DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY (Nov. 16, 1:25 p.m. EST) — Buoyed by a new investment partner, Mold-Masters Ltd. reported at K 2007 that strong sales and a continuing lean-manufacturing initiative is driving the company to expand in Europe and Asia. The Georgetown, Ontario, firm also is rolling out what it calls a new industry benchmark for hot-runner warranties.
Jonathon Fischer, president and chief executive officer, said that earlier this year Mold-Masters added a fourth production hall and completed a major reconstruction of its plant in Baden-Baden, Germany. The project boosted space there by one-third, to 65,000 square feet.
The physical changes allowed the company to reorganize production flow around so-called “value streams” such as nozzles, manifolds and hot halfs , Fischer said.
Companywide implementation of lean principles have translated into floor-space savings of more than 20 percent, a double-digit percentage reduction in product delivery times and total financial savings on the bottom line of 3 percent.
“That's huge,” an enthusiastic Fischer said in an Oct. 24 news conference at the Dusseldorf trade show. And he said the company still can make significant additional progress in terms of applying lean principles.
Fischer explained that the industry's difficulty in attracting young people in North America who wanted to do computer-aided design prompted it to look abroad and outsource the work to India. So back in March the firm opened an engineering office in Coimbatore, India, to complement its 10-person Indian sales and service operation, and now employs 55 people there. Fischer predicts that number to grow by 50 percent in the next year or so.
In China, Mold-Masters expects to double its number of employees to 300 by early next year. The firm currently has 100,000 square feet under roof on a 15-acre site in Kunshan City. Fischer said they ship more than 80 hot-runner systems per week now from that plant — nearly all to domestic China customers. “We hope to double that next year,” he said of the shipments volume.
These latest moves took place against the backdrop of the Aug. 8 announcement that London-based, publicly held private-equity firm 3i Group plc had taken a significant stake in Mold-Masters. While Fischer would not explicitly confirm the size of the stake, he did not contest a report by Toronto's Globe & Mail newspaper, citing documents on file in Europe, as saying 3i now holds 49 percent of the hot-runner maker. A company release did say that its new, deep-pocketed partner “will enable Mold-Masters to accelerate its international expansion in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America and consider acquisition opportunities both in the hot-runner segment and beyond.”
Fischer also released some market numbers. He said the hot-runner industry is a C$1.2 billion (US$1.28 billion) sector growing 5-7 percent or more a year, with substantially stronger growth in Asia. He predicts the industry's overall Asian growth, including China, will be closer to 15-20 percent in 2007.
Additionally, he provided a breakdown by end market of Mold-Masters' own business: Packaging and consumer products, 40 percent; telecommunications and electronics, 26 percent; automotive, 20 percent; medical, 9 percent; and housewares, 5 percent. No customer represents more than 2 percent of the company's business, he noted.
Fischer also cited the fact that the Patent Board, an independent patent analytics and industrial review board, ranked Mold-Masters No. 60 on its recent quarterly list of most innovative firms. The Canadian company has more than 1,600 patents.
Finally, Mold-Masters announced it is now offering a 10-year global, extended warranty program on its complete hot-runner nozzle and manifold systems. It offers a one-year valve gate warranty on all its Accu-Valve gates. Bruce Catoen, who recently joined Mold-Masters as vice president of marketing and business development after a long career at rival Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd., made the following observation: On a 64-cavity, high-speed packaging application, the 10-year warranty, on average, would cover 52.4 million cycles or 3.3 billion parts.