Five years into their collaborative life, the 15 tooling suppliers that make up the United Tooling Coalition are making slow progress with automakers, but finding new ways to build their businesses through cooperation.
The coalition, which includes companies making tools for injection molding, metal stamping and automation, formed with the help of the Center for Automotive Research to find ways to jointly bid on large contracts, helping each other to survive and hopefully thrive.
And while the industry hasn't made that commitment yet, it is listening to the group's story, and at the same time, coalition members are learning from each other, and finding new ways to help their businesses.
They are learning more about lean manufacturing improvements from each other, said Patrick Kinstle, vice president of Master Precision Custom Molding, a Greenville, Mich.-based mold maker specializing in tooling for insert molding and two-shot molding programs.
They are sharing resources through cooperative agreements to expand their capabilities without increasing costs, said Laurie Moncrieff, president of Schmald Tool & Die Inc., a builder of dies and injection mold tooling in Burton, Mich.
And with a booth at the auto industry's Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City Aug. 6-10 and an open house specifically to meet with industry leaders, the toolmakers also are taking an active approach in self-promotion.
That simply was not part of the industry's identity just a few years ago, Kinstle said.
``We used to all be glorified order takers,'' Moncrieff said. ``We've changed that.''
The coalition's biggest goal is to alter the way the industry orders tooling by giving automakers an ability to offer bids to one consolidated group of independent companies that can do everything from large die stamps to bumper fascia molds and small electronic components. Traditionally, automakers have individual Tier 1 suppliers oversee tooling, which is contracted in small packages to individual shops.
The UTC sees itself as a Tier 1 or directed Tier 2 supplier that can oversee a range of tools, and save everyone money by coordinating engineering, material selection and production, said Dean Runk, business unit manager for Paragon Die & Engineering Co., a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based injection tool mold maker.
``They have to totally rethink how they're buying tooling,'' he said.