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Analyst: North American mold makers need to expand

By: Rhoda Miel

May 15, 2013

MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO — Before the auto slowdown that saw two carmakers file for bankruptcy, the North American auto industry launched about 40 all-new vehicle models each year.

This year, it will introduce 74. And for the next five years, auto industry watchers expect about 70 new vehicles each year — not just refreshed models, auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers told members of the Canadian Association of Mold Makers during a May 14 meeting in Mississauga — but all new models.

Each one of those new models will need new molds for all-new interiors, new body moldings, new fascia, new lighting, new electronics and new under-the-hood parts. That means a lot of work that will be up for bids to North American toolmakers. Currently, automakers are sourcing about 85 percent of their molds in North America.

“Logistics say that you’re facing the biggest demand for your products in history,” said DeRosiers, the founder of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc. of Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Beyond preparing for sheer numbers of new business, DesRosiers said, mold makers should be bringing their staffing numbers back up so they’re ready for a continued surge in demand for products.

“Now is the time to hire those young workers who are going to need three to five years to develop so you’re prepared,” he said. “Take risks.”

DesRosiers said the labor surveys in Canada show that the machining, tool and die industry is nowhere near the employment level it should be to take advantage of the automotive growth. In 2006, Statistics Canada counted 27,626 workers in the tool, die and machining field. In 2010, there were 18,597.

By 2012, the employment base had grown to about 19,800 workers — still about 8,000 workers shy of where the industry had been.

“This industry is on fire, and you’ve only picked up about 1,000 workers,” he said. “Employee numbers are gutted, and I don’t know you’re going to get it back.”

While improved automation and technology — along with retirements — explains some of the staffing shortfall, it still indicates that the Canadian tooling industry as a whole is missing out on a resurging auto market and will continue to lose potential business in the future.

Work will go to toolmakers in the U.S. and Mexico if Canadian mold makers are not ready.

DesRosiers said he doesn’t buy into complaints that the education system is failing to prepare young workers for skilled trades.

“For 40 years, I’ve been hearing the same complaints about problems finding young workers,” he said. “I think that’s just an easy excuse.”

During the same meeting, Cy McGrath, a CAMM director who is also active in a support group for the Canadian military, introduced a new initiative looking to link tool and mold shops with veterans who are about to leave full-time military life and seeking jobs.

About 5,000 members of the Canadian armed forces will leave active duty this year, McGrath said. The Helping Integrate Regs and Reserves Program recently launched within Delta Company, the civilian support arm of the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment reserve army unit.

Employers can post job openings through the HIRE program, while veterans can submit their resumes. Delta Company hopes to encourage other groups and companies to participate in the program, McGrath said.