The American Mold Builders Association is joining in the survey-gathering spirit of an upcoming U.S. government investigation of global pressures facing mold, tool and die shops.
The group sent letters to the principals of 1,100 mold shops the week of March 11 asking them to complete a two-page industry survey, said Jeannette Bradley, executive director of the Roselle, Ill.-based trade association. The shops include AMBA members and prospects in AMBA's database, she said.
AMBA also plans to put a copy of the survey form in the April issue of MoldMaking Technology magazine, going to about 30,000 subscribers, Bradley said. The surveys need to be faxed or mailed back to AMBA offices by the end of April.
The survey is the second attempt at a comprehensive look at North American mold making announced in the past two weeks. Mold-components supplier D-M-E Co. of Madison Heights, Mich., said March 5 it would ask tool shops to fill out an online, third-party survey to help the investigation, conducted by the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington.
The D-M-E survey will be available March 20 and can be accessed at moldanddiefairtrade.org or through the D-M-E Web site. D-M-E would like its responses back by April 5.
Both surveys are in response to a recent ITC announcement that it will begin hearings May 21 to look into foreign competition in molds, tools and dies. The investigation, to be completed by October, may not lead to government action.
Complicating matters is that ITC plans to send its own questionnaire to U.S. and foreign toolmakers as part of its global industry overview, said Dennis Fravel, project leader of the ITC investigation.
ITC's questionnaire is being drafted and will be sent to a government-compiled list of tooling firms. The government survey still must be approved by the Office of Management and Budget and be tested, Fravel said.
Industry data like that compiled by AMBA and D-M-E would be welcomed as part of ITC's fact-gathering mission, he said. ITC is looking into areas such as changes in tooling production and consumption, a comparison of U.S. and foreign tooling and the principal challenges facing the industry, he said.
``We didn't ask anyone to do a survey on our behalf,'' Fravel said. ``But I don't see how it could hurt. We'll gladly take what information people want to give us.''
AMBA approved the survey at its national conference, said Olav Bradley, former AMBA national president and now chairman of its fair trade committee.
Olav Bradley's two-year term as president ended in March. AMBA, representing 427 U.S. mold shops, named Scott Harris, president of Harris Precision Mold of Tempe, Ariz., as its new national president.
ITC plans to visit the AMBA and Chicago-area shops in April, Olav Bradley said.
He added that AMBA had no knowledge D-M-E also would publish a survey. He was uncertain if the results could be combined into a unified presentation.
``We're trying to gather some hard number that the committee can really hang onto,'' he said. ``We'd like to get across how badly the industry is getting hurt and how badly the country will be hurt if the industry goes down.''
D-M-E President Jerry Lirette said both surveys should be completed to help the industry present a cogent case to ITC. The D-M-E survey will help quantify the damage to the industry from layoffs and plant closings, while the AMBA survey will present a good general profile, Lirette said.
``We encourage the industry to fill out both,'' he said. ``The investment in time is minimal compared to the problems we're facing. The information will add important elements to the hearing.''
The dual surveys could confuse some toolmakers, said Dan Jepson, president of Jepson Precision Tool Inc. of Cranesville, Pa. His tooling group worked with Rep. Phil English, R-Pa., to urge the House Ways and Means Committee to order the ITC probe.
Even so, toolmakers should be happy the industry is taking steps instead of waiting for the commission to act, Jepson said.
``Any work is better than sitting there doing nothing,'' Jepson said. ``We need to give the ITC a good picture of what our domestic industry faces.''