Fast-growing Ace Mold Co. Ltd. of Hong Kong has forged its first alliance in Europe, agreeing to partner with Ireland's Avenue Mould Solutions Ltd.
The 20-year-old Avenue Mould, based in Sligo, near the northwestern coast of Ireland, specializes in the design, manufacture and validation of high-volume, multicavity injection molds for medical-device and pharmaceutical drug-delivery applications. Since 2001, the firm has twice been named ``Toolmaker of the Year'' at U.K. Plastics Industry Awards and a finalist five other times. The firms announced the deal Oct. 15 at the Fakuma trade show in Friedrichshafen.
Felim McNeela, managing director of Avenue, said his firm is just finishing work on a 192-cavity production mold, its highest-cavitation tool ever. The Irish firm, with annual sales of about 5 million euros ($6.72 million), plans to service, refurbish, validate and run mold trials for Ace tools in Europe. The company employs 35.
Avenue runs five injection presses four Netstals and a Demag for doing mold trials, with the largest having a clamping force of 240 metric tons. But the firm has built molds to run in presses with clamp tonnages as high as 350 tons.
Ace Mold, also founded in 1988, is much larger than its partner, with 2,700 employees, nearly all on mainland China, and annual sales of about US$80 million, according to Chief Executive Officer Jack Yeung. Those numbers include its Ace Plastics Co. Ltd. sister firm, which runs 150 presses to mold its own parts in China.
Yeung claims its 650-person tool shop in Shenzhen was the first in China to earn integrated management systems status, incorporating four key ISO certification standards 9000, 14000, 18000 and 27000.
This latest deal follows on the heels of an April announcement that Ace Mold and Munich, Germany-based injection press maker KraussMaffei AG had agreed to work together to develop systems for two-shot molding systems, using rotary-platen molds, targeting high-volume applications such as packaging.
Additionally, Yeung said his group has been nurturing a relatively new business called Ace Packaging (Hong Kong) Ltd., to develop cosmetic packaging. This packaging design house, which also provides mechanical engineering services, currently employs about 12 and aims to add value to the parent company's traditional tooling and molding operations. While it started modestly, with a very low profile, Yeung said the business ``is starting to see some results now.''
Meanwhile, the two principals of the new deal explained how their Irish-Chinese partnership came to be. McNeela said some customers had suggested that Avenue explore finding a Chinese partner, and that Ace Mold was the only such firm they had even heard of at that time.
And then, by coincidence or serendipity, Ace Mold came knocking.
``Jack knew of us, and came to us about five or six months ago,'' McNeela said. Yeung had heard many compliments about Avenue Mould from friends and mutual customers. ``So then a month ago we went to visit Ace in Shenzhen and Shanghai'' McNeela's first trip to China, he said. He came away impressed with Ace's facilities and processes.
The partnership is so new that the parties say they still have many details to work out. It is possible that Avenue Mould could supply specialized tools to run on Ace Plastics presses in China, and the parties have not determined yet if they will represent each other on the sales side. To begin with, they simply plan to focus on their respective strengths and existing end markets, and see where that leads them.
``A lot of our customers are looking forward to this,'' noted Yeung. ``They're happy to have a Chinese mold maker and a European mold maker combining to serve their needs.''