and drilled water lines. Conformal cooling allows you to not only navigate around the contour of the part, but also around all the other features, such as slide pockets, ejector pin holes, core pin holes and other sub-inserts found in increasingly complex tools.”

Murphy described how NXC handled the job. “This was a perfect example of something that would not be able to be built traditionally with a drilled water line. NXC gave us the core to build to, gave us the ins and outs for the water, and said ‘okay, you guys take it from here.’ For this curved magazine clip, we could only drill in maybe a third of the way before we would break out into the side wall. To deliver consistent cooling and an even flow, we had to follow the contours of the part.”

Additive manufacturing of conformal cooling also can deliver superior part quality via balanced cooling, and the cooling circuitry can be designed with changes in shape to match the available real estate in a mold. “Those are things that are important for moldmakers to account for when they are designing,” Murphy said, “and with 3D printing of conformal cooling, there really are no limitations. We can pretty much print anything; there are some optimal geometries or things that we know from experience, but folks can build very complex channels. In complex channels, the surface area of the channel can be changed by adjusting the profile of the channel for better cooling.” At NXC, Murphy strives for a happy medium, “something that you can easily maintain in production with simple ultrasonic cleaning but also something that is very high performance for balancing the cooling rate and giving very good cycle times.” Murphy has seen conformal cooling deliver dramatic improvements in cycle times – a decrease of 20 to 80% over conventional cooling.

The part was wide in one direction but very narrow in the other direction. “Usually in conformal cooling,” said Murphy, “we are constrained in one direction but we have space in another direction so we can change our cooling channels to be conformal and also change the profile of the channel.” Murphy designed elongated cooling channels that changed shape as they wound through the space available in the part, flattening and widening as needed to create a consistent flow.

NXC DESIGNS AND BUILDS FOR ZERO TOLERANCE Steve Michon of Zero Tolerance explained that a customer asked for a mold for a 30-round .22 rifle magazine. The part’s geometry – a thin, curved and ribbed shape – was one that would have been very difficult to cool with conventional cooling. “There was limited space and a big need to make the cooling circuit correct,” said Michon. “We could have drilled some holes as straight as we could and made a small connection in there, an in-and-out straight-line circuit, except that this would be limited by the size of the drill, and there was a risk to doing that in hardened steel.” Michon said that the alternative was to do a 3D-printed version that could contain any type of cooling circuit to follow the contours of the part. Zero Tolerance had used additive to print composites and some 3D plastics but did not have experience with 3D printing metal. With the customer’s buy-in and with some skepticism, Michon turned to NXC to see what Jason Murphy could design and print. “We built the cavity, the core and the mold base,” Michon explained. “NXC printed the areas that we couldn’t do conventionally. It printed the slide features – the only curved parts – and left stock on them after printing so that the parts could be machined and benched to meet the customer’s requirement for a smooth finish.”

“The project turned out well,” said Michon. The parts produced by NXC looked and felt just like regular tool steel. “The initial pieces came out like casted parts, even though they were much better than casted parts. When we machined them, they page 10

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machined just as good as the stainless steel that we would use to make it from a solid.” As 3D-printed parts that are layered, there was some witness of that but it was simply surface cosmetics. Internally, the parts were solid. “When we got the mold completed,” said Michon, “the stainless steel printed slides with the curves and the water circuits were great. They would reduce the cycle time for the customer quite a bit.” Had NXC not been available, Zero Tolerance would have had few other options for producing a part with this challenging geometry. “We could have used a different material for the center core, such as beryllium, which is a very good heat sink and pulls heat out quickly,” Michon said, “but it is a lot more expensive. The customer was looking to make a tool that would last a long time, calling for a hardened steel production style. We probably would have searched out another 3D printing source or investigated getting a machine for ourselves.” But with a limited need for 3D-printed metal parts, turning to an outside source such as NXC made more sense than purchasing new technology and learning the ins and outs of additive design and printing. NXC DESIGNS FOR A1 TOOL Marcin Zajac at A1 Tool has experience in designing and printing 3D-printed mold components and also has worked with NXC on a number of projects. A1 had a customer that wanted to improve an existing mold and wanted to see what NXC would recommend for an improved conformal stainless steel cooling layout. Simultaneously, Zajac designed an improved conventional copper alloy cooling circuit as another option.

Conformal cooling allows you to not only navigate around the contour of the part, but also around all the other features such as slide pockets, ejector pin holes, core pin holes and other sub-inserts found in increasingly complex tools. A1 performed analyses on the two designs and found nearly identical results. The customer ultimately chose the conformal cooling option. “The project NXC worked on with A1,” said Murphy, “was a great collaboration as we were able to take machined base inserts and 3D print the conformal cooled portion on top. This was a great option for implementing conformal cooling while keeping costs within budget.” 10

the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 4 2021

Based on his experience with conventional and conformal cooling circuits, Zajac offered some advice for moldmakers who are considering whether to pursue additive manufacturing of conformal cooling. “Which one is better?” he asked. “Is simple better? In engineering, when we design, we try to KISS (keep it simple, stupid). The simpler it is, the less maintenance, the longer it runs and the easier it is to maintain. I am not saying that nothing calls for conformal cooling but we have to be really thoughtful and conscious of the decision.” “One thing that I would say is the biggest drawback of conformal cooling,” said Zajac, “is that it can be very complicated. For example, molders cannot stick a rod into it and clean it out if it gets clogged. And moldmakers have to invest money into monitoring the flows and filtration.” In his experience, preventive maintenance on conformal cooling circuits may require sending components off-site for cleaning, resulting in production downtime or the purchase of extra components to avoid downtime. Zajac also felt that complicated conformal cooling designs sometimes leave little room for subsequent engineering changes to the mold. Overall, however, Zajac favors conformal cooling when it is appropriate. “If the fit is good, it will perform miracles and improve the cycle times.” THE TAKEAWAYS Steve Michon’s experience with 3D-printed conformal cooling was very positive. “I would recommend trying it,” he said. “A lot of people think, ‘We will just buy a machine and do it ourselves,’ but for 3D printing for metal, it is not as easy as it sounds. NXC has a lot of experience and it has a good reputation.” Michon added that, budget allowing, it is worth trying. “Most of the time, if we are molding the parts, the savings are there. If we are the tool builder, the choice has got to be driven by the customer that is doing the molding.” “I think it is something that people in the industry don’t feel is a viable option,” said Michon, “because it is not widely used. The way we conventionally do things, moldmakers think we can do the job cheaper but additive really is not that much of a cost now. For us, the difference in cost was 15 to 20% to do this out of standard vs. 3D-printed. We still had to machine it afterward but to get that circuit in there, we would never have gotten that done.” Zajac summed up his thoughts on additive for cooling circuits: “There are applications for 3D-printed conformal cooling,” he said. “It can be great, but we have to plan for it, invest in it and be very conscious about when to use it.” He offered an ideal scenario: “Let’s say we are working with a part that has been proven out in the field and are building a ‘tool two.’ We are going into it knowing the issues of the original tool, and we page 13

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are upgrading, to get a better-running tool. We know that this original tool functions as it is but that we can get a better cycle out of it if we make this change. To me, a tool two – going in with lessons learned or a very, very similar product – is a great choice for 3D-printed conformal cooling.”

don’t build buildings from big blocks of steel,” Murphy said. “We build them with I-beams and structural girders and things that have structure to them. That is kind of how additive is – we need to think more structurally than just whittling away from a big block of steel.”

