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Ferari Group, a buyers' cooperative consisting of injection molders and mold makers and other suppliers to the plastics industry, is looking to expand its services and member companies.

The group was founded in 1995 by Tim Manion and four others and is headquartered in Glendale, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix.

``In Asia, the mom and pop shops are alive and well,'' explained Manion. ``Here, they're dying because they don't have the purchasing power to allow them to compete and take on the work they need to grow. Small molders are up against the wall.''

Through a network of suppliers, Manion can obtain contract pricing for large quantities of material, which is then shipped to molders who otherwise could not get quantity pricing. This helps small molders be more competitive in quoting jobs.

Manion works with original equipment manufacturers on projects, helping them find the right mold maker and molder for the job, eliminating the task of going out for a bid to unknown sources and maybe choosing a vendor whose capabilities do not match the OEM's needs.

``We give the customer what they want, and our members' companies get the kind of work they're capable of doing,'' said Manion. ``We have an agile system. Everybody does what they're good at, and they grow at a pace they can handle.''

Manion believes no company should go broke getting new business, but many molders take on more than they can handle because they feel pressured to take everything that comes through the door. Ferari Group member companies share the work.

Currently, the group has 15 member plants in the United States, one in Mexico and one in Canada. Manion is working to put together a mold-making group in the United States.

Molders in the group must pass an audit, have a good reputation, growth potential, and established quality control and environmental compliance. Services offered by the group begin with a critique of members' business plans, and end with a customized package of support services.

Manion sources tooling and resin through a variety of U.S. and international companies to get the best prices in accordance with customer specifications.

Gatsby Plastics Inc. in El Paso, Texas, is a Ferari Group member. Dennis Long, general manager of Gatsby, said, ``For a little guy like us, the benefits on material purchasing alone are astronomical.

``When you start looking at 15 percent to 20 percent lower prices on ABS and [high-impact polystyrene], for a company this size it makes the difference between a profitable job or a loss,'' he said. ``You have to make something everywhere in a job, and the smaller company isn't given the opportunity to make a profit on the materials.''

Manion said Ferari Group contracts for ABS from Miwon America Inc.

``This gives us global purchasing power and gets the resin supplier to be more committed to the smaller molder, and help get the smaller molder business that would otherwise be inaccessible to it.''

Long likes the competitive advantage he gets by belonging to the group. Instead of having to pass on a project because some of the work is not in his press tonnage range, he is given the opportunity to quote those parts that do match his capabilities, while another group member gets those parts that Gatsby Plastics cannot make.

``We can take big jobs and spread the work around,'' Manion said. ``No one has to jump in bed with a bank just to get the work.''

Gatsby Plastics has 18 injection presses with clamping forces of 110-1,100 tons. However, the company is getting ready to sell off some of its larger equipment because of the lack of work for large presses in the area.

A spirit of cooperation and trust has to exist among members of the cooperative in order to make it work.

``You must have that feeling of cooperativeness, that no one's out to steal the account,'' Manion said.

Manion said there is enough molding business for just about any size molder, but a lot of his customers — even the large corporations — want to work with smaller shops ``because they get lots of personal attention.''