Mould and tooling manufacturers are increasingly seeing work being reshored from countries like China and Vietnam back to the UK and Europe.
Valeria Romandini, overseas marketing manager, at Italian hot runner maker EMP, says companies have realised that outsourcing is not easy and it increases the risk for defective and other quality assurance issues. She says: “There was a time when product prices were so low that importers could simply absorb the cost of defective units. Now higher wages, domestic inflation, increased freight costs and the appreciation of the Chinese currency have taken their toll on importer profit margins.”
Jim Kelly, managing director of Rochdale-based AMS Technical Plastics, agrees that there have been several signs signalling the increase in overseas tool sourcing returning to the UK. “The pricing and quality trends in China are now closing the manufacturing cost ratios down, giving us an equal playing field in manufacturing.”
Reshoring has also been good news for Telford-based Sprint Tool and Die which has benefited from the transfer of the manufacture of a baby teat from Austria to the UK. Sprint Tool and Die will be providing the UK manufacturer, which has won the business, with an eight-impression tool.
Meanwhile, Reiner Heendeniya, sales director at Gunther UK, says he has seen good increases in turnover with both Gunther Hot Runner Systems and Knarr Mould Components and believes this will be more than 20% higher by the end of 2015.” But Heendeniya adds: “It is difficult to pinpoint if this is solely due to companies reshoring back to the UK or to Europe in general. We certainly see a number of moulders starting to use big European toolmakers.”
The confidence arising from increasing reshoring has led tool and moulding component makers and distributors to increase investment in their businesses while increasing the pace of new product development.
AMS Technical Plastics has focused on operational improvements at all level in 2015. Kelly says: “This includes new CRM and media enhancements, giving our businesses an increased market presence.” He adds AMS has seen a tremendous increase in its profile within the global automotive supply chain. “We are currently developing and designing new innovative tooling and moulding procedures for airbag safety systems with projected launch dates in 2020.”
Hasco has focused during 2015 on innovation in its core business of mould components. A Z1545 gear housing for stack moulds, designed to simplify and standardise plate movement with complete reproducibly, has been launched which will simplify the operation and maintenance of these complex moulds.
The Z1545 gear wheel and Z1557 transmission shaft provide even more variation for the design of unscrewing gears for demoulding threaded parts. While the DLC-coated ejectors have been available for many years, Hasco now offers products for very small applications, with the Z443 stepped ejector pin starting at 0.5 diameter. Another completely new technology for cooling pins directly is the Z9672 diverting element, allowing a cooling circuit to pass directly through the path of the pin with very little additional space required for sealing, thanks to its clever design.
Hanson Thorpe Precision Toolmakers has been equally busy making an impact in UK moulding in 2015. It rebranded itself as HT Tooling Solutions in August this year and purchased a second company Rotherham-based Elite Tooling Solutions. Des Thorpe, managing director of the Manchester-based firm, says: “We hope to have our HT Tooling Systems and processes in place and be up and running by Christmas.”
Of the Elite acquisition: Thorpe says: “Our customers will benefit from increased capacity and more flexibility on repair and modification work, as well as having another option for tooling at lower price point. Without our purchase and investment Elite would have probably have shut down. We have given continuity to the business which will preserve four jobs and we have already taken on more four more personnel as we look to grow this side of the business.”
In 2015 Gunther UK benefited from its representation of Contura as interest in conformal cooling became a bigger consideration for moulders looking at component and mould design. Heendeniya says: Conformal cooling can reduce cycle times by an average of 30% while also improving part quality. “This year has seen our first Rapid Heat and Cool (RHC) Variothermal applications for the automotive sector in the UK. The RHC process is used to eliminate flow and weld lines but importantly it also gives the moulder the possibility of achieving a high gloss piano black finish without the need for additional and costly-post-moulding paint processes.”