Murphy agreed that moldmakers should not leap into buying their own 3D-printing technology or expect additive manufacturing to be a simple fix or a slam dunk for every project. “For conformal cooling,” he said, “we are looking at the cooling efficiency and we also are looking at the flow. We use computational fluid dynamics regarding the mold flow to make decisions about where the hot spots are in the tool, and we also simulate the actual build of the 3D printing.” Murphy has seen the results when moldmakers apply additive manufacturing without a thorough understanding of the discipline. “We have seen parts come in that have to be redone because they were not designed properly. They still look like they are milled and drilled water lines, even though they were made with 3D printing.” To use additive manufacturing effectively requires approaching projects from an entirely different angle. “We

NXC currently specializes in conformal cooling and venting components. “People are wanting better venting, improved part quality and bigger tooling,” he said. “Right now, probably one of the fastest growing areas is the venting technology.” The company now also is 3D printing hot runners. “I have an extensive background in hot runner technology. We are 3D printing hot runners and manifold systems that are fully balanced and have no dead spots in them. Instead of milling or drilling the circuits for the melt, and then finding a dead spot or a T that would cause shear in the material, we actually can make a nice curve, eliminating dead spots.” Overall, Murphy remains focused on creating value. “We go back to the biggest problems in the industry, and then ask how we can attack those from the molders’ perspective and how we can help the molders out. That benefits the moldmakers and everybody succeeds.” n

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ith product demand booming in nearly all consumer markets, now is the time to pursue aggressively additional business opportunities from existing customers and new prospects. “The gestation period on new customers is quite long in this business,” said Carl Jacobsen, estimator/tooling engineer, M&M Tool. “It’s very rare to have contact on a potential project and have a purchase order in three months – it’s closer to 18 to 24 months. So, you’ve got to keep the potential customer pipeline full to give everyone time to do their due diligence and make sure they’re a fit for what you offer.” EXPANDING EXISTING RELATIONSHIPS Businesses from all industries deal with customer retention and management. Anthony Smith, founder and CEO of Insightly, a customer relationship management company, wrote for Forbes magazine that a strategy focused on building customer relationships should keep current customers at the center of any marketing attempts. “Keep track of how many customers return to you and why,” Smith wrote. “Then, make sure that repeat customers hold a central focus in your company’s marketing plan.”1

During the early stages of the pandemic, M&M Tool & Mold, Green Bay, Wisconsin, stopped all in person on/off site sales calls with potential customers. The company had recognized the challenges in reaching prospects during a time when many businesses weren’t allowing visitors or had locked down new product launches. Instead, M&M Tool focused on serving customers that it already had and expanding those business lines. “It’s a learning curve,”, Jacobsen said. “Once we’ve worked with someone, we start to know what they need, so we could use email and phone calls to have discussions about potential projects. With our established customers, many of them have their own RFQs, but we also have a proposal worksheet that we can use to get information about what type of mold they need, how they want to gate it, the press size and other things 14

the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 4 2021

like that. Then it’s a matter of giving them some time for review before touching base.” Jacobsen also acknowledged the benefits of getting past the frontline gatekeeper when working with existing customers. “Once you get some work from a customer, you begin talking to the tooling engineers rather than a purchasing officer,” he said. Kelly Kasner, director of sales for Mishawaka, Indiana’s Michiana Global Mold (MGM), reaches out to customers – new and old – on a weekly basis. “Are you experiencing a disruption right now? Are you having a hard time with your current suppliers who may be offshore? Are you having delivery lead time issues?” she said, providing examples of questions she asks. “I try to suggest pain points, and maybe someone reading my email says, ‘You know, I really hadn’t thought of that’.” By asking these detailed questions, Kasner believes she improves the quality of dialogue between MGM and its customers and better identifies the potential needs of those customers. Current customers are evaluating which suppliers are adding value to their product and exceeding their expectations. Instead of selling a service, mold builders need to show how that service returns value. “At the end of the day, your customers don’t care how much revenue you generate, what your shareholders expect, or what your sales quota may be,” wrote Ritika Puri in an article titled “7 Subtle Yet Powerful Ways to Build Stronger B2B Relationships,” for Sales Force.2 “They’re looking for solutions to specific business challenges and ways to increase their own revenues.” “One of my goals is to ensure that our customers are at the leading edge of the marketplace with their products,” Kasner said. “If our customers are successful and we helped with that, we get to be their hero.” CHALLENGES FOR SALES TEAMS Even though an established sales relationship makes it easier to talk about additional opportunities with current customers, there still are challenges to overcome.

Diversification Just as mold builders have been encouraged to diversify their customer base to avoid a business mix that places too many profit expectations on one customer or one market, they may be wary of placing too much business with one supplier. “Over the course of the past couple of decades – and, more particularly, now when we have such a disruption in our supply chain – companies view a little bit of diversification as the key to success,” Kasner explained. “If companies do put all their eggs in one basket and a supplier drops the ball, then there’s a higher risk than if there was diversification in the supply chain.” COVID-19 Although restrictions are loosening and many companies are returning to normal activity levels, caution still is recommended. After putting in-person visits on hold at the height of the pandemic, M&M Tool is back to making limited sales calls with prior and new potential customers, according to Jacobsen. “I have some parking lot visits set up with three existing customers,” he said. “The general manager has been keeping a close eye on COVID-19 changes based on the areas we would travel to. If we’re planning a trip, the status is checked, and then we make an informed decision about sending vaccinated employees into the area.”

Capacity Even if new business opportunities come knocking, tool shops have high capacity utilization rates thanks to increases in consumer demand and a flurry of order activity from OEMs eager to respond. “During this last year and a half, shops have been overloaded,” Jacobsen said. “To try and break into new areas in the market or new areas that we can sell to existing customers gets difficult.” GETTING BEYOND PRICE Existing customers may be the easiest fruit on the tree, but eventually the sales team will need to reach for a higher branch – new prospects. The most difficult part in establishing a relationship with a prospective customer is getting beyond price. The first step in building relationships with prospects is to understand what they value. In an article written by Beacon Media + Marketing, Anchorage, Alaska, value-based marketing is “the next big thing” in sales.3 “Creating relationships that are based on more than just a mutual need for a product or service means a deeper and more meaningful experience on both ends of the business model,” the article shared. page 16

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A mold building company already should know what its values are, but how are prospects’ values identified? That assessment may be easier when employees of the target company are familiar or when the target company may have similar regional or local values. “Mold building, in general, is a small community,” said Jacobsen. “Most of our customers are regional, and so it’s likely we have crossed paths with common employees in the past. Chances are, we’ve worked with someone who’s worked there, or we had a customer who’s worked with a previous customer before.” Values, however, aren’t always articulated and instead hide behind pricing discussions. “Many people that I would be in contact with said they were purely basing their decisions on price and delivery. Quality was considered complementary,” said Kasner. “But more times than not, what actually drives purchasing decisions turns out to be trust. There are plenty of surveys and psychological statistics that show people make purchasing decisions emotionally and they justify them logically. I think, particularly in our industry, there are individuals who believe that price and delivery are very logical

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and justifiable purchasing reasons, but if you truly dig down, emotion prevails and there are underlying factors that lead to a final decision.” Those factors include trust, confidence, quality and responsiveness – and customers indicate their reliance on those factors when asking questions that relate to the ways in which tooling companies complete their work. “How do you handle the DFM process? How do you handle the designing? How do you handle the purchasing components? How do you handle communicating with us?” Kasner explained. “These questions further demonstrate the fact that it’s not just price and delivery that are important. What people are looking for is trust.” Building that trust means it’s critical to understand what customers truly want. “I like to engage and invest in new prospects to further nurture that relationship,” she continued. “I don’t dismiss it when they are clear that their purchasing decision is made based on price and delivery. But, after hearing different questions, then I’m able to turn those around to focus on a needs / benefit analysis.” After the manufacturing slowdown in the early days of the pandemic, consumer product demand has skyrocketed and tool builders have an opportunity to expand their reach. But, work needs to be done now to reach out to existing and prospective customers. “It’s something you have to keep up with,” Jacobsen explained. “It doesn’t do me any good to go looking for work when we need it – we have to anticipate what might come in a year down the road.” n REFERENCES 1. “How to Build Customer Relationships.” Forbes, August 1, 2018, 2. “7 Subtle Yet Powerful Ways to Build Stronger B2B Relationships.” June 15, 2015, blog/2015/06/build-stronger-b2b-relationships.html 3. “Values-Based Marketing is the Next Big Thing.” Beacon Media + Marketing, February 19, 2021,



the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 4 2021

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DURABLE GOODS DEMAND LEADS TO OPTIMISTIC TOOLING FORECAST by Dianna Brodine, managing editor, The American Mold Builder


s the US economy recovers from the impact of the pandemic, consumers continue their dramatic increase in durable goods purchases. This spells good news for toolmakers in automotive, aerospace, appliance and more. ECONOMIC IMPACTS In November, Harbour Results Director Cara Walton spoke to a group of plastic processing professionals to highlight the positive and negative factors influencing today’s US economy. When the COVID-19 virus first landed in North America, uncertainty and caution caused an initial, sharp downturn as manufacturing production dropped (or stopped), retail businesses shuttered and hospitals handled overflowing patient volume.

complaining about government aid and people who don’t want to work, the fact is that the overall labor market may be down 3.55 million employees from pre-COVID-19 numbers, but the manufacturing industry is down only 374,000 employees. The current labor problem is a result of the 37% increase in durable goods demand – manufacturers need more employees than they did before.

