LAKE LAS VEGAS, NEV. — A private equity guy now loves running an injection molding factory.
Chris Gedwed was managing partner for Asparron Capital LLC, a private equity investment firm that bought Cosmetic Specialties Inc. in 2009. He became executive vice president and chief operating officer of the molder in Oxnard, Calif. Gedwed said he found he really enjoys the operational side of plastics processing.
Speaking at the Plastics News Executive Forum, Gedwed said the processor had molded stock cosmetic packaging of jars and closures, but saw that work move offshore. Cosmetic Specialties moved into more custom, turnkey systems and product design.
“What we started seeing was they wanted higher quality at the same price, and they wanted it quickly,” he said.
On top of that, two years into the new ownership, officials noticed production efficiencies going down, Gedwed said. Too often, machines were down. The scrap rate was going up.
“We were working a lot of weekends getting out product that in the past we would've gotten out during the normal week,” he said.
They pinpointed the problem: Too much scattered data. A high number of unscheduled mold issues meant technicians had to pull about three molds a day off the presses to fix problems — accounting for more than a third of total mold costs.
“We had incomplete data on problematic molds,” Gedwed said. And it took too long to compile the data.
Gedwed said the message is recognize areas of an operation that have to change.
“You have to keep constantly changing because the world is constantly changing,” he said.
Cosmetic Specialties' tool room had problems adapting to the change to more custom work, he said. Tool maintenance and repair costs spiked up in 2011, to $193,000.
The molder brought in ToolingDocs, which operates training programs for mold maintenance. It is part of Progressive Components International Corp.
“We had to adopt a systematic approach to mold maintenance,” he said.
One big improvement: Clear, standard terms to describe problems like flash and short shots.
ToolingDocs also helped Cosmetic Specialties to improve the mold shop's layout.
Gedwed said the company had to let go of its longtime tool room manager, who resisted the changes. But another key employee stepped into the position.
“The shop employees really spearheaded this cultural change,” he said. “They started to see the improvements and they wanted to get involved.”
The result was mold maintenance costs went down to $132,000 in 2012, and have kept falling. Today there is just under one unscheduled mold stop a day. Mold maintenance and repair costs have been reduced by 59 percent.
“Our tool room is no longer a liability. It is an asset,” Gedwed said.