Now in a single facility, Bob Brewer's enterprises in Rancho Cordova, Calif., show significant gains in production efficiency, process advances and apprenticeship training.
Rapidly growing sister companies El Dorado Molds Inc. and Northern California Injection Molding Inc. benefit from operating in closer proximity rather than having their nearly 200 employees in separate sites about one-half mile apart.
In most cases, the companies buy supplies from other domestic firms and manufacture products for U.S. customers.
Brewer decided in mid-2010 to consolidate the operations. In July 2011, he purchased a 12-year-old structure on 3.7 acres.
Brewer started his career as a machinist apprentice, established El Dorado Molds in 1989 and NCIM in 1997, and is owner and president of both.
“It is more convenient under one roof,” said Glen Shrigley, vice president of operations for each firm. “Communication is instantaneous, and I have less stress running back and forth” between buildings.
The El Dorado move started in September and that of NCIM in November. The El Dorado lease had expired, and Brewer might sublet the former NCIM quarters. A rented, 5,000-square-foot, off-site warehouse is available for storage.
In the current 90,000-square-foot building, molding operations occupy about 78 percent and toolmaking activities about 22 percent.
“We had a solid plan, and the build and move went very well,” Shrigley said. “It helped to have prior experience in relocating facilities” from 24 years with Trend Technologies Inc. mold-making operations.
“We built a mezzanine for material handling and installed a new Demag two-bridge, 5-ton crane running the full length of the production floor — more than 300 feet,” Shrigley said.
NCIM favors injection molding equipment from Nissei America Inc. of Anaheim, Calif., and Engel Machinery Inc. of York, Pa., and currently operates 24 presses — 20 hydraulics and four electrics — with clamping forces of 40-400 tons. “Most recently in 2011, we acquired a new Nissei FNX 220 hybrid hydraulic-electric horizontal press with 237 tons of clamping force,” Shrigley said.
For monitoring programs and to streamline manufacturing processes, NCIM uses up-to-date enterprise-resource-planning software from IQMS Inc. of Paso Robles, Calif.
At least 25 percent of El Dorado-made molds go to NCIM for molding projects. El Dorado's principal end markets are eyewear and automotive, and those for NCIM are automotive and electronics.
Consulting firm POV Plastic Solutions of Battle Creek, Mich., has trained and certified two NCIM technicians in injection molding validation techniques.
Brewer said he sees registered apprenticeships as vital to the future of El Dorado Molds.
Beginning in 2009, El Dorado Molds embarked on a toolroom training program that the apprenticeship office of the Department of Labor certified.
Brewer, Shrigley, a foreman and an assistant foreman form a board that reviews apprentice hours, evaluates their performances and grants pay increases during each six-month period.
The effort involves four journeymen persisting over four years through 9,000 hours of hands-on work, at least 137 relevant online academic classes on their own time and a weekly three-hour shop night for building their own molds.
Web-based Tooling University LLC of Cleveland, known as Tooling U, offers almost 500 manufacturing technology courses including those the apprenticeship program requires. Apprentices take pre-tests and final tests on each requisite course.
“Our biggest problem was finding qualified guys,” Shrigley said. He aims to train “bright young guys” on the companies and give them experience that includes work with robotic cells and tool changers.
“We are among the few mold shops on the West Coast with an apprenticeship program,” Shrigley said.
Each journeyman completing the program receives a federal accreditation card that the individual can use in seeking related work in any state.
For the weekly shop night, “We supply the materials, and they have to grind it,” Shrigley said.
For El Dorado Molds and NCIM, Shrigley projects 2012 sales increasing at least 15 percent over 2011.