UK mouldmakers fight back
By Barry Copping
Posted 15 March 2012
Successful UK mouldmakers have addressed the challenges of tough overseas competition by embracing and implementing change, investing in new technologies, and adopting more proactive and flexible working practices.
The UK toolmaking industry has traditionally been made up of numerous small businesses, in many cases successfully built up over many years by a single entrepreneur. In the not-too-distant past, domestic and overseas demand for high-quality, high-precision tools exceeded capacity. UK toolmakers were able to capitalise and profit from such a buoyant market – and this applied to injection mould tooling as much as to any other sector.
But all this has changed. UK mouldmakers have, in recent years, had to face increasingly tough competition from overseas – and not only from the far east. Some were unable or unwilling to streamline their operations in response to globalisation. Others had not invested (or continued to invest) in the latest manufacturing technologies to help improve their quality and productivity. For those unable to reduce costs, the writing was on the wall.
The Mouldmaking feature in PRW's 16 March print issue presents three very different ways of meeting the challenges:
Compete head-on through high quality and rapid turnround.
Migrate from “make” to “mend” – pulling out of new mould building altogether and moving to modification, repair and refurbishment.
As a client for large projects, convene a consortium of mouldmakers with complementary capabilities on a “horses for courses” basis.
As an example of the first approach, Ryetools has repatriated a medical device tooling project, improving the dimensional accuracy of the work, cutting the turnround time for the mould build and reducing the cycle time for moulding with the new tool.
Moving from “make” to “mend” has been far from a counsel of despair for Superite Tools. The company is flourishing through careful workflow management of multiple repair/refurbish/modify jobs – many of them on mould tools source abroad – and conserving valuable expertise and long experience into the bargain.
Wavin has come up trumps with the consortium approach, commissioning a range of mouldmakers to produce a suite of tooling for its new push-fit plumbing range.
Finally, innovative mouldmaking approaches are not unique to injection moulding. Midas Pattern has found a way of breaking down very large rotational moulding configurations into assemblies of more manageable smaller tools – while maintaining the required accuracy in the final mould assembly.
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