A Page 1 story in your Feb. 27 issue regarding a merger that included one of my direct competitors made the statement, ``More than just a molder, [it] was a true custom manufacturer.'' I submit that this mindset is the key to success in this industry. Having spent 20 years in this industry with both custom and proprietary shops, I feel qualified to speak out.
I suggest that ``custom molder'' is a term that sets boundaries that in today's marketplace encumber growth and profitabil-ity. It limits the vision we should have of ourselves.
We are first and exclusively manufacturers of plastic products. We must view ourselves in this light and follow the lead of so many successful manufacturers in instituting progressive manufacturing strategies.
I find many molders, still, with the mindset that, ``Now that I've got the thing running, I'm going to run a year's worth,'' hoping there is no engineering change that makes them obsolete or the customer's market holds up and they don't get stuck.
Strategies like just-in-time, reducing inventory, and using pull vs. push scheduling make sense. Issues like training and development of our people's skills, root cause analysis, defect prevention vs. detection and continuous improvement must be aggressively pursued.
Your publication has carried several articles highlighting successes using ``lean manufacturing'' disciplines and employee empowerment processes. Still, most are not listening. Adherence to these principles and methods is even more important in the value-added arena.
I don't know of any molder who doesn't aggressively pursue value-added. We all should want to turn a $1 part into $3 worth of sales. The problem is, until we begin to think of ourselves as manufacturers rather than simply molders, we won't be much good at it.
In talking with current and potential customers, the question always arises in some form or another, ``What distinguishes your company from the 1,000 others that want to do business with us?'' The ``custom molder'' of the future will be one with design capability, will possess the ability and willingness to see a project from concept to production, and will be a contributing partner in design improvements, material selection, cost reduction and design for manufacturability. They will be required to ship these products with zero defects, exactly when they are needed. Isn't this what every manufacturer, of any product, custom or proprietary, does?
Complex Tooling and Molding