Toolmaker M2M International Inc. has forged a working relationship with two Taiwanese mold shops and a German company.
M2M, based in Wallaceburg, Ontario, is sharing technology, mold building projects and math-based design data with the three companies.
The work with those tool shops and other firms overseas is among the most extensive for a North American toolmaker, said M2M President Richard Myers. Many tool shops are currently exploring global work, but few have made as pronounced a leap as M2M.
The work exchange will have lasting benefits as more of M2M's customers move overseas, Myers said. The company primarily builds injection tools for the automotive industry, including business with some suppliers that work with Japan-based carmakers.
``Several years ago, we identified that this is something we needed to do,'' Myers said. ``It's a good exchange. There's nothing better than for one of our current customers to quote on a Japanese carmaker's product and have us help them with the work.''
M2M has working agreements to exchange technology with two companies based in Taipei, Taiwan: Hong-Da Steel Molds Industry Co. Ltd. and HonYi Steel Mold Co. Ltd. HonYi also has a plant in Shanghai, China.
The agreement allows M2M to follow up on tools built by those companies in North America and, in some cases, actually build the molds at one of M2M's tool shops in Wallaceburg and Romeo, Mich. The company also has a mold tryout facility, called #1 Source Plastics, in Wallaceburg that performs short-run injection molding.
In addition, M2M plans to expand work in Asia by allowing its Taiwanese partners to take an active role on tooling programs overseas, Myers said.
``It takes customer worries away,'' Myers said. ``Both companies are anxious to build tools in the Far East and the United States.''
With carmakers building vehicle platforms in various regions of the world, the move should help the family-owned company gain new business, he added. M2M recorded about $16 million in sales last year and has 125 employees, Myers said.
The company's penetration of Asia actually began 12 years ago when the toolmaker started to exchange technology with Ikegami Mold of Tokyo. Now, M2M supplies tooling worldwide by working with Ikegami. The Canadian mold maker's customers include Isuzu Motors Ltd., General Motors Corp. and Delphi Automotive Systems.
During the past three to five years, M2M's relationship with Ikegami has increased to the point where the companies have become full partners on many projects, Myers said. Currently, about 35 percent of M2M's business involves Ikegami, he added.
Last year, Ikegami officials suggested that M2M look for partners in Taiwan, a growing region for toolmakers. Ikegami introduced M2M to Hong-Da and HonYi.
Having the partners helps M2M overcome language barriers and cultural differences that typically occur when North American suppliers work with Asian companies, said M2M account manager Gordon Pinger. He added that companies in Asia are seeking out North American tool shops to help the Asian firms expand on this continent.
M2M also decided to penetrate Europe by forming a similar relationship with toolmaker Deuschle GmbH of Stuttgart, Germany. The company, similar in sales volume to M2M, is a major tool supplier to DaimlerChrysler AG, also based in Stuttgart.
In the case of Deuschle, that company initiated the arrangement, Myers said. Deuschle was seeking a technology partner in the Detroit area after the Chrysler Corp.-Daimler-Benz AG merger last year.
The arrangement allows Deuschle to build tools in Germany, ship them to North America for its customers here and let M2M to handle any further iterations or future mold repairs. The same process happens in reverse for M2M customers doing business in Europe.
M2M has added equipment to manage increased global business, spending about $5 million in the past two years. New equipment has included three Toshiba computer numerically controlled milling machines, a Van Dorn Demag injection press with a clamping force of 1,500 tons and a Xermac electric discharge machining center.
The firm also has brought an in-house resident engineer from Ikegami on-site at its Romeo plant.
M2M now plans to start a 50-50 joint venture with a minority-owned partner to provide product design help. A new company, called Synergetic, is scheduled to be operational in late summer and include computer-aided design and engineering work, Myers said.
The new venture will be based in Romeo, north of Detroit. A partner still must be determined, Myers added.