Mexico has a booming automotive sector and a growing consumer class using more plastic packaging, but local mold makers are in short supply.
The lack of new toolmakers, of course, is a global problem. But the situation is extreme in Mexico, even as demand for quality domestically made molds runs as hot as a habanero chili.
The tooling sector in Mexico has been in transition. A few years ago, it was not unusual for toolmakers outside of Mexico to open small repair and spare parts facilities to service their imported molds. Now, more often, they're opening complete mold shops.
The problem is finding Mexicans who have skills in mold making and mold design. A story in this issue by Stephen Downer, our local correspondent, quoted Portuguese mold specialist Luis Salvador saying Mexico is up to three decades behind leading tooling countries.
Most of the action in domestic Mexican shops has come from mold makers from Canada, the United States and Europe, especially the tooling hub of Portugal. But at the Plastimagen trade show in Mexico City, there were rumblings that Chinese mold makers also are circling, considering setting up production in Mexico.
At Plastimagen, 34-year-old Carlos Ramirez has a typical story about his journey into the mold sector in Mexico. He is the sales and program manager supervisor for Omega Tool Canada de Mexico in Querétaro, part of Omega Tool Corp. of Oldcastle, Canada, in the Windsor area near the border with Detroit.
Ramirez has an engineering degree and understands mold design, expertise he said is helpful in making sales. He was employed at a company that turned out small stamping tools and injection molds when Omega called about two and a half years ago.
At Omega, Ramirez found himself working on large injection molds to produce automotive parts like bumper fascias and door panels.
The Mexican government is trying to catch up by creating education and training programs for mold makers. But the country remains far behind.
Ramirez said hands-on, on-the-job training is how he got much of his tooling know-how.
"Right now, the universities and schools are trying to develop this sector," he said.
Since the mold-building area is still fairly new in Mexico, young mold makers face another challenge: The lack of the "old guys" who have decades of experience they can pass along or teach the trade in schools.
That's a significant problem. For any mold veterans who want a new adventure — and a warm climate — in retirement, Mexico is calling!