The governmental response to that downturn – an influx of stimulus for businesses and individuals – increased the US debt, which has lowered the value of the US dollar to Chart 1. Demand is strong through 2025 for several major markets impacting the tooling industry. where its reaching parity with the Yuan and the Canadian dollar, Walton said. This is not great The stratospheric increase in durable goods demand is a news for North American toolmakers. And, Walton pointed direct result of the pandemic. “Consumers have changed out, the only way to pay down that debt is to either raise GDP what they spend money on,” said Walton. “And, the demand or increase taxes. In addition, supply chain issues have led to is sustainable.” challenges in raw material availability and pricing increases. MARKET OUTLOOK BY SEGMENT On the other hand, “Low interest rates mean borrowing money “From a broad industry perspective, there’s no market that’s is easy and cheap,” said Walton. “Jobless claims are decreasing, not doing well,” said Walton. (see Chart 1). “Most markets are housing starts are consistent and consumer spending is up.” in a solid spot right now, although there will be a little bit of a slowdown on the production front, rather than the tool building Lower jobless claims are a relief for unemployment funding front, as markets try to figure out what a normalized demand but add additional pressure to manufacturers and toolmakers looks like. But, industries will have to launch new models – struggling to find employees. According to Walton’s numbers, cars, appliances, etc. – because the demand is continuing and there are approximately 900,000 open positions in US consumers want what’s new.” manufacturing. Although employers spend a lot of time 18

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Automotive In October, Harbour Results, Inc. and OESA released the 2021 Automotive Tooling Outlook. The annual report assesses the strength of the North American tooling industry and looks ahead to project future opportunities. “In 2020, we saw a dip in tooling spend and in utilization, which was a direct result in a drop in tooling spend by the automotive industry – primarily Ford, GM and Stellantis – that we predicted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Laurie Harbour, president and CEO, Harbour Results, Inc. “However, the industry has recovered in 2021. In fact, tooling demand is robust as a result of a strong demand for durable goods, a healthy automotive industry and new BEV launches. Tooling spend into 2022 will remain healthy, with Q1 and Q2 2022 spend being $2.1 and $2.7 billion respectively.” (See Chart 2) North American OEM profitability is unprecedented, according to the outlook. This is driven by a number of factors, including low-inventory business models, lower consumer financing numbers and decreased loan lengths, and higher transaction prices with a lower number of incentives offered. High OEM profit levels mean more money is available for tooling, and OEMs will use the profits to develop new vehicles, both internal combustion engine and battery electric vehicles. However, these likely will not have a significant amount of customization. This reduced trim level will impact the amount of tooling needed, but the number of new models will make up for that lack.

that many new home buyers are in, they’ve gotten accustomed to the high mix/low volume model where all the options they can imagine are available. This has increased tool demand because of the customization.” The rise in overall demand has provided OEMs with the financial means to launch new models, and the demand is projected to continue. However, Walton is cautious about the tooling reshoring trend that has been seen in the appliance market. “I think people need to be wary of why a tool is being reshored. Is it because the OEM can’t get the mold out of china because of the expense and delays in shipping? Or is it because they want the mold built near the production facility? If the decision to reshore is based on supply chain and cost, it’s not a reliable, consistent customer.” Aerospace The COVID-19 pandemic brought much of the air travel industry to a screeching halt, and tool builders supplying the aerospace market saw programs placed on hold. Not only was the domestic travel market severely impacted, but international travel was nearly halted altogether as travelers attempted to page 21

New vehicle launches will provide an influx of money into tool shops supporting the auto industry, providing a welcome boost to their profit outlook after the struggles at the height of the pandemic. “From 2019 to 2020, profitability (EBIT) across mold shops was flat at about 4.5%,” said Harbour. “The addition of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds, which a majority of shops received, significantly helped the industry’s performance and propped up profitability to 9.7%. Additionally, at the end of 2020, the industry saw a significant increase in the amount of work it was quoting and that is expected to continue into 2021.” Appliance During the pandemic, US consumers looked around their homes and made plans for improvements. A strong housing market and an influx of economic rescue funds provided the financial means, and the appliance market was the beneficiary. “The increase in buying and selling and building of homes is great for the appliance market, as is the amount of time people are spending at home,” said Walton. “Also, with the age group |


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decipher virus restrictions and precautions that changed by country and day. However, demand is beginning to pick up and the forecast is positive. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released its Aerospace Forecast Fiscal Years 2021–2041: “Fundamentally, over the long-term, aviation demand is driven by economic activity, and a growing US and world economy provides the basis for aviation to grow,” the report said. “The 2021 FAA forecast calls for US carrier domestic passenger growth over the next 20 years to average 4.9% per year. This average, however, includes three double-digit growth years during the recovery from a very low base in 2021. Following the recovery period, trend rates resume with average growth through the end of the forecast of 2.3%.” As passengers begin flying again, aerospace manufacturers will start releasing new models. That increased growth will come with new rounds of tooling for aerospace suppliers. Walton pointed out that the return of passengers isn’t the only factor driving a positive forecast for the aerospace market. “There’s an increase in demand for replacement parts, driven by the number of planes that essentially sat in a parking lot last

year,” she said. “Airlines need those parts to get their planes flying again.” The FAA report summarized: “There is confidence that US airlines have finally transformed from a capital intensive, highly cyclical industry to an industry that can generate solid returns on capital and sustained profits.” Medical “The elective medical market wasn’t doing great for 18 months as consumers postponed many elective surgeries, but those are coming back now,” said Walton. “Toolmakers in that space struggled in 2020, and we anticipated a recovery in 2021, but then the Delta variant hit. Demand should increase in 2022 and, from a big picture perspective, the aging population means it’s not a long-term concern.” NOT EVERYTHING IS COMING UP ROSES “Although the forecast is positive, mold builders and their customers are facing a number of challenges that are likely to impact business for the near- and mid-term,” said Harbour. “The labor gap and supply chain shortages are among the top page 22

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two concerns across the industry that can impact a shop’s ability to meet growing demand. Additionally, lowcost country (LCC) competition and the growing cost of doing business will require shops to continue to focus on efficiency to remain competitive and profitable.” As tool builders find it difficult to hire workers, the increased production demand also is pushing them to Chart 2. Automotive tooling spend is predicted to be strong through 2022, with a dip in 2023 prior to a jump in offer higher wages to 2024 due to new pickup launches. entice new applicants and retain skilled staff. The high demand levels will continue mold builder, it’s never been more critical to understand for the next two to three years, but when demand dips, how do the pressures and timing the customer is under.” mold shops fare when balancing those high employment costs with more normalized order levels? The bottom line is that mold builders need to keep an eye on margins. “There is a concern that some toolmakers Mold builders are having supply chain issues, too (see Chart only made it through the pandemic slowdown because 3). Raw materials and other production components are stuck of the stimulus,” said Walton. “Another round of PPP in what seems to be an endless loop of delays – slow shipping funding isn’t likely, so if a shop made it through COVID-19 times, lack of labor availability at the ports and a shortage because of that government help but isn’t making good of containers and trucks. Walton added, “But, their margins now while demand is high, there’s a concern. customers are the ones really feeling the squeeze. As a Shops need to make sure the margins stay strong.” With sustainable demand increases forecast for the near future, the opportunities are there for mold builders to grow and profit, despite challenges in the labor sector and supply chain. The key lies in finding the right business by understanding the markets, ensuring a healthy profit margin and keeping an eye on potential legislative and economic impacts. n

Chart 3. The supply chain issues of 2021 are expected to continue through much of 2022, impacting all markets. 22

the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 4 2021

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1 [1] NEW WORKSHOP ANNOUNCED: SCREENING AND HIRING TO YOUR CULTURE DECEMBER 9 | 10AM – 3PM EST To help members address the fast-growing skills gap and labor challenges faced by the mold manufacturing industry, AMBA has worked with its Workforce Development Task Force to identify the focus for its newest opportunity – a workshop on Screening and Hiring to Your Culture. During this virtual half-day event, attendees will explore how the cultivation of high-performing employees and an alignment of a company’s workforce with its organizational goals leads to improved workforce recruitment and retention. Participants will walk away with effective tactics and strategies that, when employed in the screening and training process, will demonstrate how an organization can leverage its culture to • • • •

attract new labor that reflects the priorities of the organization; retain, empower and develop existing high-performing employees; address broken processes and explore new solutions in recruitment, onboarding and training; and build a high-producing and adaptable workforce, capable of managing change and unexpected obstacles.

