For companies traditionally focused on mold making, the magic word is diversification.
Figuring out how to deal with rising steel prices remains a challenge, of course, but finding new areas to tap remains a critical way to stay ahead in the global business world, according to several officials interviewed at Plastics USA, held Sept. 28-30 in Chicago.
``Work faster,'' joked Olav Bradley of PM Mold Co. Inc. in Schaumburg, Ill. ``I don't know how you can overcome [steel prices].'' In his mold-making business, however, Bradley said his firm is very comfortable through the end of the year.
``In processing, we're a little slow,'' he said. However, out of 21 molding machines, 19 have robots. ``We plan on having robots on every machine in the near future to reduce labor costs,'' he said. ``The only way to beat low-price wages is with no-price wages.''
About 50 mold-making-related companies showcased their wares during Plastics USA, according to the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. in Washington, the show organizer.
TK International Ltd. of Shenzhen, China, is staying focused on diversifying by adding 23 new JSW presses with clamping forces of 100-180 tons, and two presses for multishot molding. The firm now will focus on precision molding for applications in telecommunications and medical products, said Amen Fong, business manager of TK's plastic division.
The company currently operates 75 molding machines of 50-1,300 tons. Its mold-making operations will be separate from molding now at facilities in its headquarters town.
``We are looking for the molding business,'' Fong said. ``We've got a lot of big parts we're doing; we want to do more precise parts.''
Under its TK Mold Ltd. subsidiary, it makes injection molds with over 400 employees since it began in 1983.
Jeff Kruis, president of Indiana Plastics Inc., based in Elkhart, Ind., sat in the Kenmold Co. Ltd. booth.
Kruis, who runs a mold-making shop along with his injection molding operation, will have Kenmold, based in Hangzhou, China, begin to build some of his company's tools. He operates his mold-making business as Kruis Mold & Engineering Inc.
``We get them cheaper from Kenmold,'' he said.
Portugal once had the position as the world's low-cost mold producer, officials from Moldoeste Lda. of Marinha Grande, Portugal, acknowledge.
The company was forced to change its philosophy to move into processing three years ago. According to officials there, companies that expect to stay in business solely as mold makers may be dead in the near future.