Congratulations on an excellent special report on toolmaking. I just read a few of the articles highlighted in your March 17, 2003, issue. I think you should take it a step further and help to close a gap in the relationship between tool shops and their customers.
One possibility is to ask your readers to pass along success stories from the customer side. As good as your articles are, stories about how shops have become more efficient are only part of the story. The other side is how shops market themselves. Ask any of the shops how their customers calculate the cost of doing business here compared to overseas and they will say “quality, service and delivery.” This is what they say because this is what they know. However, there is always more to the calculation. Shops don't have marketing departments to develop fine-tuned presentations that will resonate with the customer. They can't afford them and don't think it's their job to do the customers' homework for them. And customers don't always do their homework. Often, as insane as it sounds, a purchasing person who wouldn't know an ejector pin from a hot tip is making the decision on where to go for tooling.
The fact is, many small and medium-size companies don't have the staff or expertise to sharpen their pencil to determine if it is an advantage to go to China for tooling or molding. They can see the difference on paper between a tool that costs $125,000 and a tool that costs $250,000. Many tool shops' marketing efforts consist of calling their customers and letting them know they are slow and could use some work. So how does the advantage of staying in the United States for tooling ever get on the table?
I was motivated to write to you because there are calculations being done by customers, they just don't make their work available for you and me. If you could ask your readers to send you copies of their story (of course without proprietary information) it may cause other customers to stop and think before assuming offshore is cheaper.
Your success-stories article made me think of a story passed along to me by a salesperson for a Chicago-area tool shop. He said one customer had recently done a study on the tooling costs in the U.S. vs. China. They had China quote a large project. The price from China came in far below the U.S. tool shops that had quoted the project. When the customer reviewed what went into the tooling, they discovered the Chinese had strayed from their specifications. When the Chinese requoted the tooling, the difference between their tools and the United States was considerably less. The customer concluded the savings were not there to justify going offshore.
If you could get stories like this in your publication, my guess is those articles will get cut out, copied and passed out to customers by shops across the country. You might even find a few buyers showing them to their bosses.
Sage Products Inc.