Members: $89. This is a facilitated training event provided exclusively to AMBA members. [2] NEW BENCHMARKING ADDRESSES KEY CHALLENGES FACED BY AMBA MEMBERS AMBA has addressed critical challenges in labor development and profitability with two of its most recent benchmarking efforts. In September 2021, AMBA published the AMBA 2021 Shop Rate Report, which includes never-before-gathered data on charge rates specific to services in engineering, moldmaking and specialty services. This report was followed by the AMBA 2021 Best Practices in Employee Recruitment and Retention Playbook, which includes 24

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inputs from over 100 mold manufacturers on their best practices in interviewing, training, screening and more. AMBA members can visit to learn more and purchase either report. WAGE AND SALARY SURVEY NOW OPEN; BUSINESS FORECAST SURVEY TO FOLLOW As foreign competition rises, the labor market tightens and profitability wanes, it’s more important than ever to understand where a business can hone its competitive edge. Mold manufacturers can gain insight and begin to prepare for 2022 by participating in AMBA’s current and upcoming benchmarking, including the annual Wage and Salary Survey (now open to the mold manufacturing industry through Dec. 3, 2021) and the annual Business Forecast Survey, which will launch on Dec. 14, 2021. In both instances, the report generated from each survey is available at no cost to participating AMBA members; non-member participants will be able to purchase the report at a discounted rate. Visit www.AMBA.orgfor more information. UPCOMING: EXECUTIVE DIALOGUE AND DECEMBER ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSIONS The sharing of challenges and best practices continues in December with AMBA’s newest event offering, the C-Suite Dialogue. This is a conversation exclusively for C-Suite executives at AMBA member companies that focuses on a single topic or challenge identified by the industry. Additionally, AMBA will offer its final roundtable discussions of the year to both management-level employees and sales and marketing professionals. In each group, representatives from AMBA member companies will meet on camera to discuss pressing issues in their industries and departments. Registration for the C-Suite Dialogue, set for December 1, 2021, is limited to the first 15 registrants. The topic for December’s dialogue is “Leading and Empowering Employees.” The date of the event will be determined by attendee availability. To join, email Rachael Pfenninger at


3 Learn more and register for each roundtable discussion at [3] SAVE THE DATE FOR AMBA CONFERENCE 2022: SHIFTING THE VIEW | MAY 11-13, 2022 Don’t forget to mark the calendar for AMBA Conference 2022, May 11-13, Itasca, Illinois, where attendees will embrace the conference theme of “Shifting the View” by taking a fresh look at how seemingly persistent challenges can become opportunities for growth and positive change. Set to take place at the Westin Chicago Northwest, AMBA Conference 2022 will flip the script on expectations by embracing a variety of breakout formats, paradigm-shifting keynote presentations and numerous opportunities to connect and share best practices with mold building peers. Visit for more details. [4] ALLIANCE RAISES OVER 13K AT ANNUAL GOLF OUTING On Sept. 24, 2021, Alliance Specialties and Laser Sales hosted its annual Charity Golf Outing at Countryside Golf Course in Mundelein, Illinois. The event drew over 100 attendees, who all came together for networking, fun and laughs on the greens, and raised a total of $13,500 to support the iWarriors organization. With these funds, iWarriors will be able to assist severely injured members of all branches of the Armed Forces by providing them with personalized tablets to aid in their return, recovery and reintegration. Learn more at NEW MEMBERS Best Tool & Engineering Company, Inc. 34730 Nova Dr. Clinton Township, MI 48035 Main Contact: Joe Cherluck, president Email: | Phone: 576.792.6500

fixturing needed. Best Tool services the medical, consumer products, automotive, material handling/dunnage and government sectors, and is fully invested in every project. Bruin Manufacturing 607 North 4th Ave. Marshalltown, IA 50158 Main Contact: Carolyn Himes, GM/CFO Email: | Phone: 641.752.7116 Bruin Manufacturing is a third-generation, custom plastic injection molder founded in 1949. Bruin specializes in automatic, lights-out, hot runner molding in the 25- to 121-ton press range, operating out of two locations. The company also has in-house tooling capabilities and partners with outside tooling sources. NEW PARTNERS HEIDENHAIN Corporation 333 E. State Pkwy. Schaumburg, IL 60173 Main Contact: Tom Wyatt, marketing director Email: | Phone: 847.490.1191 Leading in measurement, control and drive system technology, HEIDENHAIN, together with AMO, ETEL, IMT, LTN, NUMERIK JENA, RENCO and RSF, provides products that enable technological advances in the most innovative global industries: machine tools, automation, semiconductors, electronics, metrology, robotics, drive systems, medical technology and more. The development of ever greater accuracy, dynamic performance and process reliability in its products directly improves the performance and efficiency of machines, automation systems and processes. n

Best Tool & Engineering was founded in 1991 and is a familyowned company that takes pride in its work. The company’s diverse portfolio includes injection molds, vibration welding, hot plate welding and manufacturing the respective tooling/ |



anufacturing Day (MFG Day) is held on the first Friday in October annually, with the event aiming to drive interest in manufacturing careers in middle school and high school students. This year, AMBA members from across the nation participated in the day by providing education for young members of the community, as well as offering networking opportunities and discussions. AJ TOOL & MANUFACTURING The AJ Tool team took advantage of the time of year to attend the Wisconsin Manufacturing and Technology show, giving team members an opportunity to enjoy lunch and bond with one another offsite. Both management and employees were able to engage in networking with colleagues, as well as meet with representatives from local trade schools and discuss “new recruits” – the number one priority on every business owner’s list.

KRUSE TRAINING Kruse Training hosts a monthly webinar series focusing on various aspects of injection molding. October’s webinar topic featured Polymer Flow During Packing. Topics in this webinar included how to modify filling-to-packing switchover points and packing profiles and also how to understand the predominant packing flow path. Torsten Kruse, president, showed how to evaluate tracer results, melt core, packing pressures and clamp tonnages, as well as volumetric shrinkage development. 26

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photo courtesy of MR Mold


M.R. MOLD AND ENGINEERING M.R. Mold hosted 100 Brea Olinda high school and junior high students at its facility for MFG Day. The students took a shop tour with explanations given of each machine and its purpose in the mold build process. With so much interest in engineering today, the students received a quick lesson on how it all begins. The tour also included a special segment on 3D metal printing, a trip through the assembly area and a tour of the Tech Center. PCS COMPANY This year, PCS Company participated in the 2021 MFG Day as a host site. MFG Day helps showcase the appeal of modern manufacturing careers and encourages thousands of companies and educational institutions around the nation to open their doors to teach students, parents, teachers and community leaders about all the inner workings of the industry. MFG Day also empowers manufacturers to come together to address their collective challenges so they can help their communities and future generations thrive. PROGRESSIVE COMPONENTS Progressive Components launched its “Tooling for Tomorrow” program in 2002 to assist the US mold building industry. Since then, over $450,000 of monetary and product donations have been provided to qualified recipients. A list of schools that have a mold building curriculum is maintained in the company’s CRM system, and a mailout is sent to each school periodically throughout each year. Alongside monetary donations, rapid

Photo Left: High school and junior high students take a quick lesson on the mold build process at M.R. Mold for MFG Day. tooling inserts are provided for prototype mold building, along with various ejector pins, alignment locks, UniLifters, CamActions and more.

