SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. — Olav Bradley is leading the American Mold Building Association during a period of angst and offshore challenges.
Within the domestic mold-building industry, "we are going through some very troubled times right now," Bradley said.
He complained about foreign competitors and U.S. customers that send work overseas but added that U.S. tool builders still can compete.
"What keeps work here is time," he said. "American molds can be produced faster and better.
"You must know yourself, know your competition and know the rules, or you are at a distinct disadvantage."
Critical elements include understanding domestic laws and regulations and recognizing that those limits "are not put on foreign tool manufacturers, so the playing field is not as level as it should be," Bradley said.
"If you know that is part of the rules, maybe you can work around it or find a way to overcome it," he said. "American ingenuity can't be denied."
Bradley sees ongoing potential for large molds to make items such as automotive dashboards or grilles and small tools for precision medical and electronics applications.
Bradley, an AMBA founder 30 years ago, marked the middle of his two-year term as association president at the group's conference in Scottsdale. His wife, Jeanette Bradley, is executive director of Medinah, Ill.-based AMBA.
"We have 450 members from New York to California, and Minnesota down to Florida," Olav Bradley said.
Membership is limited to independent job shops deriving at least one-half of their sales from mold building.
AMBA established a new chapter for North and South Carolina in December. Bradley anticipates a chapter in California soon, and the association is working to form one in Pennsylvania.
"I want to see Texas, Massachusetts and Ohio" establish other chapters, he said. Existing chapters cover the Chicago area, Milwaukee, Indiana, Minnesota, upstate New York and three Michigan regions.
AMBA emphasizes the total value of a mold built in the United States. Bradley thinks some corporate decisions are shortsighted.
Buyers for original equipment manufacturers "seem to get rewarded by how much money they initially save a company," he said. "They don't take into consideration the cost of repair ... later production or a lower production rate."
Bradley and partner Norbert Hauck started PM Mold Co. Inc. in 1963 in Chicago and located in suburban Schaumburg, Ill., a decade later. Hauck, now semi-retired, is president, and Bradley serves as chief executive officer.
PM focuses on hardened tools for long runs, often for consumer electronics applications. Most PM orders involve precision molds.
"We can produce a 96-cavity mold in probably eight weeks because we have produced so many for them," he said.
PM's molding division operates 14 robot-equipped injection presses with 28-500 tons of clamping force, including several Krauss-Maffei models. Molding of prototype parts began in 1983 as a favor for a customer and evolved to division status.
Each division operates as a profit center. Tooling accounts for about two-thirds of sales. PM Mold employs about 55 and occupies 18,000 square feet.