M2M International Ltd. started its 1 Source Plastics Ltd. subsidiary to test molds produced by its global network of toolmakers.
Now 1 Source is stepping out from parent M2M's shadow, with more than half of the injection molding work that goes on under its roof coming from other firms.
In the past three years, 1 Source has doubled its employee base to 20 and boosted sales to C$7 million (US$5.7 million) from C$2 million (US$1.28 million).
It is gaining work testing and trouble-shooting molds for other toolmakers, while also providing specialty, short-run production.
One contract with a tractor-trailer truck manufacturer has 1 Source molding more than 30 separate parts that make up the interior surfaces of a sleeping compartment for long-haul drivers. The contract demands production from the company's entire fleet of four Van Dorn injection presses and involves overmolding and decorative applique. The Van Dorn presses range from 750-3,300 tons of clamping force.
``We do 800 parts per month for them,'' M2M President Richard Myers said during a June 14 interview in Wallaceburg.
``Where do you go to find someone to make 800 parts per month? The Tier 1 suppliers aren't going to be interested at only 800 parts,'' he said.
But for 1 Source, the sleeper-cab work and other short-run specialties are perfect, said plant manager Jake Dyck. The entire company is built for short-run production.
The firm hired press operators with the experience to know that molds should work in standard production lines, yet flexible enough to shift quickly from trying out new tools or running finished parts.
The set-up does not allow for much automation, Dyck noted, instead aiming for easy transitions between jobs. Each press uses magnets for quick mold changes and various materials are on hand when needed to swap out resins.
The molding operation also takes in some assembly functions, including heat-stake and sonic welding.
Customers also have turned to the molder to help run production parts if their own operations are not up to speed. One supplier of a truck part had difficulties getting a press installed to launch production, so 1 Source made the first 1,000 components, according to Myers.
And 1 Source has turned out 40,000 front grilles during the past two years for a specialty version of the Dodge Neon.
M2M bought its first press in 1989 and created the 1 Source unit in 1992. But for the past three years, the subsidiary has taken on its own identity in a 25,000-square-foot building adjacent to M2M in Wallaceburg.
Within M2M's Synergetic global manufacturing group, the injection molder fills an important niche for the mold-making units. Through international partnerships, M2M has access to design, repair and production capabilities in Wallaceburg, as well as the United States, China, India, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea and Germany.
A contract first devised in North America may have engineering input from India, be manufactured in China and be finished back in Ontario, but it is 1 Source that must ensure the entire global team comes up with a working product.
``Everything funnels down to 1 Source,'' said Mark Nowakowski, vice president of business development for Synergetic M2M.
The operators at 1 Source also were picked for their abilities to understand how best to fine-tune a mold and their flexibility to shift quickly from one job to another.
``In the tryout stage, the processor is the key,'' Myers said.
Jack Fox, a press operator since 1972, said he may spend part of a day fine-tuning 1 Source presses so they match real operating conditions in customers' shops, then cross the street to M2M to consult with toolmakers on how to design gates for material flow.
``They can go out and put the real [molding] experts on it,'' Myers said. ``That makes us look better.''