Grant during its Manufacturing Day event 2021. The award of $5,000 was sponsored by Progressive Components through a sponsorship with the American Mold Builders Association. Additionally, the company hosted a “Made in CT” Happy Hour. Customers, vendors and the community were invited to tour the plant and participate in the event.

VINCENT TOOL Vincent Tool recently attended The Manufacturing Experience at Chippewa Valley Technical College, Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The first part of the day was for employers to interact with current technical college students about employment opportunities, while the latter half was open to the public with the intent to expose high school students and younger ages to the careers in the manufacturing field. Vincent Tool was happy to participate in an event to engage young students and show them how many endless opportunities there are in the manufacturing field.

WESTFALL-TECHNIK Westfall Technik-Wisconsin hosted guest Jackie Schwartz, career planner for the Workforce Resource center within the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. The Workforce Resource division manages the region’s Job Training Partnership for the state of Wisconsin and provides job coaching and employment opportunities for residents of a nine-county region. Westfall Technik-Minnesota hosted Saint Paul College for the day. Tours were provided through the facility, and the attendees learned about roles within the plant and what each department does. n

WEPCO PLASTICS, INC. Wepco Plastics, Inc. presented Connecticut River Academy, East Hartford, Connecticut, with the Trailblazer STEAM

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LEARNING AND LEADERSHIP GO HAND-IN-HAND FOR AMBA’S EMERGING LEADERS by Rachael Pfenninger, director of strategic execution, AMBA


n a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article by Dr. Sunnie Giles, organizational scientist and leadership development consultant, titled, “The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leaders Around the World,”1 the author suggests that while soft skills and emotional intelligence often are heralded as key leadership characteristics, recent research demonstrates that there really are five dominating themes of competencies exhibited by effective leaders. These include providing a safe, ethical environment; empowering individuals to self-organize; promoting connection and belonging among employees; being open to new ideas and experimentation; and committing to the professional and intellectual growth of employees. This is quite a bit more analytical than what was written by leadership coach, consultant and CEO Peter Bregman in another HRB article. His headline makes a simpler argument – “Great Leaders Are Confident, Connected, Committed and Courageous.”2


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 4 2021

Is either opinion more correct than the other? No – but why? While these two articles may outline what seem to be sets of different characteristics, they are driven by the same ideas. Great leaders put their employees first. They examine themselves, consider their faults and take seriously the feedback provided by others. At the same time, they are passionate about their mission, driving it forward and staying humble about their own leadership journey. The themes summarized here were echoed in many of the AMBA Emerging Leaders Network’s 2021 Meet the Mentor sessions. During these meetings, executives from the AMBA community tackled the challenges facing today’s emerging manufacturing professionals and walked attendees through the best practices and conflict resolution strategies developed throughout their own careers. While the topics spanned varying areas of focus – lean principles, accountability, risk management and team

communication – the message often was the same. First, empowered teams and employees provide greater organizational impact. Second, humble leaders open to new ideas and feedback foster heightened respect, encourage participation and generate positive, bottom-line-impacting change. And third, leaders passionate about their mission inspire those around them, regardless of their status within the organization. Because it’s difficult to independently pursue the constant journey of learning and self-evaluation, AMBA will continue to provide practical application opportunities through a “Lunchtime Leadership” series in 2022. This series will provide AMBA’s Emerging Leaders with the continuing support needed to put into practice the lessons taught by these industry mentors.

TAKEAWAYS FROM FINAL MEET THE MENTOR SESSION, “LEANING INTO LEADERSHIP” While the themes from the discussion mirrored past mentor conversations, several specific takeaways came out of the recent October Meet the Mentor session, “Leaning into Leadership.” A few of the points are outlined below. •

All speakers will outline their own personal leadership journeys and touch on specific themes (examples include culture transformation, women in manufacturing, financial growth and stability and others). Attendees will have the chance to connect with one another, describe their own experiences, highlight best practices and participate in facilitated, all-group discussion.

Ultimately, what this year’s Emerging Leaders Network has learned from the mentors is that the effectiveness of any leadership journey relies not just on an understanding of basic leadership principles and a willingness to embrace them, but a review of their practical application in a safe space with feedback from their colleagues. The Emerging Leaders Network intends to provide this space so that the industry’s emerging professionals, with the help of their colleagues and those who have walked the path before them, can continue to advance into the upper echelons of their organizations and create the kinds of workplaces that attract next-generation workers. n

To view AMBA’s upcoming events for the Emerging Leaders Network, visit Questions? Contact Rachael Pfenninger, administrator of the Emerging Leaders Network, at REFERENCES 1. The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leaders Around the World ( 2. Great Leaders Are Confident, Connected, Committed and Courageous (

70% of lean initiatives fail because the culture is unwilling to shift; tools can be promoted and taught, but they are all just tools in the toolbox if companies don’t practice working with them. A focus on failing quickly encourages trying new ideas; creating safety in risk-taking will encourage innovation, positive change and employee empowerment. Employees are stuck in their positions for a very long time when they act like “mushrooms.” Remember: very few people have been fired for bringing an idea to the table and failing. Learning the language of senior management and getting really good at calculating ROI will help opinions be heard by critical decision-makers; money matters most to management. If an employee wants to advance, it’s important to take control of one’s mentorship and career path. Remember to ask: Z Z Z Z Z

• •

• •

Are you in the right role? Are you really enjoying what you’re doing? Are you personally committed to delivering? Are you differentiating yourself? Are you thinking forward?

Following the better/faster/cheaper process allows companies to do more with less (i.e., higher production with the same or less workforce). Staying focused on top revenue-generating customers and streamlining the communication process can dramatically increase profit and improve the quality of customer relationships. Implement visual management to drive goal setting and achievement (for example, workstation tablets, physical huddle boards for teams, etc.). Employees – especially emerging professionals – shouldn’t be ashamed or reluctant to promote what’s been accomplished to company management. This communication helps them see what they might otherwise miss. |


1 [1] PCS COMPANY OFFERS RUST AND MINERALS PRODUCTS PCS Company, Fraser, Michigan, has introduced two new products off the shelf for customers: the Eco-Pro 360 Descaler Cart and the Eco-Pro Solution. The Eco-Pro 360 Descaler Cart was made with acid-resistant components and runs off compressed air. If the product is used with Eco-Pro 360 Solution, no water is needed. The solution is for use with the Eco-Pro 360 Cart. It removes mineral scale and flash rust, provides protective coating for long-term protection, works on all ferrous and non-ferrous metal surfaces, and overall reduces labor, time and cost. For more information, visit [2] SECO TOOLS RELEASES TWO NEW PRODUCTS Seco Tools, Fagersta, Sweden, has launched two products: a high-feed cutter and insert series in size 14 and the Seco JSE510 series, a family of flexible, highly productive solid end mills. The high-feed, square-cut size 14 milling system is ideal for tough materials and comes in a full range of Seco Tools grades made to achieve fully secure high-feed milling. The reoptimized design of the new JSE510 targets general engineering, contract manufacturers and job shops, as well as the aerospace, medical and automotive industries. For more information, visit HRSCOOL EVO UPGRADES HYDRAULIC CYLINDER SYSTEM Oerlikon HRSflow, San Polo di Piave, Italy, announced a further development of the HRScool hydraulic cylinder system for hot runner injection molding. Oerlikon HRSflow has constructively optimized the heat balance of the cylinder, and as a result, the technology now is available for previously temperature-critical applications. HRScool Evo fits into the mold cut-outs of the fully compatible hot runner systems of P, M, G and A series from the Oerlikon HRSflow. For more information, visit [3] STRAUSAK INC. ANNOUNCES LAUNCH OF NEXTGENERATION TOOL GRINDING MACHINE Strausak Inc., Biel, Switzerland, has extended its global position in the field of multi-axis CNC grinding by launching the new model ONE 5-axis flexible tool and cutter grinding machine with Numroto tool design software. The software is used for 30

