Sure the auto industry has been turned upside down, but that's not the reason Australian toolmakers are checking out business in the United States.
The turmoil for mold makers should drive firms everywhere to find partners beyond their normal stops in Asia, said Grant Tinney, co-owner and director of Precise Tooling Australia of Edwardstown, during the automotive industry's Management Briefing Seminars, held Aug. 7-11 in Traverse City.
Precise Tooling makes injection molds and blow molds as well as stamping dies for a range of customers, including those in the auto industry.
Toolmakers in Australia have seen the same competition from low-cost countries as everyone else, said Angela Krepcik, chief executive officer of trade group Tooling Australia.
The more limited manufacturing cycle in the country means that an economic downturn may be even more keenly felt there. Sixty percent of Australia's $1 billion tooling industry relies on automakers, Krepcik said, and the industry turns out fewer than 400,000 vehicles annually.
If that were not tough enough on its own, carmakers in Australia are following the same outsourcing initiatives as their counterparts in North America.
Three years ago, General Motors Corp.'s Holden group sourced 70 percent of its tools for a new car from Australian businesses, she said. A new Holden car going into production now cut that to 50 percent, with more reductions expected on future models.
To counteract the reductions, Australian toolmakers like Precise are looking to buyers outside Australia. Precise has done business in Malaysia, New Zealand, India and the United States.
``Collaborating globally is one way we can all move forward,'' Tinney said.
A North American mold maker could find it easier to work with counterparts in Australia, which is in the same time zone region as Asia, without worrying about losing control over intellectual property, he noted.
Tinney and Tooling Australia want to forge ties with mold makers in North America to strengthen the industry as a whole, Krepcik said.