SHELL ROCK, IOWA - Building partnerships between a supplier and original equipment manufacturer involves getting to know each other's business intimately. But, how to do that and still retain the proprietary aspects of the business is a difficult question. At least two plastics industry suppliers have found the answer: Customer education seminars. Recently, Hobson Bros. Aluminum Foundry and Mould Works Inc. in Shell Rock held its sixth-annual blow molding seminar.
Only 12 people attended the first seminar Hobson held. This year, 121 people turned out for what has become an event international in scope.
Customers ``want to be on the leading edge of available technology, and that's what we try to bring to the seminar,'' said Gerald Hobson, company president.
Customers that have been invited to the daylong seminar are treated to a variety of topics geared to inform them about advances in blow molding technology, materials, machinery and processes, and also trends affecting firms involved with mold making and molding.
``Because we do business internationally, we try to bring back new technology from wherever we find it and introduce it here,'' said Hobson, who added that the response to the invitations reflects the hunger people have for information about the blow molding industry.
At the conclusion of the seminar, the company conducts a plant tour, this year showing off the rebuilt area of the plant that was destroyed by fire in February, and its newest capability: a laser object manufacturing prototyping machine.
What started out two years ago as a way to educate its employees in the terminology used in the plastics industry, today has evolved into an education seminar called ``What Is A Mold?'' for the customers of Tech Mold Inc., a mold maker and custom injection molder in Tempe, Ariz.
In May, Tech Mold held its first, invitation-only seminar, which attracted 26 people from nine firms. Bill Kushmaul, company president, said program workers gathered information from many sources to make it as generic as possible.
Tech Mold recently published a hard-cover book by the same title to use as a course outline.
Karl Szanto, co-coordinator of the program and quoting manager for Tech Mold, said that although many OEM personnel are more plastics-literate today than a decade ago, there continues to be a need for information and education among mechanical engineers, purchasing agents, salespeople and others whose jobs put them in direct contact with the plastics industry.
Kushmaul said that one of the most-often-asked questions from customers is, ``why do your molds cost so much?''
The two-day seminar covers the differences in mold types and other variable aspects of injection molds and molding.
Tech Mold is considering having seminars four times a year rather than twice a year.