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the grinding of rotary and stationary cutting tools in small- and large-batch production, for custom cutting tools as well as for resharpening. The model was designed so that any options can be upgraded and retrofitted at any time during the life of the machine. For more information, visit [4] HANITA INTRODUCES THE VARIMILL CHIP SPLITTER Hanita, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, announced its release of the VariMill™ Chip Splitter for dynamic and trochoidal milling operations in steel, stainless steel and heat-resistant superalloys. The VariMill Chip Splitter delivers a high metal removal rate (MRR) by separating long, undesirable, stringy chips from deep cavities and dynamic milling paths by cutting material into shorter, more manageable sections. For more information, visit [5] FLUKE RELIABILITY ADDS VIBRATION MONITORING TOOL Fluke Reliability, Everett, Washington, a leader in vibration measurement, announced Pruftechnik’s VibScanner 2 EX. This next-generation vibration scanner is an explosion-proof system for quickly detecting machine vibration in hazardous environments. VibScanner 2 EX collects machine health data and displays it using an intuitive graphical user interface. The new scanner builds on the legacy of the VibScanner 2. The VibScanner 2 EX measures vibration in three axes in a quarter of the time of a standard data-collector. For more information, visit HEIMATEC OFFERS NEW ANGLE HEAD LINE Heimatec, Renchen, Germany, announced availability of its line of standard and custom angle heads, available in all popular sizes and styles to accommodate machine tools and CNC machining center builders. Designed for heavy milling, deep drilling and tapping operations, this new Heimatec line of angle heads features twin or double twin sets of matched angular contact bearings plus a rear radial support bearing, ensuring maximum stability in use. For more information, visit MEUSBURGER CREATES NEW LOW-LEAKAGE COUPLERS Meusburger, Mint Hill, North Carolina, has released the new E 25 low-leakage couplers, which have a flat-face valve on both sides. This ensures that no empty space is created




when decoupling so no media can escape, which allows for clean production and user safety. The long pilot guarantees complete sealing and durability. The coupler can be screwed in clean and quick without any thread sealant because of its O-ring seal. The low-leakage couplers are available with hose or quick-fit nozzle and with thread in straight and 90° angled versions, available in the common nominal widths DN6 and DN9. Couplers with convenient one-hand operation engage automatically. The minimal pressure drop is due to the optimized flow geometry. For more information, visit

three new air plasma systems called Powermax SYNC™. The new systems feature built-in intelligence and a single-piece cartridge consumable. Powermax SYNC and its SmartSYNC™ torch replaces the traditional five-piece consumable stack-up with a single color-coded cartridge. Technology embedded in each cartridge automatically sets the correct amperage, air pressure and operating mode and lets operators know when a new cartridge is needed. Additionally, controls on the SmartSYNC torch allow operators to adjust the amperage and change the cartridge without returning to the power supply. For more information, visit

[6] HEIDENHAIN ADDS ENCODER MODULES FOR ROBOTS Designed to fulfill two critical needs via a single component in high-accuracy robots, HEIDENHAIN, Schaumburg, Illinois, introduced the KCI 120 Dplus rotary encoder and a new MRS encoder module series. The KCI 120 Dplus provides both reliable feedback to a robot’s motor and accurate position measurement to its controller to enable safe and accurate motion. The MRS encoder module series has been expanded and now is available with redesigned embedded bearings to better withstand outside tilting forces. For more information, visit

HASCO RELEASES NEW CONTROL UNITS HASCO, Lüdenscheid, Germany, a manufacturer of standardized modular quality mold components and customized hot runner systems, offers additive manufacturers a new high-performance metal powder MP/.... It is noted for its high quality and combination of particle size, roundness and homogenity. The powder is available in material grades 1.2709 and 1.4404 and allows the production of complex construction geometries. HASCO also released the Primezone H1281/… range of control units, together with a new 4-fold control unit of the Basezone H1250 range. Both control units stand out through their intuitive operation, precise control and maximum production reliability. For more information, visit n

HYPERTHERM INTRODUCES THREE NEW PLASMA SYSTEMS Hypertherm, Hanover, New Hampshire, recently announced

Supporting Molders with: COMPONENTS BASES PLATE

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AMBA PROVIDES KEY SHOP RATE DATA TO US MOLD MANUFACTURERS by Rachael Pfenninger, director of strategic execution, AMBA


arlier this year, the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) surveyed US mold manufacturers on business conditions, key economic indicators, profit and other historic data. At that time, the 110 participating respondents identified three key growing challenges – foreign competition, cost pressure and profitability. To help provide context to these key concerns and a better understanding of where US mold manufacturers have the opportunity to be most competitive and profitable, the AMBA gathered never-before-seen data: industry-wide shop rates in over 20 services in three service areas – engineering, moldmaking and specialty. The aggregate results have been published in its newest bi-annual benchmarking effort: the AMBA 2021 Shop Rate Report. To assemble the survey and the final report, the AMBA benchmarking team relied heavily on its 2021 Benchmarking Committee, which consists of executives from several US mold manufacturers within the AMBA community. The final report includes survey responses from 83 US mold manufacturers from 21 states, primarily located in the Midwest region. 78% of respondents identified the automotive industry as a primary industry served, followed by the medical/optical/ dental industry (58%) and the consumer products industry (49%). Three-quarters of this survey’s respondents report primarily building plastic injection molds, and just under half indicated that the average size of their molds is small (250-499 tons) (See chart 1). Overwhelmingly, respondents – 89% – identified new mold/die builds as their primary source of revenue (See chart 2).


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 4 2021

Chart 1

A majority of respondents indicated that their average gross margin was relatively thin, while the remainder of respondents were split relatively evenly between the following upper ranges: 15-19%, 20-24% and 25% or more. On average, mold manufacturers reported a current utilization of 74%, with companies in the $5M-$9.9M range reporting the most positive outlook. Anticipated capacity is expected to rise an average of 5% through the end of the year to 81%, while companies in the $1M-$2.49M anticipated remaining at a capacity utilization of 69%. Respondents also provided insight into whether or not they offered commission on mold sales to their sales staff. Interestingly, although a majority of mold manufacturers (74%) reported that they did not offer commission on mold sales to their sales staff, it is worth noting that the 21% of respondents who do distribute commissions reported a higher-than-average capacity utilization of 81%. Of the service charge rates studied, no service had only one mode (a single rate that was cited most frequently). For this reason, notable modes – or “peaks” – were identified for every charge rate. On average, the service that drew the highest charge rate was mold flow simulation, followed by mold sampling. Polishing, on the other hand, averaged the lowest rate, followed closely by surface grinding. page 34


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In addition to gathered charge rates, the final report includes information on mold build details, average gross margins, current and anticipated capacities, commission structure and a breakdown of popular charge rates by annual sales revenue and specialty service charge rates by industry. The full 2021 report provides additional information on over 20 individual charge rates, as well as further charge rate breakdown by annual sales revenue and/or by the top three primary industries served in the final portion of this report. To protect the interests of its members and the competitive advantage of the US mold manufacturing industry, the final report is available only to AMBA members for $149 or to non-members that participated

Chart 2

in the survey process for $349 (an access code will be required). Eligible parties interested in purchasing the report can visit the AMBA publications page at n

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the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 4 2021

