Steve Johnson's 30-minute riff on transfer tools a hot topic these days combined the skills of a tradesman with a blue-collar comedian.
What you see before you is an opinionated, moody and somewhat jaded toolmaker. Unfortunately, I'm also a craftsman, and I understand the value of what it takes to work behind the bench all day and be proud of what you do, and be good at it, he said.
Johnson, operations manager of ToolingDocs LLC, got guffaws from the audience. But he also delivered a sober message at the Plastics News Executive Forum: Get your toolmakers trained, organized and accountable to meet the demands of repairing transfer molds.
Companies losing the work are not motivated to maintain the mold. Their goal: Unload, he said.
If we're not ready for it, it can bury us, Johnson said. Small companies that have just been barely getting along, that haven't taken the time to train their people and to systemize their approach, can be buried with a five-mold, a 10-mold tool transfer, let alone 30, 40 or 50 of these.
ToolingDocs, based in Ashland, Ohio, is part of tooling components supplier Progressive Components International Corp. ToolingDocs trains mold-maintenance and -repair personnel, and provides tool-transfer, cleaning, maintenance and repair services.
Johnson, a longtime toolmaker and tooling engineer, also was a wood-working craftsman and then a jet-engine mechanic in the U.S. Navy. The self-described maintenance man at heart prowled the floor in his Tampa speech.
No lectern for this guy.
A trained mold-repair technician the key to getting incoming transfer tools up and running has a tougher job than a machinist who makes brand-new molds, he said. A good repair technician needs multiple skills. And usually the toolmaker's just, 'Give me the stack of prints and point me to my CNC where I can punch in some feeds and speeds, sit on my butt, drink coffee and eat Ho Hos.'
Too often, he said, plastics companies view the mold department as an afterthought.
We see this at ToolingDocs, when we go around the country and we get into shops and we talk to guys. We see how a company had spent tens of thousands of dollars on the facade of the building. Smoked glass. Manicured lawns. You get inside the company, and as you walk back into the toolroom, you see greasy floors and a lack of benches. No access to utilities. You see hammers being swung that are 10 times as big as they should be. You see a lack of connection from the hand to the head. So we try to instill this in guys: Be proud; it's a difficult trade.
He urged executives to take a walk through their toolrooms. Consider an independent third-party evaluation. Consider training for the toolmakers.
It has to do with good old-fashioned discipline, good old-fashioned work habits and a little bit of pride and passion about what you do, Johnson said.
The Executive Forum was held March 7-10 in Tampa.
Copyright 2010 Crain Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.