As the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. seeks to re-identify itself among processors, and the American Plastics Council looks long-term to a merger with SPI , it might be good to look at one small trade association and its success. In 1973, a group of Chicago-area mold makers sat in a crowded restaurant having lunch and letting off steam about some of the industry practices hurting their business. One mold shop owner told of how a molder had contracted for a mold, then went bankrupt before paying for it.
This mold maker went to a lawyer to see how he could collect the money owed him. When the lawyer looked at the quotation forms the mold shop used, he laughed. The lawyer offered to help develop legal forms for quotes, sales contracts and other documents to protect the mold shop from future business failures. But, it would be expensive.
The group decided to band together, share the legal costs for the new contract forms, then make those forms available to other area mold makers who were having the same problem.
The American Mold Builders Association was born.
After nearly 24 years, AMBA remains a small but active organization whose success primarily can be attributed to the fact that it has maintained the focus of its purpose: to offer solutions to problems and opportunities to mold shop owners.
Why didn't this group go to the Society of Plastics Engineers or SPI? Olav Bradley, one of the founders of AMBA, said the general feeling then was that there was no organization solely dedicated to mold makers and their trade, that could help them on the grass-roots level they needed.
Jeanette Bradley, AMBA executive director, said that at times it has been tempting to stray from the group's focus, but AMBA's mandate is clear: It is an organization for mold makers. Period.
If it's true that today's manufacturer can't be all things to all people, then maybe the same holds true for industry associations. Perhaps in trying to be an umbrella organization relevant to the entire industry, SPI has become relevant to only a small segment of the industry.
With just under 500 member companies, AMBA isn't the biggest trade association but, in my opinion, it's one of the best. The issues the group addresses are those nuts-and-bolts-type issues that affect mold-making shops on a basic level: education and training programs, use of technology and how to improve profit when margins are thin.
Give the people what they want and they'll come. Obviously, AMBA is doing just that.
Goldsberry is a Plastics News correspondent based in Phoenix.