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1 SYBRIDGE TECHNOLOGIES COMPLETES ACQUISITION OF PYRAMID MOLD AND TOOL SyBridge Techologies, Southfield, Michigan, recently announced that it has completed the acquisition of Pyramid Mold and Tool, Rancho Cucamonga, California. This transaction further expands SyBridge’s customer base and footprint in the life sciences end-markets. Pyramid Mold and Tool will leverage SyBridge’s design, engineering, supply chain and production capabilities to better serve and grow with its customers. This is SyBridge’s fifth acquisition in the last 10 months. For more information, visit [1] EMUGE-FRANKEN N.A. LAUNCHES END MILLS CATALOG FOR NORTH AMERICA EMUGE-FRANKEN N.A, West Boylston, Massachusetts, a leading manufacturer of high-performance taps, thread mills, drills, end mills and other rotary tools, has announced the launch of a new end mills catalog to support its growing end mill products expansion. The 172-page catalog, with hundreds of new products, specifications, technical materials, cutting data, drawings and images, is available free in print by request or online. In addition, the company promoted Scott Lowe to national sales manager for the US and Canada. For more information, visit ROLLOMATIC GROUP APPOINTS NEW STAFF Rollomatic Inc., Le Landeron, Switzerland, announced the appointment of Jeremy David as the group applications manager for both the Rollomatic and the Strausak brands within the North American market. Will Nash was promoted to the position of senior applications and sales engineer. Alongside Nash’s promotion, Rollomatic is forming a separate business unit within the company for the product range of laser cutting machines. Lastly, Kris Zellmann was hired as national sales manager for the geographical areas of the United States. Zellmann was selected for the role based on his extensive sales experience in the CNC machine and cutting tool field. For more information, visit



PLATINUM TOOLING RELEASES CATALOG OF ANGLE HEADS Platinum Toolsing Technologies, Inc., Prospect Heights, Illinois, announced availability of a 28-page catalog of Helmate’s comprehensive line of angle heads for the machine tool industry. The new catalog is fully illustrated and provides all specifications on the standard heads. Numerous custom designs for application-specific use are included to demonstrate the adaptability of Heimatec engineering in solving customer challenges. For more information, visit SIXEIGHT ACQUIRES US MACHINE & TOOL Sixeight, Knoxville, Tennessee, a growth equity firm specializing in privately owned, legacy businesses, recently announced its acquisition of US Machine & Tool, Murfreesboro, Tennesse. US Machine & Tool is a precision CNC machining and fabrication company that has been delivering world-class work for leading manufacturers for over 35 years. Sixeight acquired US Machine & Tool due to its potential for high growth in revenue and profit, its strategic placement in the region and its potential to disrupt the industry. For more information, visit M.R. MOLD ACHIEVES ISO 9001:2015 ACCREDITATION M.R. Mold & Engineering announced its ISO 9001:2015 certification. The company recently acquired another moldmaker’s assets, which include an opportunity to support the aerospace and defence industry. M.R. Mold hopes that this certification will open the doors to new opportunities for the company. For more information, visit [2] MACARTHUR LEADING ROBBJACK CORPORATION RobbJack, Lincoln, California, announced the selection of Michael MacArthur as its new president. MacArthur is a 26year veteran of RobbJack. During his tenure as sales manager, he developed a reputation for building relationships and providing innovative solutions to meet customer challenges page 38 |


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in the machining of myriad components for manufacturers and subcontractors alike. For more information, visit [3] WESTMINSTER TOOL AWARDED $100,000 GRANT FOR ADDITIVE TECHNOLOGY Westminster Tool, Plainfield, Connecticut, announced that it has been awarded $100,000 as a recipient of the Additive Manufacturing Adoption Program (AMAP) grant, a CT-based program recognizing six manufacturers in the state adopting innovative additive technologies into their operations. Governor Ned Lamont, the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) and the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT) announced the six recipient in September 2021 at an event hosted by fellow recipient, Okay Industries. For more information, visit HILLENBRAND RELEASES 2020 SUSTAINABILITY REPORT Hillenbrand, Inc., Batesville, Indiana, released its 2020 Sustainability Report, highlighting the company’s continued commitment to advancing sustainability, providing a safe

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the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 4 2021

environment for employees, applying responsible business practices and contributing to its communities. The report reviews Hillenbrand’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance in 2020 and outlines plans for continued progress in these areas. Hillenbrand’s portfolio includes industrial businesses such as Coperion, Milacron Injection Molding & Extrusion and Mold-Masters. For more information, visit ADLER INDUSTRIAL SOLUTIONS ACQUIRES RAPID MOLD SOLUTIONS Adler Industrial Solutions, Inc., Erie, Pennsylvania, announced that it has completed the acquisition of Rapid Mold Solutions, Inc., a manufacturer for close-tolerance and multi-cavity plastic injection molds and ancillary products. This transaction marks the second acquisition by Adler and gives the company expanded scale and a broader capability set in western Pennsylvania. Adler believes that this is critical geography for tool making talent and, overall, an important center of American manufacturing. As a part of Adler, Rapid Mold will benefit from corporate functions, improved software tools and an expanded ability to grow with its customers. For more information, visit IN REMEMBRANCE: LEONARD J. NIEMIEC SR. Leonard Niemiec Sr., founder and owner of Imperial Tool and Plastics Corp., Greendale, Wisconsin, passed away on November 14, 2021, at the age of 73. Imperial Tool was founded in 1978, offering mold design solutions from modeled part to finished part for injection molding. Niemiec’s sense of humor, colorful personality and zest for life will be deeply missed by all who knew him. PLASTEC EAST TO BE HELD IN DECEMBER PLASTEC East / MD&M East will be held December 7-9, 2021, at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York, New York. The event features the opportunity to see new advanced manufacturing technology in action and learn from seasoned experts and innovators driving design, engineering and manufacturing forward. The event includes product demonstrations, a Tech Zone and more than 30 free educational sessions. For more information, visit n








































THE REVIEW IS IN AND THE TARIFFS REMAIN by Omar Nashashibi, founding partner, The Franklin Partnership, LLC


he Biden administration announced on Oct. 4, 2021, that the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) had completed its eight-month review of Washington’s trade policy toward Beijing. The review confirmed that the US will continue applying tariffs on imported Chinese goods and that USTR ambassador Katherine Tai believes the tariffs are an effective tool in the trade law arsenal.

After imposing the 25% and 7.5% tariffs on imports from China, former President Trump created an exclusion process for US companies to petition the government for a temporary suspension of the tariffs. It was this very process that lifted the 25% tariffs on Chinese plastic injection molds until AMBA and its members successfully lobbied to reinstate the restrictions on imports after demonstrating sufficient domestic capacity.

AMBA worked with policymakers in both parties in Washington, D.C. to help them understand the impact of imported Chinese dies and molds that Beijing and local governments continue to subsidize. The Biden administration came under intense pressure from US importers to lift the tariffs outright but faced opposition from domestic manufacturing groups. The current tariffs in place cover 66.4% of Chinese exports to the US.

As of this writing, the targeted list of eligible items does not include those molds previously granted an exclusion. Sources in Washington do indicate the USTR may consider expanding the list beyond those 549 items in the future, which means the threat to US mold and diemakers continues.

The USTR did, however, announce a limited tariff exclusion process for 549 identified imports from China, most of which expired in December 2020. If USTR aimed to please all sides, it certainly failed as importers only increased their calls on the Biden administration to expand beyond the targeted list and allow importers to request a tariff suspension on any Chinese goods. 40

the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 4 2021

In another important victory for AMBA and American manufacturers, the USTR did agree to include a question suggested by the association of importers requesting to suspend the tariffs – what steps have they taken to source domestically? This is a step in the right direction and will help the AMBA defend the industry in the event molds and dies become eligible for an exclusion. In the review, the Biden administration went beyond simply continuing the tariffs and restarting a narrow exclusion

process. Sources in Washington indicate the USTR may look into starting a new trade case against China, this one focused on industrial subsidies. The current Section 301 tariffs use intellectual property theft as a justification for the imposition of tariffs on imports and focusing on illegal government subsidies could add another layer of action against Beijing. In her public remarks at the conclusion of the review in October, Ambassador Tai also said the US will work to enforce the Phase I deal struck in January 2020 between the previous administration and China. China committed to expanding its purchases of select US goods and services over a two-year period by a combined $200 billion. Unfortunately, China remains well behind its promised goal for all covered goods and services, including manufacturing. Through August 2021, the US had only exported 61% of the manufactured goods target, falling over $28 billion short in the year-to-date value of goods. The Biden administration would like to see the Chinese increase those purchases, but few believe Beijing will meet the commitments on energy or manufacturing. This is part of the reason Washington will look to agriculture as a possible bright spot; as of August, China had purchased 89% of the target in agricultural products.

