A Corona, Calif., mold maker is eliminating its backlog of work orders and aiming, by Jan. 1, to deliver tooling routinely within six weeks instead of the usual 10-12 weeks.
``We have recognized a big market for tooling with those delivery requirements,'' Tom Shappie, president of Advanced Tool Technology Inc., said in a telephone interview.
The flip side: Constantly bringing in six-week jobs necessitates a broader base of customers requiring fast deliveries.
The firm produces hardened tooling that meets the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Class 101 standard.
Management saw the possibilities during a typical time-to-market crisis at an original equipment manufacturer.
``The customer needed new cores and cavities and lifters in two weeks,'' Shappie said.
Advanced Tool delivered the goods and began building its capability to provide shorter lead times.
The mold maker's paperless shop builds molds primarily for hot-niche electronics and computer peripheral companies facing severe time-to-market crunches.
But, noted sales and marketing manager Mark Barbour, ``We see these delivery requirements affecting all segments of industry.''
In a typical scenario, the firm supplies tooling that a customer can use for both development and early production needs.
``Multiple cavities are not as urgent, and the customer probably does not want to pay a premium to have the production tool built in a short turnaround time,'' Shappie said.
The company employs 25 at its 12,000-square-foot facility and anticipates going to a seven-day, around-the-clock work schedule from its current six-day, 24-hour slate. The firm said that, for now, it will stagger work weeks rather than bring on new hires.
``We have the key people we need, and, in time, we will expand,'' he said.
Advanced Tool uses Parametric Technology Corp.'s Pro/Engineering software to build each mold electronically before cutting the first piece of steel. Other equipment includes Fadal computer numerically controlled milling machines, Charmilles CNC electric discharge machines and Charmilles CNC wire EDMs.
Advanced Tool recorded 1996 sales of $2.9 million and forecasts more than $3.5 million this year.