One area where we do expect additional engagement from the USTR is related to China’s use of state-owned enterprises. Manufacturers throughout the US have said they can compete with any other foreign business, just not a foreign government. USTR said it would like to address several critical issues not addressed in the Phase I agreement, including, “Beijing’s nonmarket policies and practices that distort competition by propping up state-owned enterprises, limiting market access, and other coercive and predatory practices in trade and technology.” With the policy review now complete, US manufacturers must not let their guard down – both in their businesses and in Washington – as lobbying continues to intensify from importers to allow the return of more imports from China. 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.

Other than Phase I talks, the US and China are not likely to pursue the Phase II deal envisioned by the previous administration. While the US policy review toward China did not set forth a clear path forward, there does appear to be more of an effort to maintain the status quo and not cause further tension between the top two global economies. On Capitol Hill, both domestic manufacturers and importers are lobbying Congress to pass a US supply chain bill that increases investment in American businesses, while strengthening research and development for targeted industries. The major hold-up remains a top priority for the AMBA – efforts to unilaterally extend all expired tariff exclusions. Many Senate Republicans remain insistent on including language in the supply chain bill to restart the exclusion process for all tariffs, a move resisted by House Democrats on the trade committee. Negotiators hope to have a final bill sent to President Biden by the end of the year, but they must address the impasse over tariff exclusions. To many in Washington, the Biden China policy review remained just that – a review without a roadmap, largely continuing the previous administration’s policy and buying it more time to work with overseas allies on how to engage Beijing and counter its economic and geopolitical activities. |





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the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 4 2021

TOP 5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT NO-COST PLANT ASSESSMENTS by Liz Stevents, writer, The American Mold Builder


he US Department of Energy, through its Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs), offers no-cost expert assessments to small- and medium-sized manufacturers. The assessments are conducted by teams at 31 universities around the US and result in reports with detailed recommendations. Here are the top five things to know about this valuable US DOE program. THE OFFER Since 1976, the DOE has offered no-cost, site-specific expert assessments and analyses to manufacturers. The program is aimed at improving energy efficiency, reducing waste and increasing productivity, by making recommended changes to processes and equipment. More than 18,000 assessments have been completed. Manufacturers may contact an Industrial Assessment Center at a participating university in their region to explore the assessments, analyses and resulting reports. IACs at these universities train the next-generation of energy-savvy engineers, more than 60% of whom pursue energy-related careers upon graduation. IAC assessments are conducted by engineering faculty, along with upper class and graduate students. For qualified manufacturers, a remote survey of the plant will take place, after which an IAC team will arrive for a one- to two-day on-site visit. The team will later perform detailed analyses of the site’s specifics and make recommendations in a confidential report with estimates of costs, performance and payback times. The IAC team will follow up to learn which recommendations have been implemented. THE CRITERIA Manufacturers can contact the closest IAC location to explore or initiate an assessment if they meet these criteria: • • • • • •

Within Standard Industrial Codes (SIC) 20-39 A US manufacturer located less than 150 miles from a participating university Gross annual sales below $100 million Fewer than 500 employees at the plant site Annual energy bills more than $100,000 and less than $2.5 million No professional in-house staff to perform the assessment

IAC locations are spread across the continental US. IAC locations in the West are located in Colorado, Oregon, California, Arizona, Idaho and Utah. In the South, IACs are found in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. IACs in the Midwest are in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Nebraska. In the Southeast, IACs are in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina. For the Northeast region, IACs are located in Delaware, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia. ASSESSMENT IN THE TOOL INDUSTRY Case Western Reserve University’s IAC conducted an assessment in 2020 for a 23,000 sq. ft. Michigan company involved in mold design, tooling construction and plastic injection molding. The recommendations totaled nearly $10,000 for yearly savings actions, including installing compressor air intakes in the coolest locations, upgrading controls on compressors, recovering and reusing cooling water and utilizing daylight whenever possible in lieu of artificial light. THE TOP FIVE RECOMMENDATIONS In 2020, for SIC code 3544 (special dies, tools, jigs and fixtures), these recommendations were made most frequently: • • • •

Eliminate leaks in inert gas and compressed air lines/ valves (in the top five for 2020 for all SIC codes) Utilize higher efficiency lamps and/or ballasts Use most efficient type of electric motors Reschedule plant operations or reduce load to avoid peaks, which tied with insulate bare equipment

THE DATABASE The IAC Database is available for exploration by anyone interested in seeing the contours of assessments and recommendations. As of June 2021, the database contained 19,427 assessments and 146,971 recommendations. The database can be searched by assessment particulars (industry type, size, year, energy costs, products), by recommendations (type, savings, cost, implementation status) and by industry type (SIC or NAICS code). n For more information, visit |


WHAT YOU NEED IF YOU ARE CALLED TO LEAD by Dr. Rhea Seddon, astronaut and author


oday’s world offers significant challenges for both emerging and experienced leaders. Many people don’t start out to be a leader but the paths they have chosen require that they become one. Regardless of the size of the group, its makeup or goals, there are proven principles that can be applied to lead any assemblage of people – even though it may feel like herding cats. WHAT TO DO IF YOU AREN’T A BORN LEADER It is sometimes said that leaders are not born, they learn how to lead. Often, this means jumping in and “faking it until you make it.” Starting small always makes good sense. Watch what other, more experienced workers do. Take note of how the leader of the group brings people together to achieve specific goals. Then ask to take on more difficult tasks. There always are people who will appreciate help and help in return. APPLY THREE PRINCIPLES OF MILITARY LEADERSHIP There are three important principles that military officers are taught to use when they are responsible for commanding personnel. First, they must know their own job and duties exceedingly well. This gives them credibility not only with their followers but also with their superiors. Troops must have confidence in the leader’s capabilities, knowing that someday they may be used on the battlefield. Second, military officers must know that things can go wrong – and probably will. It’s the adage, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” It is only through considering possible failure modes and then practicing how to handle them that leaders will understand what must be done quickly in any time-critical situation. Third, good leaders take care of their people. Focus not only on what jobs must be done, but on the needs and challenges individuals may face. UNDERSTAND WHO IS BEING LED Leaders must connect with the people they lead and tailor a leadership style to their specific needs. Every group is made up of individuals who come with different backgrounds, personalities and capabilities. A leader must decide who does what so each person will find his/her job fulfilling and the


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 4 2021

group, as a whole, reaches its peak performance. Leaders have to become a motivator, team builder and goal setter, taking responsibility for the group’s outcomes, sharing the praise and taking responsibility for the blame. WHEN FAILURE HAPPENS No leader is immune from failure. It has been said, “If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying.” People learn from trying and from pushing the boundaries. This requires taking risk on occasion. That may lead to poor outcomes along the way and a feeling of failure and disappointment. At times like this, a good leader admits that mistakes were made, corrects them, profits from the experience and shares what was learned. Most importantly, a good leader encourages the team to continue making progress. People don’t know what they are capable of unless they try. FINDING ROLE MODELS Leaders come in all varieties. A great boss will give frequent praise, offering credit when it is due or support when needed, and they share their secrets for success. Having a bad leader will illustrate how easily a project or a plan can go awry. Some role models will teach what not to do in the way they treat employees and staff. Berating workers, failing to provide feedback about performance, harassment, lack of recognition – all can drive away the most patient of workers. When in a leadership role and uncertain of how to proceed, learn from observing leaders who get great results. Listen to those who have had formal leadership training; they have many lessons to share. Find mentors who are willing to help. Tailor your leadership style to the people and circumstances of the group being led. Observe leaders who perform poorly and strive not to emulate them. Fix problems by admitting they exist and learn from them to move forward. n Dr. Rhea Seddon is an astronaut and the author of “Go for Orbit,” a memoir about her adventures spending 30 days in space aboard the space shuttle. She also is a former surgeon, healthcare executive and entrepreneur. Dr. Seddon speaks to audiences of all kinds on the topics of teamwork, leadership and taking advantage of opportunities. To learn more, visit


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the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 4 2021

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